Monday, July 28, 2008

Is it a choice?

This is a rather informative 4 minute commercial on the homosexuality issue. It addresses:
  • Is homosexuality natural
  • Is it genetic
  • Is it curable
While it is not terribly biblical it is a fast and entertaining way to address many of the scientific issues

For those disbelieving the claims of homosexual behavior in animals here is a link to a wikipedia article and the following video from National Geographic is rather striking:

The Wikipedia article on prenatal hormones and sexual orientation contains links to Bearman- Blanchard study in the video.


Bill K said...

That was a good little video. It markets hard without trying to bring any balance - but well done.

The info I have seen on twin studies is that different ones produce results from 45-70% for the if one twin is homosexual, then the other one is as well. In comparison normal siblings are around 25%. This is unambiguous in showing that there is a genetic impact towards the heterosexual/homosexual question. Since the rate is not 100% however, this indicates that there is also a nature/choice component as well.

However, alcoholism is also genetic at least in part. And just because it is does not make us excuse the damage an alcoholic might do to themselves or others. With alcoholism, people who are higher at risk take extra precautions to avoid the behavior pattern - many even avoiding alcohol altogether to make sure they don't become alcoholic.

In the same way, homosexuality should not be defined as a mindset but as the actions you do. A person who never drinks and has never had a drink cannot be considered an alcoholic - even if they constantly fight the urge to drink.

The bible's perspective is not unambiguous here. Homosexual BEHAVIOR is a sin. In the same way heterosexual behavior outside of marriage is, or pedophilia or beastiality or pornography or ANY sexual activities or nurtured thoughts about sex that exist outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. For all of our shortcomings - and we all have them at least in the area of nurtured thoughts - Jesus' death pays for that sin if you ask God for forgiveness through Jesus. A clear passage on this is in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 "9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Jesus Christ changes people's identies from the sins they do or being sinners to that of being forgiven children of God.

CD-Host said...

Bill --

Thank you for the comment. I wouldn't agree with you that the original texts are quite that clear. I think the meaning of many of these terms is quite vague and interpretation is quite complex. But other blogs and websites have covered that well. I probably will put together a nice index on that topic at some point.

As for Jesus changing people's sexual orientation, there is little observable evidence for it. There is some evidence that a large percentage (say 1/3rd or so) of homosexual men and woman can have remain in heterosexual relationships which are usually sexually dysfunctional and damaging for both parties. Alcoholics are far more likely to be successful and moreover the behavior is far more damaging.

I think we agree on the core point that there is a strong genetic predisposition but people have some level of control. Where we do disagree is whether they should control such urges or simply redirect them into healthy homosexual relationships the same way heterosexuals do with their urges.

acme said...

An amusing and effective video.

My views have pretty much remained constant since my Bryn Mawr days. Sexual orientation falls out along a spectrum, but that God calls us to chaste living, which means no sexual activity outside of marriage. This is a form of self-control just as challenging as the other forms God asks of us: my own struggles with self-control with food, with rage, with selfishness, (with co-dependency perhaps) among others are daily crosses I bear.

So, where do we go from here?
What are healthy homosexual relationships?

My struggle with Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, is not his homosexuality--it's that he chose to have a non-sanctified relationship while still working for the Episcopal church. I would respect him more if he had chosen love over his career (and switched to a different church). But, I'm just sitting here in the cheap seats, what do I know?

CD-Host said...

Acme --

An X-SGMer who went to Bryn Mawr! Wow you went from one extreme to the other.

In terms of where we go from here I'd say a 1Cor 7, provides the answer.

1) An ongoing sexual relationship (including marriage) is damaging to one's relationship with God.

2) Sexual frustration and relational loneliness is more damaging to one's relationship with God than being in an ongoing relationship.

3) Because of this for people who will find they that cannot be content outside of a sexual relationship they should be in one where they can find happiness "better to marry than to burn with lust"

Apply the above to homosexual sex and homosexual relationships equally with heterosexual sex. One can then interpret the passages having to do with homosexual sex as being indicative of the kinds that existed at the time of the bible fornication / adultery homosexual sex. Those having to do with ritual cleanliness would still apply in the same way other verses having to do with ritual cleanliness apply, symbolically.

That is faithful to the whole council of scripture, rather than the current reading which turn 1Cor 7 on it's head. 1Cor7 could not be more explicit in teaching this balanced approach.

Bill K said...

I like the discussion this is generating!

Acme makes a good point about the call to control desires. Our culture, in contrast, espouses the fulfillment of nearly every idea or desire as good; whereas God says both that we have foolish and harmful desires (1 Timothy 6:9 – and the love of money makes it worse! Yikes for all of us in the U.S.) and that God is the source and true fulfillment of the seat of desire – relationship with/through Jesus (John 10:10, Psalm 20:4,etc)

Jesus can miraculously change people’s sexual orientation – God is omnipotent (but also a gentleman that doesn’t violate our free will). 1 Corinthians 6 doesn’t support that everyone will be so changed – instead it clearly describes that God doesn’t care about the labels we do. Only his children vs. not (yet) matters instead of gay, straight, white, black, etc. The strong self-identification of those in the homosexual community by their sexual orientation probably hinders their ability to consider themselves any other way. God can change our sexual desires if we are willing, and while they remain unchanged he calls for the action of faith to trust his morality above our own.

I disagree strongly with the exposition of 1 Cor 7. Paul shows remarkable restraint here in distinguishing between what he thinks is strategic (being single) from what is required by God. Check out "An Approach to Christian Ethics" by R. Longenecker for the inclusiveness of Paul’s message (I don't agree with his premise that Paul’s Gospel was adapted and evolving from that of the other apostles). The key verses are 1 Corinthians 7:1,2 “Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Strategically he thinks remaining single is good – but husbands and wives are a provision from God to help fight temptation. Here again the formula is each man is to have a wife and each wife a husband; not multiple wives or husbands, not homosexual relations.

The definitive texts on sexuality in the Bible are Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5 (c.f. Mark 10:8). The first is God's initial word about sexuality in perfection, prior to culture. The second is Jesus’ reaffirmation of the same theme. So even those who would debate the cultural milieu of the passage or the validity of words in the Bible that are not from Jesus the answer remains the same: The only acceptable outlet for our sexual desires is in the marriage of a man and a woman.

Thank God for grace when we fall short!

CD-Host said...

Bill --

While I addressed the question of teachings on virginity and holyness best in defense 3.

7:29 And I say this, brothers and sisters: 23 The time is short. So then those who have wives should be as those who have none, 7:30 those with tears like those not weeping, those who rejoice like those not rejoicing, those who buy like those without possessions, 7:31 those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away.

7:32 And I want you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 7:33 But a married man is concerned about the things of the world, how to please his wife, 7:34 and he is divided. An unmarried woman 24 or a virgin 25 is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband. 7:35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord.

I can't see how the text could be anymore clear that marriage induces a reduced state, and is damaging when contrasted with perpetual virginity or renewed chastity.

Bil K said...

Paul has a tricky situation – it sounds like two different opinions are sweeping the church and Paul wants to address the errors in each:
1. To be spiritual you must be married
2. To be spiritual you must remain an unmarried virgin

Let’s look at how he reinforces the correct and combats the wrong parts of each one.

Category 1:

• It is good for a man to remain unmarried v.7:1
• Marriage serves as a concession to help with immorality, and is not required v. 7:6
• He wishes all men were like him (single) v. 7:7
• It is good for those unmarried and widows to remain unmarried as Paul v. 7:8
• People should remain in the state of marriage or lack thereof as when they were called, vv:7:17-24,27
• Because of the present crisis, it is good for virgins to remain unmarried v. 7:26
• Those who marry will face troubles in this life v. 7:28
- He goes on to say in verses 29-34 that the troubles will come from the need to be single focused on Christ in a world that is passing away
• An engaged man who decides not to marry a virgin woman (as opposed to feeling forced to marry her) is not wrong – and in fact may be better off, vv. 7:37-38
• Paul thinks a widow will be happier remaining unmarried v. 7:40

He cuts off at the knees the argument that you must marry to be spiritual! However, he does something similar to the opposite argument.

Category 2:

• Because of immorality and Satan, God has provided marriage between a man and a woman as a solution vv. 7:2-5
• Celibacy is a spiritual gift that only some possess v. 7:7
• If you can’t handle being celibate, you should definitely get married v.7:9
• People who are already married should not seek to get a divorce in order to be celibate vv. 7:10-14,17-24, 27
• Getting married is not a sin, v.7:28
• Those who are married can attempt a single-minded focus on God as if they were not, even though a married man or woman has another top interest besides God vv. 7:29,32-34
• Paul does not want to restrict people from marriage. v.7:35
• Marrying the virgin you are engaged to is not a sin vv. 7:36,38
• A widow is free to marry a Christian man v. 7:39

Paul goes out of his way to dispel the myth of either the road of marriage or the road of celibacy as being the only way towards spirituality. He thinks that during the present crisis (probably the crack down of Rome on Judaism and its sects) that people are better off if they remain unmarried, but he recognizes that there are prudent reasons to marry and that to live happily in celibacy requires a spiritual gift delivered by God.

Add to this evidence 1 Corinthians 9:5 where Paul comments that the other apostles and Peter are married, 1 Timothy 4:3 where Paul calls folks hypocritical liars in part because they forbid marriage and God’s call to man in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful and increase in number. There is no great disparity in spirituality among the married and the celibate, only Paul’s concern for people during this crisis in the Roman world that their lives would be easier and more focused if they have been given the gift of celibacy and remain unmarried.

CD-Host said...

Bill --

I don't disagree with your take on the structure of the chapter. I also agree Paul doesn't consider marriage a sin. But I do think you are downplaying to some extent Paul's take here. That is your analysis is missing the diminished state marriage leaves one in.

7:29 And I say this, brothers and sisters: The time is short. So then those who have wives should be as those who have none
That is a preference for spiritual marriage (i.e. consensual chastity within marriage) over sexual marriage. He then compounds it for 2 more verses with analogies. This is not just a "you may want to try red socks rather than yellow" but rather he is giving a clear preference.

So you are correct marriage is not sin, but it is damaging.

7:34 A virgin or unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband.

That is it causes one to lose focus on God.

So I'd say that he is supporting the fact that the most spiritual state is virgin and unmarried. However sinful relations are much more damaging than marriage. So stay married and if called for it do it, but it is a net negative.

The view you are proposing of equality (while very much the current fashionable view) was considered the Jovinian heresy during most of Christian history. Read the link to defense 3 in the previous post.

Eating is not as holy as fasting.

Bill K said...

Ill check out your homosexuality article next.

I don't think celibacy in marriage is on the table here - verses 2-5 indicate that husband and wife should not withhold themselves from one another except for a limited time.

Your view of holiness is strange to me. It reminds me of the Pharisees who thought if fasting once a year on the day of atonement was good then fasting 100x as much (twice a week) was better. Similarly if tithing 10% was good then tithing 10% of the herbs is better. This same logic kind of human logic that goes beyond the requirements of God is used in churches that prohibit drinking of alcohol althogether. Since being drunk is bad, and you have to drink alcohol to get drunk - then people should be prevented from drinking at all. Eve made the same mistake when she tells the serpent that she will die if she touches the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God proclaims through Paul that there is no sin in being married. There is no other pseudo law of spiritual ranking -> anything else goes beyond God to create more restrictions on people and causes more uneccesary rebellion against God.

CD-Host said...

Bill --

Lets try this. I assume you don't consider watching TV a sin. A person, Mrs. X, is trying to decide which activity will draw them closer to God spending an hour watching TV or spending an hour in prayer. They decide prayer will be more effective.

1) Is Mrs. X incorrect in her belief and there would be no difference?

2) Assuming she is correct how does this not show that there are non sinful activities that draw one away from God to lesser or greater extents?

3) Assuming these activities do exist then what prevents spiritual marriage from being this sort of activity?

Bill K said...

"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

The type of spiritual marriage you speak of is against the words of God.

CD-Host said...

Bill --
So given this read what does verse 7:29 mean in your opinion? I also suggest you do a websearch on spiritual marriage. I know Xenos has pretty much 0 respect for church tradition so I won't start citing sources but this is not some obscure personal read of scripture I'm making.

Bill K said...

D.A. Carson's interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:29 is very helpful, see "For the Love of God, Volume I" copyright 1998. He says that there are three main interpretations of "the time is short" which is the key phrase tied to why "those who have wives should live as those who do not." (1) Paul thought Jesus was coming soon and was mistaken [Carson finds this flawed because it would mean that Bible is full of flasehoods from mistaken people]. (2) The present crisis was a time of special persecution of the church at that time [I argued this earlier, but Carson finds it flawed because it fits only the celibates but not the other groupings, and there is no evidence that the Corinthians were being persecuted]. (3) The word rendered "crisis" simply means "necessity" or "compulsion". This means that the verse insists Christians must live by the necessity of having the End in view (Christ's return). Therefore all of things mentioned like marriage, mourning or being happy can and should be experienced by Christians but never as if these things are the ultimate end in life.

I think this is a resonable exlpanation for the verse. What do you think? This thesis actually enhances my earlier argument for the passage based on structure: that Paul wants to address both errors of exalting marriage and exalting celibacy to the exclusion of the other. These Christians should exalt Christ and be content with the state/desire for marriage or non-marriage that they have. This position is the most straightforward reading of the passgae that is consistent and fits all the data.

I think you are picking and choosing which part of church tradition fit your position. If church tradition is authoritative, then homosexuality is condemned. Besides this, what sources do you cite for "spiritual marriage" being the recomendation of the church?

CD-Host said...

I don't have a problem with the 3rd interpretation either in and of itself. But that is the argument for spiritual marriage. Married people should look to Jesus not the world. As for a good source on spiritual marriage the standard is Elliot.