Bible, Gender, General, Social Justice, Theology The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 11: The Nature of Things and The Creation Order 2015/09/25 Graeme 8 Comments This section has been re-organised. Click here to go to the updated version of this post.
8 thoughts on “The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 11: The Nature of Things and The Creation Order”
1. I find it disconcerting that your second piece on Romans 1 ignores the role God plays in Paul’s argument. God “gave them (mankind as 1:18 makes clear) over” to the various sins that are described in his argument. There is thus a spiritual side to the sexual and other sins that are portrayed here. It is not only Jews against the world, but God’s wrath against the world. Of course I also know that you would argue that this is not Paul’s words, but I strongly disagree on Calvin Porter’s interpretation of this piece which forms the basis of your argument. As it stands, God’s view on this is fundamental to the argument.
2. Thus these are not only “cultural sins” but “spiritual sins” that are spoken against. Everything portrayed in this piece is thought of as sinful, missing the mark, “ungodly and unrighteous” as 1:18 makes clear (and will be followed up in Rom. 2-3). To take the one word “error” in 1:27 and let that exclusively colour the previous portraying of homosexual acts is an “error” in my view. Homosexual acts are also portrayed as “impure”, dishonourable”, “lying”, “idolatrous”, “unnatural”, “not acknowledging God”, and “depraved”.
3. Plus, the Greek word ????? (planê) translated “error” means semantically: “behavior which deviates seriously from that which is morally correct—‘perversion.” (Louw and Nida, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains). Note the usage of “morally” correct. Louw and Nida further comment on this word: “In a number of languages ????? in Ro 1:27 may be rendered as ‘what people do which is completely wrong’ or ‘… what is very wrong indeed.’”
4. I thus have a big problem with the argument that Paul is only tackling cultural differences in his portraying of homosexual activities. Such a statement also flies in the face of Jewish dogma of the time that specifically linked their views on homosexuality to the creation and the fall (not to mention 1:18 which specifically brings creation in play!).
I quote from James Dunn’s commentary on Romans 1: “In the period of early Judaism, abhorrence of homosexuality is not just part of the reaction against Greek mores … Antipathy to homosexuality remains a consistent and distinctive feature of Jewish understanding of what man’s createdness involves and requires. That homosexuality is of a piece with idolatry is taken for granted (as several of the same passages show), both understood as a demeaning of the people who indulge in them. The link between man’s fall (Gen 3) and sexual perversion (as here) is also typically Jewish, since Gen 6:1–4 also played a considerable part in Jewish attempts to account for the origin of sin (Jub. 4.22; 5.1–10; 7.21; 1 Enoch 6–11; 86; T. Reub. 5; T. Naph. 3.5; CD 2.18–21; etc.).”
5. The NT scholar William Loader’s views would be a better route to follow in advocating same-sex marriages. He says: “The temptation to modernise Paul either by explaining away his comments as applicable to only special instances or by transforming his comments on desires into neutral pathology or natural sexual orientation is to be resisted.”
He also says, speaking broadly: “it is highly unlikely that Paul would have differed from all other Jews of the time whose writings survive, who rejected such distinctions. Nor does it make sense to argue that Paul is only concerned with same-sex acts in cultic contexts … His focus is not just concerning acts but also attitude and ultimately, mind, which is independent of location.”
It is thus in his view better to see the Biblical portraying of same-sex activities as negative and to respect that, but develop your own view as to how that impact us today: “Respecting biblical writers includes acknowledging distance as well as embracing proximity. This applies also to what is said about same-sex relations.”
He gives three options for the church:
1. Embrace Paul’s view that the same-sex mind/orientation/desire and action is a sinful perversion comparable to idolatry.
2. Embrace Paul’s view that same-sex acts are sin as Leviticus states, but not his view of sexual orientation, acknowledging that there are some genuinely same-sex oriented people.
3. Not to embrace Paul’s view of sexual orientation, thereby acknowledging that there are genuinely same-sex oriented people (as Option 2) and encourage them to express their sexuality responsibly on the same basis as heterosexual people.
William Loader himself chooses the latter option. I must still make up my mind on this …
Also, your view on circumcision is highly debatable. You say of circumcision: “Paul constantly had to remind Jews that circumcision (and being Jewish itself) was not a moral requirement or an eternal command. It was a cultural practice and a social norm only.”
That statement ignores what Paul writes in Romans on circumcision. He expounds circumcision as an inward reality of which the physical aspects are just a sign. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” (2:28-29).
That is what Jeremiah also said: “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” (Jer. 4:4).
Circumcision was and still is a spiritual thing, whether done in the flesh of in the heart.
Plus, the outward sign of circumcision wasn’t of no use. It was a sign of righteousness and faith. As Paul explains: “And Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised.” (Rom. 4:11-12)
With that Paul linked circumcision to the covenant that God established between Himself and His people. (Gen. 17:10-14). God even said it was eternal …!
I understand that you want to show that everything in Romans 1 is only cultural. It suits your argument. But that argument overreaches into the other aspects of Paul’s theology and even the Biblical theology on things like circumcision and the law. Those things were always spiritual, even more so than the cultural and national aspects thereof. The fact that we live in a new dispensation where the outward sign has shifted to baptism, however one wants to interpret that, shouldn’t tempt us to downplay the spiritual side to the message of the OT and the law.
Thanks for your two comments, Chris. I am going to adjust the original post to make sure I am clearer, and to deal with your objections to it.
I would just say that you have chosen to engage with just a fraction of my post, and not with the whole argument or the flow of my logic. You can’t really just reject the conclusion if you haven’t dismantled the way I got there. And you haven’t.
Point taken. My comments are specific because they are relevant to my point of view and show weaknesses in your arguments from my standpoint. Might not be that helpful, I suspect – a conversation would be much better. I am obviously not trying to refute you or your arguments in total. That would be unwise, untrue, wasteful, disrespectful and a time-consuming job. You are very clear in your analysis and I respect that. I share the same view as you on many aspects of your exegesis, although I do differ on a number of issues, some smaller (circumcision and the law) some bigger (whether Romans 1:18-32 is an interlocation from Paul of not). I suspect the latter is part of a wider issue that I have with the canonical integrity of the Bible in which I am a follower of Brevard Childs’ ideas on the canon. Let’s leave it at that. I enjoy your views on many aspects of the current debates on youth, politics and even the Springboks. Enjoy the game tonight.
Chris, the biggest thing to consider when looking at the issue of what is “against nature” is that Paul refers to men with long hair as against nature. It cannot be a moral category if he says this.
I have updated what I said on circumcision, so maybe it is more acceptable to you now. It was essentially a sacrament, but Paul says it is to be abandoned as a symbol of faith and acceptance in the Jewish community.