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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Competing theologies in Boston.

It's impossible to take in all the signs that hundreds and hundreds of people have been carrying outside the Massachusetts State House all day as the legislature debates amending the Constitution to block same-sex couples from marrying, but a few stand out. My favorite is "I gave up hate for Lent."

But here are two from the news wires that capture some of the competing theologies on display:

REUTERS/Brian Snyder"Gay marriage opponent Leonard Gendron, a local pastor, holds a sign reading 'Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons' outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston March 11, 2004 where the Massachusetts Legislature is debating an amendment to the state's constitution banning gay marriage." Haven't we met "Pastor" Gendron somewhere before? Why, yes! Here he is being nasty to clergy exiting the Rev. Gene Robinson's consecration as bishop of New Hampshire last November, in a Boston Globe story:

"You liar. You thief. You whore. . . . You liars with your white robes and your dark hearts," Leonard Gendron called to one. Gendron said he is pastor of a church called The Secret Place in Lawrence, Mass.

Ah. (Feel free to speculate.) But there were better theologies on display today, too.

AP Photo/Julia Malakie"Laure De Vulpillieres of Somerville, Mass., leads a pro-gay marriage crowd in a chant outside the Statehouse in Boston, Thursday, March 11, 2004." Her sign — "Stop using Jesus to justify inequality" — is actually pretty good gospel. ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40.)

Which reminds me of a story I recently read about a minister testifying before a legislative committee on same-sex marriage. He told the panel that he would read them everything that Jesus had said on the subject of homosexuality. He then opened the Bible, sat back in his chair, and said nothing.

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's op-ed in the Globe this morning makes me hope that he spent some time today seeing what his side of this debate looks like. He wrote: "The church does not countenance hatred of homosexuals or violence against them. We invite all people in the church to unite in discipleship and fidelity and to work for the common good in society." That's sure a nice sentiment, but I'd like to see him prove that "not countenancing" hatred goes a bit beyond "not countenancing" abusive priests. Some of what pretended to be Christianity outside the State House today looked much more like hatred.

Update 3.12.04: The Boston Globe's Scott Lehigh also met "the putative pastor" Leonard outside the State House:

A moment later, up walked a man who identified himself as "Pastor Leonard" from Lawrence. He expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage but professed his love for the gay men standing nearby.

When Robert Vetrick, one of those men, accused him of hypocrisy, the putative pastor responded: "Would I be standing here with a sign like this if I didn't love you?" Now, perhaps I'm not versed enough in religious matters to judge, but given that the sign in question read "Homosexuals are possessed by demons," I can understand how Vetrick might have formed a different impression.

("Signs of war at the State House," Scott Lehigh, Boston Globe 3.11.04)

And Sean Ferrier of Allston writes a great response to Archbishop O'Malley's op-ed:

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley did not elucidate Saint Augustine's call for "freedom in nonessential things" in his op ed piece "Charity needed in debate on gay marriage" (March 11). Consequently, it is hard to see how the legal matter of an alleged "redefinition of marriage" is so essential that it demands unity from Christians. Surely the issue belabored by O'Malley is considerably less essential to Christian belief than, for instance, the doctrine of the Incarnation.

Moreover, in speaking nebulously about the "institution of marriage" in general, O'Malley risks confusing it with the narrower issue decided by the Supreme Judicial Court, which is civil marriage. Civil marriage is certainly no more essential to faith than common-law marriage, which, in states that recognize it, requires no particular ceremony or even witnesses to become legally valid.

The love and respect of others enjoined by Christianity require more than merely wishing people not to hate or mistreat others; Christianity also asks us to consider whether our activities further this end. Unfortunately, O'Malley's willingness so far to form alliances with some groups that uncharitably exploit people's fear is unlikely to bring about the elimination of prejudice from people's hearts.

Amen.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 11 March 2004 at 6:00 PM

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15 comments:

Roger Kuhrt:

March 12, 2004 02:55 AM | Permalink for this comment

Philocrates--are you following at all the Karen Dahman trial (United Methodist) in Wa state? It gets down and diry on the 17th of March. She is an avowedly practicing homosexual (forbidden by the UMethodist Discipline). Aa few years back she just blew the doors on that 'ol closet.

Aaron Ireland:

July 24, 2004 02:17 AM | Permalink for this comment

The essential problem with this debate, is the perceived errosion of absolute truth. The first question to ask is does God love homosexuals? The answer is "Yes!" No that I have that out of the way, we need to quantify the intended meaning of the word 'love'.

Love ('agape' in Greek) is a condition of heart, that leads to a state of mind, that leads us to absolute benevolence. It is by nature intrinsic, but requires expression for its existance. Otherwise it is meaningless and hypocracy. Benvolence by defition, is "a disposition made up of a choice and desire for the happiness of others. (http://selfknowledge.com/9171.htm)" Essentially, benevolence in a Godly sence, is desiring the overall happiness of all humanity, above that of the individual. It considers individual happiness, in context with the higher good of all.

For example: If it makes one person "happy" to rape and slaughter childeren, then benevolence renounces the right of that persons right to happiness in that area, because it conflicts with the right to the childs happiness. Therefore, whether this individual gets away with this act or not, and whether or not he gets caught and convicted by an eathly judge, is irrelevant in God's eyes. God's basis of forgiveness from this deed is repentance ("metanoia" in Greek: To change (meta) one's mind (noia). Ie: To change your opinion toward your action that works against benevolence, and as a result renonuce it, and as a proof change the action. Ie: To stop doing it, hate the fact that you did it, and never do it again). This is the only way that God can promote bevevolence. If there is no forgiveness, there is no benefit to change. If there is no change, the action continues. If the action continues, benevolence is impossible.

When we consider benevolence, we cannot consider popular opinion, as this is impossible to accurately measure (lobby groups consist of the vocal minority, while the silent majority disagrees). Also, if we consider popular opinion, there is always someone who suffers, because there is always someone who disagrees.

The only way for there to be benevolence, is to have someone truly impartial to define the standards of it. That person would have to be outside of the influence of the standard being set, otherwise human nature would twist it to promote this individual's happiness over others (consider the basis of voting decision at all election). That person would have to be capable of knowing the desires of the heart of every individual on the place of the planet, better than the actual individuals. That person would have to be prepared to put their money where their mouth is, and put their own happiness aside, selfishly for the greater good of all humanity (talk is cheap).

That person is God, represented in the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ. The same Jesus described in John 1:1,3 as "..the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God...All things were made by him; and withouit him was not anything made that was made."

Upon defining the nature of benevolence, we need to consider what we believe about who God is. If we believe that he is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, then we need to accept that what he says is the final word, and we have no right to contradict it.

Getting back to my initial question, "Does God love homosexuals?" my answer is still, "Yes!!" Agape love is unconditional. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8).

The next question is does God love homosexuality? The answer has to be "No". The was an arguement in this article stated that Jesus never (directly) mentioned homosexuality. That may be true. But consider this, he also never mentioned pedaphelia. One could argue that the two are not the same, and would be right.

In an transcribed ICQ interview, Pimp Daddy Welfare quotes "...incest and pedaphelia and necrophelia isn't bad, so long as they're borne out of love. And Welfare don't do nothing save for the Love. (http://www.smoovek.com/pdw.htm)" Anyone in there right mind would have to admit the pedaphelia is wrong no matter what. Even if it was justified by rationalising consential sex with young teenagers (which I am not), all would agree that it is wrong, consetial or not, with infants and prepubesants.

For some (myself included) the mere thought of it would turn the stomach of so many, to know that a young child can be seduced into throwing away his inocence, by doing something contrary to nature - except the peadaphile would not. While all pedaphiles, are preditors who are taking advatage of childerens lives, with greater ease than the "date rapists" with their drugs, some would know doubt justify their actions by claiming to be expressing love to these ones.

While I would no doubt be offending many with this question, "Does God love pedaphiles?" because the answer is "Yes!" He "loves" all sinners with benevolent love. It is unconitional on actions. Does he love pedaphelia? "No!!!" Will he judge and convict the unrepentant pedaphile? "YES!!!"

So Jesus didn't directly mention homosexuality, and pedaphelia....oh but he did, indirectly.

In the sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7) Jesus describes the term of benevolence, detailing values and actions. It is here that we are told to "turn the other cheek" and to "judge not, lest you be judged". It is also here that we are told to forget about murder, beause "whoever gets angry at his brother" is in danger of high judgment.

It is also here that we are told that Jesus did not come to abolish even one "jot or tittle" of the Law (of Moses) and Prophets, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17-20). It is undoubtable, that Mosaic Law includes the prohibition of homosexuality (Lev 18:22,20:13). Mosaic Law required the penalty of death, where messianic law requires forgiveness.

God requires repentance, in order to offer forgiveness. Humanity is not the judge, God is the judge. It is not our place to judge the homosexual and convict him to punishment, that is God role. Our role is that of the "witness". Our role is to plead with the unrepentant sinner to repent before they stand before God on judgment day (Rev 20:11-15).

Again, "Does God love the homosexual?" "YES!!!" That's why He wants you to repent. "Do I love homosexuals?" "Yes!!"

Consider this, if what I am saying here is true, and I keep silent, I would be a monster for not warning you (Eze 33).

**************************************************

By the way. Obviously, this all hinges on whether you belive in God or not. If you do, then why argue, just accept His benevolent rule. If not, then why argue. This homosexuality debate is the least of your problems.

Philocrites:

July 24, 2004 11:31 AM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, I follow you on the discussion of benevolence, but your argument breaks down fundamentally. You say that only God is capable of acting with true benevolence, regarding each person as they are and not as a pawn in some ulterior scheme. I'll agree with that. But then you also assume that God's benevolent standard is somehow directly available to human beings in a way that allows us to align ourselves with God's perspective. Look again at your own logic: "That person would have to be outside of the influence of the standard being set, otherwise human nature would twist it to promote this individual's happiness over others." But the people who are insisting that God hates homosexuality are people, not God. The Bible is only words on a page until we bring it to life in our reading and interpretation — an opportunity not just to hear the Spirit, but also through our own pride to twist its words to serve our own purposes. The preachers who are so confident that their reading of fewer than a handful of biblical verses allows them to know God's will concerning gay and lesbian people are, just as you say, twisting scripture to promote their happiness over others. It is one thing to assume that God knows everything, but it's a much more dangerous thing to assume that a human being — a minister, a politician, a church, or oneself — knows what God knows. We don't. That's why we're not God. That's why humility is a virtue, and why doctrines of infallibility are wrong. We must approach scripture with humility, not with the false confidence that our interpretations are plugged directly into God's will.

A more helpful approach, I think, is to step back from the pitched battle of the signs on the street and away from the people who say there is nothing of merit either in the gospel or in gay people's lives, and to do some extended listening. We can never know perfectly what God wills; we can only in humility keep listening, watching for grace and making space for it in our lives. And we can never know perfectly what motivates another human being — but we can listen to them, willing to discern that the Spirit moves in their lives, too, even if they may not know it or even if we would be reluctant to recognize it. I am convinced, from my friendships with faithful gay Christians, that the Spirit is moving in their lives, too — and that has helped me see something new in scripture.

P.S. The most helpful Christian discussion of homosexuality I have yet read is Eugene F. Rogers Jr's essay, "Sanctified Unions" in The Christian Century.

Jeff Wilson:

July 25, 2004 10:36 AM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, I suspect your post lacks the ability to convince anyone who doesn't already share all your presuppositions, in which case it wouldn't be convincing anyone anyway, since they'd already share your ideas. All you do is put out a lot of hypothetical, speculative stuff, quoting random things from a book and imagining what a being higher than you might think. If someone doesn't currently accept your ideas, why would this convince them? I haven't yet seen this strategy work.

On the other hand, I happen to know that you're wrong. Unlike you, I don't have to resort to twisted readings and extrapolations based on texts from times and places utterly different from my own. I have direct experience with homosexual family members, who are easily the best and most loving people I know. Being gay hasn't kept them from being by far the best Christians I know, living the life of love, charity, humility, perserverance, faith, and nonjudgement that Jesus desired, and doing so more truly than any anti-homosexuality Christian (and many who didn't care one way or the other) I've ever met.

If there is a God who could punish these excellent members of my family, easily among the best people I've known in any context, then that God is a monster, a Satan worthy of my contempt. No one will ever convince me to worship a two-faced hatemonger who professes love with one side of his mouth but plans punishment for what consenting adults in a committed loving relationship do to express their intimacy in private. What a worthless fraud such a "God" would be.

Aaron Ireland:

July 29, 2004 08:34 AM | Permalink for this comment

Jeff and Philocrites,

I appreciate you view on this matter as one of experience with people who are of this sexual persuasion, which is something that I have very little of. I am in no way attempting to paint homosexuals as some kind of people who are out to hurt people or have a master plan to destroy life as we know it. My issue with homosexuality is the same as that of any other Luciferian idea.

I use the word Luciferian choicely, as this term implies that we all have a right to define our own morality (though I admit that this is only part of it's meaning, just an aspect that I seek to highlight). Crowley said "Do as you wilt, that is the whole law." This is the thing that directly goes against God's will, as defined in scripture (if the scripture isn't authority, then this is a pointless discussion). Adam and Eve's sin was simply to desire to know "good and evil" so that they could make up their own mind about morality (Gen 3).

My only point in this discusion is that either you believe scripture or not. If you do, consider who is twisting it. Is it the one who reads Leviticus 18:22 and says, "God didn't really mean that", or the one who takes it literally.

If we believe scripture is open to "interpretation", then we can't claim that it is the final authority, but that we are, because we can attach or subtract anything that we want to make it say what "we want". In other words, we can "do what we wilt". Either we are sumbmital to God or our own desires. Any study of Romans 6 shows that the two are oppositional, and that God is pleased when we submit our will to His will.

It is not a matter of zeroing in on one scripture to produce a "hate crime" statment. It's a matter of aligment to God's Word. You both have laid out some very "good" arguments, all based on experience and human intellect. That's fine if human intellect was consistant and reliable...but it isn't. Come back to me with scripture that justifies homosexual union. Even one example of a homosexual, in scripture, that is presented in a positive light, then I'll accept your argument as valid.

Contrary to what I have been accused of saying, humanity is capable of benevolent living, but only to the degree that we subimt ourselves to God's rule. If we want to rule ourselves, God will let us...but we need to accept that we are serving his enemy, because anyone who seeks to set up their own kingdom, outside of God's influence is rebelling against Him. Humanity is not capable of "defining" benevolent standards. A true christian is one who defines their life with bringing glory to God. How does homosexual activity glorify God? Does it glorify Him to call Him a liar? He is not a man that He would lie, nor a son of man that he must repent. He doesn't change His mind, He doesn't need to.

My point isn't to condemn people who are homosexual as hell bound if they find it difficult to change (which I accept that it would be), my point is to say that any sin in anyones life, that is not acknowledged as sin, will condemn a person, because they are accusing God of lying when He says that "all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God" (John 1:10). God doesn't operate on a "browney-point" system, of good deeds cancelling out evil, He simply says, "Okay, so you've sinned. Just own up to it, and I'll help you change (Rom 6-8)". But if you claim your own law, you'll be judged according to God's law. Consider the option, if I'm wrong, you'll still get to enjoy heaven, and so will I, because we are both living by our own convictions. If you're wrong...well that's the risk you take, and I'm absolved from the responsability (Eze 33, James 5:19-20).

[Unnecessarily extended discussion of various translations of Leviticus 18:22 removed 7.30.04. —Ed.]

Jeff Wilson:

July 29, 2004 06:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, as you said, this discussion is pointless if scripture isn't an authority. And since scripture isn't an authority, I guess I have to agree with you that this discussion is pointless. Your tactic only has the ability to be potentially convincing to people who'd forsake their own experiences and heart in favor of the ideas of dead people from long ago, in very different circumstances. Since I've got living, loving people right here to convince me that they're worthy of whatever prizes any alleged cosmic scorekeeper is handing out, quoting from some old book really isn't going to make much of an impression on me. I do appreciate that you've attempted to make your point in a far more civil manner than the large majority of anit-homosexuals I've encountered, though.

Aaron Ireland:

July 31, 2004 02:28 AM | Permalink for this comment

Jeff my only question(s) to you is, how do you view God? Do you believe in His existance? If the Bible isn't the final authority, then what is? If my views contradict with yours, then who decides who is right?

Lastly, and most importantly, what do you think will happen after you die?

Only one thing can happen, we can't decide upon the basis of eternity, as we can't decide upon gravity and aerodynamic's affect on us in this world. Have you ever considered the prospect of the only option being the God as described by these "dead people" who, incidently lived close to the date of creation than us.

Logic would say, that they are closer to the truth than us. Truth cannot be added to, only subtrated from. If I present to you all the facts of my conduct yesterday, the moment you add to it, it becomes a lie. If you subtract it, it may not be the whole truth, but it is still factual.

Whether you like, or agree with the fact that I was up late last night discussing scripture last night with my fellow christians, does not make it go away. If God actually said something, and expects us to live according to it, as stated in Deut 27-30, then we need to decide whether to oppose the greatest power in the universe, due to misunderstanding of His character, or bow our knee before Him in repentance, as the only rightfull heir to the lordship of our life, and receive His salvation.

Aaron Ireland:

July 31, 2004 02:33 AM | Permalink for this comment

One last string of questions. If you do believe in God, then what pleases Him? If you have a view on this, what do you base it on? Are you making His mind up for Him, or did He tell you Himself?

For that matter, did you ever ask?

If He's a real person (and He is) did you ever ask?

Philocrites:

July 31, 2004 11:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, I think the most profound observation in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is "the Word" — not the Bible. The Christian commitment is to follow the living head of the church — a person, in whom and through whom we rediscover God. That Word is deeper and more lively than the words that help us know him. When somebody points to the moon, it's a mistake to focus on the finger that is doing the pointing. The Bible helps us know God, but fundamentalists run the risk of focusing so intently on the words on the page that they miss the deeper purpose of scripture. They sometimes think that knowing the words on the page is the same thing as knowing the will of God. They're wrong. God's purposes transcend us and transform us.

That's what makes me so wary of the way fundamentalists and many very well-intentioned Christians get hung up on homosexuality. They are taking a very few verses of scripture — verses that clearly are part of ancient moral codes that fundamentalists ignore on most every other point (mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, covering heads, stoning adulterers, forgiving debts every seven years, etc.) — and using those verses to demonize and ignore the reality of faithful gay and lesbian Christians, not to mention many more gay and lesbian people who would make wonderful Christians if the church could simply find a way to welcome them.

And this is where I think theological liberals are right: Jesus emphasized over and over the obligation of his followers to transcend the rules and live out the spirit behind them. Who are the hungry and naked and imprisoned and widowed and orphaned and estranged today? That's the question he asked — and it never will have a simple rulebook answer. It will always require us to look around and see where we can extend a genuinely helping hand.

I doubt very much that you and I are going to see eye-to-eye on this issue. But for me, the process of trying to live God's will has required paying sympathetic attention to the lives of people I don't immediately understand. I cannot assume that I know all the answers, or that I fully comprehend God's will. I have to be in conversation with other people — including with the people who wrote the Bible — in order to see beyond my own narrow perspective. Learning to see my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as beloved children of God — and as people who are blessed to be who they are — has been a grace-filled opportunity for me. It makes me sad and frustrated to watch so many Christians put up such elaborate mental blocks against getting to know the actual, real-life people they condemn.

As for your very serious question of what is the final authority if the Bible is not, I would say that God is. The Bible is wonderful, but it is not God — and because we can never know God's mind fully, we have to do our very best in humility to ask questions, seek lots of input (including the Bible's priceless wisdom), and use our heads. Will we avoid making mistakes this way? No. But the most dangerous illusion in the world is the illusion that some of us have all the answers. We don't. The writers of the Bible didn't. But they loved God, and we can, too, and as Jesus lived and continues to teach us, the proper response to the love of God is to love our neighbor.

Jeff Wilson:

July 31, 2004 02:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, I think Philocrites's answer is very eloquent and provides a useful reply, especially with his point that God, not the Bible, would be a more appropriate final authority. However, since you addressed me directly, I think it would be rude not to provide my own response.

As to how I view God, I mainly view God as an idea left over from an earlier, less informed time, though still able to provide the impetus for powerful emotions and motivations to many in the modern world. I don't believe in the literal existence of a person who created and runs the universe, such an idea struck me as absurd even when I was a child. As to who is right when our views contradict, the depends entirely on the context. If you mean who is right about how to live their life, then I am right for me and you are right for you. I have no wish to make you stop thinking or doing things that have meaning to you. As to final authorities, I'll take my own experience as an arbiter of the truth, at least as it related to me. There are innummerable people and ideologies that are constantly presenting themselves to me in precisely the way you do. If I went by any other authority other than my own reason and experience, I could never hope to choose rightly from the unending pack of competing ideologies. Why should I believe, say, you, when your evidence is no better than that of any of the other people who point away from my life to some book? If you mean who is right about the way the universe was created and runs, I suspect I am right and you are wrong, since my views are based on scientific experimentation and collection of data, not old books I've randomly decided that (out of all the literature of the ancient and modern world) happen to be correct.

As to what will happen to me after I die, who knows? There are so many people pushing so many theories, all with little books and closed minds to back them up. Personally, I consider my life to be more important than my death. During my life, I have the opportunity to care for others, to love and be loved, to work toward making the world a better place, to enjoy the wonders of nature, to be the best that I can. After I'm dead, I'll attend to whatever needs attending in that situation. I do suspect, however, that the end of brain consciousness signals the end of the personality. We'll see.

I have considered the possibility that conservative forms of Christianity are right, and found nothing compelling about them.

I don't agree that there is any logic to the idea that the words of people who lived thousands of years before us are more accurate than ours because they lived closer to creation. The universe is approximately 15 billion years old, and humans have only recently developed the ability to accurately explore and describe things on such a scale. Logically, I believe that people from older times were more ignorant about the nature of the universe, than we are today.

Why would I care what Deutoronomy says? Do you care what the Dhammapada or the Koran say? My point in these answers is the same as my first response: your arguments carry no weight to convince someone who doesn't already hold your presuppositions. The path you offer is no more scriputral than that of all the other religions who advance scriptures they revere, the arguments (hedge your bets, etc) apply no less to other religions, and the logic you suggest can even work against you, since there are many scriptures from other religions that are considerably older than your own.

You ask what I think would please God. I have to imagine that God would be pleased when I show as much love as possible toward other people. Anti-homosexual activists, no matter how often they pretend to love others, are fundamentally advancing a program of hate and intolerance. For that matter, any God who willfully causes thousands or millions of people to suffer eternal pain is a monster, no authority on love I would ever pay even the slightest attention to. I'm just an ordinary person, with as many flaws as anyone. If a guy like me can plainly see that an omnipotent being who sentences _anyone_ to eternal torture is somewhat less than perfect when it comes to loving, how could I demand anything less from any alleged god?

Here is where I come down: the only god who could ever command my allegiance is one who would never be so petty and hateful as to create a place like Hell, and to condemn people to it for any reason whatsoever (to say nothing of the utterly narcissistic reason of failing to worship him). I am a person of deep faith: I do not think that any real God would show such small-minded, human failings.

Aaron Ireland:

August 4, 2004 01:04 AM | Permalink for this comment

Philocrites wrote:

That's what makes me so wary of the way fundamentalists and many very well-intentioned Christians get hung up on homosexuality. They are taking a very few verses of scripture — verses that clearly are part of ancient moral codes that fundamentalists ignore on most every other point (mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, covering heads, stoning adulterers, forgiving debts every seven years, etc.) — and using those verses to demonize and ignore the reality of faithful gay and lesbian Christians, not to mention many more gay and lesbian people who would make wonderful Christians if the church could simply find a way to welcome them.

Philocrites,

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention back to my first comment made in this thread, which I have attempted to do nothing but clarify, in all but my lst post, which was intended to assess you and Jeff's view points, so as to avoid making false assumptions of your beliefs.

I began my comments with "The essential problem with this debate, is the perceived errosion of absolute truth. The first question to ask is does God love homosexuals? The answer is "Yes!" Now (i mispelt this as 'No') that I have that out of the way, we need to quantify the intended meaning of the word 'love'." I take particular issue with people getting all riled up about about homosexuality, to the point of violence. I hope that you hear the heart of what I have said, that I have made extreme efforts to present minimal emotion in my comments (aside from the last) but raw logical arguments. Although emotions are very necessary for healthy living, if we live out of them as our primary source of morality, then anything can be justified. That's why we have laws to produce order in society.

No human being has a right to judge anyone else, because we are fintite and never no the whole facts. The only reason we have human judges, is that people, on the whole, won't submit to God's love law (Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself). This statement can be proven historically by both the Welsh Revival in 1904 and the Hebrides Revival in 1949. In both cases, the message preached was essentialy "confess of any known faults to one another, and seek to make restitution wherever possible". This being the only true way to have unity between man.

The obedience to this message, resulted in every church in the nation (or island in the case of the Hebrides) being packed from 6am to 12am every day of the week. In both cases, judges were presented with white gloves and not a case to try. Police were rendered redundant (in the Welsh revival, they stated that the police offered the services of their police bands in church services, due them having nothing else to do).

These were cases where God's laws were obeyed willingly, as no one can (nor should) force anyone to obey them. This was much different to what was seen in Nazi Germany, where prostitution, pornography, and a host things were all removed form society and outlawed. In the above case, the police were busy carrying disobedient people away to concentration camps. This is not God's way.

In God's kingdom, the "good" is given second place to the "perfect". Something may seem "good" by all appearances, but is actually diabolical, due to the nature of rebellion. After all, the term "Kingdom of God" (which was used repeatedly by Jesus himself), implies that God is the king. God wants us to consult daily with Him as to the path we take in life, and obey to His intstruction.

I agree with Philocrites statement, that "fundamentalists run the risk of focusing so intently on the words on the page that they miss the deeper purpose of scripture." I also agree with his statement "They sometimes think that knowing the words on the page is the same thing as knowing the will of God". Paul wrote that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.

The Law of Moses is nothing but an inditement on mankind, to establish the extent of our guilt resulting from the fall in the garden. Adam and Eve's only recorded sin was to desire to make up their own mind as to what is good and evil, rather than relying on God to show them personally. This action caused a inherited condition called the sin nature, which is what is described, including the remedy of (death), in Mosaic Law.

It's not about "are you homosexual or not", it's about "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Jesus established in the sermon on the mount, a "raising of the bar" so to speak of the standards of the Law, knowing that forgiveness was available as a safety net for us. He changed "Thou shall not kill", with "Thou shall not get angry", he changed, "Thou shall not commit adultery" to "Thou shall not look lustfully". He didn't actually use the terms "thou shall not.." but explained it in terms of cause and effect...effect being judgement.

I regard to "verses that clearly are part of ancient moral codes that fundamentalists ignore on most every other point (mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, covering heads, stoning adulterers, forgiving debts every seven years, etc.)", that is easily explained. In the book of Acts, Peter was given a vision where "unclean animals" were lowered from heaven on a sheet, commanding him to take and eat. When Peter expressed his indigance, God reponded by saying "Don't say something is unclean if I say it's clean." God used this vision to inform him that the gospel was for the gentiles, and not just the Jews.

Paul and Barnabas established abstinence "sexual sins" as part of the primary things that christian's need to do, in repsonse to Messianic-Jews heaping the whole of Mosaic law upon gentile believers. Stoning adulters, was done away with by Jesus with his famous quote "the he who is waithout sin cast the first stone" (which he followed by telling the woman to "go and sin no more"). If fact, in the sermon on the mount, he tells us to leave the "judging" of sin up to God.

Forgiving debts is altered in the sermon on the mount by Jesus with the statement "if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." Also, in the Lord's prayer is we're taught to ask God to "forive us our debts" in direct proportion wuth the way "we forgive those indebted to us". You're right, many christians don't adhere to this, but it is the will of Christ to "give" and not to "loan".

I'll have to look into the mixing of fabrics, but my understanding is that this was part of an illustration of "spiritual adultery", where we take a bit of God's way of worship, and mix it with the way people worship idols, which is expressly prohibited from Genesis right through to Revelation. This was the root cause for the repeated lifting of God's protection of Isreal, allowing enemy nations to capture them (that and pride).

Homosexual origin goes back to the worship of Aphrodite (see Is The Homosexual My Neighbour" at http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/campolo.htm ... which incidently, is an article in favour of homosexual union). Aphrodite was, according to Greek mythology, a hermaphrodite. People worshipped her by participating in bisexual orgies with male and female shrine prostitutes.

My understanding of the arguement for homosexual unoin, is that homosexuality is okay if contained in monogamus union, which would reduce the promiscuity that causes the problems with disease etc. This same logic is applied to shooting galleries for drug injectors. But where do we draw the line? Do we have "safe houses" for pedaphiles, with contenting childeren working inside?

You can not show me one single place, in scripture where God condones homosexuality, and you only need to find one. To say He condemns the practice, we only need to find one mention as well, but we have at least two. I am not judging anyone here. I am merely warning people of a clear sin, as outlined in scripture.

2 Timothy 3:1517 says "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." This clearly says that all scripture is inspired by God, therefore it is the very words and sentiments of God, as these are the very words and sentiments of mine. Incidently, when the apotle Paul made this statment to his prodige, Timothy, there was no New Testament yet, only the Old and the very words of Jesus.

If I were say that you guys are against freedom of speech and freedom to choose right from wrong, I would be putting words into your mouth that were not being said. In fact I would be calling you a liar, because you have made statments to the contrary. This is what I am accusing you of, in your view of scripture. Either you believe the lot, or reject the lot.

Understand that what I am saying is not "judging", as this is God's responsablity. I am merely bringin to your attention a potential issue between you and God, in accordance with James 5:19-20 "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Again I make the statement I closed my first post with, "Consider this, if what I am saying here is true, and I keep silent, I would be a monster for not warning you (Eze 33)."

Aaron Ireland:

August 8, 2004 01:44 AM | Permalink for this comment

Jeff Wilson wrote:

Here is where I come down: the only god who could ever command my allegiance is one who would never be so petty and hateful as to create a place like Hell, and to condemn people to it for any reason whatsoever (to say nothing of the utterly narcissistic reason of failing to worship him). I am a person of deep faith: I do not think that any real God would show such small-minded, human failings.

Jeff,

To understand the doctrine of judgement and hell, we need to know what hell is. It isn't a literal "lake of fire" in the sence of some place that God has created to put everyone who won't acknowledge Him, out of some kind of "selfish brat" type of attitude.

It is simply being cast out of the influence of His loving kindness. The initial shock of judgement day, will be the realisation, that He has had an incredible amount of protective influence in our life. We think, in our limited understanding, things like "If God were real, then why do little babies die?" or "Why is there suffering in Africa?"

What we don't consider is, "If God isn't real, then how did I walk out of the five car pile up, with hardly a scratch?" or "If God isn't real, the why didn't my kitchen burn down, when I left the oven on while I was out?" We take credit for those kind of things (or at least put it down to mere "coincidence", without taking responsability for the above.

Hell is simply the antithesis of hevean. Heaven is a wonderful place, where there is no pain, suffering and sickness. Why? Because everyone there submits to the leadership of the only truly benevolent being in existance. Earth was initially ruined by someone submitting to a wholey selfish creature, bent on nothing bar the overthrowing of this benevolent entity and destroying everything He holds dear. The sin of Adam and Eve, was to desire to make their own choices, regarding "good and evil", without requiring the consultation of God.

Why is this bad? Because we are finite, while He is infinite. He can take everything, know and unknown, into consideration, before making a decision (judgement). Heaven is only heaven, because their we submit our finite will to His infinite wisdom, wholeheartedly. Here on earth, we are free to choose between a higher good, and a tempting evil.

Judgement Day will begin with that above mentioned shock, then continue with an assessment of our life, blow by blow. This will produce an appreciation of our own imperfection, which will cement the necessity for our reliance on God's wisdom.

Jesus atoning sacrifice is cited as being the only means of being cleansed of the effects of our rebellion (sin) on our lives (ie. do the wrong thing, get taste for it, long to repeat it, do the wrong thing...etc) All who have "confessed with their lips, the Lord Jesus", and "believed in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead", display both their willingness to submit to God's rulership, and their trust (faith) in the atoning sacrifice to cleanse them of sin (selfishness).

People who do this, have their names written in the "Lambs Book of Life", which is a kind of heavenly "role call book". If we decide that we don't want to do this, we display that we do not want to submit to God's rulership. If we don't want to do it here, then what makes you think that we'll do it in heaven? If we rebel against God on earth, then we display that we are His enemy. Would you want to welcome your enemy into your own house? Maybe you would, if you lived alone, but consider the safety of your wife and children (if you have them)? God is not the only one who would suffer in this senario, but everyone who has been promised the blessing of heaven, from a reliable source (God via the Bible).

God's only option would be to disallow His enemies to enter hevean, where the revelation of His love is at it's fullest. Here on earth, every creature is in contact with God's love in one way or another. As I have already mentioned, this will be the initial shock for many on judgement day. When this day comes, it will mean the end of finite creation (ie. this temporal universe we live in), and a transition into a new eternal realm, where benevolence will reign.

Even if have no one tangible to love us on earth, our Creator still reveals His love to us. If we consider the feeling of breaking up in a relationship, whether it be divorce or simply boyfriend/girlfriend kind of thing, the initial "loss of love" can be heart wrenching. Some would say that they would rather die, and many committ suicide as a result. But even they have contact with a loving Creator.

Imagine if even that were withdrawn when He says, "Time's up. I have to redeem my children from this mess now." This is hell. The total absence of God's loving influence in your life!!!

So, does He still seem like a monster?

Aaron Ireland:

August 8, 2004 01:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

Adition to the above:

Compared to this, give me a "lake of fire" any day!!

Philocrites:

August 8, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, you are right to point out that basic assumptions determine how you and I (and Jeff) arrive at our very different conclusions, but I think you are also illustrating the fundamental problem with your approach:

You obviously assume that some parts of scripture are subordinated to other parts: For example, dietary codes laid out in explicit detail in one part are transcended by a dream recorded in another part. You also assume that typological, allegorical, or symbolic meanings are more "true" in some passages than a literal interpretation. In practice, in other words, you have a way to decide which parts of the Bible demand your total adherence and which parts you can disregard; you have found a way to say that every word in the Bible is divinely revealed, while at the same time treating many verses as *more* divine than others. I think this approach to the Bible is destined to disappoint you. In theory, it gives you a solid foundation, an anchor of certainty, but in practice, reconciling all the inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible is a futile effort -- and in my view a distraction from the Bible's true spiritual richness. The Bible is a complex and contradictory world, and it repays our attention in many wonderful ways. It helps us ask life's important questions, but it is not the answer key or the rule book. Asking the Bible to decide for us how to regard homosexual men and women is in my view an evasion of responsibility.

You can complain that liberals have walked away from the absolute authority of biblical truth, but we're simply being honest about the fact that the Bible is not itself absolutely true or even absolutely reliable. (I don't even think it claims to be absolutely true.) And here's the thing: Even you don't *treat* the Bible, in practice, as absolutely true.

Because fundamentalists are selective literalists -- relying on allegorical, symobolical, supercessionist, and even cultural arguments to show that some verses don't quite mean what they seem to mean when they contradict fundamentalist conclusions -- you are able to say that something the Bible says almost nothing about -- contemporary homosexuality -- is a violation of God's plan for human life. Liberal Christians (like me) and religious liberals (like Jeff) simply can't agree that there is good evidence for your conclusion, and we believe we have much better evidence for our own conclusions.

Here's what it comes down to for me: It is impossible to show, if one is intellectually honest, that the Bible is inerrant, plain, and free of contradiction. Really, I ask you: Is it all equally the "word of God"? Is it all equally inspired? If not -- if Ecclesiastes, for example, is not quite as "holy" as the Sermon on the Mount -- then the Bible cannot be treated as the clear and unwavering expression of the unchanging will of God. The book is simply too diverse and complicated. For whatever reason, God has not chosen to be unmistakably instantaneously clear about most things. As I've tried to say before, it is folly for human beings to imagine that we *know* God's will -- especially when our "knowledge" turns out to involve the oppression of others. We can seek in humility to serve God's will, but to think that we do know it is to fall into the trap of pride and idolatry.

The Bible requires interpretation. Sure, the Bible doesn't "condone" homosexuality. It also doesn't condone airplanes, movable type, electricity, or democracy. Shall we assume that these things also violate God's plan? The Bible doesn't exactly condone romantic love (outside of the nonmarital sexuality of the Song of Songs) or refute the practice of slavery. It says nothing about sports, theater, or the sonata form. It doesn't mention calculus. What are we to think of that? Does the Bible's silence on important features of our modern life mean that these things are unimportant? (Of course not.)

For me, the complexity of the Bible simply means that we have to become aware that we are always interpreting the Bible -- and so we have to take responsibility for the ways we are interpreting it. We depend on the Bible, and the traditions of the church, and the traditions of our culture, and the insights of past and present scholarship to make sense of our world -- and I think we have to be mindful of all these things, and to try to be faithful to the ultimate commitments that we discern as best for human life. I simply don't see any compelling reason to regard the Bible's scattered handful of verses that can be construed to be about homosexuality as justifications for excluding contemporary gay and lesbian people from civic life -- or from full participation in the life of the church.

You regard the Bible as authoritative in a way that I cannot, and I regard personal experience as authoritative in a way that you probably do not. I think we can regard each other's points of view as deeply felt and (I hope) religiously sincere. But I suspect that if we're going to keep talking about homosexuality, it's important to see that an appeal to the authority of the Bible isn't going to resolve our differences because we see the meaning of the Bible very differently.

This conversation has been very interesting -- and I deeply appreciate what I interpret as Aaron's good will in it -- but I also sense that we may soon be going around and around the same issue without getting very far. If there are readers who are following this conversation closely and profitably, please e-mail me privately and let me know how much longer you'd like it to continue. I'm inclined to close the comments on this entry soon rather than let it drag on and on between Aaron, Jeff, and me.

Jeff Wilson:

August 8, 2004 11:30 PM | Permalink for this comment

Aaron, Philocrites has called for a graceful end to what has been--for me at least--an interesting conversation. I'm inclined to bow to his request. So I'll just end quickly--since you asked me a direct question--by saying that yes, such a god still strikes me as a monster, or at least a very limited, human-like deity. This deity is limited in its powers and its compassion, holding a cut-off period after which it abandons hope of helping those it loves. A deity like this could never command any attention from me--I don't believe in such higher beings, but if I did, I'd expect more out of them than such limited, conditional (and, if I understand you correctly, somewhat impotent) love and patience. I get better love than that from my dad, who wouldn't turn me away even if I were a danger to the rest of the family--he'd find a way to give me happiness separate from the others until I'd come around, someday, no matter how long it took.



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