Is Homosexuality a Sin?: Approaching this is issue through the “Revelation and Invitation” Approach.

[Disclaimer: This blog and the posts contained within it are solely the representation of my personal thoughts and beliefs. They are in no way representative of the thoughts or beliefs of  communities or organizations I am involved in or discuss.  Such communities would include, but not be limited to, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Pasadena International House of Prayer, the School of Supernatural Ministry, the Live Bones student prayer group, Christian Assembly Church, etc.]

In my previous two posts I hope I have shown how if one seeks to answer the question “is homosexuality a sin” by reading the Bible as a “Truth-mine” the answer one arrives at is the standard condemnation of homosexuality.  However, the interpretation and application of the verses investigated on this issue in that approach are highly problematic if not outright incorrect.

In contrast, what happens if one reads the Bible as Revelation about God and about an Invitation to join His ongoing story as He interacts with humanity?  How does this impact how one reads the Bible regarding the issue and how does this impact the end result?

To recap this way of approaching the Bible, reading the Bible as Revelation and Invitation means reading the Bible as it is and not as we would have it.  This means reading the Bible as a collection of case-studies, or testimonies, of people’s experience of God that invite us into a relationship with God. This means acknowledging and working within tensions of the text and our limitations when studying it. This means we should humbly approach the scripture, seek to admit and understand our bias, admit all of the textual and interpretive issues at play, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To begin I want to present some of my presuppositions and bias that inform me and my reading of the scripture and my approach to the Bible and faith even before I begin discussion the specific issue of homosexuality because acknowledging these beliefs is part of reading the Bible in this manner.

First, there is truth outside of the Bible. I believe the Bible is true and contains truth but it is not an exhaustive account of all truth.  The Bible is not the sum total of all knowledge humans can and should know. This means that there is truth beyond the pages of the Bible that followers of Jesus can and should seek out.  For example, 2+2=4 is true, but it is not found in a verse in the Bible. The law of gravity was established by God and widely recognized in the scientific community as true, but the law of gravity is not expounded upon in our Bible. Germs exist but they are never mentioned in the Bible. There are a multitude of examples but I think you get my point.

Because the Bible is not an exhaustive account of all truth, this means that humans can and should learn things about our world, about the human condition, about psychology, about sexuality, about science, about math, about God and about faith that are not written in the Bible.

Second, I believe the Bible is authoritative, but this authority is limited in scope. I believe the Bible is authoritative on what it is communicating to the human race about God, His story, our relationship to Him and to one another. I do not think the Bible is authoritative about astronomy, cosmology, science, human psychology, chemistry, technology, design, entertainment, engineering, etc.  While God’s authority is absolute, I do not think this should be confused with giving the Bible (or more accurately, our interpretation of the Bible’s words) that same absolute authority. So just because the Psalm 104:5 suggests that the foundations of the Earth can never be moved, does not mean that Christians must deny everything that has been learned about our heliocentric solar system, the rotation of the Earth, or force us to go back to an ancient Jewish understanding of the world that looked something like this.

Third, I believe the Bible was communicated through an ancient culture. All of the material in our Bible was shaped by the culture that communicated it. Sometimes this may be a good thing but  this also means that there are elements that should be recognized to be a reflection of that culture at that time and not a divine truth that applies to all Christians throughout time. They are to be understood as descriptive of the Hebrew and Greek culture and not descriptive commandments or aspects of the Family of God. While truth was communicated through cultures that once existed, this does not mean that we have to replicate or reproduce the values and customs of those cultures today as we follow Jesus. So for example, just because the people of God practiced Levirate marriage does not mean all followers of Jesus should practice this today.

Fourth, the morality and ethics of the people of God change over time. Many Christians believe that there is some timeless code of morality and ethics in the Bible that all Christians must adhere to.  This is simply not true.  While some morals and ethics appear to be constants, morality and ethics do change over time.

This happens in the Bible.  For example, the Levitical laws are updated several centuries later when Deuteronomy was written.  The changes in the laws reflect changes in the society.  The people of God were no longer a semi-nomadic agrarian society but an urban society that increasingly relied less upon crops and more upon currency and debt.  The heart of these laws did not change, but their application did. God for centuries required His people to be circumcised, celebrate certain festivals and eat only certain foods.  Suddenly He no longer requires these practices of His people.

Morality and ethics have continued to change since then.  For example, several hundred years ago it was seen as completely compatible to own slaves and be a Christian.  Several decades ago it was completely compatible to be racist and sexist and be a Christian.  Did the Bible change?  No.  Society evolved and our morality and ethics expanded to changed with it.

Fifth, the standard Christian understanding of human sexuality and sexual ethics is far too narrow. Most Christian teaching on these subjects boil down to two things: If you are married and heterosexual, sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed.  If you are not married or not heterosexual, sex is a sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Human sexuality is a much more complicated subject than this and I think a much broader understanding of it is needed.  Additionally this understanding of human sexuality leads to a ridiculously narrow, simplistic and useless sexual ethic.  I am not advocating for laxer sexual ethics because it is hard to remain celibate, I am advocating for a the development of  sexual ethics that are actually useful to people.

Let me provide an example of why I think this narrow understanding of human sexuality and sexual ethics is problematic: I know of married Christian men in recovery for sexual addiction who are “acting out” in their marriage. They treat their wives as “their vagina” and use sex as a way to avoid intimacy and avoid emotions they do not want to deal with.  This dehumanize their wives and their spouses are understandably hurt.  However, the standard Christian teaching is that they are married and heterosexual, so their sexual union is a gift from God.  I have heard Christians rebuke the wives in this situation for being frigid.  The thought is that such women should submit to her husband more because “their body is no longer their own.”  This is a sick situation that slips by and is even enabled by the standard Christian teaching of sexual ethics.

We need to think more about these issues.

Sixth, I believe sexual orientation exists along a spectrum and a homosexual orientation may be natural and biological in origin.  I believe it may also be seeded by some sort of dysfunction or abuse. While I think at times homosexual attraction is caused by sexual abuse or broken relationships with parental figures, this is not always the case. I believe that sometimes people are born with an atypical sexual orientation somewhere along the spectrum. While rare, I believe a person can be born homosexual or bisexual. There are an increasing number of studies that back this up but really this opinion comes from my experiences with homosexuals who have shared with me both types of stories.

Continue onto the next page for more…

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About Speakfaithfully

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
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3 Responses to Is Homosexuality a Sin?: Approaching this is issue through the “Revelation and Invitation” Approach.

  1. Phil Bjornberg says:

    Please receive this response as not argumentative, but additive in the context of a wee hours of the morning sighs too deep for words prompting. I endorse the spirit and character with which you argue a biblical approach to sexuality. You add some light into the darkness of our distortions and preoccupations with sex and sin (why do these get put together so much?). Here is another approach I feel nudged to share:

    How much like small children we are, wanting desperately to have our way; craving freedom from the anxiety of disapproval and shame, we take a popular vote (safety in numbers), or engage in endless debate with self-determined authority, to ameliorate our guilt. We justify our behaviors enslaved by an obsession with the knowledge of good and evil, right wrong fruit of the tree, and then endeavor to hide from the Creator of the universe and the author of life, the truth of our self-addiction; we are ashamed that we pursue our own distorted self-centered divinity, when God comes walking though the garden and asks, “Where are you? Have I been with you this long and you still do not know me?”

    Daddy, can I do this? Can I have that? Daddy says, come up here into my lap, be with me. Let’s sit together for a while and talk about the things that last, what has been, what is and what will be. What can be created from nothing and shared with everything, all at once, for all time, and includes a special place for you? What reproduces itself without being diminished? Love and light. I place you in a garden wherein comes forth life, and every imaginable joy if you would but abide in me, yet to satisfy divine desire to co-create in my image, you turn away and distort my gift. You take unto yourself more of what you think you need and call it what I want for you. You are deceived!

    Consider these words:

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself. From these, comes everything. Get it? If not, turn all your mind and heart and spirit toward contemplating this truth. I promise you, though you may be born again, you will not understand these things until I come again in the fullness of time and reveal myself to you. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. I have taught you all you need to know about the law, it has been fulfilled. Consider the example and teachings of my son. I give you life, and you ask for rules!
    Abide, abide in me. Walk with me in the sacrament of every present moment. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My father will honor the one who serves me. If they ask what is sin, tell them what you have seen of me, and tell them what I have told you to tell them. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him. But you know God, for the Spirit dwells with you now and will be with you always.
    As for you, the anointing you received from God remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as God’s anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in the Spirit.

  2. To me it is so interesting that the stories of the old testament are not fables with a clear moral conclusion but are revelations of how God relates to his creation. You mentioned how Judah was never punished for prostitution or how the kings were never censured for multiple wives. I think of when Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife and God punished the king for taking her because he almost committed adultery! God never punishes Abraham for lying (and it happens again!) but punishes the king for almost committing adultery on accident (though God is gracious and gives the king a way out). The point of this story is not “Do not lie” but I think it is that God is with his people. Abraham was a prophet of God and therefore God is with him. And everyone knows it. Now in Exodus, in Proverbs, and in the New Testament, the Bible states many times that God HATES lying. He hates liars, he hates dishonesty, and he is the Truth. However, I believe that God’s mercy is even more generous and abundant than we imagine and his actions prove that he is not a God who keeps tallies on our sins because if he were, who could live? And if Abraham is not bad enough, what about Samson? Any person looking at Samson’s life would judge him a sinner condemned to Hell Im sure. And yet in Hebrews he is counted among the righteous!? What!?
    I would say that just because God says something is a sin does not mean everyone who commits that sin is judged the same way (lying, adultery), and conversely, just because someone does something without punishment does not mean that God condones the actions (slavery, polygamy). And finally, just because someone does something that IS sinful and that DOES displease God does not mean that God ultimately condemns him (Samson, David, you and me). God promises faith for all who believe. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I liked the conclusion that the vast majority of the Bible is unconcerned with homosexuality. The Bible was not intended to start a revolution against one particular evil but to reveal God to us in Jesus.
    My guess is that each culture has its “unforgivable sin” and that the Bible humbles us all in showing that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Undoubtably it is not just God’s condemnation of sin that has been revealed to mankind, but His mercy that genuinely washes us white as snow and makes all things new. And which of those truths is harder to believe?
    I think Christians can use this discussion as an opportunity to humble themselves and their own hearts (just as evolution gave us that opportunity). The reverse side is that bigots or slave-owners or colonialists or homophobics or those that hold to geocentrism are not beyond salvation either. “God, I know nothing, you know everything. I know I am not counted righteous based on my own merit but because of your Son Jesus. Lead me in the path of righteousness and teach me your ways. Empower me by the Holy Spirit to live a life worthy of the gospel. And give me the love of Christ.” Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

  3. But ah, here is my critique if I am permitted one. While I agree that the “truth mine” approach is not helpful in answering questions like these and causes us to miss much of the biblical story, I believe that, viewing the Bible as a story, you have dismissed Gen 1-3 a bit too quickly. Maybe where my opinion diverges from yours is that I believe Gen 1-3 is not Only an explanation of why things are, but it has much symbolic meaning for what God would do later in the world through Christ. Part of that symbolism is that, biblically, Eden is seen as the place we all want to return to. This is how Paul can speak of a “new creation” because of the symbolism of the first creation. This symbolism is also used in 2 Corinthians to explain how just as God called light into the darkness, he also made light shine into our hearts through Christ. Further, we understand Jesus to be the Word that God used to speak everything into existence with. This story is a treasure trove for understanding many new testament themes. It is also cited repeatedly by new testament writers as a moral reference for God’s intentions and design. I am afraid that if we leave these chapters in the Ancient etiological genre, we could miss many fundamental truths revealed here.

    For instance, in Genesis 1 God says, “Let us make man in our image.” If this is only taken as a rudimentary explanation for why humans exist, we will miss the force of James’ rebuke to tame our tongue. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” James uses this principle to explain why it is so evil to curse men—they bear God’s likeness, as learned from Genesis 1. Our distorted way of degrading people’s origins is plainly inaccurate and causes us to do them wrong. In fact, by reminding us of this, James suggests that we tend to Forget humans’ image-bearing-status in our daily lives, which is why it makes it so easy to curse people.

    Multiple times this Genesis account is referred to in the New Testament as a reminder of how God purposed the world and as a symbol of what he would later reveal. Often the symbols in Genesis teach us something about Jesus—such as he is the Word of God, he is the Light, he is the New Adam, and it also teaches us something about Jesus in regards to marriage: He is the Bridegroom of the Church. The best way that God has given us to understand how Jesus loves, relates to, and shares intimacy with the Church is through how a husband unites with his wife. Paul explains this in Eph 5 and actually quotes the verse, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul directly applies this ancient origins story to Christ and the Church. Here, Paul is assuming that this story has relevance for the truth of how Christ relates to his people, and ALSO how husbands should treat their wives. “Because the verse in Genesis describes man and wife as one flesh, and Christ is one flesh with the Church, you husbands should treat your wives as your own flesh—by loving them” is how I see Paul’s logic. The symbol points to Christ which is then reflected back onto his people.

    I agree that the “Truth-mine” version of interpreting the Bible does not hold up so I would like to see someone treat this section of Scripture with care in light of homosexuality and how Paul interprets marriage from Gen 1-3 because I believe that it is pertinent.

    As to the comment “While these stories have a purpose and convey truth, these stories were never meant to function like this,” in reference to using the Genesis paradigm as a directly transferable model for contemporary life, in a way I agree, but I also ask this question: why does Paul get away with it? In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul uses the creation order (Adam was created first then Eve) and the story line (Eve was deceived, not Adam) to justify his assertion that women should remain quiet! Isnt he referring to the ancient model and applying it to his contemporary model for how the church should function? Why can he do that? Is it just because he is an apostle? Or maybe it is because there really is an ideal in the Creation account.

    What I would like dealt with here is NOT patriarchy, or whatever else these verses say on the surface. Rather I am looking at the assumptions that Paul makes by referring to Genesis: Paul thinks the Genesis model directly applies to men’s and women’s roles. Paul thinks that men and women in marriage symbolize Christ’s union with the church. So then the questions become how does homosexuality impact this symbolism?

    Adultery, polygamy, and fornication are all distortions of the symbolism because Jesus is faithful to his one and only Bride the church. We Christians, as reflections of God, and further, image-bearers of Christ, are to bear his image in everything, including our relationships with people. Now what about homosexuality?

    NOTE: This has NOTHING to do with what God can or can’t forgive, who is and who is not a Christian if they do certain things etc. Like I said in my last post, if follower of God had actually been judged according to the biblical model instead of Christ’s righteousness we would all perish. But the question I am dealing with is actually just a small piece of this original post, which overall I learned from and enjoyed. My question is simply this: From Genesis 1-3, is there a model?

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