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.
Watch Is Same Sex Marriage Biblical – A Debate between Graeme Codrington and James White
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.
3 thoughts on “Is same sex marriage Biblical – a debate [Video]”
Thanks for what you are doing! I am a heterosexual Christian with two gay relatives (one older and more battered and one just entering adulthood) and a friend of 25 years who is transgender but who married a woman (her having the knowledge of his orientation) to please God. The marriage was a disaster, because after a fairly short amount of time–but after having a daughter–he could no longer “live a lie.” He has been celibate and in the closet ever since and is one of the kindest and nicest Christians I know. I feel called to at the very least speak up for LGBTQ folk because at least people cannot say to me, “You are just saying that because of the desires of your flesh,” because it just ain’t so. It is because of a love for people and a great concern for these beleaguered folk.
I believe things are working against all of us from so many angles these days with the Enemy working overtime. I would like to invite you to make note and learn more about the Bible version issue(s), as I noticed you used even the NIV in your debate. Not your fault because you didn’t know, but the manuscripts used for the King James (and the Geneva Bible before it as well as the Tyndale New Testament, etc.) used “proven” texts because there were thousands of manuscripts that agreed with one another close to 100%. In the late 19th century the Bible got messed with big-time, and only now are we discovering just how poor the arguments were for having found “older and better” manuscripts in the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus.
One reason I am bringing this up–beside it being an important issue for all since the modern versions LEAVE OUT key passages of the Bible altogether (often with footnotes declaring that such and such a passage is not in the original manuscript), but these modern versions also take the liberty, almost without exception, of changing words in passages to where one can read for instance something like “homosexuals will never see the kingdom of God.”
TARES AMONG THE WHEAT is a 3-hour-long documentary which reveals shocking information about how we came to have these so-called better documents (and the involvement of those who even denied Jesus Christ’s miracles in letters to one another).
Thanks, Michele. Although I use the NIV to give my English references, I almost always am referring back to the original Greek and Hebrew, and where there are discrepancies in modern translations I do try to take these into account and explain them.
The KJV is not a perfect translation, nor is it even the best one in my estimate. And because the English is now outdated, it provides its own problems with understanding. Just take the phrase, spoken about Eve, that she was a “help meet” for Adam. In KJV English, this refers to a “suitable companion”, someone of equal status and standing. But we’ve taken that Old english and often misunderstood it, even turning “helpmeet” into a single word. So, we have to be as careful of the KJV as on any other translation.
An interesting and engaging debate. I feel Dr White’s argument wins in this particular debate – yours requires theological understanding that most of us don’t have access to as Christians, while his theologically supports the popular view. However, I feel both of you missed this particular argument (which you would have been better placed to argue than Dr White) – That homosexuality should be treated like divorce:
– God designed creation with a certain intended pattern (Genesis 1 & 2; Ephesians 5:25-33)
– Homosexuality, like divorce, is a distortion of that pattern (Leviticus 18:22)
– Mosaic law permitted for divorce so that human hard-heartedness would not prevent relationship with God (Matthew 19:8)
– Christianity as a faith should permit, accept, and de-stigmatise gay marriage in the same way it has done for divorce.
– Christians as individuals should be as patient, understanding, and understanding with homosexuality as they are with living with their own short-comings.
In the bible, we read many times of Jesus having encounters with people who were socially stigmatized, marginalized, ostracized because of their sins – whether perceived or actual (the Woman at the Well, the Tax-collector, the Woman who anointed him in Galilee, the Woman caught in adultery, etc.). I believe in every case, he chooses to take the focus off the sin, and put it on God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. On top of that, where he does talk about the pure standard of marriage, he also mentions that not everyone will be able to receive what he is saying, but that those who can, should (Matthew 19:9-11).