On 9 October 2015, I participated in a formal public debate with Dr James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. It was organised by TruthWalk, and the venue provided by Gracepoint church. Dr White is an accomplished debater and professional apologist (see his ministry website here), and took the traditional position against homosexuality and same sex marriage.
I took the affirming position, attempting to put in debate format the work I have been doing on this blog over the past few months.
The purpose of the debate, in this format, was to put forward the for and against views in as dispassionate a way as possible, so that each position could be given fair treatment, and the observer could understand the logic of each. I believe we achieved this, and that the debate was fair.
The full debate has now been uploaded on VEOH.com and is available below or on that site. The introduction has been slightly edited for length, but the debate itself is presented unedited and in full.
This was my first debate, and as such, if I could do it again now, I’d change a few things. In particular, these three:
- My opening comments – I only had 25 minutes, and spent too much looking at the verses that oppose homosexuality in the Bible, and not enough time dealing with the positive side of my argument. I returned to this in my rebuttal – so those sections should be understood together. It is certainly not because I don’t think there is a positive case to be made.
- My answer to the question on Ezekial 16:50 and what is considered “the toevah” – Dr. White knows I am not a Hebrew expert, and set a trap question for me. Fair play – it’s a debate, and a technique he uses quite often. Simply put, his argument is that even though none of the 27 references to Sodom in the Bible reference homosexuality as the sin, in Ezekial 16:50 the Hebrew word “toevah” is used in the singular to refer to “the abomination” of Sodom. He believes that this clearly is homosexuality, and he implied in the way he asked the question that this would be the only interpretive option. It is not, and I wish I had been faster on my feet to refute him. I have since updated the section of my study to reflect this.
In brief, ‘toevah‘ is used repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, including referring to Israel’s sacrifices (see Exodus 8:22, compare Genesis 46:34); to unclean food (Deuteronomy 14:3); worshippers of idols (Isaiah 41:24); idolatrous practices and cultic worship (Deuteronomy 13:15 & 17:4; 2 Chronicles 34:33; Jeremiah 16:18, and most tellingly all over Ezekiel: 5:9 & 11, 7:20, 8:6, 11:18,21, 14:6, 18:12 compare Ezekiel 6:9, 16:36); and children sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:31). The word is also used in Leviticus 18:26 (yes, just a few verses after the prohibition of “a man lying with mankind as with a woman”), where it talks about “all manner of evil acts”. Ezekial himself almost always uses the phrase “detestable thing” or “abomination” to refer to idolatrous practices and temple rituals that God disapproves of. This strongly supports the argument that I was making – that the Bible is against homosexuality as part of cultic temple practices.
- My questions to Dr. White. I should have asked, re-asked and stuck on just one question, which completely undermines Dr White’s position. He claimed right up front that the entire issue comes down to one thing: who is consistent with the Bible. It became clear over the course of the debate that by this he meant two things: who is most aligned with traditional interpretations, and secondly, who is most aligned with him. At no time was he prepared to acknowledge that his set of beliefs might be incorrect. I needed to ask him on what basis he could have such confidence in his view of “consistency of interpretation of Scripture” when church history shows us very, very clearly that we have been wrong before. I should have pressed my issues around slavery, the role of women and heliocentricity, as examples. He would only be able to be consistent – as he claims – if he still supports slavery, the divine rights of kings, colonialism and sees women as less than men (well, actually the last one is true of him, by his own admission; and people at the debate were shown clearly during the public Q&A session what this type of “Biblical consistency” produces).
Dr White asked one question during his closing that I was not able to respond to, and would like to simply do so now. He asked about my motivations for dealing with this topic. I am not gay. None of my family members – to my knowledge – are gay. I have some friends who are gay. But all of them are very capable of dealing with their own issues, and don’t need my help. So, why get involved? Because it is a justice issue. As simple as that. Same sex couples deserve justice, and I’d like to be involved in helping them get it. I have done the same for the role of women in the church (and in society), and also for people caught in the vicious trap of extreme poverty. I am also concerned about our use of natural resources, but haven’t really campaigned about that much. Justice is important to me, and since I have been given a small platform and a voice in society that is slightly louder than others have, I would like to use these on behalf of others. #LoveWins #OnebyOne
Over to You
I felt that both Dr White and I did a good job of presenting our viewpoints. It’s now up to you, and Biblical scholars, to investigate what we said, read the Bible, pray for wisdom, and make decisions about where you stand.
All I ask is that you don’t do this with a closed mind. I ask that you truly examine the evidence. And remember that above all, God has revealed Himself to be characterised by love.