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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:36 pm
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Are homosexual relations sinful?

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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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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:00 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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[Replying to post 1 by Mithrae]

Man, oh, man.

Quote:
Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

1 Corinthians 6:9

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
Romans 1:26-27

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.


Matthew 5:17

Quote:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. 18For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.…


If he didn't expressly revoke a law...
Like sin with forgiveness.
Like adultery by allowing an adulterer to live.
Like paying tribute to man-gods.

Then obviously Jesus upheld the law.

Unless you can show where he abrogated homosexuality, looks bad for 'em.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:35 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Mithrae wrote:

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.


As you no doubt know I don't believe in this religion. None the less I do feel that I have the right to comment on various interpretations of it since it ultimately ends up becoming a socially intrusive religion (like proclaiming that homosexual relations are a sin in the eyes of God, etc.)

In the above paragraph you propose that the Biblical God is a covenant God. I agree that the Bible makes this claim quite often. However, IMHO, this idea fails. Why? Because a covenant is an agreement between the parties involved with the covenant. In the case of the Bible there is no indication that the people actually agreed to any covenant. Especially in the New Testament.

On a personal note, I have never seen hide nor hair of any God and therefore cannot possibly have a covenant with a God that I clearly never entered into any agreement with.

So the idea that the Biblical God has a covenant with anyone doesn't appear to me to have any merit.

In this same line of thinking, for homosexual relationships to be sinful in the eyes of a covenant-oriented God this would require that the people involved in those homosexual relationships would have needed to have previously agreed with God not to enter into any homosexual relationships. I doubt that people who engage in homosexual relationships had previously agreed not to and have decided to break that agreement.

So I don't see where this interpretation of this religion makes any sense.

Never mind homosexual relationships. Many people, like myself, never entered into any covenant with any invisible Gods concerning any potential behavior at all. Therefore by "Covenant Theory" it would be impossible for me to sin at all since I never agreed to anything.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:44 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Willum wrote:

[Replying to post 1 by Mithrae]

Man, oh, man.

Quote:
Leviticus 20:13
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

1 Corinthians 6:9
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

Romans 1:26-27
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.


Matthew 5:17

Quote:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. 18For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.…


If he didn't expressly revoke a law...
Like sin with forgiveness.
Like adultery by allowing an adulterer to live.
Like paying tribute to man-gods.

Then obviously Jesus upheld the law.

Unless you can show where he abrogated homosexuality, looks bad for 'em.


As I've pointed out according to Jeremiah, the author of Hebrews and Paul himself, the entire 'old covenant' was abrogated and replaced by the new.

The second verse you've quoted above appears to be material from the Q source, but there's little reason to suppose that the first verse was ever spoken by Jesus. Luke's version of the passage does not have it, and in fact says precisely the opposite (and immediately follows it with a verse from Mark in which Jesus contradicts the Law of Moses):
    Luke 16:16The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.

    18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:49 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Divine Insight wrote:

As you no doubt know I don't believe in this religion. None the less I do feel that I have the right to comment on various interpretations of it since it ultimately ends up becoming a socially intrusive religion (like proclaiming that homosexual relations are a sin in the eyes of God, etc.)


Likewise.

Divine Insight wrote:

So I don't see where this interpretation of this religion makes any sense.

Never mind homosexual relationships. Many people, like myself, never entered into any covenant with any invisible Gods concerning any potential behavior at all. Therefore by "Covenant Theory" it would be impossible for me to sin at all since I never agreed to anything.


Well I'm not trying to express a comprehensive theology here, just pointing out that most of the biblical rules and regulations are put in terms of covenants, that the old covenant/s are obsolete, and that where the new covenant is described (Jeremiah 31:31-34) it says nothing to support the view that homosexuality or cotton/wool blends would still be forbidden.

Nevertheless I can think of a few possible responses to this point:
> That the Noahide laws represent a covenant with all the descendents of Noah (cf. Genesis 9:9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you..."). Arguable problems with this point of view are A) the notion of an ancestor (and a mythical one at that!) making a covenant on behalf of his descendants for all eternity and B) that some of these, particularly the first (establishment of laws) and the definitions of illicit sexuality, require rather strained or ambiguous interpretations of Genesis.
    Although rabbinic texts preserve various traditions about the details of this covenant, the Talmud reports the following:
    “The children of Noah were commanded with seven commandments: [to establish] laws, and [to prohibit] cursing God, idolatry, illicit sexuality, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8).”


> That most details of biblical morality are indeed a matter of covenants, but the universal law is as declared by the rabbi Hillel the Elder "That which you hate, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole of the law," or later by the apostle Paul "the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”" or by Jesus (who put "love the Lord your God" as the first, and "love your neighbour" second).

> Or even more broadly, while a particular concept of sin is necessary for those versions of Christianity which preach eternal torment in a lake of fire, it's hardly sufficient for a coherent theology even then: Besides the indoctrinated, I don't think anyone could bring themselves to believe that someone like Gandhi deserves eternal torment because of his 'sin.' But for the versions of Christianity with less absurd views - probably the best-known being hell as "separation from God" or hell as simple annihilation, the second death rather than eternal life in hell - the belief that all have sinned seems considerably less important to begin with. In those views heaven is available to those who choose it, while the alternative needn't be viewed in terms of the 'punishment for sin' metaphor, but simply a consequence of choices made. Of course, we all have done things which even by our own standards are immoral, and sin may still be as good a theological term as any to describe that - a description for our own recognized shortcomings, rather than for the judgement of a vindictive God.


Last edited by Mithrae on Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:09 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:07 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Mithrae wrote:

Well I'm not trying to express a comprehensive theology here, just pointing out that most of the biblical rules and regulations are put in terms of covenants, that the old covenant/s are obsolete, and that where the new covenant is described (Jeremiah 31:31-34) it says nothing to support the view that homosexuality or cotton/wool blends would still be forbidden.


A theological speculation that is not comprehensive hardly has much merit does it?

I still have two problems with this idea. The first being that even the stories of Noah don't have the masses agreeing to this covenant. All that basically appears to happen is that God gives his laws to Moses to give to the people. They people aren't asked if they are interested in participating in this so-called covenant. That's hardly a covenant. That would just be a one-sided monotheistic dictatorship where the God just blurts out the rules and everyone must abide by them whether they like it or not.

So I object to calling this a "covenant", even if that term is actually used in the Bible, that doesn't justify the context in which it is being used.

The second problem I have with your particular suggestion was already pointed out by Willum when he quoted Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus proclaims here that he did not come to change the laws and that not one jot or tittle shall pass from law until heaven and earth pass. This doesn't allow for a "New Covenant" anyway.

Besides, if Jesus is offering free amnesty those who accept him as their sacrificial scapegoat, then Jesus, "New Covenant" wouldn't require any laws at all. Jesus is offering forgiveness, he's not demanding obedience.

After all, if people weren't willing to obey Yahweh, why should they suddenly be willing to obey Jesus? What changed?

Jesus is all about amnesty given to those who simply ask for forgiveness. Never mind trying to be a good person on your own, it's supposedly too late for that if we are going to accept Jesus as our sacrificial lamb.

So there's no need for a "New Covenant" with Jesus in any case. It's all about forgiveness at this point, it's too late for obedience.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:40 pm
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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Divine Insight wrote:

Mithrae wrote:

Well I'm not trying to express a comprehensive theology here, just pointing out that most of the biblical rules and regulations are put in terms of covenants, that the old covenant/s are obsolete, and that where the new covenant is described (Jeremiah 31:31-34) it says nothing to support the view that homosexuality or cotton/wool blends would still be forbidden.


A theological speculation that is not comprehensive hardly has much merit does it?


It does on a forum whose purpose is to debate specific questions. Your objection was a good one, but as I showed there's at least three possible ways in which it could be answered; one invoking a Noahide covenant for all humanity, one suggesting a universal Law of love with various covenants being refinements or clarifications of it, and one offering a slightly different conception of sin as our own recognized shortcomings rather than the judgement of a vindictive God. If I were a Christian I'd probably be most partial towards the second, but they could all be made to work.

Divine Insight wrote:
The second problem I have with your particular suggestion was already pointed out by Willum when he quoted Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus proclaims here that he did not come to change the laws and that not one jot or tittle shall pass from law until heaven and earth pass. This doesn't allow for a "New Covenant" anyway.


And as I pointed out, there's every probability that Jesus didn't say that at all. In fact it would be utterly incongruous for Jesus (at the very start of his ministry no less!) to be correcting concerns which could not possibly have existed at that time: Matthew was writing in response to the later historical fact of Christian teaching about the law. The verse is problematic for Christians who believe that Matthew's words are somehow the very words of God, but as I've pointed out previously that in itself is an unbiblical doctrine (Did apostles think they were writing the 'word of God'?).

Divine Insight wrote:

So there's no need for a "New Covenant" with Jesus in any case. It's all about forgiveness at this point, it's too late for obedience.


I don't think any credible interpreter would reach that conclusion. The whole New Testament is full of warnings against immorality and sin, or admonitions towards love and obedience. The question is what constitutes sin under the new covenant?

The stuff written in Leviticus? That is clearly and explicitly rejected by the New Testament and Christians generally, since the 'old covenant' was made obsolete.

The stuff written in Romans? That's a common Christian view - but I'm pointing out that it is contrary to how Jeremiah (and Paul himself) described the new covenant.

Guided by principles such as "love your neighbour" and the golden rule, the new covenant is that "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, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jer. 31:31-34).

That's the only place in the whole bible in which the "new covenant" described as such is detailed, along with the quotation of it in Hebrews, yet in all my church-going years I don't think it was ever emphasized; perhaps because among other threats to Christian traditions, it'd do the pastors out of a job if it were Laughing

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 8: Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:25 am
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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[Replying to post 4 by Mithrae]

Quote:

As I've pointed out according to Jeremiah, the author of Hebrews and Paul himself, the entire 'old covenant' was abrogated and replaced by the new.


Pointed out quite incorrectly.
At least your interpretation seems to confirm your point, whereas any one without a bias reads it and says - it doesn't seem to be saying anything concrete.

As far as which verses of the Bible are real and which are fake, the fact that you need to pick and choose, and use verses when convenient tells me the entire document is useless. I refuse to allow you to tell me which verses to are better than another, or to accept your translation, at least not without some kind of validation.

Other than saying the Bible is all false unless you do.

Look on the bright side, reality is harsh. If God hates homosexuals, that's a pretty bitter pill, and lends itself to a harsh reality rather than a happy-go-lucky fantasy God.

Of course then you need to contend with all the other incongruities.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 9: Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:41 am
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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[Replying to Mithrae]

I think you and I have agreed in broad strokes before: faith (and sin for that matter) is more to do with failing in our relationship (i.e., covenant) with God. The unfaithful are more like adulterers than they are 'disobeyers' of the rules. (Faithful partners don't set rules for each other and judge their partners according to their adherence to them. Rather, they care for each other and work with each other toward mutual well-being and prosperity - something that no set of rules can prescribe.)

Jesus tried to return us to this radically original but also new covenant. i.e. the Jews had become law obsessed in his day through the heavily rules-based Mosaic covenant, and saw the path to God as being through following these rules (and sin as breaking them). No, Jesus says, the only path to God is through him and faithful relationships with each other.

But what I'm trying to see here is the tie to teachings against homosexuality. Clearly, if there is a specific rule in the bible (as there certainly is) against physical acts with others of the same physical gender, then this rule, to your point, is abrogated and replaced by this more original and renewed call to relational fidelity.

I think that's true.

But I do think there is more going on than that. i.e., why the bible speaks against homosexuality in the first place. Here are some of my forays of thought into what might be going on:

(1) I do think biblical stories, going back to the beginning, find differences in the male-female physical form as an extremely important metaphor. This metaphoric usefulness / importance has the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing male-female physical relationships (and roles for that matter) as the rule (even though that's not the point...).

The idea here is that there is something extremely important about our relationship to God and each other that the male-female physical form helps express. In our partnership and fidelity with each other, there is a male and a female role, i.e., there is a need for erection or uprightness (as the male physical form captures), and of providing a life-giving seed, and there is also a need for receptiveness and incubation (as the female physical form captures), and of providing a womb for that seed to grow.

This is not just about physical coupling, but is more broadly about the give and take and cross-pollination that is critical to any successful relationship in this world that is mutual and able to move toward greater life. i.e., even our relationships in debates such as this require these roles - otherwise the conversation cannot progress.

The issue, again, is when these conceptual roles in any relationship are allowed to ossify around our physical genders, gender roles, and physical coupling. i.e., when men take it to mean that they never need to be female, i.e., receptive and acted upon, and women aren't allowed to stand tall and proud in the world, i.e., erect like a man... (In fact, circumcision is such a brilliant concept because it puts this female exposure and receptiveness onto the male form... But of course, again, forcing this with a little physical snip is not the path to life - this is also metaphoric.)

(2) I think that the law (and this gets us more to the Mosaic mindset) uses a process not unlike Kant's categorical imperative. To determine a law, we need to look at what happens if universally applied, i.e., if everyone acted in the way prescribed. We need to look at what such a universal application would do to our broader goals in this world, which biblically speaking is a world flourishing with life (see Genesis 1).

So if we apply this kind of logic to physical homosexuality, such that this was 100% applied / universal, what we would conclude is that life would die out. These types of physical unions cannot beget life. Thus, they are outlawed in the Mosaic covenant (through rules) and Israel continues to struggle with homosexuality through Paul up until now.

(3) Finally, I think this relational fidelity to each other means we cannot get stuck on any physical relatedness, whether hetero- or homosexual. It's like Jesus says, to follow him we'll have to hate our mother and brother. We'll also have to hate, according to this logic, our homosexual relationships. This is reinforced by Jesus' teaching against taking wives (let alone homosexual partners), since both these teachings are against us being too preoccupied with just one other in the world (or one specific physical act). Our being too preoccupied with one will come at the cost of our care and concern for all (or at least, that is the risk).

So to follow Jesus in relational fidelity means we need to let go of those relationships that are most important to us. We need to move away from a mindset of self-preservation and caring for those who are close to us and toward a mindset of becoming true caretakers of the world. (Again, our original calling that Jesus tries to renew.) I can see teachings against homosexual unions as an extension or subset of this broader teaching.


Last edited by theophile on Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:12 am; edited 2 times in total

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 10: Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:56 am
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Re: Are homosexual relations sinful?

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[Replying to post 9 by theophile]

Well, I am sure that all the impartial observers on the forum are enjoying your bromance.

However, I am sure we all feel the same way about how you ignore what the Bible actually says, for a modern politically correct interpretation.
Assuming the Bible is true, why do you thing the truth is politically correct, and easy? Math is hard, ethics are hard, work is hard, but Biblical truth is all easy to swallow?

If interpretation is the right word. We need a word for "stretched interpretation," if it is not denial that is actually going on.

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