The Silence of Jesus and the Voice of the Apostles

Late last week Sarah Pulliam Bailey posted an interview with Marilynne Robinson. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: For Christians who hold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, do you think they’ll become a smaller group over time?

A: It’s hard to know. There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue? I bet it must have been all around him. You can get in a lot of trouble eating oysters if you are a literalist about Leviticus. I’m a great admirer of the Old Testament. It’s an absolute trove of goodness and richness. But I don’t think we should stone witches. And if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive. There are a thousand ways that we would all be doomed for violating the Sabbath and all kinds of other things, if we were literalists.

I revere Marilynne Robinson—if there’s a midnight release party at my local bookstore for her novel Lila this fall, I’ll be there—but her answer here represents so much of what I find distressing about the quality of our debates over these matters at present.

In the first place, if there is a thoughtful “traditionalist” who bases her views of the morality of same-sex sexual partnerships on Leviticus, I’m not aware of such a person. That’s just not how Christians read the Bible, and even the most rigorous social conservatives wouldn’t say that an Old Testament text, taken literally and by itself, can serve as the immediate basis for a contemporary Christian ethic. Rather, the reason Leviticus remains a part of the ongoing Christian conversation on these matters is that the New Testament exhibits a certain continuity with the Old Testament’s prohibition of same-sex sexual behavior. Which brings me to my second point.

Robinson’s answer here suggests that Jesus knew of many same-sex couples and remained silent on the ethical status of their relationships. The implication, it seems, is that if Jesus saw no need to carry forward Leviticus’ explicit prohibitions of same-sex sexual behavior, then neither should Christians today. Leaving aside the myth of a sexually tolerant Jesus that Robinson’s answer conjures, we have here—again—a misunderstanding about how traditional Christians form their ethical convictions. Contrary to the “red-letter Christians” experiment, it is simply not a classic Christian practice—among Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants—to pit the words (or silence) of Jesus over against other portions of Scripture. The unfolding of the New Testament canon presents itself as the continuation of Jesus’ speech, so much so that Paul’s words in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and elsewhere about sexual behavior are to be read as having the authority of the same Jesus who allegedly said nothing about homosexuality during his earthly life. Notice how Paul describes his identity: “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” (Galatians 1:1). There is much in Robinson’s interview about her love for John Calvin, and here is what Calvin said about this Pauline text:

It was a reproach brought… against Paul that he had held no communication with Christ, while he was on the earth. He argues, on the other hand, that, as Christ was glorified by his resurrection, so [Christ] has actually exercised his authority in the government of his church. The calling of Paul is therefore more illustrious than it would have been, if Christ, while still a mortal, had ordained him to the office. And this circumstance deserves attention; for Paul intimates that the attempt to set aside his authority, involved a malignant opposition to the astonishing power of God, which was displayed in the resurrection of Christ; because the same heavenly Father, who raised Christ from the dead, commanded Paul to make known that exertion of his power.

In other words, Paul speaks as the specially commissioned spokesperson of the risen Christ. There is an organic connection between Jesus’ teaching and the later teaching of Paul, Peter, John, James, and the other apostolic witnesses. We can argue about what Paul’s words in Romans 1 mean and debate whether they really do envision the kind of loving, monogamous same-sex partnerships we see among Christians today. But the one thing we can’t do, if we want to read Scripture the way the Church has always read it, is pretend as if the words of Jesus in the Gospels were somehow ethically definitive apart from the ministry of the risen Christ through his appointed apostles. The sooner we can retire Robinson’s point about the silence of Jesus—and retire it for the sake of a more serious debate with one another—the better.

32 thoughts on “The Silence of Jesus and the Voice of the Apostles

  1. Jesus was also “silent” about other laws against sexual immorality– like incestual relationships… Perhaps because these things were supposed to be already deeply understood. Maybe his silence shows a presumption. And his affirmation of genesis “god made them male and female” is prescriptive enough to cover all questions.

  2. If it’s serious debate you want, lets start we this little phrase, “There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ.” and go from there.

    If, as you say, same-sex relationships were routine and normal in the Hellenistic culture. What was the impetus for change? What was the one driving force that caused homosexuality to be viewed in a different light?

    Martha Nussbaum, professor of philosophy at Brown University states Judaism changed all this. It rendered the “gender of the object” very “morally problematic”; it declared that no one is “interchangeable” sexually.

    Other than the Jews, “none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se,” Dr. David E. Greenberg notes. It was Judaism alone that about 3,000 years ago declared homosexuality wrong.

    To any serious bible student, with Jesus being God, and the founder of Judaism, what He thought about homosexuality is a given.

    In The Construction of Homosexuality (the most thorough historical study of homosexuality ever written), Greenberg states: “With only a few exceptions, male homosexuality was not stigmatized or repressed”. The exceptions were Jewish.

    The revolutionary nature of Judaism’s prohibiting all forms of non-marital sex was nowhere more radical, more challenging to the prevailing assumptions of mankind, than with regard to homosexuality.

    Where sexuality in the ancient world was pretty much “anything goes”, Judaism placed controls on it. Judaism restricted it to the bed of a husband and wife.

    Jesus was a Jew speaking to other Jew’s in this the bigger context, so if you can say “He never mentioned anything about homosexuality”, I would say you have failed to grasp the bigger picture. He spoke volumes about sexuality.

    Like Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun”. Certainly not long term commitments or loving someone or sexual perversions of every kind.

    • Just to clarify something that you say, really quoting, “With only a few exceptions, male homosexuality was not stigmatized or repressed.” This really was only true if the male was in the dominant, or ‘male,’ position. If the male was the ‘receiver,’ or ‘female,’ in the sex act, this was frowned upon. So male homosexuality was accepted in as much as you were still acting like a male.

      • maryfaber, you are Correct… on all counts…just follow the quotes.

        Sex (all sex) was understood fundamentally not as interaction, but as a doing of some thing to someone…

        You are still however left with the same question and answer. What was the major catalyst for the changing attitude?

        Ethical monotheism? Judaism?

        If that is in fact the case, then we can know what Jesus thought on the subject, and have a more serious debate, which I thought was the subject.

        “The sooner we can retire Robinson’s point about the silence of Jesus—and retire it for the sake of a more serious debate with one another—the better.”

  3. I’ve never understood the argument that pro-SSM advocates make regarding the sayings of Jesus. How many times have we heard stories about the Jesus seminar and how “most” scholars think most of Jesus’s sayings in the Gospels are fabricated and inauthentic? Even if Jesus had said something explicit against SSM, I imagine that statement would be dismissed as an inauthentic statement anyways.

  4. Under this argument (as JD alludes to), Jesus also would have had no problem with limiting marriage to a male/female union, as the culture he was directly addressing did so.

    In other words, I tell angry revisionists to blame Jesus for not whipping non-affirming Jewish culture into line with affirming Greco-Roman culture.

  5. I agree that the argument from Jesus’ silence is weak, but it’s no weaker than the contrary arguments that evangelicals rely upon in condemning same-sex relationships–arguments that rely far more on anti-gay animus than on any cogent argument drawn from Scripture.

    Besides, if only Jewish culture forbade homosexual conduct, wouldn’t that bolster the suggestion that such prohibitions are not intrinsic to the natural order and may lie more closely in line with prohibitions on eating pork and shellfish?

    I don’t see Robinson as saying anything more than that the public language of same-sex marriage opponents is far more sweeping than anything found in Scripture, including the Pauline portions. The Biblical case against committed same-sex relationships may be stronger than the Biblical case for such relationships, but it’s still a thin argument.

    As a Presbyterian, I believe that the church ought to condemn officially only conduct that is unequivocally condemned by Scripture. In the same way, I believe that the church ought only to promote activities that are unequivocally commanded by Scripture. Therefore, given the thinness of the case against committed same-sex relationships, I see no reason for the church to bind the consciences of individual Christians on the issue. That being said, given that the case for committed same-sex relationships is also thin, I see no warrant for the church to impart its official blessing on such relationships. It’s not clear to me why this intermediate position (which is more consistent with Scripture) can’t win out. Instead, it seems that we have to choose between the untenable poles of unconditional condemnation and unconditional affirmation. Scripture would probably have us be somewhere in between.

    For the record, I’m a celibate gay Christian. I also don’t smoke. But I have no problems worshipping with committed same-sex couples and smokers. I just wish that I could find an small-o orthodox church that believed the same way.

  6. Bobby, I don’t think the case against same-sex relationships in Scripture is thin. Nor do I necessarily think Jesus was silent on the matter. It’s quite possible Jesus did, in fact, implicitly refer to homosexuality. We see this Matthew 15:17-20 where Jesus says:

    “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

    What does not defile? Failure to wash hands before eating.

    What does defile? “Adulteries” and “fornications”.

    Some gay-affirming theologians use this passage to argue that Jesus did away with ritual purity laws, and because they interpret Levitical law as largely purity related, same-sex relationships are no longer condemned. But, Jesus made a distinction between ritual purity exercises and sexual conduct. He clearly defines what defiles a person, and included in the list are two explicit references to sexual misconduct—adulteries and fornications. Jesus blatantly taught and promoted sexual ethics. So how does this relate to homosexuality? The word translated “fornications” is porneia (plural). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this term referred primarily to “harlotry” or extra-marital sex. However, in later Judaism, including at the time of Jesus, the word had come to mean general sexual immorality of all kinds. And, same-sex intercourse is one of the acts attested in this usage (Hauck & Shulz pp. 579-595).

    Jesus was a Jewish rabbi addressing a question posed by Jewish religious leaders. He was discussing Jewish faith and practice. So, what did the Jews consider sexual immorality? Torah and rabbinic commentary tell us; male-male intercourse is on the list of prohibited acts. It seems highly improbable that Jesus would be speaking to Jewish leaders and refer to sexual immorality and not have in mind *the* primary codes in Torah related to sexual behavior, namely, Leviticus 18 and 20. Both codes prohibit same-sex intercourse. Thus, when Jesus referred to porneia he included what the Jews considered to be sexual immorality. And that means he implicitly referenced homosexual behavior as one of the acts that defile a person.

    Beyond this implicit reference to the prohibition to homosexuality, Jesus also affirmed the heterosexuality of marriage. Jesus tied procreation to marriage. When his disciples suggest that marriage is too difficult if one cannot get divorced he refers to those who are, instead, eunuchs for the Kingdom (Matthew 19:11-12). He not only refers to those made eunuchs forcibly by others, as well as those who make themselves eunuchs, but also acknowledges birth defect of the genitals. In referring to eunuchs to make his point, he commented on procreation/anatomical complementarity in relation to marriage. Similarly, Luke 20:34-36 states: “Jesus said to them, `The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels.'” The reason Jesus gives that there will be no marriage in the eternal state is because there is no longer death. Procreation is not necessary where there is no death. Procreation in antiquity was a means of living on in your offspring as your name and legacy were passed down. By again connecting marriage with procreation, Jesus affirmed that marriage is very much about anatomical complementarity. Jesus assumes that if procreation is a moot point, then so is marriage. They go together.

    Jesus also emphasizes the creation of male and female when he discusses marriage. In Matthew 19 when Jesus spoke about divorce he could have quoted Genesis 2:24 by itself-about a man leaving his mother and father to become one flesh (and thus they should not be divorced). That was the only verse he needed to make his point. But he doesn’t just refer to Genesis 2, he makes an extra reference to Genesis 1:27 where it states that God created them “male and female.” Jesus purposely highlighted gender when defining marriage. And, Jesus interprets Genesis 1 and 2 together.

    (Note: this last part is adapted from a review I did of Matthew Vines book on Amazon. Matthew actually inadvertently provides the evidence to refute his own argument since he acknowledges that the meaning of the term “unnatural” was connected to non-procreative sex. In other words, Scripture condemns same-sex relations on the grounds of anatomical complementarity and all that that encompasses: procreation which is the the creation of family, kinship networks, and community. Male and female matter. God was intentional about how human beings were created.)

    • Karen,

      I’d call that a thin argument. It may be more plausible that Vines’s SSM-affirming argument, but it’s still thin. You’re having to read a lot into the text that isn’t necessarily there, e.g., making assumptions about Jesus’s mental state and his subjective reasons for saying certain things in the way that he did.

      Further, you seem to be confusing the question of whether the church ought to grant same-sex ecclesial marriages with the question of whether the church should discipline gay couples involved in a same-sex civil marriage. You’re assuming that a negative answer to the former question necessarily requires a positive answer to the latter. That isn’t so. Matthew 19 only addresses the former question. On that point, I agree with you. I don’t believe that the church should grant same-sex ecclesial marriages. For the same reason, I don’t believe that the church should grant opposite-sex ecclesial marriages that are preceded by divorce. One could also reasonably argue that the church shouldn’t grant opposite-sex ecclesial marriages when the couple cannot naturally procreate.

      That doesn’t mean that other forms of civil commitments between persons are necessarily sinful in every instance. It just means that such commitments are disqualified for ecclesial blessing. In fact, the reference to Moses’s permitting divorce in Matthew 19 suggests that departures from the creational ideal are not necessarily sinful, even if they are unworthy of ecclesial blessing.

      In my view, Vines and Brownson make the same mistake that Gagnon makes. They all set up a false dichotomy between unconditional affirmation of same-sex relationships and unconditional condemnation of same-sex relationships, and attack the position with which they disagree. They ignore that the opposite position is similarly weak. You’re doing much the same thing.

      I, like a number of gay Christians, have elected not to enter into a same-sex relationship. I do so in obedience to my conscience. Still, I don’t believe that Scripture is sufficiently clear on this issue to warrant the exercise of discipline against those who in good conscience enter into same-sex relationships. At the same time, I’m not persuaded that the church ought to place its ecclesial blessing on such relationships.

      • Bobby,

        All Karen did was put the words of Christ in the cultural context were they belong. This is hardly a thin argument. As we all know words have and need context. Without it you cannot interpret. Also the distinction between “civil” and ” religious” is a fairly new one. It certainly didn’t exits in the time of Christ on this earth.

      • Rosa

        It is a thin argument because Karen is making assumptions about Christ’s motivations. “He mentioned gender but didn’t have to during his talk about divorce” is not a smoking gun – it is an assumption and reading arguably way to far into Christ’s intent when he spoke on the topic.

        The fact is, the pro-gay theology is strong. If it wasn’t, then it would have been soundly defeated already and there would be no Pete Enns, Matthew Vines, and many others. We can claim that it was complimentary that was at the heart of Romans 1. We can also equally claim that it referenced temple prostitution and that prohibition against immoral sex acts by Christ were in reference to the rape-based quality that much of Hellenic culture carried in relationships. All of these claims have equal authority (unless you are Catholic, of course).

  7. Hi Bobby,

    If Jesus who was Jewish was speaking to Jewish religious leaders about Jewish sexual ethics and he used a term that in his time period including same-sex acts, how is that thin? It would be mental gymnastics to think that Jesus excludes a major piece of Jewish teaching on sexual ethics when he is talking about that very subject matter. At minimum it is a reasonable conclusion to consider.

    Also the distinction you make between civil and ecclesial marriage is completely modern. The real question is what is ontological? How did God create the world and humanity? And if God created the world to work a certain way and declared it “good” then who are we to reject the authority of God and create our own way of doing things? We are to be a light to the world and to live into redemption. Why would we encourage people to pursue a particular relationship by creating artificial distinctions between civil and ecclesial?

    Civil same-sex unions might be permitted on the basis of living in a pluralistic society. But trying to make a theological or spiritual argument based on such an artificial distinction does not make any sense to me.

    Granted, if you are uncertain in your belief its understandable that it would be difficult to name as sin same-gender sexual relationships among those who are affirming. But if you truly believe that sexual relationships between the same gender are sin, and sin leads to death, I am unclear as to how you can treat it as unproblematic.

    You write:” In fact, the reference to Moses’s permitting divorce in Matthew 19 suggests that departures from the creational ideal are not necessarily sinful, even if they are unworthy of ecclesial blessing.”

    Yet, Jesus makes the point that it *IS* problematic that the Israelites’ hearts were hard. And Jesus improves on the Mosaic teaching by, in fact, naming divorce as sin. You would have to ignore Jesus’ teaching to arrive that Jesus did not think divorce was sin (except for infidelity). And you would have to ignore that Jesus makes a negative assessment of the Israelite hearts. Hard hearts are a problem to God. This “ecclesial blessing” idea is foreign to the text. The problem is hard hearts. And all hard hearts need to be changed to contrite hearts that conform to the will of God.

    • Karen,

      You seem to be ignoring the point I’m making. There are all kinds of “modern” things that Scripture does not address in any unambiguous way. For example, consider the propriety of viewing R-rated movies. Scripture may provide broad principles to guide us in developing our personal convictions on these matters. But when Scripture gives no unambiguous answer, the church has no business seeking to bind the consciences of believers on such matters. It is better left to the individual believer’s conscience. I recognize that this analysis may sound foreign to those from more pietistic strands of Protestantism. But it’s a principle that’s firmly rooted in Presbyterian and Reformed thought.

      As I noted above, I don’t see that Scripture provides any explicit, unambiguous prohibition against committed same-sex relationships. Scripture does give us some broad principles that are relevant. I’m personally convicted that those principles counsel against such relationships, although the case is far from explicit and unambiguous. (Just because an argument is reasonable doesn’t mean that it’s explicit and unambiguous.) Therefore, in my view, the church has no business seeking to bind gay Christians’ consciences on the propriety of such relationships. It is better left up to the consciences of individual believers.

      • Hi Bobby,

        You can make three possible arguments when it comes to the morality of any behavior:

        1) Jesus allows the behavior because it is good
        2) Jesus allows the behavior because it is neither good nor bad
        3) Jesus disallows the behavior because it is bad

        I think each one of these options are mutually exclusives. Only one is right. Karen has shown a valid argument on why Jesus disallows same sex sexual acts. I believe there is no possible argument to say that he considered this behavior as neutral or good.

        God bless,


      • Bobby, thanks for the clarification. I think the issue is that we disagree on whether or not the prohibition is ambiguous. For me its pretty difficult to get around the fact that Jesus clearly ties marriage to anatomical complementarity as does Paul. The biblical witness sees procreation as an essential aspect of the definition of marriage. You might disagree with Jesus and Paul on this and assert that its not essential, as long as you realize you are rejecting Jesus and Paul, as well as church tradition until recent times. Many Protestants have bought into the sexual revolution and the notion that marriage is primarily about pleasure and companionship. But that not what Scripture teaches. Scripture ties marriage to procreation in addition to kinship and sexual release.

      • Rosa,

        They may be mutually exclusive categories, but that doesn’t mean that you know which of the three applies in any given situation. My point is that the church should only seek to bind the conscience of the believer when it is 99.9999999999999% sure that #3 applies. Otherwise, the church should leave it up to the individual believer to decide through the free exercise of his or her conscience.

    • PS: to clarify the biblical authors translate Jesus words using porneia. Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic not Greek. We have access to Jesus’ words and their meaning through the witness of the biblical authors.

      • Karen,

        As I’m sure you’re aware, there is substantial uncertainty regarding the meaning and scope of the New Testament’s writers’ use of the word “porneia.” Moreover, the term has often been construed more broadly that sound exegesis would support. For example, the term has often been construed to forbid premarital heterosexual sex, while the historical record is clear that it cannot mean that. Premarital sex, after all, did not fall into general disfavor until the 1700s.

  8. “Premarital sex, after all, did not fall into general disfavor until the 1700s.”


    Your claim is that the Jews thought sex between unmarried people was licit? What is meant by a “harlot” in Jewish literature, then, or “the woman who is a snare”? Is your position that these phrases refer exclusively to adultery?

    Moreover, Paul says that “it is better to marry than to burn”. But I don’t understand. If sexual desire can be happily indulged before marriage, why would he say such a thing?

    The term “porneia” means gross sexual misconduct. It is not ambiguous — though it does require historical study to figure out what practices the Jews thought were gross sexual misconduct. Fornication was surely one of them.

  9. Bobby, I am not sure what revisionist history you are reading but the idea that premarital sex did not fall into disfavor until the 1700s is absurd. The fact is that prior to the early 1900s and the development of greater contraceptive technology, sex almost always meant babies. And having babies out of wedlock was a huge stigma for women. Fifty percent of all pregnancies in America are unplanned today–so even with all our contraceptive technology people still cannot separate procreation from sex! Not to mention the more than 1 million abortions performed each year in the U.S. alone.

    Also, regardless of the term porneia of which there has been attestation of same-sex conduct–even if we say we are uncertain, it does not erase the fact that Jesus was talking to Jewish leaders about Jewish sexual ethics. And there really isn’t any ambiguity regarding the Levitical proscriptions held by the Jewish community.

    Furthermore, you have not addressed Jesus’ and Paul’s expectation that openness to procreation was a fundamental aspect of the definition of marriage. Scripture teaches and expects anatomical complementarity.

    • Regarding premarital sex, see John Witte’s book. Also, check out the Wikipedia page on “formication” as a start.

      Again, you seem to be missing the point of this discussion. You believe that anatomical complementarity is most consistent with the Biblical text. I concede that it’s a cogent argument. But it has glaring shortcomings, which is why I question the propriety of seeking to bind others’ consciences on this issue.

      As I said above, I’m a celibate gay Christian who has elected not to engage in a same-sex relationship. Still, I have no desire to impose my private convictions onto others. It’s not clear to me why you insist on arrogating yourself into the position of a theological bully, making yourself the judge of others’ consciences. You may believe that anatomical complementarity is the most consistent explanation of the Biblical text. But you cannot ignore the glaring weaknesses of this position–weaknesses which are thoroughly discussed in Brownson’s recent book. Seeking to bind others’ consciences in the face of such weaknesses strikes me as an evil far greater than anything occurring in a same-sex relationship.

      The ease with which you establish yourself as the judge of gay people makes me wonder whether you’re gay. If you’re not, you don’t really belong here. We don’t really need trolls around here who are masking their anti-gay bigotry as alleged spiritual concern.

      • “Bully”, “judge,” “troll,” “anti-gay bigotry.” Good grief. Is that what you have to say in an intellectual discussion when someone asks you to support your arguments? I thought we were having an engaging debate. But apparently, the productivity of it has ceased. May God bless you and guide you Bobby as you seek to follow him.

        PS: Not that I am obligated to say so, nor required to be so in order to comment on this blog: yes, I am gay.

    • Also, I’ll respond to the “openness to procreation” when you can demonstrate that Scripture addresses that as opposed to procreation. If you accept anatomical complementarity, then marriage is for procreation, not for “openness to procreation.”

      There is no need to debate the merits of anatomical complementarity here. I generally agree with the criticisms proffered by Brownson. I recognize that his criticisms come from more of a Reformed/Presbyterian perspective, and may not be accepted by those from more pietistic traditions. But that’s another discussion.

      I worship in a conservative Reformed church that’s about 20% gay. We’re split about 50-50 on the propriety of same-sex relationships, and live in peace within the same church. I don’t see why this can’t serve as a broader model. This is something that we should just leave up to the consciences of individual believers, much like the decision of whether or not to smoke, consume alcohol, and the like.

      • Without going into the debate, I don’t see how marriage can be left up to the individual. A marriage has the element of the church and family promising to support the new couple.

        With gay marriage, the question must be asked “does the church bless this?” Marriage is fundamentally NOT an individual endeavor: nor something individuals alone gather to see the union thereof.

        So while you may say “We can disagree on this issue” what happens when a gay couple says to the minister: “We would like to have a ceremony, a marriage, in this church?” The minister must decide if he / she will officiate it– AND the church must decide if they bless it.

        Marriage, like Baptism, requires at least a base-level of agreement for the church to function. This is theologically, as well as practically, true.

        Moreover, “we don’t take a side; figure it out on your own” isn’t so comforting to the 14 year old asking who things he may be gay an is looking for guidance on what that life looks like following Jesus.

        I’ll leave comments on “porneia” and whether sex outside of marriage is condemned in scripture, not to mention the NT view of sexuality, for other users. I think it’s well covered in other places….

      • You can only be opened to procreation as children are a gift from God and He doesn’t promise this gift just because you marry.

        When you get marry, besides very specific cases, you can’t know for sure if you will be granted the gift of children. I know, me and my husband have not had a biological child but a beautiful adopted daughter. Doctors can’t point point the problem. As far as I’m concern it can still happen, although we have been married for 20 years and open to procreation.

        One can only be open to the gifts from God as no one can force Him to give them.

  10. It’s interesting how I keep hearing all sorts of wildly contradictory thoughts from Christians about acceptance of homosexuality in the ancient world. On one hand, I’ve heard conservative Christians say that anti-gay attitudes are common throughout all major ancient societies, even Greece/Rome, and it’s only us silly modern Westerners who are ok with homosexuality. But now I’m reading ppl on this site say that anti-gay attitudes are a unique innovation of Judaism. ‘

    In any case, I don’t think I can entirely agree on the idea that it was “Judaism alone that about 3,000 years ago declared homosexuality wrong.” First, there is only one passage in Leviticus that condemns sex between males. The rest of the OT doesn’t directly address the issue, including Deuteronomy, which otherwise replicates much of the same sexual code as Leviticus. Unless you believe in strict Mosaic authorship of the entire pentateuch, it would be difficult to determine when exactly the Judaism’s anti-gay attitude (as found in Leviticus) originated. Saying it dates back 3000 years is highly speculative, especially given that most Biblical scholars don’t think Leviticus was completed until the Persian period around the 6th-4th centuries BC. Speaking Persia, it’s worth pointing out that Zoroastrianism isn’t too keen on homosexuality, either.

    Also, Karen K, what evidence do you have for your assertion “the reason Jesus gives that there will be no marriage in the eternal state is because there is no longer death”? Your whole attempt to assert that Jesus was trying to link marriage to procreation seems extraordinarily speculative and ultimately just amounts to nothing more than your own opinion. Likewise, when Paul accepts that some ppl should marry, it is so that they avoid “burning in passion,” not so they should be open to childbearing. Nowhere in the discourse on marriage in Ephesians 5:22-23 is procreation mentioned, either.

  11. AAG: its true my comments here amount to nothing more than my opinion. 🙂 I am not sure what else a comment here could be defined as!

    You ask: “Also, Karen K, what evidence do you have for your assertion “the reason Jesus gives that there will be no marriage in the eternal state is because there is no longer death”?”

    Its because Jesus says in the eschaton people “neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore.” (Luke 20:34-35).

    So, the reason I give for my assertion is because Jesus specifically states this per the quote from Luke.

    The procreation aspect is not a stretch. But I will leave that to you to study commentaries and church history if you want to learn more about why “they cannot even die anymore” is linked to not marrying anymore. Procreation was seen as how life continues and perpetuates itself so that the human species does not become extinct. But with immortality there is not risk of extinction and thus procreation is no longer needed to perpetuate humanity’s existence. This is not my own opinion alone. But again, there is plenty out there on this if you want to explore it further.

    As for Paul’s statement about marrying so as to burn. I completely agree and I believe I even referred to this in my comment above. Scripture gives three primary reasons for marriage: kinship, sexual release, and procreation. However, even though marriage is more than procreation, it is never less than procreation. Procreation is always an essential aspect of the definition. I already discussed that above. Paul clearly indicates that he sees same-sex intercourse as “unnatural” per Romans 1. He saw it as “unnatural” because it was non-procreative (as did many others in antiquity including his contemporary Philo).

    As for Judaism alone being against same-sex acts, I won’t try to defend that because its not my assertion and I think its a problematic assertion. We too often in the Church have painted the ancient Near Eastern “pagans” as completely morally corrupt which is simply not true. Certainly there were morality issues, but many ancient Near Eastern cultures also had strong views around marriage and family.

    • It looks like the conversation has moved forward a bit, in that you’ve at least admitted that your views are nothing more than opinions–opinions that rest largely on pretty speculative assumptions.

      I conceded that anatomical complementarity is a cogent argument. In response, you seem to be demanding that I admit that it’s the ONLY cogent argument. That’s why I referred to you as a bully. As you’ve admitted, the Biblical text is simply too ambiguous to demonstrate that anatomical complementarity is the ONLY cogent argument.

      I disagree with Matthew Vines on a number of points. But I have no interest in shouting him down, e.g., going onto Amazon and giving his book a low rating merely because you disagree with his argument (as you and other same-sex marriage opponents have done). We need to have this discussion, and we need to make sure that all arguments are given a fair and open hearing. In that process, we should be more willing to listen to others, and less interested in promoting our own views. The “Side B” folks have had ample opportunity to speak, and have been the longtime darlings of the religious right. I think it’s time to let guys like Vines speak, and give ourselves 2-3 years to mull over what he’s saying. Jumping down his throat a week after his book published strikes me as indicative of ax-grinding and bullying. That’s all I’m saying. He raises some cogent points, and it’s worth giving ourselves 2-3 years (or more) to think about them. It’s not clear to me why you militate so strongly against showing others such grace.

      • Bobby–I don’t have anything more that I think would be constructive to this conversation. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. I do find it puzzling that you find disagreement with Vines to be so upsetting. Anyone who puts out a book can expect to have it critiqued. And I gave it 3 stars which is not a low rating. Its simply average. As for giving Vine’s views 2-3 more years before making assertions–I suspect I may be a little older than you as I have already spent 20 years thinking through this, and most of what Vines presents, as he acknowledges, is research that has been around for awhile. He puts older research into a more accessible form. Perhaps, its the nature of communicating via text/blog form instead of in person but it seems that you have misunderstood my tone. Either that or you are disturbed on the basis that I am simply critiquing Vines or offering my opinion. In that case I don’t feel a need to apologize for engaging the issues.

        I do sincerely hope that God continues to guide you as you process through things. It sounds you are at a place where you desire a few more years to think through things. There is nothing wrong with that. I am simply not in that same place. Although over the years I have certainly questioned and processed things and I continue to learn. In fact, I haven’t engaged on the issue as much in the past four years because of some things I was processing. But having come out of that period and the things I learned in my searching and praying I have more of a concern that Vines work is going to ultimately harm people spiritually. You don’t have to agree with me on that of course. But I do think God’s ways are intended for our well-being and that teaching which goes against truth is hurtful to people. For that reason its not something I can be neutral on.

      • Karen,

        I’m not sure that we should ever be at a point where we can’t stop and take some period of time to consider what people have to say, especially on this issue. I’m sorry to inform you: We’re not having this discussion merely to address where you are in your life. If you want to take the attitude that you’ve made up your mind and that you’re going to ignore all contrary arguments from here on out, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t pretend that you’re engaging in this discussion in good faith…because you’re not. If you’re looking for a place to grind axes rather than engage in discussion, you may want to look elsewhere., e.g., Denny Burk’s blog.

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