Monday, March 17, 2008


I am interested in Biblical Christianity. That is opposed to other forms of Christianity including cultural, nominal or professing, spiritual or private, and ecclesiastical or liturgical.

It is a matter of what authority I choose to submit to in terms of both belief and practice of my personal discipleship to Jesus Christ. So I choose the Bible. Some choose the culture and the private Christian chooses himself and the ecclesiastical Christian chooses her church and the nominal Christian doesn't worry about it.

It was long ago now that I chose and it was not an easy decision. The doing has not proven any easier. The Bible does not come with an index contrary to popular opinion. It is often not possible to just look up something and find an immediate and simple answer. That would be really handy for some things.

I am fortunate to live in a time when I have access to the Bible and I have sufficient education to be able to study it for myself. That was not always the case. Part of study is certainly considering what others have thought about the subject in question. And plenty of people have thought a lot and written it all down. Still relying on such information without personal study is a lot like reading only the "Cliffs Note" for a book and thinking you've actually read the book. It just is not the same. On the other hand the field is so broad and deep that it is nearly impossible for any one person to know everything about everything. So even the best scholars consider the scholarship of others in various areas.

The Bible does not necessarily address directly every subject about which I might have interest. Sometimes it seems so but great care must be exercised because we have today translations and translations contain interpretations and interpretations can be problematical. Besides that the Bible was written during and for different times and cultures and audiences. The history of the place and people and time as well as the cultural tradition of the text is important to illuminate any understanding.

Homosexuality is one of those subjects about which many people believe the Bible is very clear. I began my study thinking that was likely the case. But I found it much more complex. The Bible is often that way so it is not surprising really.

And where the Bible does address the issue it is not always so simple to determine exactly what the meaning is. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NASB):

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God."
The Greek word here translated "homosexuals" is arsenokoites. The Greek word translated "effeminate" is malakoi. It does not take long to discover that these words are not that easily translated. It appears that the apostle Paul may have invented the term "arsenokoites" as a compound word or that it may have been a term common in Corinth. It clearly is sexual but there is good reason to question that it is entirely and only homosexual. Malakoi seems more properly interpreted as some kind of softness or weakness in will or dedication. Regardless, I am pretty certain that interpreting the words to point to our modern understanding of homosexuality is significantly overreaching.

That's the first problem. The second seems significant to me as well. Look at the other sins included in the list. Also included are the terms: idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers. A lot of us, myself included, have to admit to problems with at least one or two of these. If not in fact at least in thought. I see no reason at all to single out arsenokoites or malakoi for any special treatment. But that's exactly what is often done when it comes to homosexuality.

I also found it interesting that other than adulterers the other terms are of a non-sexual nature. That the two terms that are most often associated with homosexuality are so often emphasized makes me believe there is a significant bias. It would be interesting if the same criticism of homosexuals was directed towards adulterers or the greedy or drunks or slanderers. There's a pretty big group in each one of those categories. They overlap of course.

I don't want to belabor this discussion as it is a blog and is not to be considered a fully critical treatment of the subject. But I find similar problems with other verses that touch on homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments.

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is often used in the discussion of homosexuality. However in Ezekiel 16:48-50 (NIV) I find the following:
'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.'
There is no doubt that there was sexual sin that was widespread in Sodom and Gomorrah but again it is not clear to me that it is the homosexual nature of the sin that is necessarily any more important than the other sins that are listed in Ezekiel.

There is actually quite a bit about Sodom in the Bible. But the most famous story I suppose is its destruction. Two angels come to Sodom after meeting with Abraham who is told that the city will be destroyed. Abraham argues that there might be some righteous people there and gets an agreement that if 10 righteous are found the city will be spared. The angels journey on to Sodom and Abraham's nephew, Lot, puts them up for the night in his home. "All of the men" (literally the mortals) of the town later come to the house and demand the newly arrived be turned over to them for sex. Lot, the only righteous man in town, offers his virginal daughters instead but the offer is refused.

Well, it isn't a very happy story all way around. It seems detestable that Lot would have offered his daughters in the first place. That's the first clue that there is a significant cultural barrier to understanding this passage. But it would make no sense that Lot would offer females if the "men of the city" (and literally it is mortals which could be a clue to yet a different understanding) were only interested in males. Rape, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is definitely frowned upon both during early Bible days and now.

There clearly is a bias in our culture against homosexual individuals. Bias and predisposition is always a problem in properly understanding the Bible. But when it is so emotionally charged as is homosexuality it makes it even more difficult.

I was accosted at least once by a homosexual man when I was in my early 20's. It was very unsettling and frightening for me. I know several other men and women who had similar experiences. It is difficult and unfair to generalize this behavior but it does inform as to how the issue becomes emotionally charged.

The various Gay pride events and both factual and non-factual information about Gay behavior also tend to portray an aggressiveness or assertiveness.

Homosexuals are a minority which makes them as a group less known and understood. Then there is much controversy over the causes of homosexuality.

So ignorance and misunderstanding coupled with a perception of aggressiveness does lead many people to fearfully attribute an agenda to the group. And certainly there is an agenda of sorts but it is not clear to me that they are one and the same.

I am not going to end my blog entry with a conclusion. I am not trying to persuade anyone of anything really. Since I had studied this topic a bit I thought I'd share a little about what I had learned.


~Betsy said...
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~Betsy said...

This is a huge issue to me, Terry. One of my very best friends in this life was homosexual. He and I were extremely good friends and he shared much of what made him tick with me.

All his life he knew he was different, but as a young man in a very rural area (some could call it a redneck/hick area) he didn't fully understand his differences. He married his childhood sweetheart and had a child with her. As time wore on, he slowly began to understand what was so different about him than other men.

He went for psychotherapy and met with his minister - but nothing could change who he was. He tried ignoring it, but it wouldn't go away. He and his wife divorced but remained very close friends and shared in the responsibilities of raising their child. He said they opted for divorce because he felt he was living a lie.

I can still hear his cries of pain when we would talk about this. He desperately wanted to remain married. He used to tell me he would give anything for the white picket fence, Leave it to Beaver lifestyle. But it wasn't to be.

He died in February 2006.

We are all God's children and God loves all of us unconditionally. I wish I could have done a better job convincing my friend of this.

rilera said...

Amen Betsy. I too have friends who are gay and I see first hand the pain they have to endure because they differ from society's norm. You are right, we are all God's children. If more of us would practice tolerance and love instead of hate and disdain this world would be a much better place. Thank you for posting this Terry.

Lori1955 said...

Excellent post my friend. Thank you for posting this.

nancy said...

great post terry. thanks for sharing your feelings.