Sunday, August 26, 2012

So You Still Think Homosexuality is Sinful? Yes. I Do.

Here are three things you may or may not know about me:

1. I believe homosexuality is clearly portrayed in the Bible as a morally impermissible style of life.
2. I like graphs, flowcharts, and especially infographics as a means of communicating information.
3. I think George Takei is a very funny fellow.

The first item is easily observable from other posts on this blog.  The second item you may have realized after you read this post.  The third item is a lesser known fact about me.  I peruse George Takei's Facebook page on a regular basis because he quite frequently posts amusing pictures (especially ones pertaining to nerdy sci-fi stuff) on his page.  It's also no secret that Mr. Sulu is an outspoken homosexual who advocates for gay rights constantly.  Be that as it may, I like his sense of humor most of the time.

So what do those three tidbits about me have to do with one another?  Well, as I was perusing the images on Takei's page this evening, I came across the flow chart you see below.  It's a chart that supposedly details why all of the reasons for a biblical view of marriage are not logically viable for standing against homosexuality in general, and gay marriage in specific.  I've said before on this blog that the Christian argument against the homosexual lifestyle and for the sanctity of marriage needs to begin and end with the word of God.  We are not pragmatists.  Quoting statistics and citing studies will not "win the day" in this conversation.  Because as soon as we cite a study or statistic, a different study will be published whose findings will contradict ours.  There needs to be an objective standard that we can appeal to - one that appeals to a higher authority than social or political science.  In other words, when it comes to this issue (and all issues, actually), we need to ask the question, "What does God say?"

The chart below attempts to counter "what God says" by attempting to show that "what God says" is not good enough, or is out of date, or is meant for another time and another place.  The problem with this chart is that whoever created it lacks an understanding of biblical hermeneutics.  It's ripe with misinterpretations and misunderstandings of how biblical interpretation works.  It's important for Christians, then, to be able to utilize good hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation) in order to be able to explain why the reasons expressed by this chart are not an accurate representation of what the Bible says.  I'd like to break this chart down piece by piece.  So get to the chart already!  OK, here it is (click to enlarge):

The chart asks, "So you still think homosexuality is sinful?" and then breaks the answer to the question down to two possible answers: "Yes" and "No."  If the answer is "Yes," then there's a follow up question: "Why?" followed by several supposed possible biblical justifications as to why a person might believe homosexuality is sinful according to the Bible.  So let's break these down.  I'll address each of the (errant) "Why" answers.

Reason: Because Jesus said so!
Chart Response: Not true.  Jesus never uttered a word about same-sex relationships.
My Response: Is it true that "Jesus never uttered a word about same-sex relationships"?  I suppose so.  But this response is painfully unaware of what Jesus said about marriage relationships in general.  In fact, Jesus affirms that marriage is between one man and one woman (Matthew 19.3-9).  How did the creator of this chart not know about this passage?  It clearly identifies Jesus' understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman, and not two people of the same gender.  Also, it could be argued that Jesus did in fact say all kinds of things about same-sex marriages, if we want to argue that he inspired the words of all scripture (which we should).  Therefore, although you won't find any red letters that state that homosexuality is a sin, you will find plenty of black ones.  And those ones were authored by God.  Which Jesus is.  So in a roundabout way, he did say quite a bit about homosexuality.

Reason: Because the Old Testament said so!
Chart Response: The OT also says it's sinful to eat shell fish, to wear clothes woven with different fabrics, and to eat pork.  Should we still live by OT laws?
My Response: No, we shouldn't live by Old Testament laws.  Those laws were given to a specific group of people, in a certain time and place, who were living within the bounds of a certain covenant with God (a different covenant than we live in today, which is very important to understand).  The laws that were given to the people in the OT reflect all of these different elements of their relationship with God listed above.  The prohibition against homosexuality is not just an Old Testament one, however (as we'll see in a minute), and frankly, arguing for moral standards from the Old Testament law is unwise for the exact reasons I've just listed - they don't apply to us because they weren't given to us.  They were given to ancient Israel.  In the Old Testament we can see how God relates to people in general, and we can learn much about God and ourselves from it, but we can't apply Old Testament laws to our modern day situations.  This is a bad argument and should not be used in the homosexuality/gay marriage dialogue.

Reason: Because the New Testament says so!
Chart Response: The original language of the NT actually refers to male prostitution, molestation, or promiscuity, not committed same-sex relationships.  Paul may have spoken against homosexuality, but he also said that women should be silent and never assume authority over a man.  Shall modern-day churches live by all of Paul's values?
My Response: First of all, this response is self-refuting.  The Chartmaker says that the original language of the NT does not speak directly about homosexuality, but then says "Paul may have spoken against homosexuality, but..."  Well which is it?  Did he speak against homosexuality or didn't he?  You can't tell from this response.  My position is that Paul did indeed speak against homosexuality multiple times (see here and here for a couple examples).  I find it laughable that the maker of this chart would imply that these instances refer to other behaviors than homosexuality.  Even by the Chartmaker's own admission, the original word used may refer to male prostitution.  Who usually hires male prostitutes?  Women?  Nope.  It's men.  Last time I checked, men hiring male prostitutes was...homosexuality.  The second part of his objection is that Paul's values are supposedly patriarchal and out of date.  When properly understood, and when considering cultural differences between us and Paul and his audience, however, we get a much different picture than what the Chartmaker wants you to think.  He has obviously not consulted the whole testimony of scripture to gain a proper understanding of what Paul meant by these statements (see this post for more information on a biblical understanding of gender roles).  Moreover, even if Paul was a patriarchal chauvinist, that doesn't necessarily mean that what he has said about homosexuality is untrue (at least from a point of view that does not hold the Bible to be the inspired word of God).  In other words, just because he's (supposedly) wrong about one thing doesn't make him necessarily wrong about another.  You need to show how he is wrong about that issue independently, which the Chartmaker's response does not.  This is what's known as a logical fallacy.

Reason: Because God made Adan and Eve, not Adam and Steve!
Chart Response: That was when the earth wasn't populated.  There are now 6.79 billion people. Breeding clearly isn't an issue anymore!
My Response: Apparently the Chartmaker is referring to an objection that asserts that the human race will suffer from a lack of procreation as a result of homosexuality.  He says this isn't a concern, since there are almost seven billion people on the planet.  OK, fair enough.  But that misses the point.  God created male and female in order to adequately reflect his image.  Moreover, scripture teaches that the relationship that takes place between a man and a woman in marriage images the relationship between Christ and his church.  Again, gender roles are significant in the Bible, and in life.  In order for marriage to "work" and do what it was designed to do, according to the Bible it must be between a man and a woman (Ephesians 5.22-33).

Reason: Because the Bible clearly defines marriage as one-man-one-woman!
Chart Response: Wrong.  The Bible also defines marriage as one man many women, one man many wives and concubines, a rapist and his victim, and a conquering soldier and female prisoner of war.
My Response: This argument is tired and old, and of the arguments listed on this chart, this one most significantly reveals the Chartmaker's lack of an understanding of how to interpret the Bible.  So listen close: just because the Bible relays stories of people who had many wives, or kings who had hundreds of wives, or rapists who took their victim as a wife, it does not mean that these models are God's preferred or "designed" model for marriage.  In fact, we could say that each of these people were sinning in their marital activities, and that God was not pleased with them.  I've dealt with this objection before, when it was unfortunately leveled by a professor of mine at a Baptist seminary, so I won't go into it in length here.  Moreover, what is often misunderstood is that instances where men took women as a wife as a result of a war, a death of a relative, or even as a result of rape, was an act of mercy.  In the place and time that biblical history occurred, a single woman was not able to provide for herself without the care of a male (it's just a fact, not a social commentary).  So if a conquering soldier came across a woman who was dispossessed by the battle, it was an act of mercy for him to take her as a wife.  Even a victim of rape, because of her status of having been raped, would have been shunned by society.  Forcing the man to take her as a wife is an act of mercy.  Does this excuse the rapist?  By no means.  There were certainly measures of justice in place for sexual sin in biblical history.  I know it might sound strange, and maybe even a bit hard to accept, but when interpreting scripture we need to remember the time, place, and setting in which the stories occurred and the laws were given.

Reason: Because it just disgusts me, dangit!
Chart Response: Props for being honest.  However, a whole population of people shouldn't have their families discriminated against just because you think gay sex is icky.  Grow up!
My Response:  A couple thoughts here: 1) The Chartmaker is correct in asserting that this is not an adequate reason for being against the homosexual agenda.  It's obviously not natural (anatomically speaking), but we need to face reality: some people prefer same-sex relationships.  Saying that it's gross, deviant, or unnatural is ultimately no reason to condemn it.  This is why we need to begin and end this conversation with the word of God and nothing else.  Although the Chartmaker will apparently give you "props" for being honest.  2) I'm continually flabbergasted by the gay community's insistence that disagreement with their agenda and lifestyle is discrimination.  This is a scary notion for anyone who believes the Bible, as Christians will be continually and more aggressively referred to as being discriminatory and hateful.  More unfortunately is that this does nothing for the propagation of civilized conversation about this issue.  The moment we accuse each other of hate, "intolerance," and discrimination, the conversation is over.  I've dealt with the "Tolerance Buzzsaw" on this site before, here, here, and here.

So those are the responses offered by the chart, and my responses, hopefully showing how the Chartmaker's responses do not represent an accurate interpretation of what the Bible says.  It should also be noted that the chart is designed in a logically fallacious way, in that the only two options left to those who would progress through it are either an endorsement of the homosexual agenda, or to be characterized as a knuckle-dragging buffoon that loves to oppress women, discriminate against people willy-nilly, and is living in the dark ages.  Really?  Are those really the only two options?  I think not.

To conclude, the conversation about the gay agenda needs to begin and end with the word of God.  But, as we have seen with this chart and with other conversations in the mainstream media and in culture, it's also becoming a hermeneutical battle as well.


Anonymous said...

I actually really appreciate that you can appreciate and like people that are homosexual, as many against gay marriage do not. My question to you is, why should our law for the country need to be based upon the word of God when our country does not have a national religion and many of its citizens do not believe in God? I am a devout christian, but many in America are not. Why do you believe it is fair or permissible to have American laws which affect everyone be based upon your particular religious beliefs?

Joel said...

Anonymous -

The reality is that all of our laws are based on some form of morality. The only question is who's morality do we base our laws upon. Most of our laws are based on Christian principles. So we can't say that we don't or shouldn't base our laws on religion, because all laws are based on religion. Again, the question is, on which religion's standards should we base our laws upon?

Furthermore, when we make laws we need to ask if something is right or wrong, and then have reasons for why it is right or wrong. We can't base our laws on public opinion or the majority rule, or sociological studies about why something is permissible or impermissible. Is it right or wrong? Why is it right? Why is it wrong?

The main purpose for this post was to refute the way those in the pro-gay-marriage movement tend to refute biblical evidence against homosexuality by errantly quoting scripture without having done the necessary interpretive work beforehand. In short, when people argue for gay marriage by supposedly showing how the Bible doesn't prohibit homosexuality, they do so with painful ignorance of how the Bible should be interpreted. My encouragement, then, is for Christians to be able to interpret scripture so they can identify those times when it errantly used against them.

Thanks again for the dialogue. I really do appreciate it.