Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Bible Doesn't Say What You Think It Does

At Synod Assembly last June the proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and the recommendations concerning ordained ministry were discussed. I am happy to say that, though the issues are contentious and feelings run high, the discussions were conducted with civility and charity.

During a break from the Assembly, I had a private conversation with a friend and colleague who holds a PhD in New Testament. I will not name him in case I quote him incorrectly. What I heard him say was, “The Bible doesn’t say what you think it does about homosexuality. No matter what side of the debate you’re on, the Bible doesn’t say what you think.” I believe my friend was right.

Arguably the Bible says nothing about homosexuality. If we understand homosexuality to be a sexual orientation, the concept did not even exist until the nineteenth century. Nor does the Bible speak to the subject of life-long, committed, covenanted same-sex unions, another concept that did not exist in Bible times.

What the Bible does address is certain homosexual behaviors. The five passages that speak to the subject are Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. I specifically omit the story of Sodom (Genesis 19) from this list as it deals with rape and not consensual sex. In each of the five passages listed the described behavior is judged negatively. In the next few posts I will examine each of the five passages. As I look at the Bible’s statements on homosexual behavior, I want to keep these questions in mind:

Do these Scriptures make a universal condemnation of all homosexual behavior?

Do the ancient condemnations still apply in the light of what we now know about homosexuality?

Do the Scriptures view homosexuality, or homosexual behavior, as “inherently sinful?”

There are more than 300 passages of Scripture that address our need to care for the poor. I'm only saying....

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