January 26, 2006

James Rachels: The Question of Homosexuality

This post is a reply to an excerpt from James Rachels' book, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, which was posted on the Smooinaghey blog for my consideration. Here are my thoughts:
More than one gay writer has said that homosexuality is not about who you have sex with; it’s about who you fall in love with.
Well, I guess you can define yourself however you like, and I don't doubt their need for love and relationship, only how it is channeled. But I have to wonder if the prevailing atmosphere of promiscuity (e.g., one-night stands and a liberal view of "monogamy") is just a matter of desperately looking for "love" or a drive to satiate a compulsion. It seems to me, though, that sex is one of the main differentiators between homosexuality and heterosexuality. If this were not so, then Jeff and I could qualify as homosexuals, because of our great platonic "love" for one another. (Sorry Jeff, and those bear hugs make me really nervous sometimes ;)
Moreover, individuals do not choose their sexual orientations ... Thus to say that people should not express their homosexuality is, more often than not, to condemn them to unhappy lives.
I don't mean to be trite, but it occurs to me that I have many desires/orientations that I did not choose, but which I must deny. I would like to be a millionaire but I must resist the compulsion to rob. I have the need for power and fame, but I find I must settle for the mediocrity that I deserve. I am married, but I am sexually orientated to the idea of having every attractive woman I see. And I prefer young women, but my wife is aging every day. Am I obligated to actualize every one of my desires? I think it is understood that some desires can be wrong or extreme, and we incarcerate people daily for acting upon these.

It seems to me that the answer to this question lays not in having the desire, as James seems to be arguing, but in whether or not that desire is an acceptable one. If homosexuality is morally neutral (judged by whatever means), then there is no discussion here, go for it; but if not, then no amount of desire for it makes it appropriate.
If it could be shown that gays and lesbians pose some sort of threat to the rest of society, that would be a powerful argument for the other side. . . . Apart from the nature of their sexual relationships, there is no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals in their moral characters or in their contributions to society.
First of all, it should be pointed out that James neglects the health controversy in favor of the moral and social point. This is unfortunate, since there are some grounds for debating the "threat to the rest of society" from this perspective.

Second, if you get to define your own criteria for "moral character" and "contributions," then you can make anyone look good. I think James would like to confine it to getting an education, holding a good job, and providing some creative output. I certainly have great reservations in claiming that homosexuals are any more "evil" than any other random population group, but from what I have been able to glean, they at least represent a different kind of culture. This difference seems to include a much higher level of casual sex, recreational drug use, and a raft of psycho-medical ailments. Now, perhaps James denies this, or perhaps he thinks this a morally neutral observation; but if it is true and we think it a shame, then he cannot say that there is no moral difference between the two. The fact that they may make meaningful "contributions" to society in the area of economics, art, and politics would be beside this point.
However, if gay sex were condemned for [functional reasons], a host of other sexual practices would also be condemned: masturbation, oral sex, and even sex by women after menopause.
And so maybe we should think about these things as well, I dunno. But James simply assumes that it is ridiculous to even go there, and uses that presupposition as a form of evidence for his case. So, is he arguing from our moral intuitions that these things are okay, or is he simply leveraging some sacred cows to make his point? Either way, he's got a problem.
The “purpose” of the eyes is to see; is it therefore wrong to use one’s eyes for flirting or for giving a signal? Again, the “purpose” of the fingers may be grasping and poking; is it therefore wrong to snap one’s fingers to keep time with music?
I find these to be very bad examples. Flirting and signaling involves more than the eye and a corruption of "sight" to accomplish, and it's difficult to flirt with what you cannot see. And as to the hand, he makes a spurious assertion that it is merely for "grasping and poking."

James' argument at this point misses the larger concept of sexual/gender teleology. It is not just that the penis and vagina are instruments for reproduction, it is all the things that are implied by that fact, i.e., that the owners of those instruments are made for each other and that reproduction leads to family, which has certain social ramifications. The state has always understood this — especially that the state itself is dependent on the family, which is the whole reason that the state would have any concern at all about this kind of private relationship.
The word unnatural has a sinister sound, it might be understood simply as a term of evaluation. Perhaps it means something like “contrary to what a person ought to be.” But if that is what “unnatural” means, then to say that something is wrong because it is unnatural would be vacuous. It would be like saying thus-and-so is wrong because it is wrong.
Either I don't get this argument, or it's a bad one, or he's just trying to dodge the larger question of teleology. Seems like he's got the distillation of the idea wrong. I think it would more accurately be stated as this: "Thus-and-so is wrong because it is contrary to what a person ought to be." And if we "ought" to be some way, then not being that way is ipso facto wrong. Of course, he can always argue that there is no particular way that we "ought" to be (because there's no God or objective moral order in the universe), but he hasn't even stated that assertion, much less defended it. Indeed, his whole essay appears to presuppose relativism, which would, ironically, mean that it's not "wrong" to suppress homosexuality.
The problem is that you cannot conclude that homosexuality is an abomination simply because it says so in Leviticus unless you are willing to conclude, also, that these other instructions are moral requirements; and in the 21st century anyone who tried to live according to all those rules would go crazy.
It is way too early for you and I to have a theological discussion on this, but it is clear that James is not familiar with the Christian response to this. Now, a Jew, not having the lens of the Messiah through which to see the Old Testament, has a much more difficult road in answering these kinds of theological objections. However, it is interesting to note that James chooses to quote from the Old Testament vs. the New Testament condemnations of homosexuality. And I might also point out that the Leviticus passage is sandwiched between the prohibitions against bestiality and child sacrifice. Yeah, let's just throw it all out categorically.
In any case, nothing can be morally right or wrong simply because an authority says so. If the precepts in a scared text are not arbitrary, there must be some reason for them—we should be able to ask why the Bible condemns homosexuality, and expect an answer.
Maybe he'd like to step up to the throne of God and demand an accounting on this one. I can see him now: "God, you need to explain to me why homosexuality is wrong before I'll change my moral position. Why must I assume that just because men and women are anatomically and psychosocially constructed in a complementary fashion that we are obligated to behave in a way consistent with that fact? And make it a good reason, because if it doesn't jive with my own higher moral standards I am honor-bound to reject it."
But the main point here is not about homosexuality. The main point concerns the nature of moral thinking. Moral thinking and moral conduct are a matter of weighing reasons and being guided by them. But being guided by reason is very different from following one’s feelings. When we have strong feelings, we may be tempted to ignore reason and go with the feelings. But in doing so, we would be opting out of moral thinking altogether. That is why, in focusing on attitudes and feelings, Ethical Subjectivism seems to be going in the wrong direction.
That's weird: this closing paragraph seems to work more in my favor than his, especially since he begins the essay by grounding the whole issue on the homosexual's "strong feelings." Observe:
The most pertinent fact is that homosexuals are pursuing the only way of life that affords them a chance of happiness. Sex is a particularly strong urge—it isn’t hard to understand why—and few people are able to fashion a happy life without satisfying their sexual needs.
I think what he would be forced to argue is that the homosexual's strong feelings trump the strong feelings of their objectors. Unfortunately, there are more objectors than homosexuals.

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12 Comments:

At 1/27/2006 8:53 AM, Blogger SWMNT said...

I'm glad you posted here - you're right, this is an effective means of further this discussion. I'll put a link to your post in mine.

I'll give some thought to your post, and see if I can't get a thoughtful response this weekend.

SWMNT

 
At 1/30/2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

You are right, and it's highly ironic, that at the end he contradicts himself.

It's like his ending paragraph was added by me.

 
At 5/01/2006 6:48 PM, Blogger Psiomniac said...

Interesting. It seems that you duck the more difficult aspects of Leviticus and claim that the lens of the Messiah allows you to interpret the Bible in such a way as to take those passages that condemn homosexuality at face value and yet treat those that are more problematic, such as prohibitions against usury, as context sensitive. I am sure you are not in favour of divorce, in fact Jesus specifically mentions that it is wrong, unlike homosexuality. Yet, somehow the Christian condemnation of divorce is much more muted than their condemnation of homosexuality.

 
At 5/02/2006 3:57 AM, Anonymous CB said...

I would first begin by putting proper terms in perspective. While the Bible may not contain the word 'homosexual' or 'homosexuality' explicitly in the Greek or Hebrew, it speaks often of 'fornication' and 'sexual immorality' in general, among other terms. Fornication is defined as sex outside of the marriage covenant and is clearly taught as sin (1Corinthians 5:1, 6:13, 18, Ephesians 5:3). By definition, then, any sex act outside of marriage is considered sin in Biblical terms, heterosexual, homosexual, or other. The interpretation of Levitical teaching has been mentioned for the purposes of suggesting that since the New Covenant allows for certain ceremonial laws to be set aside, the teaching of other principles, namely sexual six, can also be disregarded. This is incorrect, however. Because a book contains teachings regarding various principles that may or may not continue to apply, those principles that are regarded as eternal, in this case the nature of man and woman, marriage, and sexuality, are not also disregarded. This is precisely why the principles or marriage between a man and woman and sexual purity persevere in New Testament scripture.

Incidentally, the word that Paul uses in both Romans 1:24-27 and I Timothy 1:10, "arsenokoitai," is a Greek term actually coined by him and tends to be translated today as 'homosexual.' (It's etymology shows the joining of 'man' and 'sexual act.') While some argue that this term speaks only to certain types of homosexual sex acts, this really cannot be the case given the word itself- the two roots are general, rather than specific (like sex as apposed to sodomy). The word really could be defined as 'one (male) who practices sexual intercourse with another (male).' So, while the term does not speak to orientation, per se, it does speak to actions, to which we are accountable. This is an especially important distinction and should lead to the embracing of the person, regardless of orientation, and the rejection of the sin. However, there can be little confusion left over as to what the Biblical teaching is in regards to the practice of sexual sin in general, either heterosexual or homosexual.

It is true that the Church has historically seemed to elevate certain sins as more objectionable than others. However, this observation does not refute what the Biblical teaching actually is. Our goal should be to follow the teachings of scripture as closely as possible. To suggest that Christians overemphasize homosexuality over divorce assumes that the Christian teaching is that homosexuality is wrong, which erodes your the first argument that the Bible does not teach this. So, you've got to pick your position, so to speak; meaning, you can either challenge the Biblical teaching on homosexuality, though I think the case is weak there, or you can challenge the hypocrisy of Christians, but to do both does not build a cummulatively strong case.

 
At 5/02/2006 4:46 AM, Blogger Psiomniac said...

At no stage did I dispute that the Biblical teaching is as you describe it CB. So my position is clear, either Christians can interpret teachings as literally as possible and treat sin consistently or interpretation of the teachings is allowed and then they need to make very clear why, for example, usury is allowed but homosexuality isn't. I am not a greek scholar, so I cannot directly see if your etymological argument holds but if actions are what matters then heterosexual fornication, as you say, would be equally open to Christian condemnation.

 
At 5/02/2006 9:18 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

then heterosexual fornication, as you say, would be equally open to Christian condemnation.

So you really are agreeing that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but are simply bemoaning the fact that Christians don't condemn enough of the behaviors the Bible condemns.

That's a very valid point, but it would be a mistake to imply that this means we are wrong to condemn homosexuality.

One of the reasons it seems we condemn fornication less is perhaps that there aren't many people out there who are 'fornication activists', or who try to make a Biblical case in support of fornication.

If I met a homosexual who said: "Yeah, it's wrong but I can't help it." then I'd be very compassionate about it. I tend to speak up primarily when someone tries to justify the behavior as morally good or even neutral.

 
At 5/02/2006 11:21 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Psio,

This is an interesting exercise, though it seems rather pointless given that you are not a Christian. It is something like debating the rules of football with someone who doesn't believe in balls and stadiums. Mustn't we first take Scripture as a source of authority before it is meaningful to debate the finer points of ethics, dispensations, context, and prophetic fulfillment?

Perhaps you are simply looking for coherency and internal consistency within the Scriptures and the Christian worldview. If that is the case, then you must be willing to assume (for the sake of argument) the entirety of the Christian texts. When you do that you can see certain things that are quite plain regarding the role of the Law. For example, I mention that we must see it through the lens of Christ, and the most important thing about the Law was the sacrificial system. The whole point of Christianity is that Christ is the fulfillment of that system; He was the ultimate atonement toward which the animal and grain sacrifices were mere pointers and placeholders. If this is rejected in principle, then any other reconciliation of the O.T. Law is pointless. But if this is conceptually legitimate, then it is meaningful to engage the task of looking for the principles within the Law, and where certain laws themselves are irreducible to mere principles.

Also, because some ethical and exegetical issues may be difficult does not invalidate the Scriptures by which we measure such things. To do so, you would first have to presuppose that the Bible must be merely a playbook of moral guidelines, and it is by self-description most certainly more than that.

For more of my thoughts on Leviticus, see my comment on this post.

I am sure you are not in favour of divorce, in fact Jesus specifically mentions that it is wrong, unlike homosexuality. Yet, somehow the Christian condemnation of divorce is much more muted than their condemnation of homosexuality.

The reason that divorce is at the forefront of Christian concern is, 1) We have culturally moved beyond that issue to same-sex marriage. When the elephant is in the china shop the bull looks small by comparison. 2) Divorce is not "celebrated" and claimed to be a "lifestyle" that one is born into. When is the last time you've seen a "divorce pride" march? Nobody likes divorce and thinks it is a good thing; they just think it is a necessary evil. No one is suggesting that we teach our school children all about the culture of divorce and its wonderful merits as a domestic lifestyle.

And because Jesus did not mention homosexuality does not mean that He approved of it. He did not mention rape or grand theft auto either, although His comments on marriage strongly presupposed (and imply) that it was a male-female affair. What He did mention were those things relevant to His audience. He mentions divorce because it was a problem and because it was brought up as an example of a reductio ad absurdum argument for the resurrection. Homosexuality, on the other hand, was a non-issue for the Jews (even if any privately practiced it). Jesus did not have to speak against what was understood by all. It would be just as pointless to give a sermon to the Jews against sacrificing your child. Paul, on the other hand, spent the bulk of his time amongst the Greeks and Romans who had no such compunctions against homosexuality and did not operate within the Jewish context.

Either Christians can interpret teachings as literally as possible and treat sin consistently or interpretation of the teachings is allowed and then they need to make very clear why, for example, usury is allowed but homosexuality isn't.

Well, as I've pointed out above, the biggest teaching about sin — the solution for it: sacrifice — has been abrogated by and through Christ. Additionally, there are places where we are explicitly told in the New Testament that various ceremonial things are now defunct (e.g., things being "clean" and "unclean"). Consequently, we are left without the option of saying that all teachings are to be taken in the "literal" sense that I think you are implying. So this means that we are left with your second option (though we would "interpret" the text under either condition), and we must carefully wrestle with the text in a systematic way. That is the domain of the Christian theologians, philosophers, and ethicists of which I am a pale shadow, but willing to the task nonetheless. But to play the theological game you'll have to first set aside your own presuppositions and step into my worldview.

 
At 5/04/2006 5:58 PM, Blogger Psiomniac said...

First I would like to reply to Jeff.

That's a very valid point, but it would be a mistake to imply that this means we are wrong to condemn homosexuality
This would be a logical error. I hope you don't think I am that prone to logical error.


One of the reasons it seems we condemn fornication less is perhaps that there aren't many people out there who are 'fornication activists', or who try to make a Biblical case in support of fornication.

This, for me, has it exactly backwards. The reason fornicators have no need to campaign is because they get away with it. They are not descriminated against in society. No Christians turn up at funerals of their loved ones, at a particularly emotional time for them, with placards that read:'God Hates Fornicators'. Not that I am suggesting you would do such a thing of course. But you see the point I hope. Am I right in thinking Newt Gingrich is divorced? I might be. As far as homosexuals justifying their behaviour I would point out that there is not one single unified Christian position on this so perhaps a bit less rightousness and more humility would do everyone good. Me too, come to think of it!

 
At 5/04/2006 6:58 PM, Blogger Psiomniac said...

Paul,
You said:
This is an interesting exercise, though it seems rather pointless given that you are not a Christian. It is something like debating the rules of football with someone who doesn't believe in balls and stadiums. Mustn't we first take Scripture as a source of authority before it is meaningful to debate the finer points of ethics, dispensations, context, and prophetic fulfillment?

My answer is no. I hope you don't feel I am intruding in an internal Christian debate. The point is that your arguments may affect policy in these areas of personal morality. It is only right therefore, for me to try to understand your point of view to see whether it makes sense on its own terms before offering a counter argument from my point of view. I would say that the analogy is more like somebody who knows nothing of football but who is a baseball fan trying to gain an insight into what football is all about.

Now, I take your point that Christians are no longer bound by the Mosaic Law and are explicitly told so. I further accept that technical issues to do with exegesis are not a logical bar to carrying out the process. So far I hope we are agreed.
I also accept that it does not follow that since Jesus did not mention homosexuality he approved of it. I would say that it is a possibility though that this might suggest that he did not think it a big deal. The argument that he did not have to say anything in condemnation to Jews, because it was unacceptable to them anyway, does not hold water, for Jesus must have known that he was speaking to us as well if he was really the son of God.
So I want to put to you a different interpretation of the only condemnation of homosexuality that is not potentially invalidated by translation difficulties and the fact that Leviticus no longer applies. I know that you can say that it is not legitimate to throw out all of the prohibitions contained in the Mosaic Law, but the following addresses the principles behind the judgments one must make in this regard so, bear with me.
If we agree that interpretation is inevitable, suppose we interpret Romans 1:18-27 in the following way. The reference that Pual makes to homosexuality is essentially an analogy to the way in which the Romans, having had the opportunity to realise the truth of monotheism, nonetheless persisted in polytheism. So Paul is using the example of heterosexuals, who, despite their natural orientation, spurn the 'natural use' of their bodies in order to 'burn in their lust' for members of the same gender. So perhaps what Paul is getting at is that having the benefit of the revelation of monotheism, persisting in polytheism is to resist one's own destiny. Similarly, a heterosexual, who abandons his or her own nature is spurning their own destiny. But, remember, it was not known in Paul's time, that one's sexual orientation is not individually chosen. So if one allows, as you have, that Paul had to speak in a way that was intelligible to his audience, then it makes sense to condemn homosexual acts per se since to his audience homosexual orientation would always have represented a choice to spurn one's destiny, since if it is a choice then reproductive teleology is salient. It may still be the case, though, that Paul's condemnation had, as its primary function, the drawing of the analogy. So if we glean from this that the real sin is to deny what is natural, as it is natural to belive in one God, then if it is natural for some percentage of the population to be homosexual, just as it is natural for some percentage to be left handed, then it would be a sin for homosexuals to deny what is natural for them. My conclusion then is we should live and let live.
I hope I have done a reasonable job in inhabiting your worldview even though the specific conclusions that I reached thereby were very different to any that you would subscibe to. It is not easy for me, since I regard the Bible as largely fictional.

 
At 5/06/2006 8:00 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Psio,

I hope you don't feel I am intruding in an internal Christian debate. The point is that your arguments may affect policy in these areas of personal morality.

I'm not taking offense, just pointing out that the resolution to such questions can only be internal Christian concerns. I understand that non-Christians are concerned with the policies that Christians would like to "impose" upon society, but it often seems to us that our motivations and rationales for such concerns are perceived as wrongheaded and biased, while the secular views are thought to be the default or morally neutral positions. In fact, the secular view on this, and many other issues, is grounded upon a unique metaphysical position, which I find to be highly problematic. And deconstructing the biblical position does not make, say, materialism, any more coherent.

It is only right therefore, for me to try to understand your point of view to see whether it makes sense on its own terms before offering a counter argument from my point of view. I would say that the analogy is more like somebody who knows nothing of football but who is a baseball fan trying to gain an insight into what football is all about.

I commend your willingness to attempt to evaluate this matter on its own grounds. However, I think your alternative analogy holds only if you are a baseball fan who is considering whether to vote to allow a baseball vs. a football stadium in your town, which has room only for one.

The argument that he did not have to say anything in condemnation to Jews, because it was unacceptable to them anyway, does not hold water, for Jesus must have known that he was speaking to us as well if he was really the son of God.

This is a very good point, which is made because you have succeeded in thinking systematically about this. But press a bit further and you must wrangle with the idea that the same God whom Jesus represents, as the Second Person of the Trinity, is the One who inspired both the Old Testament and the other writings of the New Testament, which do say things about homosexuality.

Jesus was certainly speaking to all generations in a broad sense, but He could not mention every topic that would ever come up in every area throughout the course of history. For this reason, we are left to wrangle with some moral dilemmas on the basis of principle and general application of what we do know. Recreational drug use would be an example of such an issue.

It should also be noted that even if you could argue for silence in the New Testament regarding homosexuality, it does not follow that it is then sanctioned. On such grounds, I think even a stronger case could be made for the abrogation of the ban of bestiality and incest. It is hard enough to whitewash the "apparent" statements against homosexuality in Scripture; it is even harder to make a case FOR homosexuality as a blessed lifestyle.

Even so, it may be that we can actually say that Jesus did indeed address the issue in Matthew 19:4-6: "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh." I think it is a losing proposition to attempt to shoehorn homosexuality into this statement. It does not include it explicitly and it seems excluded by the very teleology in the statement, i.e., God's creation of the separate genders so that they might become one flesh.

Now, on to your Romans analysis.

First, I don't think you've quite got the gist of what Paul is saying. It's not just that they held to polytheism over monotheism. It is that people know God by way of the things He has made, yet refuse to recognize Him or give Him credit. They suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (their determination to do what they damn well desire), and they throw their focus upon the created things rather than the creator. This is actually a perfect setup for the problem of homosexuality, where the very design of nature makes the intent of sexuality pretty obvious yet people look for rationales to justify their desires nonetheless.

Second, you've switched tracks in your thinking on this. First you admit that Paul is talking about the natural use ("function") of the opposite sex but then you make a broad leap to thinking of this as the person's own nature, i.e., their sexual orientation. This is nowhere suggested in the text. The plain understanding of the text is that the problem is in the departure from the natural plumbing and design of the opposite sex, and joining yourself to the same sex. This interpretation is just straining at the text in order to rationalize a presupposed position. It is completely unconvincing to me, though you are not alone in making the attempt. However, there are many gay theologians who will just begin by admitting that Scripture stands against homosexuality, but they find ways to write these off as uninspired and culturally influenced.

Third, even if it could be the case that Paul is really talking about "being true to your sexual orientation," then this makes the text just silly and useless. If one is attracted to something, then one generally pursues that thing. Does Paul really need to expend this much energy telling heterosexual men, with no desire for gay sex, to stay away from gay men? I imagine he's got bigger concerns than simply telling people to "do what you feel like doing, and not what you don't feel like doing."

Fourth, you beg the question to claim that homosexuality is an example of something that is "natural" for people. The witness of biology is just so in-your-face obvious that men and women are complementary. One could make a pretty easy case that homosexuality is "unnatural" on merely evolutionary grounds, but if you believe in a God who has purposively designed the human anatomy, then there are even better grounds for thinking that it has a purpose.

I think your entire case rests on the idea that people happen to have these homosexual inclinations. I will grant that; I don't argue that people simply make the conscious choice one day that they will be homosexual. However, the inability to pinpoint the origin of one's inclinations neither sanctifies them nor does it mean that they are not caused by negative factors. Pedophiles, alcoholics, and physical abusers likewise have stories to tell about their lack of choice, yet we feel free to psychologize and sanction them nonetheless. The "God made me this way" assertion, which I hear from "spiritual" homosexuals, is just begging the question.

 
At 5/07/2006 5:04 PM, Blogger Psiomniac said...

Paul,
I take your point about the theological aspects ultimately having to be resolved internally within the Christian community but since the 'duty Christian liberal' is on a break I hope you won't mind me quibbling with a few points.
Firstly, I think that the metaphysical underpinning of secularism may hold peculiar difficulties for you, but from my point of view, it is more to do with sound philosophical principles, that's another thread though.


This is a very good point, which is made because you have succeeded in thinking systematically about this. But press a bit further and you must wrangle with the idea that the same God whom Jesus represents, as the Second Person of the Trinity, is the One who inspired both the Old Testament and the other writings of the New Testament, which do say things about homosexuality.

The problem with your extrapolation here is that it begs the question, since Christians are specifically told that according to the New Covenant, they have to chose which tenets of the Mosaic Law to continue. Now, unless you accept all the prohibitions on shellfish and the like, you have to decide on these things according to other principles that accord with your interpretation of Biblical teaching. And that is precisely what is at issue.


Jesus was certainly speaking to all generations in a broad sense, but He could not mention every topic that would ever come up in every area throughout the course of history. For this reason, we are left to wrangle with some moral dilemmas on the basis of principle and general application of what we do know. Recreational drug use would be an example of such an issue.


Of course, if Jesus had mentioned crack cocaine or computer games specifically, we skeptics would have a harder task in showing that the Bible is largely fictional. As it is, I agree that every petty issue wouldn't be mentioned by name. Unfortunately for your case that supports the notion I mentioned, namely at the very least homosexuality is not a big deal.

It should also be noted that even if you could argue for silence in the New Testament regarding homosexuality, it does not follow that it is then sanctioned. On such grounds, I think even a stronger case could be made for the abrogation of the ban of bestiality and incest. It is hard enough to whitewash the "apparent" statements against homosexuality in Scripture; it is even harder to make a case FOR homosexuality as a blessed lifestyle.

I had already conceded that silence did not equate to endorsement but nor does it equate with condemnation as you have conceded. So bestiality and incest are irrelevant.


Even so, it may be that we can actually say that Jesus did indeed address the issue in Matthew 19:4-6: "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh." I think it is a losing proposition to attempt to shoehorn homosexuality into this statement. It does not include it explicitly and it seems excluded by the very teleology in the statement, i.e., God's creation of the separate genders so that they might become one flesh.

I don't think you can make a case that on the one hand, silence does not mean endorsement, but on the other endorsing heterosexual activity automatically condemns homosexuality. As far as teleology goes, I think the situation is more complicated, but then, I am thinking on the gene level.

As for the rebuttal of my Romans analysis, I think it was good on the whole. I still think Christians of the opposing view have wiggle room though. This is because one of the main planks of your criticism is that Paul is talking about the nature of things more generally rather than individual nature. Further you say even if it was about individual nature that evolution if you buy it or teleology if you don't, is against this. This argument would fail to be persuasive to a liberal Christian who is scientifically literate because 1) It is not clear either way from the passage whether Paul is drawing a general analogy as I have described and 2)there are good evolutionary hypotheses for homosexuality because evolution is a powerful and complex theory. It is much more subtle and nuanced than you make out.

Third, even if it could be the case that Paul is really talking about "being true to your sexual orientation," then this makes the text just silly and useless. If one is attracted to something, then one generally pursues that thing. Does Paul really need to expend this much energy telling heterosexual men, with no desire for gay sex, to stay away from gay men? I imagine he's got bigger concerns than simply telling people to "do what you feel like doing, and not what you don't feel like doing."

This tries to establish a tautology but does not succeed. You are no doubt familiar with the fact that otherwise heterosexual men will engage in homosexual activity while in prison. So it is in fact possible for people to do this against their nature. More fundamentally though, this ignores the point I made about the concept of 'homosexual by nature' being unknown in Paul's time. (I know you disagree with this but I have covered that I think).

 
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