Side A: Justin Lee Explains His View of The Bible and Gay Relationships

God may thunder His commands from Mount Sinai and men may fear, yet remain at heart exactly as they were before. But let a man once see his God down in the arena as a Man, – suffering, tempted, sweating, and agonized, finally dying a criminal's death – and he is a hard man indeed who is untouched.- J. B. Phillips

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A platform erected by the road to ease burdens by Thamizhpparithi Maari -Wikicommons
May we be that platform for burdened people

Today Justin will explain his view on gay relationships. It can be summed up as  "I now believe that homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship." 

I urge you to read his explanation even if you do not agree with him. Why? I believe that Justin has a unique ability to communicate to both the conservative and liberal factions of this seemingly insurmountable, monumental divide. It is important to undertsand that he holds to a view that is exceedingly rare in the GLBT culture. At the same time, he supports those who believe in lifelong celibacy as is evidenced by his posting of both sides of the Great Debate.

It is vital to understand that Justin is highly respected by many of those on all sides of this issue. There are few people who have the ability to communicate in such a manner. I cannot emphasize enough his kindness and understanding of me. If his parents are reading this, please know that I sense your love in the life of this wonderful man. 

I learned so much from Justin and I will be addressing our discussion in the next two days. Even if your church, and you, hold to lifelong celibacy (and I have made my current views known on this), I believe that Justin has much to say that will help many Christians understand and better relate to those who would classify themselves as GLBT. I am firmly convinced that we need to hear him.

I feel it is important for me to let you all know that I do not believe that being gay is a sin. Saying that one is gay is no different than saying one is hetereosexual. It is what we do with those feelings that matter. Please understand that being gay does not equate with being promiscuous, anymore than being heterosexual is equated with being licentious.  It is wrong to prejudge the state of anyone's heart and struggle. I believe the church, as a whole, has not done a good job in this area, starting with me! This series is my way of attemtping, in some small way, to up the level of conversation within the church.

I thank Justin for allowing me to reprint the following discussion.

(Note: The numbers in the post refer to footnotes at the bottom of the post.)

What I Believe -link to GCN

As many of you know, I'm fairly conservative in my theological views.  I believe that the Bible is morally authoritative, that sex is for marriage, and that promiscuity is harmful to everyone involved.  For many years of my life, I also believed that all homosexual behavior was wrong – whether it consisted of anonymous hookups or committed relationships.  I believed, based on what I had read in the Bible, that even the most loving and monogamous of same-sex relationships was evil in God's eyes.  But as I studied the Bible, my view on that subject changed.  I now believe that homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship.  Essentially, I'm arguing that a Christ-centered marriage is a good thing, regardless of the gender of the people involved. [1]

Ron and I disagree on this point, and that puts us on opposite sides of a debate that is splitting the church.  Traditionally, the church has condemned homosexual relationships, and many Christians believe it should continue to do so.  But a growing number of Christians believes the church has made a mistake and that the church's position ought to be reformed.  In this essay, I'm going to refer to these differing Christian viewpoints as "the Traditional View" and "the Reformed View" respectively.

I support the Reformed View.  But even so, I still believe that the vast majority of homosexual behavior throughout history has been sinful.  (In my opinion, quite a lot of heterosexual behavior has been sinful as well!)  I think that the Biblical writers were absolutely correct to condemn the homosexual behaviors they witnessed in their cultures – not only because those behaviors were connected with other sinful behaviors (such as idolatry), but also because the specific acts themselves were wrong.

The passages that mention those acts (often called "clobber passages," but I don't care for that term) could be interpreted in two ways.  They might condemn only those specific acts and situations, or they might condemn all homosexual behaviors for all time, regardless of situation.  For instance, when the Bible speaks negatively of "tax collectors," we realize that it's not talking about modern IRS agents.  Tax collectors in Jesus' day were frequently corrupt and cheated people out of more money than they owed.  So when the Bible talks about "tax collectors," it's not condemning all tax collectors for all time; it's condemning the specific behaviors of the tax collectors at that time.

Are "homosexual offenders" condemned for the same reason as tax collectors, or are all same-sex relationships condemned for all time?  In a moment, when I go through the passages in question, you'll see that there are no easy answers.  In fact, if we had to limit the discussion to only those passages, I'd feel really conflicted and wouldn't be comfortable giving a definitive answer to this question at all.

The reason I do feel comfortable with a definitive answer is that I believe the Traditional View is internally inconsistent and conflicts with key Scripture passages.  I am convinced that a Reformed View is the only way to provide a reasonable, consistent standard for interpreting the Bible as a whole.

Four Traditional View Arguments: The Big "Why?"

Before examining the problems I believe are inherent in the Traditional View, let's take a look at the various reasons people give for condemning same-sex relationships.  Not all Traditional Views are the same, and some of the arguments are better than others.

Of course, some people hold the Traditional View simply because it is the traditional view.  I've heard people say, "Two thousand years of church tradition can't be wrong."  But this approach ignores just how often church tradition has been wrong:  when astronomers challenged the traditional interpretations of 1 Chronicles 16:30 and Psalm 104:5; when abolitionists questioned the Biblical support for slavery; when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in defiance of the Catholic Church; when liberal Christians began suggesting that interracial marriage was not a sin in God's eyes – in these and many other cases, social pressures were the catalyst for reforming the church's traditions.  We are the body of Christ, to be sure, but we are an all-too-human body, and we're still growing to spiritual maturity.

That's not to say that there haven't been some misguided reformers as well.  It should go without saying that not everyone who questions tradition is right.  But when we do question tradition, we need to be able to ask "why":  Why does this tradition exist?  What is the point of this rule?  Where does this belief come from?

Here are the four most common answers I hear to the question of why.

Argument #1: "Our bodies were designed for heterosexuality."

This argument is phrased different ways, from the cliche (e.g. "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve") to the vulgar (e.g. various comments about "plumbing").  The argument is the same: God designed our bodies to interact in a certain way, so we shouldn't use them in any other way.

It's certainly true that God designed our bodies with heterosexuality in mind; that's how new human beings come into the world.  I don't think anyone can deny that heterosexual sex is the way our bodies were built to function.  But does that mean that using our bodies in any other way is sinful?

God designed our ears and mouths so we could communicate – we listen, and we talk.  Every culture on earth communicates this way.  But some people are deaf, maybe because they were born that way or maybe because of something that happened to them.  Either way, they can't communicate the way the rest of us do, so they have to improvise with what they have.  Most deaf people today use sign language to communicate, and even though that's not what our hands were designed for, it gets the job done.  None of us would call that "sinful."

The argument that "you shouldn't do that because that wasn't God's design" is really more of an excuse than a real argument.  If anything becomes sinful just because it wasn't part of the original design of creation, we'd have to condemn wheelchairs, makeup, open-heart surgery, bicycles, acrobatics, pre-packaged foods… well, you get the idea.

Argument #2: "Sex is for procreation."

Some people will argue that procreation is a necessary aspect of sex, so that experiencing sexual pleasure in any way that isn't open to the possibility of procreation is a sin.  This once widespread belief is now primarily taught only by the Roman Catholic Church and is rejected by most Protestants.

The Bible never says that sex must always be used for procreation.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that sex is for other purposes as well; it forms a bond between people (1 Cor. 6:16) and is a marital responsibility (1 Cor. 7:3-5).  Procreation is only one part of the reason for sex, and many couples have sex on a regular basis without ever conceiving (sometimes by choice; other times not).

According to official Roman Catholic teachings, sex is sinful whenever it is not "open to procreation."  But the RCC applies this very inconsistently. Couples are allowed to have sex even when they know they are infertile, and fertile couples can deliberately plan their sexual encounters at times they know they will not conceive (known as "natural family planning"), as long as they don't use condoms or other so-called "artificial" means of birth control.  Why should sex by an infertile couple be considered "open to procreation" when sex with a spermicide isn't?  Is Natural Family Planning considered acceptable only because it is less reliable?  (If condoms were less reliable, would they be acceptable?)  Is there really anything "open to procreation" about a couple who know they are infertile because of physical deformities, age, medical conditions, previous surgery, or any other reason?

I know many wonderful Christians who are Catholic, but with all due respect, I believe this position is inconsistent and without Scriptural foundation.  After all, it derives primarily from the teachings of St. Augustine and is never mentioned in the Bible.  But if you're going to use this argument anyway, you'd have to condemn sterile heterosexual relationships just as strongly.

Argument #3: "There are no examples of same-sex marriage in the Bible."

This is a much better argument than the first two.  Essentially, it says this: If extramarital sex is wrong, then gay sex would only be permissible in a gay marriage.  But, the argument says, there is no such thing as a gay marriage in God's eyes; every marriage in the Bible is heterosexual.

I agree with the first half of this argument; I believe that sex should be reserved for marriage.  Whether we like it or not, sex forms a bond with others, and that bond is difficult if not impossible to break.  When people have sex without a commitment, it can take quite an emotional and psychological toll once the relationship ends.  (Cameron Diaz's character in Vanilla Sky asks her ex-boyfriend, "Don't you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not?")  Anonymous sexual encounters and one-night stands can be even more harmful, not to mention the potential for STDs.  Promiscuity ultimately results in a loss of self-respect, a devaluing of sex, and potential damage to others.  So I agree with this argument that sex ought to be in a marriage relationship, where the physical bond is matched by a relational bond and isn't just an incidental side-effect.

And yes, it's true that there are no same-sex marriages in the Bible.  But that's what we'd expect anyway.  Same-sex marriages weren't a part of the cultures in which the Bible was written, so obviously we wouldn't expect to see stories of men and women with same-sex partners. [2]  In ancient Israel especially, marriage was as much about inheritance rights as anything, which resulted in such bizarre practices as levirate marriage (where men were required to take a dead brother's wife and produce heirs for him – Deut. 25:5-6; Gen. 38:8) and God-ordained polygamy (Exodus 21:10-11; 2 Sam. 12:7-8). Even more shocking, a master could buy wives for his male slaves and then keep the wife and kids for himself after setting the slave free (Exodus 21:2-4), and women were forced to marry their rapists (Deut. 22:28-29).  There's a lot more that could be said about these practices and the rationales behind them, but that would be a bit off-topic.  The point is this: Biblical examples of marriage reflect the culture both in what they include and what they do not.

Many things aren't mentioned in the Bible, either because they weren't part of the culture at that time (e.g. computer porn) or because they weren't especially important issues to the Biblical authors (e.g. masturbation).  In cases like these, we use general Biblical principles to address the issue, relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance.  I'm going to suggest later in this essay that there are good Biblical reasons for supporting same-sex relationships even though they don't appear anywhere in Scripture.

This particular Traditionalist argument has one other shortcoming.  These are supposed to be arguments about why same-sex relationships are sinful; yet this argument doesn't answer that question.  It shifts the issue from "sex" to "marriage," but it still doesn't tell us why God would condemn a loving, monogamous, Christ-centered marriage between two people of the same sex.

To get the answer to that question, we have to move on to the fourth (and final) Traditional View argument…

Argument #4: "Because God says so." (aka "There's a rule against it.")

Yep, this is what it comes down to.  No matter how wordy, complex, or sophisticated they get, every Christian Traditionalist argument I can think of ultimately relies on this basic principle: God has a rule against same-sex relationships, and even if we don't fully understand or can't explain the rationale behind it, in the end we're just expected to obey, like Abraham sacrificing Isaac.

I'm not entirely comfortable with this answer, since it makes God seem arbitrary, and I don't believe God is arbitrary.  By the same token, if God tells me to do something, then I want to obey Him.  So if God really does say so – if there really is a divine rule against same-sex relationships – then we need to follow it.

But is there one?

The Evidence for the Rule

Basically, the evidence for a rule against same-sex relationships consists of a few Bible passages where homosexual behaviors are condemned.  They are used as "prooftexts" for the Traditional View.  (A prooftext is a passage that is frequently quoted or referred to as a direct reference to a particular issue or theological question.  Prooftexts can be useful at times, but we must be careful to read them in their proper context, or they can lead us astray.)

If you've read much about this debate, you're probably already familiar with most of these arguments, so I'm not going to spend too much time on them.  Still, I think we ought to briefly review the passages and see what kind of evidence they give us.

Prooftext #1: The Sodom Story (Gen. 19)

This passage is most often referred to by people who haven't read it.  Of all the prooftexts, this one is the least relevant and the least helpful.

According to popular belief, "God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality."  If you read the passage for yourself, you'll see this isn't quite the way it happened.  Sodom and Gomorrah were set to be destroyed by God for a number of reasons (Ezekiel tells us they were "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned" and "did not help the poor and needy," among other things [Ezekiel 16:49]).  Like any other city in Bible times, these cities were populated primarily by heterosexuals; Lot found husbands for his daughters there.

The only reason people today think of Sodom as "a gay city" is that passage in Genesis 19 where two angels come to warn Lot of the city's impending destruction, and the men of the city respond to these visitors by forming an angry mob and threatening to gang rape them.  What most people don't know is that this isn't an isolated incident in Scripture.  Judges 19 tells a very similar story about a town mob threatening to gang rape a male visitor in the city of Gibeah, though in that story they end up murdering his concubine instead.  Does this mean that in Bible times, the landscape was dotted with "gay cities" everywhere that loved to rape men?  Of course not.  A threat of gang rape should be interpreted as an act of humiliating violence – a way of saying to a visitor, "You are not welcome here; we're the big dogs."  (Just imagine if you were in prison and a bunch of big, burly men threatened to rape you.  You wouldn't assume they were gay men hitting on you; you'd realize that they were threatening you with the worst punishment imaginable!)  Although it might sound strange to our ears, this would have made sense to the earliest readers of these texts.

Generally, serious Traditionalist scholars don't use the Sodom story to make their arguments, anyway.  They do, however, use the following passages.

Prooftext #2: Idols and Consequences (Romans 1:18-32)

Of all the prooftexts, this is the longest and most complex.  In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul talks about a group of people who "knew God" but "neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him."  Their hearts are darkened, and they begin worshipping idols.  As a direct result of this idol worship, they begin engaging in homosexual behaviors (which they previously were not doing).  Ultimately, they become depraved and God gives them over to a whole list of sins.

Most Traditionalists read this passage as referring to all humanity, with the idol worship used as a metaphor rather than a specific event.  In their reading of the passage, Paul is essentially saying, "People (in general) have turned from God (represented by idol worship) and as a result, have become sinful (including homosexuality)."  I don't think the language of the passage quite supports that interpretation, however.

Paul begins by talking about all of humanity, to be sure, but he quickly moves to a specific example as a demonstration of humanity's fallenness.  The specific example is one his Roman readers would be immediately familiar with: the fertility cults in Rome, where men and women engaged in sexual orgies that included both heterosexual and homosexual sex rites.  Remember, Paul wants a vivid example of fallenness for his audience, something they can all nod their heads in agreement with, because he's getting ready to turn the tables on them in the next chapter.  In ancient Rome, "homosexuality" as a general phenomenon wouldn't have been the vivid illustration he was looking for (unlike today, when many conservative pastors use it for just that). [3]  Roman fertility cults, however, were a great example that served his purpose nicely and required no explanation to his readers.

Notice that Paul talks about homosexuality in connection with the fertility rites (look for the "therefore" in v. 24 and "because of this" in v. 26), and not in the list of sins at the end of the passage.  This is our clue that Paul isn't bringing it up as "another example of sinful behavior."  Why, then, does Paul make such a big deal about the homosexual aspect of these rites?  For two reasons: 1) to highlight the "unnaturalness" of turning from God; and 2) to describe the rites in the most unappealing way he can think of, to unify everyone in saying, "Yes! How disgustingly immoral!"

Now let there be no mistake; Paul has nothing positive to say about homosexuality in this passage.  Clearly he views it as a bad thing, or at the very least, a "shameful" and "unnatural" thing.  We must recognize that.  At the same time, we must also recognize that homosexuality is not the point of this passage, even though some Christians today try to use it that way.  It's mentioned for a specific reason in connection with specific acts that were familiar to his audience.

So this passage speaks negatively of homosexual behavior, but on the other hand, it does so in a context which is clearly sinful.  Paul does say homosexuality is "shameful" and "unnatural," but he says the same thing (using the same Greek words) about men with long hair in 1 Corinthians 11:14, and we generally consider that to be cultural.  Is this a prohibition for all time, or is it a matter of context, like with the tax collectors?  Based on what we've seen so far, it's tough to say.  I wouldn't put too much faith in either reading without something a lot more concrete to back it up.

Prooftext #3: The Sinful "Arsenokoitai" (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10)

Aside from Romans, the only other New Testament reference to homosexuality occurs in two passages known as "vice lists," in which Paul casually mentions the "arsenokoitai" as a group of sinners.  People spend a lot of time debating about the translation of this word, because it appears only rarely in ancient writings.  Even the translators of the NIV couldn't seem to make up their minds about it; it's translated as "homosexual offenders" in 1 Corinthians, but as "perverts" in 1 Timothy.

The word arsenokoitai is a compound word in Greek, and the parts of the word make reference to "male" and "bed," which indicates that this word probably referred to some kind of male homosexual behavior.  The same Greek words ("male" and "bed") appear in the Greek translation of the Leviticus passage I'm going to discuss in a moment, which tells men not to lie ("bed") with a man ("male"), giving support to this theory.  On the other hand, we must be careful not to assume too much; Greek compound words don't always mean what they might appear to mean.  "Cyclops" in Greek is a compound word literally meaning "round eye," but we know from ancient literature that a cyclops was a mythical giant man having only one eye – which makes sense once we get the connection, but isn't something we could have figured out without all the literary references.

Still, I think that it's fairly safe to assume that the arsenokoitai of Paul's day were men engaging in some kind of homosexual behavior.  But what kind of behavior?  That's pretty much impossible to know for sure.  Whatever it is, it would have to be something fairly common and well-known to Paul's audience; these are very short lists of common sinners (e.g. thieves, greedy, liars, etc.) everyone would be readily acquainted with.  The most likely explanation is that Paul is referring to a practice that was fairly common in the Greek culture of his day – married men who had sex with male youths on the side.

The extramarital relationships of men with boys in ancient Greece are infamous even today.  Archaeological and literary evidence prove that these relationships were common for centuries in Greece, though they were frowned upon by many even while they were publicly practiced.  This would make a perfect target for Paul's vice lists, and it would explain why, in both lists, he mentions the sin of the arsenokoitai separately after he mentions adultery – because technically, by Greek thought, having a boy on the side wasn't adultery.

Another piece of evidence for this interpretation is the Greek word malakoi, which appears next to arsenokoitai in the 1 Corinthians passage.  Malakoi literally means "soft ones," and could be translated simply to mean "morally lax."  However, many scholars believe that "malakoi" and "arsenokoitai" are meant to be taken together, so that the malakoi are the young men who service the arsenokoitai.  For this reason, the Jerusalem Bible translates malakoi to mean "Catamites" (that is, young male prostitutes), the New American Catholic translation says "boy prostitutes," and the New International Version reads "male prostitutes." [4]  Personally, I don't think that "prostitute" is the best word to use to describe these relationships, but it does at least convey the idea of a sexual relationship outside of marriage without getting into an entire history lesson.

That's it for the New Testament, but there's still one Old Testament passage we haven't covered.

Prooftext #4: The Abomination (Leviticus 18-20)

In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God gives Moses a long list of rules for the Israelites.  Some of these are rules we still follow today; others we don't.  The most famous of all is in 18:22, which says, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman" (NIV).  The NIV translation follows this with, "that is detestable," but the more famous version is the King James Version, which reads, "It is abomination."

Now before you start freaking out or thinking God hates you, please understand that "abomination" in Hebrew refers to anything forbidden for the Israelites.  For instance, Leviticus 11 says that eagles are an abomination, and so are owls, storks, various types of water creatures, "and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth," just to name a few.  Locusts, by the way, aren't abominations.

Still, abomination or not, the prohibition of male-male sex is pretty straightforward.  And at the beginning of the passage, God tells us why He's giving these rules – because He wants to keep the Israelites pure and separate from the polytheistic cultures surrounding them (Lev. 18:1-4).  This helps explain why the Israelites are forbidden to shave (Lev. 19:27), get tattoos (Lev. 19:28), wear clothing made of mixed fabrics (Lev. 19:19), or have sex during a woman's period (Lev. 18:19).  It also helps explain the rather strange comments about things like sacrificing children to Molech (Lev. 18:21) and eating fruit too quickly from a tree (Lev. 19:23); and why the Israelites are forbidden to have sex with a woman and her daughter (Lev. 18:17) but nothing at all is said about sex outside of marriage or having multiple sexual partners.  Outside of the context of keeping the Israelites separate, it would be a very odd collection of rules.

I've heard people quote Leviticus to forbid homosexuality and tattoos, but other than that, people generally don't turn to Leviticus for moral guidance.  There's something very haphazard about that approach to the Bible, picking and choosing passages like side dishes at a buffet.

Responding to the Prooftexts

As we look at these passages, we're faced with a dilemma.  On one hand, here are three examples of homosexual behaviors being condemned – in Leviticus, in Romans, and in the vice lists.  On the other hand, both of the New Testament examples describe situations that even Reformers like myself would consider sinful, and the Leviticus passage requires some major selective reading to make it work.

Unfortunately, this is where the argument usually stops.  It's not very satisfying, is it?  We're left with a bunch of questions, some half-baked "maybes," and very few real answers.

The Traditional View's argument from these passages is pretty weak, but it's also enough to make a lot of gay Christians feel uneasy and conflicted.  There's just something in your gut that says, "Yeah, but if there's nothing wrong with homosexuality, then why all the negativity in Scripture?"  For most of us, that's counterbalanced by a feeling in our hearts that says that loving, Christ-centered relationships are a good thing, regardless of gender.  The end result?  Total frustration and confusion.

Of course, this isn't the only issue that should make you feel conflicted like that.  For instance, sometime you might want to try doing a study of the New Testament passages that talk about the role of women in the church.  Try reading 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and tell me that doesn't give you a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach.

To be perfectly frank, the only reason we're having this debate now about same-sex relationships instead of about women speaking in church is that our culture's standards have changed.  A few decades ago, hair length was a major cultural statement, and many Christians quoted 1 Corinthians 11:14 to prove that men should have short hair.  Today, very few of us would take that approach.  Similarly, most of us have no trouble explaining away the "women must be silent" passages with a cultural explanation – something about how women in Paul's day were causing problems by interrupting the service, or speaking about things without the education to back themselves up, or violating cultural standards and thereby making the church look bad.  I've heard all kinds of cultural explanations for Paul's prohibition there, often made by the same people who resist applying that logic to the homosexuality prooftexts.  But let's be honest with ourselves.  If we're going to seriously be "not of this world" and follow Christ at all costs, how can we approach the Bible with a constantly changing standard, always trying to adapt it to fit our preconceived ideas?  That's exactly what the church has done for many, many years.

Unless we're going to start requiring women to wear head coverings (1 Cor. 11:3-13), we're going to have to find a clear, consistent way of determining which passages in Scripture we're still obligated to follow, and which ones we're not.  And it has to be a standard that we can apply in every culture and in every context, not something that lets us reinterpret things every few years to suit our desires.

More on that later.

But first, let's suppose we decided to interpret these passages the way the Traditional View does – as a condemnation of all homosexual relationships for all time, no matter how loving, monogamous, or committed they might be.  Even if we accept the initial premise and the prooftexts, can the Traditional View really stand up to scrutiny?

Problems with the Traditional View

I have tremendous respect for Ron and the other Christian Traditionalists I know.  I have no doubts about their sincerity or the depth of their convictions.  But I am unable to share those convictions because I believe their reasoning is flawed.  I believe there are inherent problems with the Traditional View that go much deeper than how you interpret the homosexuality prooftexts.

To explain what I mean, let's imagine that you and I are Traditionalists.  That means that not only do we condemn homosexual behaviors like the ones referred to in Scripture, but we would have to condemn ALL gay relationships, no matter how wonderful they might seem.

So for instance, let's say we know two couples – one gay, and one straight.  These couples are both Christian couples, and they're both equally devoted to Christ.  Both couples have made commitments to stay together and be faithful to one another for the rest of their lives.  Both couples have a certain sense of complimentarity, so that each person's strengths and weaknesses help to balance out their partner.  Both couples pray together; both couples serve together; in fact, in every respect, these couples are identical.  The only difference is that one is gay and the other is straight.

According to the Traditional View, we're supposed to celebrate and admire one of these couples, while we condemn the other one as an evil thing in God's sight.

Or here's another way of putting it.  Suppose my friend Billy meets someone and falls in love with this person, named Sam.  Billy and Sam spend months, maybe even years, getting to know one another, and as they grow closer to each other and to Christ, they decide to form a lasting bond, to promise to be together forever in a marriage in front of God.  So Billy comes to me about it and I, being a Traditionalist, respond by saying, "That's immoral and disgusting!  You and Samuel are doing a terrible thing before God!"  Billy blinks for a moment and then replies, "Sam is short for Samantha.  She's a girl."  Suddenly, my opinion changes.  "Oh, well then, that's wonderful!  All the best to you!  What a blessing!"

In this case, nothing at all has changed about Billy's commitment, Billy's motivations, Billy's relationship with Christ, or even Billy's specific actions.  Everything is exactly the same, with one exception: Sam went from male to female in my mind, and that somehow changed the relationship from being disgusting and immoral to being holy and beautiful – even though, in either case, Billy's motivations and actions are exactly the same.

There's something a bit unnerving about that, isn't there?  It doesn't seem quite right.  But if we're going to be Traditionalists, we'd have to explain this discrepancy by reminding ourselves, "There's a rule that says that's the way it has to be.  It's not up to me; it's up to God.  God says same-sex relationships are sinful, so they must be."

But now we have an even bigger problem.

We've built our entire Traditionalist argument on one important premise: the idea that all people are either male or female.  That way we can distinguish the "holy" relationships from the "sinful" ones.

But what if we find out that Sam isn't male OR female?  Then what?

You see, although they're rare, gender anomalies do exist.  Many people have abnormalities that prevent them from being classified as male or female.  Some have both sets of genitals; others have deformed genitals; some have bodies that don't match their chromosomes; others have chromosomes that aren't XX or XY; and still others have bodies that don't match their brains.  It's a field that gets more and more complex the more you study it.  Most of these people find a way of publicly identifying as male or female, but their bodies may in fact be more like the opposite gender, or anywhere in between.

Most of us are just glad not to have to deal with problems like that, so we simply put it out of our minds.  But this is a very real problem that affects many real people.  It's not their fault they were born with these difficulties, and this is the only life they've got.  So if they fall in love with someone who loves them just as they are, then how do we advise them?  We can't just write it off as "an exception to the rule" – not if we really believe that gender marks the difference between holy marriage and living in sin.  No, somehow we'd have to find a way of distinguishing, but how?  Would we just go by the gender they identified with?  Even if their body was quite different?  Would we go by external genitals?  By chromosomes?  What about the ambiguous cases?

Even if we could come up with some sort of standard for judging the ambiguous cases, wouldn't it seem a little bit arbitrary?  Yet somehow we'd have to go on believing that gender is crucial to God – so crucial that marrying someone of the wrong gender can keep you out of the kingdom of God.

But that's only the first problem we face.  The second one is even more mind-boggling.

We based our Traditional View on the idea that we need to follow Biblical standards for right and wrong, even when it doesn't make sense to us.  Even though the homosexuality prooftexts could have been explained in other ways, and even though none of them referred to gay marriage or covenant gay partnerships of any sort, we still decided that the most straightforward reading of these verses said that homosexuality was wrong.

The trouble is, if we apply that same reasoning to other passages, we're going to end up with some major headaches.

For instance, let's take a look at a passage I mentioned earlier, 1 Corinthians 11:3-10.  The passage reads:

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since his is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

So now what?  It doesn't make sense to argue that this is only a cultural command if we're not going to accept the same argument for the homosexuality passages.  In fact, it would make even less sense to argue for a cultural interpretation here, when Paul clearly tells us that his reason for giving this command is because of the order of creation "and because of the angels."  Whatever that might mean, it doesn't sound cultural, does it?

Or what about Romans 13:1:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

I was just reading an article where a conservative minister used this passage to prove that both the American Revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s civil disobedience were sinful acts.  Using our current method of interpretation, we'd have to agree.  Furthermore, we'd have to condemn even the actions of German Christians who resisted the Nazi government.

This can't be right… can it?

When it comes right down to it, no one consistently applies Scripture passages in a literal, word-for-word, direct application to today's problems in every case.  Any honest Christian has to admit that there are at least some passages that either a) don't apply today; b) still apply but don't mean what they seem to mean on the surface; or c) are overruled by other passages or biblical themes.

The problem is, how do we know which passages are which?  As I said earlier, we need a clear, consistent standard that we can apply across the board.

This is more bad news for the Traditional View, though.  I've been studying this issue for quite a few years now, and I still haven't found any supporter of the Traditional View who can give me a clear, consistent standard to explain why we should apply the gay prooftexts to same-sex marriage and yet not follow the letter of the text on issues like slavery, women in the church, hair length, money lending, and so on.  Most Traditionalist Christians I've talked to are content to simply change standards as they go, arguing for a cultural reading of one passage and a literal reading of another, without any reason for doing so other than their prior beliefs about what the Bible ought to say.

The closest I've ever seen to a clear, consistent standard like this from a Traditionalist Christian is a book by William Webb entitled Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals.  Mr. Webb realizes this is a problem for the Traditional View, and his book (published in 2001) is an attempt to fix this problem – to give us a clear, consistent standard to explain why the church has changed its mind on slavery and (to some degree) on women but shouldn't change its mind on homosexuality.  When someone pointed me to this book recently, I thought, "At last!  Someone on their side has recognized this problem and is trying to fix it!"

Here's the thing, though.  Mr. Webb's attempt at a "clear, consistent standard" is a list of eighteen separate criteria, none of which are particularly clear.  I do admire him for making the effort, but somehow I just don't think he's accomplished what he set out to do – especially considering I could just as easily use his own eighteen criteria to make a pretty strong case for the Reformed View.

But in my opinion, the real "death blow" to the Traditional View is a crucial passage in Romans.

The Romans 13 Problem

Romans 13:8-10 reads as follows:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

This is one of those passages that I think you have to read over a couple of times to grasp the full magnitude of what Paul is trying to convey.  In my book, it ranks right up there with John 3:16 as one of those super-important passages that every Christian should know.  If you're not familiar with it yet (and even if you are), seriously, read it again.

Paul makes an incredibly bold statement here.  He says that whatever commandment there may be can be summed up in the rule to love your neighbor. [5]  What a concept!  To put it another way, Paul is saying that if we lived our lives with a truly loving spirit, acting in truly loving ways, we would automatically fulfill every one of God's laws.  We wouldn't have any need for specific rules.

For example, adultery is an inherently unloving act.  If you were living in a loving way toward your spouse, you'd keep your vow without being told to.  Similarly, you wouldn't murder someone if you loved them, and you wouldn't steal from someone if you loved them.  And if you truly love someone, you don't covet the things they have; instead, you're happy for them when good things come their way, not lusting after those things for yourself.

We could literally go through every single one of God's commandments and show that each one of them is simply an extension of this basic principle to live a life of servant love.  ("Love" here of course doesn't mean romantic love; it means the deep, abiding, unconditional love that comes from God.)

But wait – the very definition of the Traditional View says that even when two relationships are equally loving – even when they're motivated by the exact same selfless desires and the exact same servant hearts – that one of them can be ruled sinful just because of a person's gender.  Traditionalists say that this command is from God.  But if it's from God, then why does it contradict the rule Paul gives us here – a rule that applies to every other commandment?

Incidentally, this passage in Romans 13 isn't just some random, obscure passage.  Paul spends almost the entire book of Romans building an argument about law, grace, and sin, trying to explain what the Christian gospel is all about.  Paul uses the word "law" 74 times in twelve chapters!  The passage I just quoted from Romans 13 is the conclusion of Paul's grand argument; it's the last time "law" is mentioned for the rest of the book.

Throughout all of his letters, Paul was concerned with two problems in the church.  On one extreme were the Christians who weren't living like Christians.  They were indulging themselves, behaving badly, and making the church look horrible.  On the other side were those Christians who were so concerned with following all the requirements of the Law that they were putting a tremendous burden on themselves and others.

It was this second group that Paul was addressing in Colossians 2:20-23:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

But what about God's law in the Bible?  Doesn't it give us a lot of rules like that?

Paul explains this apparent contradiction in Galatians 3:23-25:

Before this faith [in Jesus] came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

We are no longer under the supervision of the law!  Can you believe it?

Not Under a New Law

I think that this concept was too radical for many Christians, because it seems that no sooner had Paul written this than people started trying to find ways to explain it away.  For instance, some Christians will claim that the Old Testament can be divided into "moral laws" and "ritual laws," and that we're no longer under the supervision of the ritual laws, but we're still under the supervision of the moral ones.  This has several problems, one of which is the fact that the Old Testament itself does not contain any distinction between "moral" and "ritual" laws; it calls breaking any of the laws "sin."  (For example, see Lev. 5:1-6.)  The only way anyone "distinguishes" between the two is by deciding ahead of time which laws they think should still apply and drawing the line accordingly.  Secondly, even if there were such a distinction, Paul doesn't say "we are no longer under the supervision of the ritual law," he says "the law."  Period.

In a similar fashion, some Christians will try to claim that what Paul means by "the law" is only the Old Testament law, and that Paul gives us a new law in the New Testament.  But that isn't at all what he says; Paul makes it perfectly clear that we as Christians are not under the law – Old Testament or New Testament.  He's not trying to remove one law only to put us under another one; he's trying to show us that in Christ, we are free from the law.

But being free from the law isn't the end of the story.  Paul also wants us to realize that we must avoid the other extreme; we must not sin.  Galatians 5:13-14 says:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Notice how Paul addresses both extremes in this passage.  First, we're called to be free, and that means we're no longer bound by the rules and regulations of the law.  On the other hand, he says, sin is still a very real possibility for us, and we shouldn't use our freedom from the law as a license to sin.  Just as we shouldn't be bound by rules, we also shouldn't be bound by sin.

Some of Paul's critics must have been concerned that without the rules of the law, we wouldn't be able to know what is or isn't sin.  But that's why Paul tells us the alternative: we must "serve one another in love."  And again, he reminds us, "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

According to Paul, if we live a life of servant love, we will be doing everything that the law requires of us.  No further rules and regulations are necessary.

This idea didn't start with Paul, either.  Even back in the Old Testament, God says through the prophet Hosea, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6).  Sacrifice, of course, was a part of the law God had given them, but what does God mean by "mercy"?  Well, according to my Zondervan NIV Study Bible:

[This Hebrew word] can refer to right conduct toward one’s fellowman or loyalty to the Lord or both – the sum total of what God requires of his servants. […] The same Hebrew word is translated 'love' in v. 4.

So what God most wants is love – toward our fellow human beings and toward God.  And Jesus reiterates that when he tells us that "love God" and "love your neighbor" are the two great commandments (Mark 12:28-34).  See how everything starts to fall into place?

Jesus and the Sabbath

Jesus himself gives us the best example of how to understand the Scriptures on this subject.  For the Jews, one of the all-time most important commandments was the commandment to keep the Sabbath, which meant doing no work at all from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.  Throughout the Old Testament, God uses the Sabbath as a sort of measuring stick for determining whether God's people are living the way they should.

Then in Matthew 12, Jesus and his disciples are walking through the grainfields, and the disciples are picking grain.  The religious leaders confront Jesus about this, asking, "Why are you letting your disciples break the Sabbath?"  Then Jesus himself publicly heals a man on the Sabbath, and that gets the religious leaders even more upset.

Now if I were Jesus, I probably would have responded by saying, "Hey, healing isn't exactly work.  So technically I'm not really violating the Sabbath."  What's surprising, though, is that Jesus doesn't make that argument.  He implicitly accepts the Pharisees' contention that he's violating the Sabbath law, but then he makes the argument that sometimes it's okay to violate the letter of the law!

To make his case, Jesus gives them the example of David, who ate consecrated bread when he had no food, even though only priests were allowed to eat consecrated bread (Matt. 12:3-4).  He also points out that their own common sense would tell them to save a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, even though that would clearly be work (Matt. 12:11-12).

In verse 7, Jesus quotes a scripture to back himself up:

If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

Remember that line?  Notice, Jesus is building on a principle here that he expects the religious leaders to already know.  This passage isn't just about the Sabbath; it's about the law in general and how Jesus expects us to read the Scriptures.

The Purpose of Rules

But if Jesus is telling us that we're allowed to break the rules sometimes, what does that mean?  Is God getting soft on sin, becoming mellower as the years go on?

Well, of course not.  God detests sin and cannot have anything to do with it.  But God also knows, in His infinite wisdom, that mere rules and regulations are not always sufficient to define what is sinful.  The specifics of the situation make a huge difference.

Even we humans can recognize this.  Killing another human being, for example, is both a sin and a terrible crime.  But there are situations in which we would not hold someone accountable for killing, such as if it was in self-defense.  There might even be times we would approve of their actions.

If you think about it, I'm sure you can come up with many examples of behaviors that would be wrong in one situation but right in another.  To account for this, our human laws contain all kinds of specific exceptions and long-winded explanations for even the simplest of crimes, and our court system contains numerous checks and balances to allow for human common sense to temper, interpret, or sometimes even override the letter of the law.  No one would want to be tried in court by a computer, because we know that only a human being has the reasoning ability to look at a situation and see all the nuances and extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account.  A computer could hand down a judgment based on a strict interpretation of exactly what the law says, but only a person can assess the situation and apply the law in a manner that is consistent with its intent.

If even we humans, with our pitiful understanding of good and evil, can see that rules are inadequate, then why would we expect anything less of God?  As Jesus made clear through the Sabbath incident, God judges our actions on a case-by-case basis, taking into account our heart, our motives, and the specifics of the situation, not just mindlessly applying a set of rigid rules.  Jesus gave several examples of situations where the Pharisees' rigid approach to the rules was in conflict with God's holistic approach.

But if God doesn't judge us based on a set of rules, then why did God give us the rules in the first place?

The rules of Scripture do have value.  They do have a purpose.  Even Jesus didn't do away with the law; in Matthew 5:17 he says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

The law has not been abolished.  But by putting the focus on fulfilling the law, Jesus reminds us that the rules existed for a purpose, not just to give us regulations.  When that purpose is fulfilled, the specific regulations no longer apply.

See, God's rules, like human rules, have a purpose.  Think about the human rules we follow in everyday life; each one of them exists for a reason.  Traffic rules exist to prevent accidents.  Classroom rules exist to promote a healthy learning environment.  Even board game rules have a purpose:  to make the game fun.

All of God's rules have purposes behind them.  For instance, animal sacrifice was a major part of Israelite worship.  I don't think there's anything inherently pleasing to God about slaughtering living things, but shedding the blood of choice animals was a way to show the severe consequences of sin to God, and it gave the Israelites a way to be forgiven for their transgressions.  But as Hebrews 10:1 says, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves."  Colossians 2:17 says, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

When Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, he provided the ultimate fulfillment of the animal sacrifices.  His death and resurrection accomplished the purpose that all the Old Testament regulations about sacrifices could only point towards – the final reconciliation of God with God's people.  As a result, the sacrifices were no longer necessary.  It's not that the laws were abolished, but they became irrelevant once their purpose had been accomplished.  They were fulfilled.

This helps explain why God seems to change His mind so much in the Bible.  Just compare Deut. 23:1-3 to Isaiah 56:3-8 or Leviticus 11:1-47 to Mark 7:15.  In cases like these, God gives a command for a particular purpose (for instance, eunuchs are excluded to demonstrate God's holiness).  Once the command is no longer necessary to accomplish that purpose, it becomes obsolete.  Then other considerations (such as compassion) take over.

Approaching the Bible this way – looking at the reasons behind each command rather than just the letter of the law – fits perfectly with Jesus' approach to the Sabbath.  ("The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" [Mark 2:27].)  It explains why God's standards sometimes seem to change as the cultural situations change, even though God Himself is changeless.  And it gives us a solid foundation for suggesting that head coverings are no longer necessary for Christian women, because they wouldn't serve the same purpose today that they did when Paul first commanded them.

Jesus even takes this one step further.  In many cases, he points out, adhering to the principle rather than the letter of the law actually holds us to a higher standard.  Following the principles behind each command shows us that adultery can happen in your heart (Matt. 5:27-28), that hatred is no better than murder (Matt. 5:21-22), and that even giving to the poor is useless if it's done for the wrong reasons (Matt. 6:1-4).  Over and over again, Jesus reiterates that God is more interested in the underlying principles than in the rules themselves.

In this light, the Traditional View's insistence on continuing to follow a rule in the absence of an underlying principle strikes me as not only inconsistent, but unbiblical. [6]

In the early church, the hot topic of debate between Christians was circumcision.  It's hard for us to understand now why circumcision was such a big deal to them, but at the time, the church was splitting, tempers were flaring, and many feared the new faith wouldn't survive if "the other side" got their way.  Sound familiar?

The earliest Christians were Jews, of course.  Jesus was a Jew, and he taught in Jewish forums.  The only Scriptures these early Christians had were the Jewish Scriptures – what we now call the Old Testament.  The Jewish Scriptures taught that God demands allegiance, and possibly the most important sign of this allegiance was the covenant God made with Abraham – the covenant of circumcision.  Every male born into a Jewish family was to be circumcised as a sign of devotion to God (Gen. 17:9-14).  If a non-Jew wanted to convert and become acceptable to God, he had to take up residence with the Israelites and be circumcised, no matter how old he was (Exodus 12:48).  This was God's command.

The Scriptures could hardly have been clearer in demanding circumcision for all who would worship God.  So when the early Christians began to reach Gentiles with the gospel, they naturally expected these Gentiles to do the same thing God had demanded of all the past converts.  The issue at stake wasn't whether Gentiles could become Christians; it was whether Gentiles could become Christians without first having to be circumcised.

The Gentiles were in the position many modern-day gay people are in.  I doubt they had much theological knowledge or understanding of Scripture to back them up; all they knew was they were trusting this Jesus guy, and they were NOT about to let someone take a knife to them.  The pro-circumcision group was probably a lot more pious and a lot better at quoting Scripture passages to back themselves up, and I imagine they made a lot of good arguments about tradition and the need to endure sacrifice and suffering for Christ's sake.  Yet somehow, they were wrong.

Even Peter and Paul had a public confrontation on this subject (Gal. 2:11-14).  The pressure for the pro-circumcision view was so strong that many Gentiles probably thought it would be easier to get circumcised and not take the heat from the rest of the Christian community.

Paul believed this issue was much more important than just circumcision, though.  In Galatians 5:2-6, he says:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. […] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

For Paul, circumcising the Gentiles wasn't just unnecessary – it was downright sinful.  Why?  Because it was essentially putting them back under the law – a law that Christ died to free us from.

Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with being circumcised.  Paul's point is that we must not allow ourselves to be duped into following rules for the sake of rules, thinking that's a prerequisite for pleasing God.

"The only thing that counts," Paul reminds us, "is faith expressing itself through love."

Hints in the Spirit-Inspired Scriptures

Not that long ago, there were many churches that taught that slavery was an institution supported by God.  They shut their eyes to the bad fruit being borne by the slave system, and they ignored all the things the Bible says about loving your neighbor as yourself, and the equality of human beings.  They would find that handful of passages that mentioned slavery (after all, it was part of the culture in which the Bible was written) and they would try to apply those verses to us today, without acknowledging that they were based in the culture and no longer relevant to us.

The abolitionist movement had an uphill battle in some respects because there weren’t specific verses that said, “slavery is bad.”  Instead, they had to rely on the overall message of Scripture, and that’s not easy to do.  The abolitionists did find a few verses to help them make their case, though.  One of the best passages they found was Galatians 3:28, which, according to the NIV, says:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Now when Paul wrote this, he probably didn’t intend it as part of an argument against the institution of slavery.  He was making a point that whoever you are, when you become a Christian, your identity is in Christ, and nothing else should divide us.  But the abolitionists argued that Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that there was a deeper meaning here that even Paul himself might not have realized.  It's a great argument, and I agree 100%.

What’s really interesting about this passage, though, is that it’s usually not translated exactly right.  There’s a strange little grammatical thing that Paul does in this passage, and most translators aren’t quite sure how to render that into English, so it usually gets overlooked.

If you look at the original Greek text, what the passage actually says is this:

There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It’s a strange choice of words.  Paul doesn’t say “neither male nor female” as he does with the other two groups; he says “no male and female.”  Why does he say "and" instead of "nor"?

I have a strong suspicion that this is another example of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through Paul's words.  The phrase “male and female” dates back to Genesis, where God creates Adam and Eve as the first couple, and we are told that “male and female He created them.”  Many Traditionalist Christians have taken to quoting that phrase, saying that if God created them “male and female” then that means that every couple for the rest of humanity should be male and female, and that any deviation from that is sinful.  It’s a common argument; we hear it all the time.

That's why I think it’s so interesting that Paul wrote this passage as he did.  First he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” and the matter of inviting Greeks (i.e. Gentiles) into the Christian community was the first major controversy of the church.  Then he says, “neither slave nor free,” and we know that the issue of slavery and the integration of the races was another huge hurdle that the church had to overcome to be what God intended.  Finally Paul says, “no ‘male and female,’” and that’s the phrase we keep hearing in the current debate over gay couples in the church.

If we truly believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible's authors, we need to be on the lookout for those hints embedded in the Scriptures that may speak to us in a way their original authors wouldn't have expected.  Paul would have had no idea how this passage could alter our modern view of slavery or homosexuality, but I think the grammatical error here is a clue to us that God knew exactly what He was doing.

Another interesting passage is 1 Timothy 4:1-6:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

Again, I'm not suggesting that Paul had same-sex marriage in mind when he wrote this passage.  But I do think it’s interesting that he says he has received specific instruction from the Holy Spirit that in later times, Christians will be forbidding people to marry and will need to have their errors pointed out to them.

Paul, of course, was a major proponent of celibacy for Christians; he believed that remaining single and celibate was the ideal (1 Cor. 7:8).  But Paul didn't believe anyone should be required to remain single, if for no other reason than that "it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor. 7:9).  And while Paul says almost nothing about the benefits of marriage in his letters, even he is forced to agree with the Holy Spirit that forbidding someone to marry is more than a bad idea; it's the sort of thing "taught by demons."

If nothing else, this passage serves as a reminder to us that being too restrictive and calling things sinful when they are not is just as dangerous to Christians as the opposite.

The Final Argument

Of course, as long as there's a difference of opinion in the church on this issue, there will always be good arguments on both sides.  Ultimately, I believe it's up to us to look for the most important piece of evidence: the fruit of a relationship.

In Luke 6:43-44, Jesus says:

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.

You see, sin always shows itself.  Sin is like the monkey's paw in W.W. Jacobs' famous horror story; it promises good things, but it never delivers.  We sin because of the good we think we'll get out of it, but in the end, the negative consequences of our sins always outweigh any positives we could have attained from them.

If same-sex relationships were sinful, we wouldn't need theological debates to tell us that; it would be readily apparent from the fruit of those relationships.  Indeed, the fruit of many same-sex relationships through history has been bad.  Just take a look at how Paul describes the fruit of the Romans' actions in Romans 1!  The same can be said for the secular gay community today; a promiscuous, bar-hopping lifestyle filled with drugs, alcohol, and short-lived relationships bears the fruit of emptiness and despair.  After all, modern-day gay culture is famous for its "drama," isn't it?

But if you're fortunate enough to know a Christ-centered gay couple, you'll notice something remarkably different.  These relationships are actually bearing good fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit are in abundance in such relationships – love, joy, peace, patience, and all the rest.  You can argue all you want about the meaning of this passage or that passage; the fact remains that I know monogamous, Christ-centered gay couples whose relationships are living proof of God's blessing on them.  Bad trees don't bear good fruit.

We may always have questions, but in the end, sometimes we just have to accept the evidence of God's work as the only proof we need.  It was the deciding factor for the early Christians (Acts 11:15-18), and I believe it will one day be the deciding factor for the church on this issue as well.


I wrote this essay in response to those of you who wanted to know why I believe what I do.  But remember, this essay is only a human opinion, and although my views have been shaped by years of prayer and Bible study on this issue, they still remain a flawed human interpretation of things.

If this is an issue that matters to you, please don't base your views on something like "Justin says this" or "Justin believes that."  Take your time to study the Bible for yourself.  Read the passages I mentioned, in their context, to understand them better.  Read arguments on both sides of the issue, and don't be afraid to ask difficult questions.

Most of all, pray.  Pray every day for God's guidance in your life and for the wisdom and humility to admit when you're wrong.  If you find that you disagree with fellow Christians, remember that they are still your brothers and sisters in Christ.  And they may yet have something to teach you.

Follow Christ at all costs.  Nothing matters more than that.


1. Modern gender theory distinguishes between the words "sex" and "gender," so that technically I ought to say "sex" when I'm talking about biology. For this essay, though, I use them interchangeably, and often say "gender" rather than "sex" to help distinguish it from the alternate definition of "sex" (i.e. sexual acts).

2. There is some evidence to suggest that the centurion's "servant" healed by Jesus in Matthew 8:5-13 was in fact his male lover. Nothing negative is said about this relationship. Similarly, other biblical characters (such as David and Jonathan) are said to have had same-sex romances. I think the evidence in most of these cases is scarce, but even if these were romantic relationships, I certainly wouldn't consider them "marriages."

3. Of course, there was homosexuality in Rome, but generally, as in Greece, it was a matter of sexual liaisons in addition to an existing heterosexual relationship. Paul's talk of an "exchange" of one for the other is quite convenient to apply to the modern-day gay community, but it really wouldn't have applied well to general Roman homosexual activity.

4. Some other translations simply translate malakoi and arsenokoitai together as "homosexuals," believing that Paul is distinguishing between active and passive partners in male-male intercourse. This doesn't make much sense, though, when you consider that the 1 Timothy passage only mentions one of these groups (arsenokoitai) without the other (malakoi). If arsenokoitai and malakoi really referred to active and passive partners, it would be quite strange indeed for Paul to mention only active partners without mentioning the passive ones. On the other hand, it's much easier to believe that Paul might mention "men who solicit prostitutes" without mentioning the prostitutes themselves, or that he might mention "men who have sex with boys" without mentioning the boys.

Incidentally, until a few centuries ago, malakoi was translated to mean either "effeminate" or "weakling" – both of which probably stem from a misunderstanding of the term "soft ones" in Greek.

5. I think it's safe to assume that Paul means to include "love God" as well; it's certainly implied although not stated outright, and the two commands are linked elsewhere in Scripture. Here Paul is focusing on how we interact with other people on earth.

6. Of course, Traditional View apologists will no doubt argue that they do have an underlying principle, but as I explained at the beginning of this essay, I find those arguments unconvincing for a multitude of reasons.

Lydia's Corner: Genesis 35:1-36:43 Matthew 12:1-21 Psalm 15:1-5 Proverbs 3:21-26


Side A: Justin Lee Explains His View of The Bible and Gay Relationships — 125 Comments

  1. Dee,

    You write: “Saying that one is gay is no different than saying one is heterosexual.” I think I understand what you are saying. You are expressing affirmation of the PERSON who is attracted to same-sex relationships, as you affirm the PERSON who is attracted to opposite-sex (hetereosexual) relationships. I agree. PERSONS ought be affirmed.

    I have friendships with men and women, Christians and non-Christians, singles and married people, thsoe who identify themselves as homosexuals and those who say they are hetereosexual–I affirm each and every one of these individuals. They are created in the image of God and are human beings worthy of our love.

    What I am unsure of in terms of my agreement with you is your statement “Saying that one is gay is no different than saying one is hetereosexual.”

    When we are ushered into eternity (heaven), there will be no sexual activity between hetereosexuals (i.e. Jesus said “There is no marriage nor the giving of marriage in heaven”), nor will there be sexual activity between men, nor sexual activity between women. There is great warrant to believe that the consummation of sexual activity (orgasm) is a type of the perpetual ecstasy of heaven–and when one experiences the reality of the joy of genuine and rich relational fellowship with Christ and other people–the way fellowship and relationship was intended to be from the beginning–then there is no need for the type, for the Anti-type has appeared.

    I am wondering if it is possible that the more accurate statement would be “Saying that one is gay (and seeks sexual activity with a same-sex partner outside the context of biblical marriage) is no different than saying one is adulterous and seeks sexual activity with a heterosexual partner (outside the context of biblical marriage)?

    The first two essays in this series, written by men who confess to having sexual desires for other men, acknowledged that acting out on those desires would be “sin.” Justin writes that to act out on those sexual desires would not be sin. It is important for Justin to advocate and ask others to accept that, “Saying that one is gay is no different than saying one is homosexual.”

    When a Christian man says he is gay, it is similar to another Christian man (like me) saying that he is an adulterer. I don’t think that those words define or identify who we are as believers in Christ. They may describe what we inwardly desire, but who we are is defined by God, not what we feel. I find it odd that we Christians struggle with acknowledging that some of our sexual desires are sinful – whether they be homosexual or heterosexual desires. Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous. We Christians should accept and affirm any Christian man who has same-sex sexual desires, just as we accept and affirm any Christian man who has heterosexual sexual desires outside of biblical marriage. We are people of grace.

    But Jesus was a man full of grace and truth. Truth is never lost where grace appears, it is only enhanced.

    I have zero problem accepting a man who says he struggles with desires to have sex with other men, and I have zero problem accepting a man who says he struggles with the desires to have sex with women outside the context of marriage (that’s grace). Both persons are affirmed by me. On the other hand, I have zero problem asking myself (and others) the question, “Are our sexual desires for men or women outside the context of marriage part of being a fallen, sinful creature?” That’s truth.

    My original question for Justin was, “Could you define sin?” Jesus came to save sinners, and like C.S. Lewis (and the two brilliant earlier essays), one cannot fall in love with Jesus until they have reason to understand why they are in need of a Savior.

    The first two guest essays, in my opinion, were brilliant in walking a balance between understanding a sin nature, accepting the sinner and sinful desires without judgment and condemnation, but ordering one’s life according to the standard of biblical morality (sex within the context of heterosexual marriage). I respect Justin just as much as I do the other two men who have written, but I am wondering if the gospel loses its power when we have a hard time calling ourselves sinners.

  2. Wade
    I made a strong statement in my first post on this matter, last week, that I believe that the homosexual act is a sin. (I also said to my readers to repeat that statement 3 times). Justin read that prior to my discussion with him.

    Let me reword this. Gay means same sex attraction. Heterosexual means opposite sex attraction. Therefore, a celibate gay would not have sex with the object of his attraction. The same would go for a celibate heterosexual.

    So, if one is a heterosexual teen and is interested in the opposite sex is that OK? Is the attraction the sin? Would you say the same for the person who is gay? They are attracted but do not act. Is their attraction a sin and the heterosexual teen’s attraction not a sin? Is there a difference in attraction and lust? Who was it that said it is not the first look, it’s the second? The attraction is recognized in that first look but the issue becomes a problem in the second look.

    Am I making sense? I am trying very hard to walk a tightrope here.

  3. Thanks, Dee. Your answer is very helpful! I have taught my boys for years that a desire for friendship with many girls and guys is healthy and good. When the desire for sexual activity arises, then those desires (outside the boundary of marriage) are sinful and should not be acted upon. I love my boys, and even if they act on their sinful heterosexual desires, my love and acceptance of them does not change. I would say the same thing to a son if he had desires to have sexual activity with another young man. I would encourage that son to have friendships with multiples males and females, but when the urge to have sexual activity with a male arises, to see that as a sinful desire and not act on it. My love for a son who had desires to have sex with other males would be no less than my sons who desired to have sex with females. But I have no problem calling desires for sexual activity outside of marriage sin. To me, the gospel of God’s grace in Christ is so much sweeter when we are unafraid of calling sin what it is.

  4. Wade

    Your perspective on this is important to me. Tomorrow, I am going to deal with the discussion I had with Justin. We discussed a number of things, taking into consideration what celibacy might look like.  I will be most interested in your thoughts on that discussion. I learned so much that I hadn’t considered before.

  5. An article I read made a distinction between ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’, the former being a sexual orientation and the other being a particular life style. He himself was homosexual but after some years inside of a liberal, and also gay affirming, church he became a catholic. He doesn’t try to pretend he is not homosexual, but he thinks being gay is a choice and one that must be denied by one seeking to follow Christ.

    I thought it was an interesting distinction. What do y’all think?

  6. Wow…amazing to read this. I’ve drawn no concrete conclusions from this discussion yet, and therefore I still haven’t made up my mind which way I would tend to think on this issue. But, really, Justin’s essay is incredible and very sound. I’ve always struggled with the very American Conservative Christian approach to the Bible: “God said it; I believe it; and that’s the end of it.” There always seemed something way to hyper literal about that…which, ironically, simply means that the Bible is just prooftexted to say whatever one wants it to say. If we truly want to understand the Bible and stop treating it as some mere talisman, then we have to understand it inside and out: history, context, and the personalities and lives of those who wrote it. That WILL not lead to relativism…what it will do is show where the Bible really stands on issues for all time, and where the ideas are more culturally influenced.

    Great article. Dee and Deb…love you guys so much. You take faith to places where it really needs to go if we want to follow the two greatest commandments.

  7. Having a brother that died from feline leukemia and was in the lifestyle, most end up with each other due to abandonment of relatives and family. Also in another survey 40% of homosexuals reported sexual molestation as a child. “But if you’re fortunate enough to know a Christ-centered gay couple, you’ll notice something remarkably different. These relationships are actually bearing good fruit.” In many cases the numbers of domestic abuse cases among same-sex couples are staggering. Sorry Mr. Lee I found the article lacking statistic reality though I thought some of the biblical counters were interesting. The average lifespan for homosexuals is 42 years of age. Also in nature, though the behavior exists among animals, animals in general have an opposite sex partner for life. I will agree Mr. Lee that you are correct, and actually I’m repulsed when ministers use Romans 1 as to why people are homosexual. That passage is explaining fertility rites in the pagan faiths. Also, I found the arguments on the Torah a bit odd. So I could justify polygamy? So then the Law has been done away with. I am loving many neighbors this way? This train of theology is actually a misnomer. The requirements of the Torah have been done away with meaning the sacrifices and maybe even debts even that were required when one sinned. Also many aspects of the Torah are regulated to the land of Israel only. We all do need to carry each others burdens with this issue that is what is sad. As a counselor, I am forbidden to do reparative therapy in some states. I will be fine, sued, and lose my license. I don’t get this at all.

  8. Dee, thanks so much for posting Justin’s thoughtful (and, I believe, prayerful) essay.

    I’m going to wait until your next post to comment further, i think.

  9. Pingback: Side A: Justin Lee Explains His View of The Bible and Gay … | Christian Dailys

  10. Casey

    Could you please quote the sources for your stats? There seem to be a lot of stats which contradict one another our there. Also, you mention reparative therapy but mention no stats. And those of some stats that i would like to see.

  11. Dee –

    Thanks for posting this and thanks to Justin for a thoughtful essay on his reasons for feeling free to live in a committed gay relationship. I have learned much from these articles.

  12. Very nice post on the issue Justin, thank you.

    My own beliefs are that the Biblical principles lead to the conclusion that homosexuality and heterosexuality should be treated the same and Paul is excoriating wanton sex of either type. However, it’s hard for homosexuals to avoid the problem when they are, in most states, prohibited from marrying.

    Finally, Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, but he sure had something to say about adultery:

    Mark 10: 11-12 (and included in all four Gospels) “He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ “ (although note that while Matthew 5:32 is virtually the same, Matthew 19: 9 adds a proviso ‘whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.)

    And yet, most Protestant churches have no problem accepting as members those sinners who are divorced and remarried, despite the clear words of Christ himself. I’m calling ‘shenanigans’ on these hypocrites. You start denying communion and membership to those who are divorced and remarried, and then we’ll talk – in your empty sanctuary given the current divorce statistics.

    As for the Roman Catholic Church, they might deny the sacraments to those who are divorced and remarried, but they offer a way out through their totally non-Biblical annulment process which sure isn’t mentioned by Jesus as a loophole, so they really aren’t much better. While I disagree very strongly with churches that flat-out deny communion and/or membership to those that are divorced and remarried, at least they are consistent.

    As for me, I take as my foundation Matthew 22.36-40:

    ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

    You can follow both of these as a homosexual as well as any heterosexual, so they are not excluded from the Kingdom of God, despite what the Fundies claim.

  13. @ Dee & Wade:

    “When the desire for sexual activity arises, then those desires (outside the boundary of marriage) are sinful and should not be acted upon.”

    “So, if one is a heterosexual teen and is interested in the opposite sex is that OK? Is the attraction the sin? Would you say the same for the person who is gay?”

    I don’t think we can call the desire for sex sinful in and of itself (which, to me, is what the first quote comes dangerously close to saying, since most people desiring sex for the first time will not be married). James 1:12-15 seems to me to say that a mere desire for something can be a step on the way to sin, but is not the sin itself. And what about temptation? Clearly, as evidenced by the temptation of Jesus, we can be tempted and yet not sin – and clearly, any given temptation wouldn’t be much of a temptation at all if we didn’t already desire the thing in question. So to me, the desire for sex, like our desire for food, is a neutral thing that we are called to use responsibly.

    The way I see this relating to the gay issue is – a homosexual person’s brain is/may be wired in such a way that it predisposes them to this particular temptation. BUT – they have not actually committed sin by being tempted in this way. In the same way, alcoholics do not sin by driving past a liquor store and feeling tempted to buy beer.

  14. Jeff,
    Yeah…frankly, I’m leaning that way myself. Which is amazing as I never thought I’d ever accept homosexuality. At any rate, in terms of Christian “morality”, not quite sure yet, but I am motivated to find a ground on this, as I think it is such an important issue if we are to preach Christ to the world. Homosexuals need Christ like anyone else. If we have a “Christian” problem with it, we need to be darn sure we can explain why. And, I agree with Justin: “God said it’s a sin” doesn’t quite do it. Though I don’t think God is obligated to say more on ANYTHING; but in the interest of love, I think we are responsible for providing a better answer.

    I will say that I oppose laws that forbid gay marriage. I’m a libertarian that way. I do not think government has any business enforcing morality as long as the behavior doesn’t violate the freedom of another. Denying marriage to American citizens just because they happen to be gay seems heartless to me. They are every bit as American as I am, and they should not be compelled against their will to follow a moral standard on the sole reason that some people think it’s a “sin”. Morally, I may not support homosexuality, but that does not give me the right expect government to force people to accept my standard any more than I can expect government to force Buddhists to become Christians. Using government as a gun to the head of gay people who want to marry is NOT a good witness.

  15. Hester – agreed.

    Argo – I never thought I’d be for marriage equality, but times change.

    One other thought: I *do* wish that people wouldn’t keep characterizing all gay men as bar-hopping, constantly seeking sex, etc. etc. etc. Just because a certain segment of gay culture keeps getting noticed does *not* mean that all gay men are involved in that scene – far from it.

    to turn that around, I think it would be like saying that all straight people (especially those who aren’t married) act like the characters in Looking for Mr. Goodbar. (yes, I know that reference shows my age, but it seems like a fitting analogy.)

  16. Reparative therapy is to directly help those struggling in homosexual feelings and also gender identity issues. is the national association for reparative therapists. Stephen Bennett of Stephen Bennett ministries could vouch for Casey as well on those stats. I don’t think he sounded like he wanted to debate this. Didn’t you note the fact that he lost a brother in this. He is absolutely right most get abandoned and left to take care of each other.

  17. Numo–

    Or like my friend who gets freaked out around lesbians. I’m like just because they’re gay don’t men they want you, Boo. Who says theyeven think you’re cute or sexually desirable, hon?

    That usually calms her down…and offends her. Lol

    I’m like just because you’re straight, that doesnt mean you’re attracted to all men, right?
    BTW: If lesbians do think I’m hot, then well WELL! thank you! A compliment is a compliment.

  18. I’m like those of you who never thought you’d be accepting of this, as well as thinking the Bible said ny thing differently. I’m convinced that I can’t ever really predict who I’m going to be. I keep learning who I am, this woman whos lways changing and growing. and just when I think I know her, she becomes more of herself and less of this Someone I thought I knew.

  19. I’ve read Justin’s words before, and I am so impressed with him. Even if you study the Scriptures and come to a conclusion different from his (I would say the conclusion drawn by the previous two days’ posts), he still respects you and doesn’t judge you. He creates such a welcoming, loving environment to discuss this topic.

  20. Also, I like what Jeff had to say about divorce/remarriage. It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time. The Bible seems pretty clear that unbiblical divorce plus remarriage equals adultery. Why don’t we take this seriously??

  21. RE: dee on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 09:29 PM,

    Torture the data long enough and it will confess to anything.

  22. Casey, if by reparative therapy you mean therapy to stop a person from having homosexual tendencies, then it is completely and utterly right that you would lose your license. A therapist is someone who ought to be trustworthy and if you were conducting reparative therapy, no way would you be trustworthy. You’d be bringing the profession into disrepute. You aren’t carryong someone’s burden or acting in a therapeutic way by encouraging people to not accept a part of themselves that has proven time and again to be almost certainly unchangeable just because you have certain religious beliefs against acting upon that inclination.

    You stat on the average gay lifespan being 42 – well, I suppose that could be right because you have to take into account the high suicide rate of young gay people who go through things like bullying by peers and religious bullying including reparative therapy, straight camp, etc, and end up committing suicide in their teens and twenties. Perhaps that accounts for why the average lifespan is so short.

    You haven’t differentiated between homosexual men and women, however. The lifespan average you cite was from a study of **homosexual men**. Since lesbians are much less likely to get AIDS or any other STD, plus a bunch of other factors in the lesbian lifestyle such as their love for wholefoods and tendencies towards vegetarianism, the lesbian lifespan is actually 3.5 years longer in the western world. Plus since female marriage to males has been shown to reduce female lifespan, and lesbians don’t get married to men, they dodge that particular massive health hazard.(The statistic only applies to the western world because in places like South Africa lesbians often undergo ‘reparative rapes’, bringing the lifespan average right down).

    We need to be really careful about throwing stats around. 76% of all stats are BS.,015.pdf

  23. Is there actually a source for the average lifespan of 42?

    What is the effect of adjusting for deaths from AIDS related diseases?

    What countries?


  24. Jason said; “Of course, this isn’t the only issue that should make you feel conflicted like that. For instance, sometime you might want to try doing a study of the New Testament passages that talk about the role of women in the church. Try reading 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and tell me that doesn’t give you a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach.”

    Jason goes on to say that many people are not consistent in their beliefs; i.e. they accept the Christian feminist position that Paul’s teachings on women’s roles in the church and home can now be dismissed but his teachings on homosexual activity cannot. I believe he is correct about that. In fact, once the more liberal churches decided that gender did NOT restrict roles in the church, they opened the door for others to say “committed, monogamous homosexual relationships” are no problem. All you have to do is “deconstruct” Paul’s teachings on gender roles and then you can deconstruct his teachings on homosexuality.

    Being consistent, I believe Paul clearly teaches men ordained to lead in the church and the home. Being consistent, Paul clearly condemns homosexual behavior.

    Finally, my own sins constantly condemn me as fallen and broken in a fallen and broken world. Thank God for His grace to sinners like me.

  25. Richard, the source for the 42 years lifespan is a study is a guy called Paul Cameron who collected obituaries from a gay newspaper. It has been roundly criticised and debunked.

  26. @ Dee:

    “Is there a difference in attraction and lust?”

    I think so. I would define them as a matter of degree and extent. Lust, to me, would be a preoccupation with a person – having constant sexual thoughts about them, etc. But I think a healthy, non-lustful level of attraction is a good thing, and even often a necessary thing for many people if they are going to get married. Calling ALL crushes and attraction sin, to me, leads to things like the Botkin sisters’ statements that you can “cheat” on your future spouse by “giving your heart away” to a person you do not go on to marry. And this, of course, tramples the Biblical definition of adultery (sex with a person already married to someone else) underfoot – which is pretty funny for extreme patriarchs who (allegedly) revere the Law.

    Note well also that Jesus is talking about adultery, not fornication, in Matthew 5:27-28 – i.e., these verses are about not looking elsewhere once you are already married, not singles attracted to other singles. To claim otherwise, IMO, would be to contradict the plain meaning of adultery in the Bible.

  27. …actually, I have to correct myself. The ‘study’ on homosexual lifespan was actually a ‘study’ of both gay men and women’s obituaries.

  28. I had read part of Justin’s essay before, but I read through it again last night. A very studied, detailed, well-written, and thought-provoking position.

    Jeff and Argo,
    I echo everything you’ve said here. Excellent!

    Great comment. I never thought I’d be for marriage equality either. In fact, despite having several gay and lesbian friends over the years, I didn’t approve of their relationships and considered them as “living in sin”. It’s what I’d been taught all of my life and to be a good conservative Christian, I believed it and didn’t question it. (Although I can honestly say I loved my friends, I admit I judged them.) I didn’t do any in-depth study or reading on it, and I didn’t listen to my friends or anyone else (like Justin) with differing interpretations. I had that cliche attitude “If God said, I believe it, and that settles it”. Ugh.

    In terms of politics, I agree with Argo who said it much better than I could: I do not think government has any business enforcing morality as long as the behavior doesn’t violate the freedom of another. Denying marriage to American citizens just because they happen to be gay seems heartless to me. They are every bit as American as I am, and they should not be compelled against their will to follow a moral standard on the sole reason that some people think it’s a “sin”. Morally, I may not support homosexuality, but that does not give me the right expect government to force people to accept my standard any more than I can expect government to force Buddhists to become Christians. Using government as a gun to the head of gay people who want to marry is NOT a good witness.

  29. Richard

    That is why I never like stats that are not documented, especially the group selection and randomization. In fact, I went to one site which claimed to be Christian which posted some startliung stats that were old and discredited. Stats are like urban legends. Once one stat ges out that “proves” a position, it will be quoted for decades. 

    I still remember an exercise that I had to do in nursing school. Using what we had learned about statistics, we had to read some journal articles (supposedly well-respected journals) and critique them. It was easy. Misapplication of data is so widespread that even a math dolt like myself was able to refute the conclusions.


  30. Sophie/Muff

    I agree wholeheartedly on the statistics thing. As Christians, we should be the first to seek for truth even if the truth does not appear to agree with our presuppositions. For example, today people focus on HIV rates and overlook STD rates. Certain types of STDs are now curable with antibiotics. Therefore we rarely see people dying of tertiary syphillis. But, that does not mean that there are not serious STDs amongst heterosexuals. They are there but now treated quietly in doctor’s offices. When was the last time you heard any church protesting the sexual lives of the singles in their churches and quoting STD rates? We certainly seem to pick and choose, don’t we?

    Christians (as well as others) have a way of glomming onto old canards and refues to update them. For example, one of the fun ones is “carbon dating” is inaccurate. People who say this do not realize how dated they sound. Dating methods have changed in the last 50 years.  We may choose to believe what we will but we must also be prepared to be challenged. Let’s not be challenged for lack of rigor in our proof methods.

  31. Jen

    Today or tomorrow, I plan to address the church and what i believe is a dumbing down of the definition of marriage.

  32. Jen

    This bears repeating “Even if you study the Scriptures and come to a conclusion different from his (I would say the conclusion drawn by the previous two days’ posts), he still respects you and doesn’t judge you. He creates such a welcoming, loving environment to discuss this topic.”

    I believe that Justin is very important to this dabte. He is able to speak for several sides of this argument. He can give us insights into the complexities of this issue yet he does not disdian those who accept celibacy. I do not know how many people understand how rare this is. I am hoping my explanation of our discussion will illuminate this.

  33. beterri

    My thoughts on this debate are clerly spelled out. I do not have anyone in my family who has died due to any disease. I have one uncle whom I was never close to who is in a long term gay relationship. I have had a couple of friends who are gay and I liked them very much.

     I have come to the conclusion that reparative therapy has not been successful in getting rid of the gay. Even those who are now in heterosexual reslationships admit to still having gay feelings. I am not opposed to those who wish to go down this road but i believe there should be a “truth in counseling” rule. We call people to come to Christ, to become Christians; not to become heterosexuals and I think we get our wires crossed on this issue all the time. 

  34. Argo

    I believe that the church has dumbed dowm marriage to the point it no longer has the moral authority to speak to tradtional marriage. I even disagree with the definition of tradtional marriage as spouted by certain “family” groups.  I plan to speak about this today.Also, I want to know where the protestors are who are trying to overturn legislation that allows couples to live together without marriage. Where are the protestors who are demanding no fault divorce laws be overturned? (BTW-I am not saying I support these things-I am pointing out our hypocrisy).

    But, I guess when leaders like Charles Stanley get divorces and do so by pointing at his wife and saying she was the cause, then it is OK. We play games, folks, we play games.

  35. Dee

    Great insight on the church and marriage! When churches are so obviously hypocritical on the issue and offer things like ‘male headship’ as a solution, it has no moral authority anymore. I look forward to your further comments.

  36. I’m calling ‘shenanigans’ on these hypocrites. You start denying communion and membership to those who are divorced and remarried, and then we’ll talk – in your empty sanctuary given the current divorce statistics…. While I disagree very strongly with churches that flat-out deny communion and/or membership to those that are divorced and remarried, at least they are consistent. -Jeff

    This is exactly what I was trying to point out in my comments on the previous post yesterday. I think you did a much better job.

    Evangelical Christianity has made this huge issue out of homosexuality, while countless divorced and remarried couples are given a pass. I’m divorced and remarried myself. My first marriage and the reasons why I chose to divorce him were complicated (drug use, threats, abuse), not a black and white issue. These issues – homosexuality, divorce, remarriage – are not black and white – as Justin’s essay so clearly points out. Yet Christians want homosexuality to be a black and white issue while being perfectly willing to muddy the waters on divorce and remarriage.

    And don’t get me started on the other stuff that’s overlooked – greed, materialism, lust for status and power. When your life is consumed with those things, there just isn’t much left over for the poor, needy, marginalized, and disenfranchised. Christians might throw a little money or service their way now and then to make ourselves feel better, but it isn’t our focus like it was Jesus’ focus.

  37. Wendy

    I couldn’t agree more! Why is that it’s always the marginalized (homosexuals, immigrants, etc.) without any power that are the targets for abuse, even by so-called Christians when the more fundamental moral issues you noted are overlooked?

  38. Hi Wade

    I’m troubled by your comparison of being gay with being an adulterer. I obviously don’t think you want to be callous, but your statements do read that way.

    You said: “When a Christian man says he is gay, it is similar to another Christian man (like me) saying that he is an adulterer. I don’t think that those words define or identify who we are as believers in Christ.”

    The better parallel would be that when a Christian man says he is gay, it is similar to another Christian man saying that he is straight. Yes, people are more than their sexuality, but it is also a part of who they are.

    You don’t have to consciously identify as ‘straight’ because that form of sexuality is taken for granted as the accepted norm. I don’t think Justin prioritises being gay over following Christ, but neither does he deny being gay because that is a part of who he is. It would be like calling a person out for saying, ‘yes, I’m a woman’ because her primary identity should be in Christ.

    I realise our perspectives on this will obviously be shaped by our views on homosexuality. I don’t subscribe to the ‘traditional’ framework, but even within that perspective, I think it’s unfair and very hurtful to say that a man who is romantically attracted to men (ie. a gay man) is the same as a man who is an adulterer. The former could be a person desiring to pursue a loving relationship, to commit and exclusively connect to another human being emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While you disagree with this if the two people happen to be of the same sex, I’d encourage you to consider how callous it is to compare this desire to adultery – the wilful destruction of a covenant bond, the betrayal of a relationship and all the accompanying deception, hurt, and broken lives.

    You also said, “I have zero problem accepting a man who says he struggles with desires to have sex with other men, and I have zero problem accepting a man who says he struggles with the desires to have sex with women outside the context of marriage.”

    This also connects to how we see attraction. Attraction is a spectrum of emotions and desires. People (gay and straight) can use their attractions in healthy and unhealthy ways. The mere prevalence of attraction isn’t inherently wrong, but it can be channelled in sinful ways.

    Attraction is an element in the decision to pursue a relationship with one person instead of another: heterosexual Christian couples who get married presumably are attracted to one another before their wedding ceremony. It is, in a sense, extramarital attraction. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Yet if two women or two men feel a similar attraction, you would categorise this with the sin of adultery. It’s a double standard. I understand that you don’t agree with gay marriage/the expression of homosexual sexuality, and I don’t expect to change your mind on that. But I think your discussion of that viewpoint should not be based on unfair comparisons.

  39. We call people to come to Christ, to become Christians; not to become heterosexuals and I think we get our wires crossed on this issue all the time.

    Wow Dee, do you realize how big of a hammer you used in that statement? We can exchange ‘to become heterosexuals’ for any number of statements, rules, and ideas.

    I sometimes wonder if we have distorted ‘sin’ into ‘acts of sin’. The commandments are summed up worshipping God and loving your neighbor. A recent conversation w/ one of our pastors summed up the commandments as love and worship of God, loving your neighbor follows from loving God. From this we summed up sin, turning away from God. I stopped focusing on ‘acts of sin’ in my life and instead have started to look at ‘sin’ in my life. When I observe someone in what I consider an ‘act of sin’ I remember that I do not know what is in their heart; an ‘act of sin’ does not determine the direction of their heart but indicates that they are like me, fallen.
    So, is a gay relationship a sin? Is it turning away from God? All I know is that I am finding myself more and more on the ‘wrong’ side of the aisle on this one.
    I would like to hear some more thoughts on ‘man nor woman’ vs ‘man and woman’ by Paul.

  40. “I believe that Justin has a unique ability to communicate to both the conservative and liberal factions of this seemingly insurmountable, monumental divide. It is important to undertsand that he holds to a view that is exceedingly rare in the GLBT culture.”

    Is his view actually rare among the “Christ-centered” gay culture Justin referred to? Or, is such a “christ-centered” culture so rare that most never come across its adherents in any meaningful fashion – a small minority amongst a larger, but still small minority?

    And, does not that larger small minority, which Justin implies is acting in “sinful” ways, have a voice in our culture all out of proportion to its actual numbers and credibility?

    Is it not perplexing that while half of our population is powerless to stop the government-funded killing of unborn humans – a very small vocal minority has been successful in redefining the definition of marriage that has been accepted in virtually every human culture throughout history – and even within the church itself?

    So, are we having this discussion – and as some have written, changing our views on the definition of marriage, arguably a holy sacrament instituted by Christ – because of a tiny fraction of a small minority may have some possibly “good” fruit? Or because of the magnified loud voices of the “sinful” majority of the minority? Should the church and society capitulate, or would the righteous and loving response be the same as Lot’s in Genesis 19?

    “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.”

    Finally, as to Justin’s masterful “contextualization” of the scripture passages he mentioned, which in some scholarly circles would be referred to as classic “decontructionism” – please forgive me – but does it not bring to mind the words of St. Peter?

    “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” — II Peter 3:15-18

  41. JJ,

    Thank you for your comment. I understand what you are saying, and of course, I have no desire to offend you. I think you would find me open to anyone–particularly those who disagree with me–everyone in terms of love, acceptance and friendship.

    I am asking a simple question about desire. Is it possible that some of the desires we have as human beings are sinful? I am defining “sinful” as “contrary to the will of God for my life.” For example, if I have a desire to have sex with someone other than my wife, is that a sinful desire? Is it a sinful desire to want to have sex with a man if you are a man? Is it a sinful desire to want to have sex with animals? Is it a sinful desire to want to have sex with children? Some might object and say, “But my desire as a man to have sex with another man is not the same as a man’s desire to have sex with children! The comparison offends me!” I ask, “Why?” What makes having deires for sex right and not wrong? Consent of the sexual partner? All right then, if I desire to have sex with multiple women in my church, women who are consenting to have sex with me when I ask, women who are not my spouse, does that mean my desires are NOT sinful? I think we have become so sensitive about calling something “sin”–something that other people desire to do so intensely–that we have lost perspective.

    Is it possible that because we are natural born rebels against God and His will for our lives that we want others to tell us that what we desire is not “sinful” but okay? Just asking. Please know that my homosexual friends know that I love and accept them. They also know that I tell them the desire to have sex with a person of the same sex is as immoral for them as a desire in me to have sex with multiple women.

    Of course, not everyone agrees with me, but I’m uninterested in making people see it my way :). All I know is that when I find desires in my life to have sex with someone other than my spouse, then I am battling something inside that is inherently out of kilter with God’s design for me. That’s why I am comparing a desire for a man to have sex with a man to the desire of a man to have sex with a woman not his wife. Both desires are not of God.

    But if a man says to me, “But my SPOUSE is a man! I am as loving, as committed, and as honoring of my relationship to my man as you are to your woman!” I say, “I understand. You are missing my point. I am not questioning you love for this man, nor your commitment to this man, nor your friendship with this man–I am questioning why you want to have sex with this man. David loved Jonathan deeply. David didn’t have sex with Jonathan. I may love another woman deeply in terms of my commitment to her, my honoring her, and my estimation of her — but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with her.”

    This concept of sinful sexual desires is AS IMPORTANT for HETEROSEXUALS. For example, if a man tells me he loves his mother deeply and desires to have sex with her, I would tell him those desires are sinful. If a man tells me he loves his adult sister deeply, and she is beautiful and tender, and he desires to have sex with her, I would tell him his desires are sinful. If a man tells me he loves every woman in his Sunday School class deeply and wishes to have sex with them, then I would tell him his sexual desires are sinful. If a man tells me he loves the single girl in the Singles Department deeply and desires to have sex with her, I would tell him his sexual desires are sinful.

    A deire is not amoral. It is either moral or immoral. Because all of us have a heart touched by sin, we are often deceived by what we feel is good, when in reality it is not. “Search me O God, and know my heart, and see if there be any wicked desires within me.” That, to me, should be our prayer.

  42. Just an additional note, JJ.

    The context of my comment above is the community of believers who follow Christ. I have no expectation that those without faith in Christ would even desire to dialogue with me along the lines I’ve written. For this reason, I have no problem with civil unions in America. I do not consider our nation a Christian nation.

  43. Wade: “I have no problem with civil unions in America.”

    But how about if the government calls all civil unions “marriage”?
    Do you have a problem with that?

  44. Jimmy,

    You make a good point about the correlation in liberal churches between women’s leadership and the acceptance of homosexuality. However, I think it is valid to say that overall, the church has changed its stance on women more than it has changed its stance on homosexuality (by the way, I’m not trying to argue either way for or against a homosexual lifestyle). Yes, there are liberal churches that have opened up to the idea of women leaders and also opened up to the idea of homosexual marriage.

    However, if you look at the average Protestant culture in American today, many Protestants live without much regard for what gender role they are following in their marriage (this is one thing that troubles complementarians like John Piper, who believe that Christians are starting to ignore complimentarity). But those same people would come down with certainty against homosexual activity.

    Also, while many may say that they believe in loving male leadership, most of those people would not say that they believe in female head coverings, or that women must be totally silent in church, which are two issues that are intimately bound up with the “woman question” in Christianity (and those are two verses which Justin quoted to make his point).

    So, the idea that the woman question has loosened up a bit, while the gay question has remained pretty difficult, is accurate, IMO.

  45. TedS

    I think that Christians have not defined marriage correctly and have fallen into the cultural interpretation of said marriage.  I am wrting about that today. Man and woman has something to do with it but that is not the key. There is one more being in that marriage. It is our lack of communicating the Biblical meaning of marriage that has gotten us into this mess.

    So, I guess when one uses the word “marriage’ I need to ask, “What kind and whose definnition?” I have some relatives that were married in a church with loosey goosey theology. They giggle throug hthe service and made vows with little understanding of the meaning behind it all. Are they married in the eyes of God? Difficult question.

  46. TedS,

    It’s not a matter “if” the government calls all civil unions “marriage,” but “when.” My chaplain friends in the Army are telling me that there is coming down an order in the coming months that ALL Christian chaplains will be forced to “marry” homosexuals. We are moving from “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to mandated marriage ceremonies in the armed forces.

    We are not, have never been, nor will ever be a Christian nation. The ancient Roman Senate was no more Christian than our modern American Senate. The Kingdom of God is not the government, nor is the government the Kingdom of God. I will have no problem with civil unions, homosexual marriages, or the like, because I have no problem living under a government(or in a world) that doesn’t think like a Christian. The Kingdom and King and the King to whom I belong are eternal and not of this world. I am but a stranger and a transient. 🙂

  47. Dee, stats really are a sometime thing. Even today, some enterprising soul could use numbers to prove that Native Americans are by nature lazy, indolent, combative, easily corrupted by drink, and in need of a strong paternalistic hand to keep them on the straight and narrow.

  48. Wade – I wonder if you can substantiate the bit about chaplains being mandated to perform marriages?

    Apologies for sounding suspicious, but to me, that sounds like a rumor rather than fact.

  49. I will have no problem with civil unions, homosexual marriages, or the like, because I have no problem living under a government(or in a world) that doesn’t think like a Christian. –Wade


    I agree 100% that we don’t live in a Christian nation and thus shouldn’t restrict gays and lesbians from marrying. It’s a free country. What one American citizen has a right to do, every American citizen should.

    Just a question – are you saying that gay Christians like Justin and others who support loving, committed, monogamous marriage to a person of their same gender doesn’t think like a Christian? After reading Justin’s essay, do you believe he doesn’t think like a Christian?


    You met with Justin for 3 1/2 hours and have written about him and posted his position here. Do you believe he thinks like a Christian?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  50. @ Wade:

    I really am not trying to pick on you here, but I keep coming up with questions. : )

    1) In your post at 12:07, you described a number of situations in which yes, there are clearly sinful desires for sinful things involved. I do agree that yes, often, desires can be sinful (as in, they arise from our flesh and, if followed and not fought, they will lead us to commit a sin). However, I still have to return to James 1:14-15:

    “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

    In this passage, desire = temptation, and desire/temptation leads to sin. So the sinful desires our flesh produces are essentially our flesh trying to convince us to sin. A few verses before, James says “blessed is the man who endures temptation,” so clearly we do not HAVE to sin when our flesh tries to convince us to, and we have not sinned merely by being TEMPTED to do so. Now with sexual sins this gets a little harder, because we have the concept of lust (which is a mind thing) – which is what most of the situations you discussed really seemed to be about. But I would still be interested in hearing about where you think the line is between lust and a temptation to sin sexually.

    I am so concerned about this because there are actually segments of the conservative church that think attraction, lust and physical sexual sin are all the same thing. The following example should show what I mean. A blogger named Lewis (at Commandments of Men) “courted” a patriarchal girl for a while and she let him read her diary. On one of the pages, she exclaimed in anguish, “I’m a fornicator!!!” because she had noticed, while out shopping or something, that a man passing by was good-looking. This barely even meets the standard of attraction, let alone lust, and CLEARLY isn’t fornication. But this poor girl was absolutely convinced that when she appeared before God on Judgment Day, this complete stranger would be standing there waiting for her to call her out for her “fornication” with him.

    2) I still maintain that our sex drive in and of itself is not a bad thing. I don’t think you are saying this, but your comments per straight singles I still think verged a little too close for my comfort. Once again, this leads straight back to the difference between lust and attraction. If I have a boyfriend, I am attracted to him. I think he’s good-looking, handsome, etc. Does this mean I am “lusting” after him? Or does “lust” have to meet a different standard? What if I am attracted to my boyfriend, but consciously steer my mind away from overt sexual thoughts/fantasies about him, even if we are planning to be married? Am I still “lusting” after him (and thus sinning)?

    The answer to this question, I think, is very important to this discussion. If ALL attraction is lust, then essentially, then we are forbidden from being attracted to ANYONE until AFTER we marry them – even though the majority of people would not (or could not) marry someone (let alone sleep with them afterwards) UNLESS they were attracted to them. If we really do think this, then we are no better than the courtship proponents who, like the girl I mentioned above, think crushes are a sin.

    (And for full disclosure – yes, I am single; and no, I do not currently have a boyfriend. So this is not a personal “I really wanna justify fantasizing about my boyfriend” issue. It stems from having read too many patriarchal girls who really think all attraction is sin.)

  51. @ Wade:

    Also, awesome comment about not living in a Christian nation. I think many American Christians are too used to living in a culture where their religion is the assumed majority, and will continue to fail to cope as it becomes more and more of a minority.

  52. You all can laugh at my very simplistic way at defining the “danger zone” regarding temptation/lust, etc. but for me it answers a lot of questions about the topic.

    There are lots of beautiful people in this world and we are free to appreciate their beauty and shouldn’t feel guilty about saying so. But when that “appreciation” begins to focus on specific body parts, we’re in the danger zone. That changes the natural appreciation to the very fringe of fantasy and/or lust.


  53. bobson

    One of the most beautiful testimonies that iIheard was from a physician who recorded his testimony for Christian medcial Dental Association. He is living his life as a celibate man. He avoided the faith because everyone kept telling him he would have to “give up being gay” in order to be a Christian. We are utterly helpless over our sins . It is only when we have the mind of Christ and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to deal with out sins. Unless you believe that we come to Christ convicted and cured of all our sins?

  54. Pastor Wade

    You wrote: “The Kingdom and the King to whom I belong are eternal and not of this world. I am but a stranger and a transient.”

    I say “amen” to this. I am a pilgrim and an alien in a strange land. However, isn’t it true that in the days of Isaiah the Lord says He still has 7,000 who do not bow their heads to idols? There is still a remmnant in God’s design. Be encouraged!

    I find it difficult for two people to agree when they do not share the same belief system, having similar value systems, similar framework of reference.

    The US is NOT a Christian nation, in fact, it’s listed as “pagan” under the UN, according to one of my teachers in Bible school. Have to go back to work now, can drop in only a few minutes.

  55. Wade, you said that you have no problem with homosexual marriages. I suppose that wouldn’t be an issue if there weren’t any kids involved.Not to mention I believe in the definition of traditional marriage. And yes, I already know that there are many who have kids and aren’t married.

  56. RE: Sophie on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 02:21 AM,

    You wrote: “…Casey, if by reparative therapy you mean therapy to stop a person from having homosexual tendencies, then it is completely and utterly right that you would lose your license…”

    I must respectfully argue that we do things a bit differently on this side of the pond. We Americans guard jealously our religious liberty, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience. Our laws are not arrived at through judicial fiat, bewigged elites in Star Chamber, or the winds of popular sentiment.

    The efficacy of reparative therapy is not in question, only the right of private individuals like Casey to practice it with consenting clients.

    Before I rant further, permit me to be upfront and transparent to all here. I am the same guy who canvassed neighborhoods with LGBT folks to get out a NO vote on prop. 8 (gay marriage amendment in Calif.) and who also stood in solidarity with Muslims down in Temecula for their right to build a Mosque and worship as they see fit.

    When we deny individuals like Casey the right to ply their trade based on current political sentiment, we are saying that he or she does not have the same status as any other protected minority under our Constitution.

    From there it is much easier for rabid ideologues to craft “hate speech” laws which would prohibit Pastor Burleson from following the dictates of his conscience and teaching his congregation that same-sex relationships are wrong. Over my dead body. Not here. Not now. Not in America. Not ever.

  57. Muff, what I wrote was on the understanding that having a licence is not a **legal** entitlement to practice therapy but a certificate or membership of some sort to show that one is approved by whatever national council or association is the industry standard. Of course I don’t know if that’s actually the case, but what I wrote is based that assumption. I don’t know what the laws are about counselling in the USA (or even the UK).

    People can do any crazy thing they want; they quite frequently do. I don’t care. The point is that any therapist who does reparative therapy is going against what is the inudstry standard by possibly damaging people instead of helping them, and that ought to be recognised by refusing to give them any decent accreditation. There is no free speech issue there. People can de-gay each other til the cows come home, they just shouldn’t be able to do it while claiming to be doing it with any quality professional recognition. Every industry has standards. You can’t sell something as ‘prime Angus steak’ is it’s actually bits of old hoof and eyelids.

  58. …also, you may look down at the UK for allowing ‘bewigged elites’ to make our laws, but the only substantial difference between you and us is the wigs. And the old lady in the special hat.

  59. Numo,

    The chaplain who called me is a friend. I know nothing about chaplaincy work. He does. What he knows or believes is serious enough to contemplate leaving the armed forces. You would have to ask him to substantiate it. I’m only reporting what he told me he was told by higher ups.

  60. Hester,

    You write:

    “If ALL attraction is lust, then essentially, then we are forbidden from being attracted to ANYONE until AFTER we marry them.”

    I would ask you to define attraction. Webster’s define it as “an allure or drawing toward.” Attraction must always have an end in sight. For example, I am attracted to friendship with people. I am attracted to beautiful paintings. I am attracted to skiing. I am attracted to have sex with my wife.

    ALL attraction is not lust. All desire to have sex with a person not your spouse is a “crooked” (sinful) desire. I say that with not one ounce of condemnation. All of us have crooked desires. It’s just reality. That’s who we are–crooked people. And, by the way, God loves crooked people. One of these days he will straighten out all the crooks.

    So, I will define “attraction” in your sentence above as “desire to have sex” and rewrite it.

    “If ALL attraction to have sex with a person not your spouse is sin, then essentially, we are commanded by God to abstain from having sex with anyone until AFTER we marry them.”

    :)That’s what I am saying.

  61. Sophie,

    I apologise for my lack of restraint in choosing better words. I sometimes have all the tact of Alaric in raiding a Roman villa.

  62. Word Jumble?

    Wade:  “When a Christian man says he is gay, it is similar to another Christian man (like me) saying that he is an adulterer. I don’t think that those words define or identify who we are as believers in Christ.”

    J.J. : “The better parallel would be that when a Christian man says he is gay, it is similar to another Christian man saying that he is straight.”


    Isn’t the historical  etymological progression of the word “gay” in essence meaning: “to throw off restraint” ?


    Isn’t the opposite of “straight” in the dictionary: crooked (bent), curved, devious, gay? or unconventional, askew, dishonest, diluted, untidy?

    Is the dictionary incorrect? 

    Do words still have any meaning; and actions still speak louder than words?

    (or is it Alice in the looking glass following the “white rabbit”?)

    Something to consider? 


  63. Stormy

    Please look at my post today. i question the Christian definition of traditional marriage. I do not believe that a man and a woman atheist who marry have a marriage as defined by Scripture.

  64. Muff

    I, too believe in freedom as you do. The only caveat I would add is that it is incumbent on those plying their trade to make the effectiveness rate of their product known. Let the buyer beware.

  65. Ironclad

    The dctionary has also added those other meanings of the words. Words morph over time. In fact, i just used a recently invented word “morph.” The only thing that is the same always is God and His Word.

  66. I often use the words “rascal” or “ratbag” as a form of greeting and term of affection. It’s very difficult to explain though to Chinese students when they look up the “straight” meaning which is rogue ! Drilling further into the meaning reflects the Australian way in which it is used. To me, exclusively using the word “homosexual” is an indicator that the person has only a second-hand knowledge of the subject and, dare I say it, no gay friends?

  67. @ Wade:

    Sorry if I sound frustrated, but I did define attraction in my comment:

    “If I have a boyfriend, I am attracted to him. I think he’s good-looking, handsome, etc. Does this mean I am ‘lusting’ after him? Or does ‘lust’ have to meet a different standard?”

    So attraction, according to my working definition above = a simple recognition that another person is good-looking and you may want to date them. I.e., a crush or something akin to it. See also my earlier comment about what I see as the difference(s) between attraction and lust. So that quote of mine you rewrote should actually read like this:

    “If ALL recognition that another person is good-looking and you may want to date them is lust, then essentially, we are forbidden from recognizing that ANYONE is good-looking and we may want to date them until AFTER we marry them.”

    So – does it qualify as lust/sin for me to look at a man, note that he is good-looking and desire to date him – all while fully, sincerely intending NOT to have sex until I get married (because, as you said, I AM commanded not to fornicate)?

    Note that I am still talking only about straight singles here. There is no argument that married people should not be looking at/pursuing people other than their spouses. And I agree that if you are dating someone and actively fantasizing about them sexually, then you are having a lust problem and need to rein it in. But merely recognizing that someone is good-looking in no way meets this standard.

  68. It really bothers me that no one is addressing the impact that this has already have had and will be even more of an impact on the kids(the gay couples kids) when it comes to a homosexual union, marriage.

    Why haven’t you answered a legitement question,Wade? You responded to others.

    Dee, I’ll read it.

  69. Stormy,

    I apologize. I missed your question. Thanks for pointing it out. You write:

    “Wade, you said that you have no problem with homosexual marriages. I suppose that wouldn’t be an issue if there weren’t any kids involved.Not to mention I believe in the definition of traditional marriage. And yes, I already know that there are many who have kids and aren’t married.”

    Stormy, I agree with you. However, you and I are not the government. What I say to a person seeking wisdom from God is different than what I say to a person seeking liberty from a government.

  70. Hester,

    I agree with you. I just spent the night with eight men (our staff). I had dinner with them, went to a movie with them (Bourne Legacy), and absolutely had a blast with them. We laughed, we talked, we prayed, we sang, we enjoyed each other’s company! I am ATTRACTED to them as delightful human beings in every sense of the word. There is the wonderful privilege of males being attracted to males without acting out on a sexual desire with those males. I don’t see how attraction means attracted to have sex. That escapes me. By the way, I have had the SAME kind of evening with women, including my wife, and have had no desire to have sex with any of them but my wife. Or, let me rephrase it–IF I ever find myself with a woman, enjoying their company, marveling at her beauty, or admiring her character – and desire to have sex with her, then that desire is sinful. That’s why I compare the desire in a man to have sex with another man to the desire in a man to have sex with a woman who is not his wife. By the way, and you can ask those who know me–I accept all adulterers and homosexuals who God places in my life. I accept them, affirm them, love them, and ENJOY THEIR COMPANY! 🙂 I do, however, have no problem talking with them (if they ask me), about their sin – or my sin. God loves sinners.

  71. Not to throw a wrench in the attraction equation BUT we can be attracted to people and things for all kinds of reasons other than sexual 🙂 I might be attracted to someone because I enjoy their sense of humor. I might be attracted to someone because they are an outstanding musician that I would like to learn from, etc., etc., etc. (as the King of Siam would state).

    There is much more to me and everyone here than our sexual desires/needs/wants. I think our culture over values sex, and that includes the Church. I know we live here and now, but if we lived 1000 years ago we would spend much more time on food, shelter, and water issues.

  72. Bridget, you said it far better than I could. Thank you.

    Argo, thanks, my friend. I really do love people–all kinds of people. It’s hard to show it in writing sometimes.

  73. @Dee: “The only thing that is the same always is God and His Word.”



        Where do we find His words? They are now telling us from the pulpit, and some of our bible classes here, that the bible is no longer reliable, and requires a learned doctor to interpret.  SomeTWW reader comments have suggested some bible versions are somewhat outdated and arcane, or hard to read.  What version should we refer to, to obtain His words? (Pastor Wade, I believe uses the NASB95, you  have spoken often of the NIV84 version.)

     Some are saying now that the christian bible now promotes “hate crime” against gay people.  Is this so?

    Justin infers in his posting, that gay interpretations from the scriptures are not really reliable. Justin also speculates of possible sexual activity between the bible characters David and Jonathan. Is he correct in this? (If you follow David’s blood line throughout the scriptures you pass through Joseph and Mary’s household and on to Jesus.) Is any of this significant?


    P.S. Hope you all had a wonderful birthday time. THANX.

  74. Wade – thanks for your reply!

    While I can appreciate what you’re saying re. your friend’s concerns, it is hearsay at this point, so maybe we need to wait and see? (That’s my take, at least.)

    Also, I think Hester has been asking some great questions! The whole “I kissed dating goodbye”/courtship thing would have people believe that if a kid looks at another kid and thinks “Gee, that person is really attractive!,” they are “lusting after someone else’s wife/husband.”

    See SGM and Josh Harris’ books – and many, many comments at SGM Survivors – for details.

  75. … and SGM is jsut the tip of the iceberg where this wretched thinking is concerned, as Hester has already noted.

  76. Dee: “I do not believe that a man and a woman atheist who marry have a marriage as defined by Scripture.”

    Sorry Dee.
    I usually agree with almost everything you post.
    But this time, I respectfully disagree.

    There are pleanty of scriptures referring to marriage when it does not comprise of two believers. The scripture says “Marriage is honorable in all.”

    However, I would bet that the writer of the above passage would explicitly and unequivocally state that homosexual unions can never be referred to as “honorable” or “marriage” – and not just those that involve temple prostitutes.

  77. Wade and Dee,

    My comment may have been overlooked as well. I have a couple of questions concerning one of your earlier comments. I really would like a deeper understanding of your thought processes.

    Wade wrote, “I will have no problem with civil unions, homosexual marriages, or the like, because I have no problem living under a government(or in a world) that doesn’t think like a Christian.”


    It sounds like you’re saying that people who support/condone gay marriage don’t think like Christians. Are you saying that gay Christians, like Justin and others, who support loving, committed, monogamous marriage to a person of their same gender doesn’t think like a Christian? After reading Justin’s essay, do you believe he doesn’t think like a Christian?


    You met with Justin for 3 1/2 hours and have written about him and posted his position here. Do you believe he thinks like a Christian? How do you view his faith in light of his beliefs that God can bless same-sex marriages? His essay is very studied and thorough. Do you think he brings valid points to the table in his support of committed, monogamous same-sex marriage?

    Wade, incidentally, I agree 100% about America not being a Christian nation. Many Christians believe same-sex marriage is a sin, but we don’t live in a Christian nation and thus shouldn’t restrict gays and lesbians from marrying. It’s a free country. What one American citizen has a right to do, every American citizen should.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  78. TedS – yep, I’m with you, for the most part. (Though I am supportive of marriage for LGBT people, so we part company there.)

    It seems to me that the NT writers have a high regard for marriage, no matter what the beliefs of those who are married. Perhaps – as Beloved pointed out in another comment thread – it’s because God is shown as the one who instituted marriage in the creation accounts in Genesis… Either way, I think married is married, no matter what a person believes.

  79. Wade

    Thanks for your reply. I do trust that you are a caring, open person. I appreciate that a you are engaging in this discussion – not just pulling the ‘pastor card’ and expecting everyone to submit to your authority 😉 Maybe my meaning got lost in my comment, but I didn’t mean to accuse you of being a callous person. I was, however, disturbed by your comparison and thought that it was potentially hurtful, which is why I commented.

    In brief: I agree that some desires are sinful, others not. I disagree that monogamous same-sex desire can be likened to the desires to engage in incest, bestiality, adultery, and pedophilia as you suggest.

    I think there’s a nuance to attraction that you aren’t acknowledging, and that is part of what Hester’s also been challenging you on. As I said in my original comment, what about heterosexual Christian couples who choose to get married? They surely have felt attraction before their wedding ceremony. And this is not just a generic friendship attraction. Their attraction to each other (physical, but definitely also encompassing emotions, spirituality, personality, character etc) is part of what leads each of them to choose the other as a partner.

    To put it bluntly: before you married your wife, you were attracted to her. Something drew you to each other. It was more than friendship, because you decided to become ‘more than friends’ through dating and eventual marriage. I think we can get pedantic about defining attraction so that every passing thought or emotion has to be analysed and policed. I think that can distract us from the business of simply following Christ.

  80. Hester, numo and others –

    This ‘attraction’ issue is similar to the modesty movement. I think that the modesty camp obsesses about purity and modesty to the point that they fetishise EVERYTHING – an ankle is not just an ankle; a wrist is more than a wrist.

    This is ultimately a form of self-obsession, a preoccupation with scrutinising oneself under the guise of faithful spirituality. They make idols of their own faithfulness to an introspective self-flagellating spirituality to the point that Jesus becomes secondary to their own piety.

  81.  “The Brian Brown Vs Dan Savage Debate”

     “Huffington Post”
    : “Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) finally took Dan Savage up on his invitation for an after-dinner debate on same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and the Bible. Moderated by The New York Times’ Matt Oppenheimer (who penned a profile of Savage last year), the dinner debate ran for about an hour, and also touched on recent controversies including the Family Research Council (FRC) shooting, the widespread criticism of Mark Regnerus’ gay parenting study and, of course, Savage’s own obscenity-laced speech at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle, during which a number of students walked out.”

  82. TedS

    Here is the beginning of Hebrews 13. “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Marriage should be honored by all appears to be addressed to Christians in Hebrews 13:4.

    Also, do you believe that my two atheist relatives who giggled through their service and made a vow, in the sight of a God that they do not believe in, did an honorable thing? 

  83. Ironclad

    Dan Savage was (and is) a jerk.If you notice in my presentation of Justin’s story, I specifically left out the gay activists and the drga queens of SanFrancisco. This post is addressing one guy and the church that he loved growing up not some nut job activist.  I would be more than happy to list all of the disgusting things that some activists have doen like invading Catholic churches and making a mockery of them. 

    However, there are nutjob straight activists. There was the male and female couple who sneaked into St Patricks to have sex. 

    There are disgusting people everywhere.

  84. Dee,



       This is not about a post.  This is about a real life topic that many do not wish to discuss in religious circles. In many churches I have been privileged to attend, even the language of the GLBTcommunity is foreign to them.

        It is my belief that if you wish to open a dialog so that your many world-wide readers can better understand the issues- this topic, and maybe feel more comfortable discussing these weighty topics, they first need to be shown how to dialog.  For instance, this past weekend I visited a wonder friend who pastors a little church not far from my home. During our time together we discussed and dialoged about this very topic. He assured me that no pastor he knows has brought up this topic in resent history, nor did he expect them to any time soon, let alone opening up a dialog with their church members.  Do you catch my drift? People just mind their own business and stay out of it.  Maybe they think it will go away? Even I did not know my Webster’s dictionary was out of date, words changing and all? Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

    You have may have opened a pandora’s box, as many of us don’t even know the players, let alone the score.

    Sure do appreciate you giving it a go!


  85. Ironclad

    I do not believe that we are going to be able to change the secular culture regarding many issues. In fact, if the Bible is correct, there will be a continuing decline in the moral and spiritual climate  of all cultures prior to the Second Coming.  I just do not know when that will be- now or 10,000 years from now.

    It is my hope that we can change how the church does business. Take, for example, pedophilia. There are many examples of people being arrested that have nothing to do with the church. I think of the Jaycee Duggard story and the Sanduskey mess. With maximum effort, I might be able to get some legislators to look at the laws and change one or two.

    But, my calling is to change the way things are done inside the church. That is why I constantly harp on the way churches do business in this area. I think the outcry of some Christians may have spurred some churches to change business as usual in regards to taking pedophilia more seriously.

    On the gay issue, I am looking inside the church and tryng to figure out how to help those in our midst who discover that they are gay. Surely the church can do better than it did in Justin’s case. The church should figure out better ways to help the Justins so they do not believe that they are so alone that they should commit suicide. No one in any church should feel that way. 

    This is a hard subject and there are minefields whichever way I turn. I am sure I have miffed off a fair number of people on all sides.  But, few people will discuss this subject beyond reparative therapy and being gay is bad. I may end up being wrong with some of my conclusions. I am a person in process. But I shall carry on, trying to bring both the love of Christ as well as Biblical standards into the fray.

  86. As I’ve been mulling this article over in my head for about a day, I’ve been coming to new thoughts, and I wanted to post one on here.

    Let me just go ahead and say that I am truly riding the fence right now on whether I believe committed homosexual unions are OK with God. I was raised to believe they weren’t, but things I have read and people I have met as an adult have made me rethink the issue quite seriously.

    One thing that this issue always comes back to (at least for me) is the question Justin poses at the end: What kind of fruit is the behavior bearing?

    This is such a quandary. I used to think it was an easily answered question (bad fruit, all the time). Then I changed my mind and actually thought the other way for awhile (good fruit, because of how many people claim their life is better since they accepted that part of themselves).

    Anymore now, I’m undecided. I have heard stories of healthy, long-term relationships that are homosexual in nature. I’ve heard stories of people whose lives were turned around for the better once they embraced a homosexual relationship. I hear stories of people for whom God did not seem to give them “the grace to overcome it” but rather gave them a sense of peace and release only after they accepted it as “OK.” But I also know (as Justin said) that there is a high rate of promiscuity and shallow relationships in the gay male community. I hear stories like Ron’s, where people experienced a true sense of release (if not orientation change) in trying to live celibacy. I’ve also read literature from a Christian counselor (NOT the reparative therapy types) who says that the lesbian clients who seek her out often show very similar patterns of unhealthy dynamics in relationships, often so tumultuous that previously practicing lesbians want out of the lifestyle even though they can’t change the attraction factor.

    I just don’t know what to think anymore. I really want to do an honest exploration of what kind of fruit Christian homosexual couples bear, but it’s really hard to get that perspective–most of the pro-homosexual rhetoric I hear comes from the secular world. Most of my homosexual friends aren’t Christian (and most of the gay people I am close with aren’t in long-term relationships for one reason or another…the ones who are are people I don’t see very often).

    I would really love for someone to do more work on this.

  87. Dee,

    Related to your (and my) desire for the church to figure out how to help those in our midst who discover they’re gay…

    I’ve asked this group of questions in this thread a couple of times, but maybe it has been overlooked or something… You met with Justin for 3 1/2 hours and have written about him and posted his position here. Do you believe he thinks like a Christian? How do you view his faith in light of his beliefs that God can bless same-sex marriages? His essay is very studied and thorough. Do you think he brings valid points to the table in support of committed, monogamous same-sex marriage?

    And specifically related to your desire for the church to help those who discover they’re gay – do we consider Justin’s position on God blessing same-sex marriages between two Christian men or two Christian women? I know he respects differing viewpoints and interpretations, but he has also brought into his network gay Christians who believe as he does. He affirms all gay Christians regardless of their position on celibacy or committed union. So, do we follow along those lines and consider and respect both positions?

  88. sad observer

    I plan to discuss a practical area in which the church can intervene to help in one particualr, and important area, without being forced to compromise on the view that celibacy is the only legitimate option.

  89. Dee: Surely the church can do better than it did in Justin’s case. 



    My pastor friend when I asked how the majority of pastors he knew in the state would react to a person who professed to be a non-practicing gay Christian who wished to attend any one of their churches, his response was about one-fourth of the churches would accept him.

    When my pastor friend was asked the same question about a person who professed to be a practicing gay Christian who wished to attend any one of their churches, his response was that, more than likely, that wasn’t going to happen. 

    You said: “I am sure I have miffed off a fair number of people on all sides.”

    Not the ones that care. Not the ones that understand what you are trying to do.


  90. Wendy

    I am sorry that I overlooked you questions.  Let me take a stab at it. The answer is very difficult, not just for gay Christians but for many other Christians.  As I have stated, I believe that homosexual act is sin.I cannot get around it and wish I could. I have studied Justin’s reasonings, found it to be thoughtful and to be worth the study. In fact, I think Christians should understand his point of vew and be able to discuss it with solid Biblical responses. We are told to be able to give a reason for the faith that we have. This is one of those issues.

    Justin loves the Lord, this much i can say. In every area of his life he attempts to obey just like me except for his one belief in the validity of gay monogamous marriages within the church. I disagree with him in his conclusion but does that one conclusion negate his entire faith?

    Let me present another situation that relates to this. Here is what happened at another church. A man who was a Christian had an affair. he left his wife and moved in with his honey. He was told he was actively sinning by the church and had his membership revoked. However, the church leaders continued to reach out to him, spend time with him, etc. He eventually left his live in situation and reunited with his wife. Was this man a Christian throughout the affair? I believe he was.

    I know people in the church who have problems with substance abuse, pornography, overeating to the point of morbid obesity, cheating on their taxes, greed, etc. I watch pastors like Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney do and say things that shock me. How do we view a woman who attends a Oneness Pentecostalist Church and does not understand the problems of that doctrine since that is all she knows? What about the Christians of 200 years ago who believed that Afircan people were lesser humans and deserved to be slaves? How about the Baptist churches that did not allow people of colore to attend? Are/Were they still Christians? When they attempt to justify it, are/were they still Christians? I leave that in God’s hands but i think we all have beliefs and differences that change over time. 

    Wendy, I did this series because I wanted discussion. I do not have all the answers but was tired of the avoidance of the discussion. I also believe that there are some positive changes that the churches can make . 

  91. Wendy –

    Don’t you think we would all need to do what Justin did; study the scripture and come to our own conclusion and act according to what we believe the Scripture says? We may not all come to the same conclusion. We do know how Jesus treated people, and he said to love your neighbor as yourself. But he also disagreed with what people did and told them so. The question of salvation is God’s.

    What does the word “affirm” mean to you? I find that to be a loaded word.

  92. To me, affirm means validates, accepts, and supports. My understanding is that Justin validates and accepts gay Christians who believe gay sex is sin and thus remain celibate as well as gay Christians who believe that God blesses committed, monogamous gay marriage. Affirm (to me) means accepting and validating the person, their feelings, and their particular position. I suppose, however, that we could affirm the person and their feelings without accepting and supporting the position Justin holds. That’s just not my particular definition.

  93. Dee,

    Thank you for your response. I am VERY glad you’re posting this series and we’re having this discussion. I think it has huge importance in our church and culture today.

    I am in the same place as Sad Observer – riding the fence. I get so confused sometimes, I don’t know which end is up. Justin’s position makes a lot of sense to me, and I will be studying this issue more carefully. As I mentioned in another thread, I’ve been taught one thing all of my life and never bothered to study it for myself. The “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it” mentality.

    What confuses me the most are all the other directives and commands in scripture that we don’t interpret or live out in black and white terms. For instance, many of us (myself included) have applied various types of arguments against what many patriarchs interpret in black and white terms. Many of us don’t interpret submission and gender roles in black and white.

    Why shouldn’t we or can’t we apply cultural and linguistic arguments against the few verses in the bible that speak to homosexuality (which could have meant different types of acts within the culture and times they were written)?

  94. TedS

    I hope you see this. I am glad that you disagree with me. I really mean it. It shows that you are your own man, seeking out the Scriptures and finding out what they mean. Christians who march lockstep are a dime a dozen. How do we all grow, change, repent, persevere without us challenging one another? I really appreciate your input!

  95. I appreciate this topic being raised here, with a chance for various points of view to be heard, and the opportunity for feedback from others with comments and questions. An opportunity for healthy dialog is always needed when there are strong opinions.

    When our kids were in their teens we came across a documentary about the medical issues that arise with the gay lifestyle. It doesn’t take long to do a Google search today and find out what types of medical issues continue to be rampant.

    For example: “Sexual relationships between members of the same sex, however, expose gays, lesbians and bisexuals to extreme risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), physical injuries, mental disorders and even a shortened life span.”

    Another: “When it comes to cancer of various types, they candidly admit that “gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women are at higher risk for some cancers as a result of their sexual orientation (emphasis added).” Smoking and alcohol use puts them at elevated risk of lung and liver cancer, while their sexual activity increases their risk of anal cancer and cancers of the head, throat and neck through frequent exposure to HPV, the human papilloma virus.”

    And another: “Homosexual sex leads to serious venereal diseases, anal and oral cancer, and death from HIV infection. This behavior must be discouraged–not promoted as an alternative lifestyle. SODOMY KILLS.”

    Logically, the medical statistics for the gay lifestyle are heavy indeed. This topic alone is huge. The medical statistics available might make an excellent blog topic.

  96. This ‘attraction’ issue is similar to the modesty movement. I think that the modesty camp obsesses about purity and modesty to the point that they fetishise EVERYTHING – an ankle is not just an ankle; a wrist is more than a wrist. — JJ

    Until you end up with the burqa.

    I’ve also read literature from a Christian counselor (NOT the reparative therapy types) who says that the lesbian clients who seek her out often show very similar patterns of unhealthy dynamics in relationships, often so tumultuous that previously practicing lesbians want out of the lifestyle even though they can’t change the attraction factor. — Sad Observer

    “Tumultuous” as in “Drama-Rama”?

  97. Orthodox Jewish men have found a way to stay pure without imposing the burqa on women. They’re wearing glasses that blur images (of immodest women) that may cause temptation. Walls in their neighborhoods feature signs exhorting women to wear closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Extremists have reported confronted women they consider to have flouted the code.

  98. Wendy,

    You write:

    “It sounds like you’re saying that people who support/condone gay marriage don’t think like Christians. Are you saying that gay Christians, like Justin and others, who support loving, committed, monogamous marriage to a person of their same gender doesn’t think like a Christian? After reading Justin’s essay, do you believe he doesn’t think like a Christian?”

    Great question Wendy. I have been out of town and apologize for taking so long to respond.

    I think Justin is thinking precisely like a Christian should think. He is studying God’s word, asking the Lord for wisdom, loving people who agree and disagree, and attempting to apply what HE believes Christ would have him do.

    I do disagree with Justin, but would never make a judgment about his salvation. Our King has a lot of adopted kids, and if we were all the same, it would be a pretty boring family. The church is not filled with Stepford Wives and Husbands. We are a unique individually and graced personally. The evidence of true Christianity is Lordship. Do we do what the KING says? I think I hear Justin say he wishes to do PRECISELY what His King says. We are just disagreeing on what the King is saying. :). Were the Holy Spirit ever to convince Justin (or me) that we are wrong in what God desires, I’m quite confident we both would do precisely what the King says.

    What is our canon? What is our plumb-line for truth? It is the Word of God. We all have, however, certain biases and cultural leanings when we read God’s word. I come to Scripture with a New Covenant bias (because I believe the Gospel teaches the Old Covenant was destroyed by God), but I fellowship with many believers who baptize their children (a substitution for Old Covenant circumcision), who tithe and teach others to tithe (a continuation of Old Covenant Law), and see a separation between clergy and laity (similar to the Old Covenant priesthood). I agree with none of these things, but have no problem calling those who disagree with me Chrisitians. They are doing PRECISELY what they believe God would have them do. That is the definition of a believer. One of these days the Lord will straighten out all our errors. Until then I will believe what I believe and love people who believe differently. 🙂

  99. I have read the 22-page essay by Justin. Justin is smart, no doubt about it. Justin cleverly presents his arguments to defend his position stated in his post: “Essentially, I am arguing that a Christ-centered marriage is a good thing, regardless of the gender of the people involved.” i.e. same-sex marriage.

    I do not agree with Justin but I respect his opinion and feel grateful to have the opportunity to read both essays, one of Ron B. and one by Justin.

  100. Orthodox Jewish men have found a way to stay pure without imposing the burqa on women. They’re wearing glasses that blur images (of immodest women) that may cause temptation. Walls in their neighborhoods feature signs exhorting women to wear closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Extremists have reported confronted women they consider to have flouted the code. — Victorious

    I understand the modesty glasses blur everything more than a few meters distant, deliberately making the wearer nearsighted. (I’m nearsighted to the point of legally blind w/o my glasses; even with them I’m prone to eyestrain headaches. Deliberately invoking such poor vision — giving yourself my handicap with additional eyestrain — just makes no sense to me.)

    Secular vs Ultra-Orthodox Israelis surfaced in a recent issue of TIME Magazine, specifically regarding the continuing Ultra-Orthodox “takeover” of neighborhood after neighborhood in Jerusalem through a combination of Quiverfull “bedroom evangelism” and block-busting.

    You see, the Ultra-Orthodox also believe in Quiverfull, Out-breeding/Out-numbering the Apostates. (Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are known for modestly-dressed bewigged wives pushing baby carriages.)

    Then comes Block-Busting, where they start moving into a building or neighborhood, first one or two, then en masse as their behavioral demands start driving the secular Israelis elsewhere to escape the hassle and the vacant houses/apartments/properties are snapped up.

  101. Christians (as well as others) have a way of glomming onto old canards and refues to update them. For example, one of the fun ones is “carbon dating” is inaccurate. People who say this do not realize how dated they sound. Dating methods have changed in the last 50 years. — Dee

    Dee, Christians have a rep for being notoriously late adopters. They were still using flannelgraphs when the outside world was introducing PowerPoint. In some areas (like pop culture genre fads), you can tell a genre fad has all but died when the day-late, dollar-short Christianese knockoff comes out.

  102. To follow up on HUG’s comment, supposedly “immodest” women and children are being physically and verbally assaulted by ultra-Orthdox men in Israel.

    The story I linked to is from June of this year. In December of last year, a nine-year-old girl was one of their targets – which raised quite an outcry. but as you can see, some of these guys are very, very abusive and cruel. All in the name of – and with the excuse of – their religious beliefs.

  103. Hey, I still like flanngelgraph. A great invention. Can be packed up and used anywhere in the world. Ya don’t need ‘lectricity!

    Furthermore, I was in a class a number of years ago and was informed by the prof that Powerpoint has had its day too. Whatever.

    Powerpoint can be used well or it can be overworked like other technologies. Lotsa places in the world don’t have all the technology so what do ya use there? 🙂 Maybe it is more the personal prep rather than the tech prep that will shine.

  104. Sad Observer mentioned,

    “I really want to do an honest exploration of what kind of fruit Christian homosexual couples bear, but it’s really hard to get that perspective–most of the pro-homosexual rhetoric I hear comes from the secular world.”

    Seems to me the fruit would be the same as of any union of 2 human beings who were pursuing the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and who were life partners — sharing deeply and intimately and spiritually of themselves.

    Why would it be any different?

    From some comments here, I get the feeling that some think that there is some mystically powerful reaction when you combine a man-with-Holy Spirit and a woman-with-Holy-Spirit in a committed intimate relationship (we’ll call it “marriage”). And all components have to be just so for this mystical thing to result (man with holy spirit, woman with holy spirit). And this mystical thing produces unique and special fruit.

    Continuing on, the thinking seems to go: HOWEVER, man-with-holy-spirit combined with man-with-holy-spirit, or woman-with-holy-spirit combined with woman-with-holy-spirit will also naturally yield fruit — and we can hope against hope that it is not scary and strange fruit, and just MAYBE it will turn out to be bona fide good fruit — BUT it won’t have this mystical power to it.

    Only the man/woman/holy spirit combination can yield that.

    Well, I say this is overanalyzing and overspiritualizing things in ridiculous proportion.

    When 2 human beings come together in longterm love and life commitment and connect by way of ultimate intimacy and spiritual depth, and are pursuing God together, how can it not be that very special and powerful fruit (even mystically so) will be yielded? I really don’t see how the male-female combination makes the fruit any more special or powerful.

  105. Wade,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate the clarification you provided. Thank you for your love and grace.

  106. Elastigirl,

    I guess the reason I mention the fruit-bearing question is because Justin did. He brought up the fact that gay relationships can bear good fruit and he thinks that’s an important enough indicator to be mentioned in the overall debate on whether it’s wrong or not.

    Also, one of the things that made me look at this issue with new eyes (and wonder if my traditionalist church was wrong about gay being sin) was the fact that I heard stories of committed homosexual relationships that were bearing good fruit. I do believe fruit-bearing is an important thing to look at (although granted, it’s not a black-and-white thing….for instance, just because I might know one gay couple who are unhealthy, that certainly wouldn’t mean all of them are). Anyway, I wasn’t trying to make a statement about the man/woman combo somehow being magical or bearing super-fruit 🙂 I’m just saying that there is Biblical precedent for looking to fruit-bearing as one sign of whether a behavior is God-honoring, and I don’t know why gay or hetero relationships would be an exception to that.

    HUG: As to your questions, I don’t think tumultuous meant drama; it more so described patterns of co-dependency, extreme insecurity, failure to draw the type of psychological boundaries that both people in a romantic relationship need, etc. Again, she wasn’t trying to say that all lesbian relationships fit that, she was just reporting her observation that all the lesbians who were distressed enough to seek counseling from her displayed patterns that were strikingly similar.

    Which, of course, could be described by other factors and correlations (and a lot of hetero relationships display similar problems). But that’s what I mean. It seems that this bearing fruit question is super-complicated. I wish that Justin could do a whole post just about that! 🙂

  107. BTW, I do remember the book being very adamant that counselors should accept their patients unconditionally, not push their beliefs about homosexuality onto their patients, and respect and value their patient’s SS relationship and be willing to see the good in it. Which was SO REFRESHING coming from a Christian writer!

  108. Hi, sad observer.

    I was responding mostly to a general vibe I picked up in some comments from I don’t remember who.

    I don’t think God is this fussy prude. Of course there is right and wrong, wise and foolish, and all the many shades in between. But he loves people. He longs to engage, connect with, be invited to the party or to the table all the day long.

    Even IF acting upon same-sex attraction is crossing some line, I truly don’t believe that nixes everything and God turns his back and says “when you straighten up, then i’ll turn back around and we’ll pick up where we left off.”

    Logically, he’d have to do that as soon as someone can’t forgive, is impatient, is a worry-wort, doesn’t alert the clerk when one is undercharged for something just like when one is overcharged for something, etc.

    I firmly believe God is ever ready to connect, engage, provide supernatural sunlight, water, and nutrients to our spiritual garden. And whatever spiritual gardens we share with partnerships of all kinds should we be in the habit of tending them together (light friends, deep friends, intimate partner, our kids, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, business associates, etc.). Despite our goof-ups, even chronic ones.

  109. I have just read Pastor Wade’s reply to Wendy and want to comment, as follows. Pastor Wade says

    “The evidence of true Christianity is Lordship. Do we do what the KING says? I think I hear Justin say he wishes to do PRECISELY what His King says. We are just disagreeing on what the King is saying.”

    This is the crux of the matter. What is God saying in His Word to me?

    Allow me to share one of my big mistakes when I was a young student in Bible College many years ago. I used Scriptures to justify what I believed, what I wanted it to say, to defend my position on a given topic…for instance – I failed miserably in this approach because I might have scored some points in the arguments but my life did not change a bit.

    Then I was taught by a godly man who told me I had to let the Word speak to me, convict me, challenge me, illuminate me by the Holy Spirit. The latter approach works beautifully, painful at times, humbling at others…

    Then I had to learn to read, study the Word with the intent to OBEY, not just to know the verses and meanings. This works even much better, and I GROW spiritually and experience abundant life. Simple as it sounds, it took me many years to learn this. One of the reasons, I believe, is that our churches do not teach the flock OBEDIENCE to the Word. I learn this by reading Classical Christian writings and more importantly, I learn obedience by the many things I suffered in my ignorance, stubbornness, failures and heartaches… My gracious Lord does not want me to be a baby Christian for ever.

    What I am saying is, in my experience, the starting point is the Word of God, the Spirit of God who is the teacher and I must have a humble attitude to listen, learn and obey God’s revelation in the Word. My own opinions, feelings, values, preconceived notions do not count and have to take a back seat to the Holy Scriptures.

    Jesus Christ is the Lord of my sexuality, just like He is the Lord of any other aspects of my life. By that, I mean, the Lord Jesus rules and reigns in my life. He calls all the shots, not I.

    I hope I am making some sense to you.

  110. Beloved,

    You’re making perfect sense. I agree that our starting point and foundation is the Word of God and that we must have humility to listen, learn, and obey. I also agree with Wade that humble, authentic Christians who deeply desire to obey God can disagree on what He says.

    I know lots of folks who love Jesus but are convinced, for instance, that complementarianism, as opposed to egalitarianism, is the only way to obey and honor God and vice versa. One side thinks the other is deceived and misinterpreting scripture and missing God’s best for them and vice versa. I personally know many on both sides who I believe want to love and honor God (although there are some on the comp side that worry me).

    I agree with Wade and Dee about Justin and others like him (some I know personally). I don’t question their salvation or their relationship with Christ, although they believe differently than many Christians about same-sex marriage.

  111. Dee said
    … We are utterly helpless over our sins . It is only when we have the mind of Christ and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to deal with out sins. Unless you believe that we come to Christ convicted and cured of all our sins?

    Nope, still working some of this out in my mind. ‘We are utterly helpless over our sins.’ My concern is that many want to say it is the ‘act of sin’ that is the problem, just don’t be gay/smoke cigarettes/drink alcohol/do drugs… and you will be ‘right’ with God. Legalism, you know. Paul had his ‘thorn’, yet he had the mind of Christ; which defines Paul?

    Thanks for this series. As I said earlier, I am often finding myself on the ‘wrong’ side. I don’t know the answer for christian gay marriage, but I have learned a lot about grace towards those who have differing views and Gods grace to us all.

  112. on saturday dee said
    I believe that the people who live the faith the best are the ones who get grace and have a deep appreciation of their own inability to follow the “rules.” This does not lead to ignoring right and wrong. In fact, the longer I am in Christ, the more I understand my tendency to “screw up” in many facets of my life. Just as I get frustrated with myself, I remember grace and rejoice that it is covered and I am free.

    you have much better words than I do, thanks