Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Mithrae
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Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Post by Mithrae »

In Australia we're currently enduring a postal vote about gay marriage, and the Christian rhetoric which has inevitably been cropping up has reminded me of some thoughts I'd initially had back in 2006.
  • Tuesday, 9 May 2006
    It occurs to me that Christianity may very well have the wrong end of the stick in their view of God. If nothing else, surely what the old testament and the gospels teach us is that God is a covenant God. Jesus said that his blood was the blood of the new covenant; looking back, the Mosaic law is described as the old covenant; he made covenants also with Abraham and David. Perhaps we should not think of God as one who simply sits in the clouds handing out laws. Rather, he is a God who makes covenants with his people; fellowship in return for blessing. . . .

    With the people of Israel God made two covenants. The first was at Sinai, beginning with the ten commandments covering chapters 20 to 23 of Exodus. These are almost exclusively commandments of worship for God and social justice amongst the Israelites, with very little about sacrifical specifications or ritual purity. Chapter 24 describes the confirmation of this covenant and the people's agreement to abide by the terms written within the 'book of the covenant.' The second covenant was made in the lands east of the Jordan River, before Moses died and the people crossed over (Deuteronomy 29:1), and covers chapters 5 to 28 of Deuteronomy (with the earlier chapters being the preamble). Laws concerning such things as legal cases, the king, cities of refuge and warfare regulations (chapters 17 to 20) make it clear that this is essentially the constitution of the new nation of Israel.
The bible does not say that God gave any rules or commandments at all to Adam and Eve, except the bit about the tree; and similarly, Jeremiah clearly states that the new covenant to come would be "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt" (Jer. 31:31). In commenting on that passage the author of Hebrews writes "In that he says, “A new covenant,� he has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13).

How can it be that at one time it was "sinful" to sow a field with two kinds of seed, or wear a garment made of two kinds of cloth (Leviticus 19:19), yet Christians now would almost universally consider these to be silly and outdated concepts? Why did commands like that exist in the first place? I believe they were intended to ingrain into the Israelite people the concept of their separateness from the nations around them, to reinforce and strengthen their own national identity. But then, that same kind of practical purpose seems to obviously underlie the prohibition against same-sex relations too (or the exclusion of anyone who'd suffered genital injuries in Deut. 23:1): A small nation surrounded by enemies would likely need all its people breeding to maintain its strength. Crude and even cruel though those laws may have been, at least we might be able to glean a worthy intention behind them.

But the Christian concept of "sin" as it is usually expressed seems to be utterly blind to the fact that these were part of a covenant - an agreement - between God and Israel, one which the author of Hebrews declared to be obsolete. And according to Jeremiah the new covenant is not to be found in letters of stone or ink in a book; instead "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Jer. 31:31-34). (See also my earlier thread Did apostles think they were writing the 'word of God'?)

Likewise Paul - though he himself remained hung up on homosexuality - captures the more individual nature of the New Agreement perfectly, even as he downplays the everlasting covenant of circumcision:
  • Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. . . .
    13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.� 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.


    Romans 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’�
    12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
Have Christians got the wrong idea of "sin"?

And if the essence of God's will is simply that "You shall love your neighbour as yourself," as Paul says, isn't homosexuality one of the most obvious examples in which freedom in Christ replaces the situational rules of Israel?

An example in fact where Christian attitudes often seem to be almost the opposite of love?

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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #181

Post by 2ndRateMind »

brunumb wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:58 pm
2ndRateMind wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 4:56 am When you, or I, suffer, He suffers alongside us, in direct proportion. Similarly, when we are happy, (in the sense of deep and lasting contentment) then so is He. The result is true love, half joy, half pain, totally ecstasy.
I guess that would mean that when a same sex couple is truly happy in a lasting relationship, God is also happy. When homosexuals are maligned and abused causing suffering and misery, God feels the same.
Exactly that.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Last edited by 2ndRateMind on Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #182

Post by 2ndRateMind »

Miles wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:17 pm
2ndRateMind wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:23 pm
Miles wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 11:57 am
2ndRateMind wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 4:56 am
Fools for God we may all be, but our rôle is clear. We must remove from God any cause for pain, because we love Him back. And let His ecstasy be pure joy. And that may well involve keeping to His law, once we have sorted out amongst ourselves precisely what that Law may be. I could even go so far as to claim that this is the way to secure our own happiness, both in this world, and the next.
Not to be argumentative, but god has most certainly been the cause of pain, and trying to remove him from it, deny his connection to it, is dishonest. The Bible is full of instances where god has deliberately made people suffer, sometimes even needlessly.

.
Yes, agreed. But mostly the scriptures are honest enough (even the OT) to say 'X says God says'. Thus one can with due confidence say 'according to X', rather than 'according to God'. This all leaves us, I would suggest, sufficient latitude to interpret the Bible in our own way, for our own times.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Are you implying that those cases where the Bible says, in effect, god deliberately made people suffer, are untrue because they don't say "according to god," but "according to X"? Perhaps you've forgotten what 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

16 All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live.

.
In the opinion of the author (thought to be Paul the Apostle). I would object to the phrase 'all scripture'. I don't much care for Leviticus, for example. It is quite inconsistent with Jesus' loving, forgiving, redeeming Father of all mankind, and I prefer to believe Jesus when offered the choice between such conceptions of God.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Last edited by 2ndRateMind on Fri Jul 31, 2020 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #183

Post by Miles »

2ndRateMind wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:03 am
Miles wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:17 pm
2ndRateMind wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:23 pm
Miles wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 11:57 am
2ndRateMind wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 4:56 am
Fools for God we may all be, but our rôle is clear. We must remove from God any cause for pain, because we love Him back. And let His ecstasy be pure joy. And that may well involve keeping to His law, once we have sorted out amongst ourselves precisely what that Law may be. I could even go so far as to claim that this is the way to secure our own happiness, both in this world, and the next.
Not to be argumentative, but god has most certainly been the cause of pain, and trying to remove him from it, deny his connection to it, is dishonest. The Bible is full of instances where god has deliberately made people suffer, sometimes even needlessly.

.
Yes, agreed. But mostly the scriptures are honest enough (even the OT) to say 'X says God says'. Thus one can with due confidence say 'according to X', rather than 'according to God'. This all leaves us, I would suggest, sufficient latitude to interpret the Bible in our own way, for our own times.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Are you implying that those cases where the Bible says, in effect, god deliberately made people suffer, are untrue because they don't say "according to god," but "according to X"? Perhaps you've forgotten what 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

16 All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live.

.
In the opinion of the author (thought to be Paul the Apostle). I would object to the phrase 'all scripture'. I don't much care for Leviticus, for example. It is quite inconsistent with Jesus' loving Father of all mankind, and I prefer to believe Jesus when offered the choice between such conceptions of God.

Best wishes, 2RM.
So you take the parts of the Bible you like and ignore those you don't. IOW, you cherry pick your faith. Okay, to each his own.

.

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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #184

Post by 2ndRateMind »

Miles wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:19 am
So you take the parts of the Bible you like and ignore those you don't. IOW, you cherry pick your faith. Okay, to each his own.
Yup. And I see nothing wrong with that. As I have said previously, God gave us our critical faculties, and we must presume He intended for us to use them, even (perhaps, especially) on scripture.

As for claiming the Bible is entirely true because the Bible says the Bible is entirely true, that is a viciously circular argument. It proves nothing to anyone familiar with basic logic.

Best wishes, 2RM.
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #185

Post by bluegreenearth »

Miles wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:19 amSo you take the parts of the Bible you like and ignore those you don't. IOW, you cherry pick your faith. Okay, to each his own.

.
As you and I probably agree, every unfalsifiable religious faith is cherry-picked to some level. As such, it is essential that it be to each is own. :approve:

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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #186

Post by bluegreenearth »

2ndRateMind wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:33 am
Miles wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:19 am
So you take the parts of the Bible you like and ignore those you don't. IOW, you cherry pick your faith. Okay, to each his own.
Yup. And I see nothing wrong with that. As I have said elsewhere, God gave us our critical faculties, and we must presume He intended for us to use them, even (perhaps especially) on scripture.

As for claiming the Bible is true because the Bible says the Bible is true, that is a viciously circular argument. It proves nothing to anyone familiar with basic logic.

Best wishes, 2RM.
I appreciate your honest and candid response, even if I don't share your theistic belief. :approve:

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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #187

Post by 2ndRateMind »

bluegreenearth wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 5:37 pm
Miles wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:19 amSo you take the parts of the Bible you like and ignore those you don't. IOW, you cherry pick your faith. Okay, to each his own.

.
As you and I probably agree, every unfalsifiable religious faith is cherry-picked to some level. As such, it is essential that it be to each is own. :approve:
As I am sure you know, but I just thought it worth the spelling out, that all religious beliefs are both unfalsifiable and unverifiable, in any objective sense. Their validity rests not on logic, or science, but the efficacy of their explanatory narrative, and their psychological resonance. Knowledge is hierarchical*, and it may well be that a slender knowledge of the highest things is worth more than a complete knowledge of the meanest.

Best wishes, 2RM.

*If you doubt this, consider the progression of dependency from logic, to mathematics, to physics, to chemistry, to biology, through the social sciences, humanities and arts, to philosophy, and finally to theology.
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #188

Post by Mithrae »

Realworldjack wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 7:01 pm
Mithrae wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 12:28 pm You can find bible verses saying that homosexuality (or more precisely, same-sex relations) is bad, sure, just as you can find verses saying it's bad for men to have long hair, women to speak in church, or slaves to seek freedom from those who own and sell them. That's the problem with the 'letter of the law' approach; there's so many letters there to pick and choose from. I would argue that a coherent biblical Christian perspective would start from one of two points, either the two great commands of love God and love others outlined by Jesus or (more comprehensively) with the question "What is sin?" and following the chain of reasoning through "What is the 'new covenant'?", "What purpose had 'old covenant' rules like exclusion of those with damaged genitals and prohibition of gay relations?" and "What is 'liberty in Christ'?"... which I think should ultimately lead back to those two commandments as the root of all moral values, the guiding principles for God's law written in his people's hearts and minds. The purpose of Israelite prohibition of gay relations no longer applies, and perpetuating that ancient regulation if anything tends towards real or perceived unloving attitudes and behaviour. So Paul's prejudices notwithstanding, I think a more coherent biblical Christian perspective would not treat loving monogamous homosexual relations as 'sinful.'
Oh okay? So let's go with what you have to say, and completely ignore what Paul had to say when he said to the Corinthians,
Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
So then, with your logic, we should allow not only the homosexual to identify as Christians, but also the "idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunks, verbal abusers, and swindlers" as well?
Is adultery compatible with loving your wife? Is thievery compatible with loving your victim? Are verbal abuse or swindling compatible with loving your neighbour as you love yourself? If not, then "with my logic" the conscience and reason of a bible-believing Christian would reject those things. Drunkenness can be a tricky one, I suppose; on one occasion at a wedding Jesus waited 'til the guests were drunk (John 2:10) and then turned some water into even more wine, but perhaps he was sinning according to our infallible moral authority Paul. Sometimes drunkenness and particularly alcoholism can be or lead to hurtful and unloving behaviour, of course.

As for idolatry a pretty good case could be made that - after their God supposedly declared that he would write his law on their hearts and minds and that no man would teach another to know Him (Jer. 31:31-34) - those who turn to the writings of sometimes-anonymous bronze and iron age polemicists to know what God wants of them are committing a kind of idolatry (to say nothing of those who usurp the name 'Word of God' for a book!). Why on earth would you need Paul to tell you that adultery is wrong? That seems like an insult to your own conscience and to the one gave it to you. It's one thing to read and evaluate others' opinions and experiences in forming our own views, that's very sensible, but what you're talking about seems to be abdicating your moral agency entirely, passing judgements off to ancient writers you don't even know and pretending that your only responsibility is to obey.
Realworldjack wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 7:01 pm
"What is the 'new covenant'?"
The "new covenant" is a unilateral covenant which depends on God's ability to keep his promise, while the old covenant was a bi-lateral covenant which depended upon the people to be able to keep their promises. The old covenant failed, because the people could not keep up their end of the bargain, because of sin. Therefore, God eliminates our end of the bargain, and takes on full responsibility himself, not in order for us to continue in sin, but that we could now struggle against sin, which is what Paul describes when he talks about the old Adam, and the new Adam.
You've skipped over the first question, "What is sin?" Is it just God sitting in the clouds handing down arbitrary laws we must follow, or else? Or rather, is sin a matter of some named and unnamed ancient humans claiming to have heard God speaking from the clouds and maybe writing his words down correctly, which have then been transmitted with some known and God-only-knows how many unknown alterations by anonymous copyists across thousands of years before being filtered through the biases and interpretation of modern folk? Was planting a field with two types of crop or wearing a garment with two types of fabric sinful once upon a time (Lev. 19:19) and then stopped being sinful, or is it still wrong? And since they had no such commandments, were things like murder not sinful for Adam and Eve?

That view seems untenable from start to finish, as far as I can tell: Murder would be sinful even without a commandment from God; slaughtering thousands of children would not be justified by someone claiming "God told me so"; likewise someone saying "God says don't do this" is an extremely dubious basis for considering something sinful, Levitical laws notwithstanding. The biblical commands to inflict genocide on the Midianites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Jebusites, the Girgashites, the Hittites and the Amorites are more or less indefensible as far as I can tell, seeming nothing less than vilest slander to declare that God ordered such a thing. Obviously I myself think that the less savage but still outdated regulations of sacrifices, ritual purity, harsh punishments and so on in the Torah are also simply commands of men using God as a megaphone... but I suppose people who are determined to preserve some feeling of the bible being mostly good and right could, along the same lines as Paul, say that a bronze age nation of uneducated former slaves needed a 'tutor' like that. In fact something similar is said in Deuteronomy 18 regarding the institution of prophecy. But already by the 6th century BCE the prophet Jeremiah was apparently seeing the problems with such a crude system, and looked forward to a new covenant in which
"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”"

Does that suggest that under the new covenant people would still be looking to Paul or the unknown authors of the Torah to teach them about right and wrong?

But if not, is there anything to stop someone saying that God has written on their heart and mind that they too should commit genocide against the heathens... as he supposedly commanded Moses in the past and supposedly will do again in the future? Why should Christians not "hand those heathens over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" (1 Cor. 5:5)? Without some coherent, unifying principle or guideline on what is good and what is evil the deceitful hearts of men could easily be just as savage as the letter of the law itself! So then what is sin? Paul claims that "the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”" (Gal. 5:14); in one version of the golden rule Hillel the Elder, the grandfather of Paul's purported mentor Gamaliel, said "That which you hate do not do to your fellow, this is the whole of the law; the rest is commentary, go and learn"; similarly Jesus, when asked about the 'first commandment' cited "love your neighbour" alongside love for God. Seems to me that there is no better biblical perspective on sin than this: Sin is unloving behaviour, simple as that. Sin is harming our fellow man. Sin is adultery or greed or murder or genocide. And for that matter sin is slandering God with claims that he commands genocide; personally as an agnostic I'm pretty wary about abuse of "love 'I am who I am' your God," but flippantly associating God with various images, names, words or commands (Deut. 18:20) is one of the most clearly-emphasized no-nos in the bible!

Perhaps your reason and conscience will reach a different conclusion on that last point... maybe it's okay to associate images, words or commands with God on the basis of even a rather shaky chain of written claims? :? Well I suppose that whatever it is that God writes in his people's minds and hearts, it seems there's still room there for disagreement. But I would say that there is considerably less scope for legitimate disagreement and the worst of abuses when people choose to be personally guided by the principle to 'love your neighbour' than there is when they deny their own moral agency - their responsibility to form their own moral values - and instead just choose from the letters of the law what they'll obey.


Realworldjack wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 7:01 pm As you can see, it has nothing to do with being unloving, unkind, hateful, and or condemning. "Liberty in Christ" is being set free from our chase after morality, in order to struggle against our sin, knowing that our failures do not condemn us. However, there is a tremendous difference between struggling against sin, as opposed to willfully, and openly living in it.

I have no problem with homosexuals, and have a number of friends and family who identify as such. However, none of these folks are interested in joining the Church, and I cannot imagine why they would?
One way or another, it is you who are choosing to view their behaviour as 'sinful'; whether as a moral agent yourself or - if you pretend to deny your moral agency - then you're still making that choice by picking up on those handful of biblical injunctions against homosexuality (while perhaps choosing to bypass biblical injunctions against polyester/cotton blends, women speaking in church, slaves seeking their freedom and so on). When there is obviously nothing unloving about committed, monogamous homosexual relationships, the decision to nevertheless treat them as an abomination in the eyes of God obviously is unloving. Granted in some cases of extreme indoctrination it may not be unloving on the part of an individual Christian who hasn't yet understood that using God as a megaphone doesn't automatically turn commands of men into the yardstick for sin; but in the big picture (and presumably in most individual cases) the still-common Christian choice to uphold this particular Levitical law and this particular Pauline prejudice is clearly a decision which does not reflect love towards our gay brothers and sisters.

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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #189

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Mithrae wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 10:13 am... on one occasion at a wedding Jesus waited 'til the guests were drunk (John 2:10) and then turned some water into even more wine ...
Unless you claim mind-reading capacities, there is no way you can prove that Jesus was waiting for anything, much less for people to get drunk . The account simply says Jesus turned water into wine when it was bought to his attention that they had ran out.






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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

Post #190

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Mithrae wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 10:13 am Was planting a field with two types of crop or wearing a garment with two types of fabric sinful once upon a time (Lev. 19:19) and then stopped being sinful, or is it still wrong?

Biblically It stopped being sinful, it's no longer wrong.




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