You Never Know- Discussion on Homosexuality (Updated and Revised- July 11, Sept 3, Sept 10) July 10.08

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Note: The original blog in this space dealt with my trip to Taiwan. One of the comments asked to discuss Homosexuality and the Bible. The comments on this entry cover that topic. The original blog is below, but the comments discuss homosexuality, which has now gone to a page 2. So scroll to the bottom of page 1 and click the 2 to get to page 2 comments.__________________________________________________________________ As I noted, I am in Taiwan. One of the fun things about traveling as I do is that you meet people who are appreciative of things you have done in ways you never anticipated. So today I had lunch with Fisher Yu. Fisher teaches English to Chinese students at a high school in the third largest city in Taiwan, Taichung. After taking me on a ride on the back of a scooter, something I had not done since I was a child (and a cultural experience I had not asked to have!), we sat at a Chinese restaurant  (I am getting adept at chopsticks on this trip). He shared with me all the work he had done years ago on the DaVinci Code (yes, even in Taiwan). He knew me from the Chinese version of my book on the Code. I never would have dreamed when I wrote that book in Texas that someone in Taiwan would read it and then study and write about the issue in Chinese (including in the local paper).He showed me the clippings and discussed some of his research. It was an example of not knowing what the impact might be of something you write. What is even more fascinating is to get the chance to meet people and converse with them years down the road. All in all, pretty satisfying. On the ride he took me by some Buddhist temples and schools, as well as discussing some customs with me (especially the troubling for Christians ancestor rites). I am here bcasue a misionary from my church, Bill Franklin, invited me to speak to the Taiwan Missionary Fellowship at their annual meeting. Bill has been here over twenty years. Today he gave me a crash course in issues tied to ministry on the island, as well as discussing leadership development issues here. It has been interesting to see people who have been here for 60 years and less, having given their lives to serve the Lord in a foreign context. It is easy to lose sight of the great job and impact many missionaries have had around the world. This trip has been a great reminder to me. Hopefully you know a missionary who you can pray for and express appreciation to. July 11 add on: The story continues as today I was at a teen camp in Taiwan. They introduced me at lunch (no speaking, just a visit).  The teens there knew who I was and many had read the Chinese version of the Da Vinci Code book. Even less expected than what I ran into yesterday. Simply amazing. __________________________________________________________________

Comments

To Dr. Bock,

I have raised what I feel are some important questions on my blog, concerning the biblical foundation for the casual dismissal, in the church, of many laws of the Bible. In my belief, there is a biblical basis for the principle of "liberty" regarding many laws and precepts of the Bible, which is based on a use of "discernment and reason," and principles of the "conscience."

While, as I said, we do see the application of liberty, regarding the many laws of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, it is curious to me that the law regarding same-sex, intimate relationships must be taken at "face-value," to the condemnation of gay and lesbian people, with no view to a discernment on the facts of the issue, the quality of the relationship, and the conscience of the individuals involved, many of whom are believers in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Bock, I would like to request your attention to this issue on my blog, as I am seeking the doctrinal basis for the mainstream church's interpretation regarding the authority and applicability of biblical laws, from the perspective of a theologian. I believe you will find my blog interesting, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you and God bless you.

Sincerely, Lynn
New Covenant Truths.blogspot.com

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Lynn:Thank you for the note. Your blog claims too much in terms of the theme of liberty. Romans 1 is rooted in issues of divine design, not just "heart" positions. This means that Paul's condemnation on issues of sexuality are not annulled or trumped by themes of liberty alone. In other words, heart is but one element of the theological and creational discussion. Your position reflects a reductionism in removing other key features of the biblical argument from consideration. There is a fundamental differentiation and complementarian role in the divinely rooted and intended male-female design that is in view here. This is as compelling a consideration as any claim to liberty as a moral category. Not all discussions of law apply this kind of a principle to the discussion of other areas, so that a mere equation of law and liberty may apply to certain areas (eg, food laws, worship on certain days) but not to others. I do understand the query you have raised, but cannot dismiss the application of certain central elements of the discussion by an appeal to liberty and conscience alone. God bless, and I trust that this explanation helps to supply the rationale for why this is more than a "face value" argument.dlb

Dr. Bock, I appreciate your response. I'm sincerely seeking what is the Bible-based answer to the questions that I have raised on my blog, and have been working with this issue for several years now, though my blog is fairly new. I hope you will be willing to address these concerns and observations, for the sake of bringing out a more complete discussion on this issue. What I have to say is somewhat lengthy, but it does come back to fundamental questions concerning these New Testament principles of liberty, reason, discernment, and conscience.

First, you are saying that "my blog claims too much," in terms of the theme of liberty. I don't want to speak for you, but I just want to note that my blog speaks many verifiable truths of Scripture, so I believe you must be saying that my use of these truths and principles, in applying liberty to the issue of same-sex relationships, is claiming too much. The "foundation" of my belief is what I understand to be the "new covenant" teachings concerning a believer's liberty in Christ, spoken of in Galatians, and in several other passages, and in several other ways throughout the New Testament.

I want to make myself clear, that when I am speaking of the "heart and conscience" elements of the biblical doctrine of liberty, this is not simply a statement that, if someone's conscience approves of something, it is acceptable. There are several things at work involving the conscience and these biblical doctrines, if I can just briefly show you what I am speaking about.

One of the important verses that establish "liberty" in Scripture, is Paul's statement that, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor. 6:12) This shows a "discernment" in Paul's thinking, it shows consideration to the "fruits of deeds," and it shows a regard for "self-control." So it is not merely one's conscience freeing them to do whatever they wish to do.

The Bible says that we are to be very careful about placing judgments on people--it is nothing short of a theme in God's Word. I am addressing the doctrinal issues, regarding what our conscience is to be accountable to, and how the Bible is understood and used by the majority in today's church. In light of the many references to liberty--some specifically using the term and some not--what is the biblical basis for believers placing a judgment on this particular issue, while not living by many biblical laws themselves?

My main question for you, is a clarification of what you said in your response to me, concerning the fact that liberty would apply to some laws and not to others, which is a premise that I agree with. The passage above sums up pretty well my understanding of this, and there are others that also address it well. I see liberty applied in the church, but I see it as being used "selectively," and not particularly elaborated upon as a doctrine, at least not that I have heard. Is it possible that it is more along the lines of "agreed-upon tradition," and therefore a biblical basis is not necessary to establish?

You are making a reference to the "divine design" spoken of in Romans 1, and this is why your understanding of these passages is "not a face-value" interpretation...in other words, on the simple basis that it is a written law. You are saying that I have "removed key features" from the biblical discussion. Is the..."fundamental differentiation and complementarian role in the divinely rooted and intended male-female design that is in view here."...of greater importance than the "fulfillment of the person" in a love relationship that would be genuine for them, and not based on what is, essentially, a farce for the homosexual person, not to mention also deceptive and unfair to the heterosexual person they are marrying, who believes they are marrying someone who desires them? (realities of the issue.)

Is the homosexual individual who does not defer to this principle, but lives their life in love and commitment, truly the type of person who was condemned to hell in Scripture?

You seem to hold the position that Paul, in speaking about this design of God's creation, and the severe judgment that he placed upon same-sex relations, could only have been speaking with "full knowledge" on the issue, being an apostle of Jesus Christ. Is this true and accepted regarding all that Paul spoke, with no view to the principles of reason, discernment, or liberty necessary, or is this assertion used only for judgment on this issue?

The belief of the majority in the church, is that this (body parts fitting together heterosexually, as Paul spoke of) is of greater importance to God, than the realities that are present for the individual who was born with an innate, homosexual orientation in their makeup--which I can testify to, as it is true for myself, as can many other people, who were either born gay themselves, or they raised a child for whom this is evidenced to be true. I have heard it said by a well-known Christian leader, that "if this is true, it doesn't matter," as we have a "written law" addressing this, essentially.

This is where the face-value understanding of laws comes in, while this is not how the church applies other laws for themselves, as they apply liberty to many laws. In light of the realities of both the Bible and the issue, I think it is a lot to expect that the "conscience" of the individual, who was created and born with a homosexual orientation, should defer to the "divine design" principle, while "liberty" has been prolifically established in Scripture, and employed in the sight of all by the church. I don't believe they have concerned themselves with the ramifications of the idea, that he or she is being required to marry for "appearance" sake, and to please the tradition-based Christian church.

There are at least five or six explicit instructions of Paul, and stated with significance, that have no place in the church today.

I won't detail them here, because you already know what they are, and you can read my blog to see what I am referring to. Hair lengths; covering your head or not covering your head; wearing gold, pearls or braids, which is unacceptable for woman making a claim to godliness; teachings regarding how a man may keep his daughter unmarried if he so chooses; women being forbidden from speaking in church...none of these things are teachings of the Christian church today, neither is the Law of Moses, and for good reason. Haven't key features of Scripture been removed here as well, and isn't that how liberty would function, by removing the explicit principles taught by Paul, and through "discernment of good and evil," in determining that these things do not represent the essence of righteousness?

Regarding one example of this liberty in the church: What is the reason why it is no longer a "disgrace" for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head not covered, or to wear her hair short, or for a man to pray with his head covered? Paul addressed this very explicitly. He states that "nature teaches" that it is not proper for a woman to pray without her head covered, that her long hair is a glory to her, and long hair on a man is a dishonor to him. This would be saying that a woman who wears her hair short, and the vast majority of women in our culture do, is lacking glory and has compromised her God-given covering. This is not a teaching in the Christian church today.

Dr. Bock, I feel that this all speaks for itself...that the leaders and outspoken people in what one might consider the "mainstream" Christian church, have cited the authority of biblical laws, only to condemn those whom they wish to condemn, without giving much consideration to the realities of the issue itself, or to their own use of liberty on other laws.

Realistically speaking, I don't expect you to admit that a "distortion of the church" has been exposed here, on their use of the Bible regarding this particular issue, and that what they have established is "tradition" (based on popular opinion), rather than a sound and consistent, doctrinal basis for their belief, as they have presented it to be (while viewing things highly selectively). I hope you will be willing to share your thoughts on this, and your honest commentary will be appreciated. It seems to me that admitting to the complexities of the Bible, for the sake of truth and justice, does not serve popular belief in Christianity.

This is for the sake of the glory of God and truth, and for the sake of the complete discussion on this important issue in our society and in the family of God. Thank you for your consideration Dr. Bock.

In grace and truth,

Lynn

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Lynn:I am glad to engage in this discussion. I will try to go one key point at a time.You say: "In light of the many references to liberty--some specifically using the term and some not--what is the biblical basis for believers placing a judgment on this particular issue, while not living by many biblical laws themselves?"The place to start is here. The question is a non-sequitur. The idea that someone being disobedient in another area disqualifies making moral judgments does not follow. It means people are not consistent, but does not mean making a judgment (an act of moral discernment, as you note) is wrong in another area. As you know, the area in question is one in which the Scripture is very strong in its negative assessment. More than that, the texts that raise it do not ever make a distinction between whether the relationship is sincere or not. The assumption of those rejecting these texts that judge as relevant is that the relationship described in somehow insincere, but how do we know that?  Nothing in these texts tells us that. This means another reading other than one that sees a moral issues possesses a burden to show why that sesne of these events should be reversed when they are consistently seen so negatively.The few previous sentneces explain that the reaction against the position is more than as you raise, "Is it possible that it is more along the lines of "agreed-upon tradition," and therefore a biblical basis is not necessary to establish?" This means my appeal is not merely as you say "on the simple basis that it is a written law." I am arguing that there is a pattern to how this area is presetned in Scripture that is more than a mere "thou shalt not" law. The remarks appea in genre other than law. They make moral judgments and involve the assessments of discernment you raise as acceptable categories. At this point your discussion moves is a variety of directions at once.  Key is your raising of what I might call the position of the "sincere" homosexual, the person who is honest and faithful in terms of their orientation. This is followed by an attempt to dismiss what Paul says in Romans with the following statement: "You seem to hold the position that Paul, in speaking about this design of God's creation, and the severe judgment that he placed upon same-sex relations, could only have been speaking with "full knowledge" on the issue, being an apostle of Jesus Christ. Is this true and accepted regarding all that Paul spoke, with no view to the principles of reason, discernment, or liberty necessary, or is this assertion used only for judgment on this issue?" Now I ask, in what sense is this utterance by Paul in Romans the Word of God, if principles are at work that can undercut the argument he makes that such behavior is not merely a sign of fallenness but of a severe state of fallenness, especially when Paul adds that the problem is not only to pursue such behavior but to do so and encourage others to do so as well? What I am raising here is the point that Paul does not seem to treat this area as one up for particular discussion (This is not his call for not pressing on issues realtedto food or caledar as in Romans 14-15). The remarks suggest an outright rejection of the category. Paul's appeal to divine created design is a transcendent kind of argument- and it is backed up in other texts moving on this topic in the same direction by other authors, showing Scripture does not present it as one writer's opinion alone.Your next paragraph understates the point I am making about divine design. It reads, "The belief of the majority in the church, is that this (body parts fitting together heterosexually, as Paul spoke of) is of greater importance to God, than the realities that are present for the individual who was born with an innate, homosexual orientation in their makeup--which I can testify to, as it is true for myself, as can many other people, who were either born gay themselves, or they raised a child for whom this is evidenced to be true. I have heard it said by a well-known Christian leader, that "if this is true, it doesn't matter," as we have a "written law" addressing this, essentially." Here you make two points together. One suggests we are only speaking physically of design when we appeal to divine design of the male and female. This is not the point of the view of an argument fordivine design. There is more to it. The argument is that there is more to this difference than the design of body parts. In general, males and females operate emotionally and spiritually differently, which is why they can complement each other emotionally. In addition, this is pictured by the fact that a child is produced by a male and female, each supplying part of the matter that makes up the new person.Your second point here is a more complicated one. What of people with innate homosexual orientation? I take it the implication here is: what of the divine design of this individual? This is a fair question. I would not appeal to a "written law" as a response here. I would say that there are many people in the church who can testify to this orientation being dealt with and reversed through their experience of Christ, in part because the point was made that there is something morally amiss here that needs to be brought before God, as any category of moral activity does (in this sense, homosexuality is no different a sin or inclination than is one to drink excessively, engage in gossip and slander or glottony). God is not saying this inclination is against an abstract written law, but is against a design that comes from him. I know this sounds harsh. It is not. I know as a pastor that people struggle to deal with all kinds of personal issues where they come up short before God (in fact, we all do), but the way to start is not to deny the possibility of the need to deal with the area by saying I am made this way. This is little different from arguing, "Well I sin because I am a fallen human being" (well, yes, but that does not make it right, just because we are inclined this way.)  This makes your next remark really telling: "In light of the realities of both the Bible and the issue, I think it is a lot to expect that the "conscience" of the individual, who was created and born with a homosexual orientation, should defer to the "divine design" principle, while "liberty" has been prolifically established in Scripture, and employed in the sight of all by the church. I don't believe they have concerned themselves with the ramifications of the idea, that he or she is being required to marry for "appearance" sake, and to please the tradition-based Christian church." My response is: (1) no one is forced to marry, nor is one to do so for appearance sake." More importantly, I believe deeply in God's power from within us to help direct us in the paths he calls righteous. If I substituted fallen for homosexual in the above paragraph, would you still subscribe to the point you are making? Then where does our effort to become better people spiritually come in? Part of my point here is that I never see liberty applied in Scripture as a rule not just in this area of sexuality but in the entire realm of sexuality. When it comes to hair length and other matters, I have already suggested why these kinds of "rules" do not apply in this case. First of all, most of these do not appeal to transcedent creation, but to cultural practice. The hair example you raise does appeal to nature, which still is not necessarily an appeal to the creation (Is it to "the nature of things" [in whose sense?] or to Nature [unlikely Paul would personify in this way here] or to the nature of our culture???). In addition, whatever Paul says here, the "violation" is not treated with or raised to the degree of significance that the subject of Romans 1 is treated. Paul expresses his reasons for why worship should be conducted in a certain manner in 1 Corinthians, but the material of Romans 1 shows him making emphatic moral judgments.Also important is your next paragraph: "Dr. Bock, I feel that this all speaks for itself...that the leaders and outspoken people in what one might consider the "mainstream" Christian church, have cited the authority of biblical laws, only to condemn those whom they wish to condemn, without giving much consideration to the realities of the issue itself, or to their own use of liberty on other laws." I know many church leaders, including myself, agnoize over having to challenge the alternative lifestyle. When I was growing up some of my best school teachers were gay folks who were very professional about how they taught me my subjects in school. These teachers were fine people in many respects and I am indebted to them for the competence with which they taught me. That does not mean I view their choice of lifestyle as neutral, nor do I underestimate the effort it takes to face up to changing direction. In other words, there is "no wishing to condemn" here, only a love that says, what I am saying in challenging this is that such a choice is destructive in the long term (as are many other choices people make in life in other areas). These same leaders will go to all kinds of lengths (monetary, counseling, emotional) to be sure a person who seeks to change direction can get the support and help they need to get there. It is for these reasons I do not think, as you anticipated, that there is a distortion in the way the church handles this area. I, as you do, desire to be clear about the complexitiy and depth of Scripture, but I do not think we get there when we seek to explain an emphasis in ways that denies its presence. I have tried to be clear. I have also tried to let you know that dealing with this area is like dealing with any area where we seek to grow in righteousness before God, recognizing our need for Him and the change only He can bring. With much appreciation for the tone and sincerity of the exchange,dlb

Dr. Bock,

A commenter on one one of your recent posts, from June 25th, asked where the documentation can be found regarding the effects of things like pornography and homosexuality, and "who is publishing data that supports the idea that these behaviors are bad for human and societal health?"

I have to confess, Dr. Bock, that I hadn't read any of your other posts before I wrote to you, so it is interesting that you were already involved with this issue to some degree in recent times, as have been some of your commenters. I chose you for this discussion, based on the introduction of you on the website.

I'll be looking at this data on my blog, which is to be published in upcoming articles sometime in the near future. I'm sure there is also data that your commenter can look into on his or her own. I'll leave it there for now, because I don't have this gentleman's explicit permission to introduce his upcoming work on this yet.

I'll just give you one comment on this question, and then I'll address your points one at a time in your letter to me, Dr. Bock. The question was in regards to being "besides the sacred texts," but I just want to say that Jesus specifically addressed pornography, when He said that "you are not to look upon a woman with lust," which is enough for me. It is corrupting to the soul, even if one is not married, which would add "adultery" of the heart to the act in that case.

I'm not aware of any bad fruits associated with the type of relationship between two members of the same-sex that I am speaking about, nor did Jesus address it, so I will be looking forward to this data and commentary on this issue, which he has told me a little about. I'll be critiquing it on my blog when it is published. You may want to follow that information and commentary, as well as this one, and assess the merits of both sides of the issue for yourselves.

I appreciate that you have agreed to discuss this issue. It is important that both sides are allowed a voice in the discussion, for the cause of seeking the truth and a better understanding. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible, but I do have a few points to make in response to your letter.

To address your first point: "The idea that someone being disobedient in another area disqualifies making moral judgments does not follow. It means people are not consistent, but does not mean making a judgment (an act of moral discernment, as you note) is wrong in another area."

I just want to note, that I'm not speaking of "disobedience"...I was raising the question about the doctrine of "liberty," in which case, we are speaking about what the church "approves" of and permits liberty on for themselves, not what they are disobedient to, and therefore possibly disqualifying themselves from judgment on other people. My comments are regarding the biblical basis for liberty, which is used for some things, but not for understanding of the issue concerning the gay, believer in Christ, in particular. Just some thoughts for consideration and clarification. I don't believe this doctrine has been elaborated upon in the church, as I said before.

My premise is that it is not disobedient for a woman to wear her hair short, for example, or to pray without her head covered, based on the principles in Romans 14, for example, and all passages that address liberty. These teachings of Paul are not a teaching in the Christian church, by any stretch of the imagination. It would be incompatible with our culture, and I believe is considered to be not relevant to righteousness in the sight of God. To say that this is "disobedience," is to employ "forgiveness" on something that has no place in your walk with God to begin with, or any attempt to correct, and in my belief, would constitute an unhealthy and farcical relationship with God. It also frees one to disregard doctrines of the New Testament, while still maintaining a belief in one's moral qualification to judge other people (innocent people in my belief), which I believe is fundamentally incorrect, based on the words of Jesus. I believe principles have been employed here, that have not been established to be a "principle," but are based on popular agreement.

Next, you speak of the biblical area addressing same-sex relations as being "very strong in its negative assessment," but Paul states that it is a "disgrace" for a woman to pray with her head uncovered, or for a man to pray with his head covered. That is also a very strong assessment, but it has been dismissed today. You are saying, concerning these aspects of Scripture, that "most of these do not appeal to transcedent creation, but to cultural practice." I have to disagree. His words appear to speak to both of those things. Paul used the same Greek word for "nature" in both references...regarding Romans 1, saying these acts were "against nature," and 1 Cor. 11, concerning hair lengths and covering your head, saying that "nature teaches" these principles that he is speaking about. I think this is very significant. It is part of how God established His Word, while also establishing the principles of liberty.

Same-sex attraction is evidenced to be the natural sexual orientation for many people. True, there is more to the differentiation between male and and female than just body parts, but this is not moving to the gay person, who is not attracted to the opposite sex, in an intimate sense. There is still a complementary relationship, despite the fact that it is the same gender. So it comes back to the question of the authority and applicability of laws and liberty, and consideration to the natures of things.

Following your statement concerning the "strong negative assessment" in the Bible on this issue, you make the statement that "the texts that raise it do not ever make a distinction between whether the relationship is sincere or not. The assumption of those rejecting these texts that judge as relevant is that the relationship described in somehow insincere, but how do we know that? Nothing in these texts tells us that."

I have to wholly disagree with you on this also. Paul's description of the people about whom he was speaking in Romans 1, is a description of people that goes well beyond just a statement about same-sex intimacy. This speaks to the kind of person Paul was speaking about. It is highly relevant to me, considering the fact that it describes neither myself, nor does it describe the nature of "homosexuality" itself, as I elaborated upon on my blog. The "degrading passion" that Paul spoke of, I do not see in the type of relationship that I am speaking about, and I believe it goes back to the context and nature of what was taking place there, i.e., lust, rebellion, and idolatry. What he was speaking about does not exist here, and was rooted in something else entirely.

The sense in which Paul's words reflect the Word of God, would be in consideration for the "context" of his words, in understanding who he was speaking about, and precisely what God would consider to be "wickedness." As I understand God in Scripture, wickedness violates the law of love, and "heterosexuality" does not represent the nature of love. To understand this judgment to be concerning "body parts," rather than the character of the individuals and the relations that were spoken of, in their rebellion against God, in my view is "legalism," and is in the same category as foods, hair lengths, days of the week, tattoos, sewing a garment with two different materials, etc., and gives no consideration to the heart of the person, or the fruits of deeds (new covenant principles).

I want to note that I am not advocating any particular sexual activity, but harm associated with an activity, or the absence of harm, does need to be taken into consideration. The issue is regarding same-sex intimacy and relationships, and it transcends any particular activity, which is a separate issue in itself, to be addressed by the medical community, and seems to be mostly considered private in regards to heterosexual relationships.

You are entitled to disagree with my belief on this, but I believe this goes back to this truth of God, that it is now a circumcision of the heart, not the flesh. (Rom. 2:29) It is the "heart" that He is looking upon, not the "outward appearance." To place absolute deference to Paul's authority and position, regarding this particular issue, without consideration to the possibility that they may have spoken with limited knowledge of the issue...I believe you must place this same deference on other areas of his teachings--in a blanket sense, regardless of your understanding--which were stated with terms of severity, though not as much so as on this issue. This is still a selective use of Paul's authority.

For what it is worth, I understand that your belief is not without foundation, but it does not appear to have considered the whole picture concerning God's judgment of people. I believe you are presuming that Paul spoke with complete accuracy on this issue, while it is evidenced that he gave instructions in other areas, speaking about a certain kind of person, but not with a view to the complete picture of what he was explicitly addressing (e.g., a woman wearing gold, pearls, or expensive dresses. 1Tim. 2:9,10). He spoke based on his understanding in his culture, concerning the people he was personally aware of, and wrote extensively about. I don't see a basis to understand Paul's perception on certain things as absolutely authoritative across the board, given by God in His Word. It is very possible, and in fact, I know this to be true for myself, that the biblical writers did not have full knowledge on this issue, and I believe it was by God's intention and purpose. The greater principles of God's Word show a cause for discernment, which is rightly distinguishing one thing from another, humility in judgment, and respect for an individual's conscience and personal relationship with God.

There is a place for judgment, or speaking against something you believe is wrong, in my beliefs, and it would be only for the sake of love. There would have to be harm done, for it to be a "right judgment," and not one that is based on "appearance," as was taught by Jesus. (John 7:24) We'll see what the data shows in regards to same-sex relationships. Based on what you have said, concerning the fact that you do not view placing a judgment on people lightly, and that it is not an easy thing for you to do to challenge their lifestyle, I think evidence of harm would be necessary. You compare this to excessive drinking, gluttony, slander, gossip...all of these things are harmful to people, and that is why liberty would obviously not apply to these kinds of things. Also, there is a big difference between encouraging wickedness in people, and bringing out principles of the new covenant for consideration of a particular issue. My belief is that we are free in Christ to live a good life, not to do whatever we wish to do, or to cause harm to anyone.

You say that people have changed their sexual orientation, as a result of a relationship with Christ: "I would say that there are many people in the church who can testify to this orientation being dealt with and reversed through their experience of Christ, in part because the point was made that there is something morally amiss here that needs to be brought before God"...and then you make the comparison to activities which are evidenced to cause harm. (The deeds of the flesh are evident. Gal. 5:18-23). I'll be addressing this on my blog. This is a complex area, and I'll just say that I respect the lives of these individuals, and their understanding and their experience, but it does not reflect the whole picture for all homosexual people.

There are other points that you have made, which I will possibly address later on my blog, but I think I have addressed your letter sufficiently for now. I'm not intolerant of the belief that homosexuality is wrong, but again, it is important to see both sides of the issue. Just one more note: Your beliefs do place pressure on the gay Christian to be heterosexual, which follows, to be heterosexually married. Unless what you are encouraging is life-long celibacy for the individual whose homosexuality is rooted in their natural makeup, whether or not you have the "gift" of celibacy spoken of in the Bible. I'll be addressing more about your belief on my blog, respectfully of course.

Dr. Bock, thanks for your time and attention to this issue. Please let me know if I have misunderstood anything you have said, or what you believe I am missing. God has the power to help people to overcome sin, but I don't believe the kind of relationship that we are speaking about here reflects sin, any more than it is sin for a woman to pray without her head covered...unless she believes it is sin, and does it anyway; then it is sin. In my view, the only things that are not up for debate, is whatever causes harm, or whatever is in defiance of the teachings of Jesus. Sin, in my view, is whatever goes against the law of love. God bless.

Lynn

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Lynn: Many things to treat here and, alas, I am away teaching so I do not have a great deal of time for this now. Just a couple of short points.  (1) Where is their any indication in Scripture that same sex love is acceptable in any form?  We know it existed and was wide spread in the Roman world, so where is there any indication that "liberty" works to include this area (and distinguishes between the things mentioned in Romans 1 wouthout qualification)? In contrast, we know prayer is good, while Paul is addressing a type of prayer (in form and approach to God) that he sees as ignoring the distinctions in the creation when a woman does not cover her head in the context of participating in a service. So your immediate equation that same sex love or inclination is a matter of the heart and "liberty" alone and not inherently a moral issue in itself distinguished from the prayer example does not work. Another way to ask this is where is there any indication inb Scripture this act and inclination is an area to which "liberty" applies, for that category is related to things that in and of themselves are morally neutral. Is it not natrual to think that when the Bible uses the term "immorality" and this act was commonly widely associated with immorality that that is included unless otherwise specified? Or to say it another way still, without such a clarifying explanation, how could Paul's audience have originally understood such liberty applied to such an area without specifying it to counter the common ancient view of immorality?  A second point, your insistence/argument that Paul cannot understand fully the basic dynamics of what he is discussing here understates in my view what it means for him to be making a moral pronoucement as a matter of faith and practice in terms of what inspiration of the Bible means.  For inspiration argues that God ultimately is responsible for these declarations. God inspires through the writer.dlb

Dr. Bock,

I'll just give you my answer to your comments here, and then you can give your address to this, when you have the time and as you wish to do that. There isn't any need for you and I to debate this down to the wire, as you would probably agree. I thank you again for your attention to this issue; it is much appreciated.

In answer to your first point: I'm making no claim that there is any indication in Scripture, in specific terms, that a same-sex, intimate relationship is approved by God. By the same token, I see no indication that many of the other areas of laws and instructions, which we do not find practiced in the church, have God's specific endorsement either.

What I do see is an explanation of new covenant principles, which is a theme in God's Word, that establish a basis for "discernment of good and evil," consideration of one's own "conscience," which would also necessitate a view to things like "fruits of deeds" and "self-control." It's all there in Scripture. The Bible is not a simple set of laws; these principles are found in many passages. We have a Scriptural basis to view laws in this perspective, and we can also see that "liberty" has a profound place here, and there are many laws that have no place in the function of the church today, from both the Old and New Testaments, which were not specifically addressed with liberty in the Bible. So I don't see a need for this to be specifically spoken of, and my application of this is related only to where an individual's conscience is pure, and the relationship is not from lust or promiscuity, or the other things spoken of in the Bible as related to this issue.

You say that, "in contrast, we know that prayer is good," and Paul was referring to a specific type of situation regarding prayer...but we also know that the type of relationship that I am speaking about is good, that being a committed love relationship, and it is a specific aspect that is being addressed, that being the genders of the two people. Again, I am seeing legalism here, and a selective use of the authority of laws. The realities of the issue call for a more in-depth consideration of these biblical truths.

I think you are presuming that Paul's address of these other things was not related to "morality," but what is considered to be proper or improper, I believe is related to morality. For a woman to wear these adornments, wear her hair short, speak in a church service, marry without deferring to her fathers permission...would have, at the very least, been the beginning of immorality in Paul's view, if not immorality in itself. Why else would he have spoken so strongly about these things? He did not leave these things up for debate (1 Cor. 11:16), but we've dismissed these instructions today. I believe my comparison does reasonably work: it has to do with cultural beliefs and perceptions about things. The purpose here is for acceptance of a segment of God's family; it is not to liberate anything that causes any harm. It is for the sake of love and understanding, which is why Paul established liberty for the church.

To address your next point, which you summed up in this statement:..."how could Paul's audience have originally understood such liberty applied to such an area without specifying it to counter the common ancient view of immorality?" My answer to this, is that I'm making no claim that this was to be understood in Paul's time. My belief, as I said, is that the biblical writers spoke with only a limited knowledge of what they were addressing. This belief is based on their descriptions of who and what they were speaking about. This was demonstrated in a few other areas as well, that Paul was capable of speaking a judgment with a limited understanding, based on his cultural understanding of his time. This was associated with the godlessness that was rampant; today we understand the issue from a biological perspective, and we understand this from the perspective that God is a just Judge, who judges the character of a person, and does not judge on a legalistic basis.

To address your last point: I agree that God is ultimately responsible for these declarations, and He inspired and governed the writings of the Scriptures. I believe He allowed a misunderstanding of His judgment on this issue, for His own reasons. The basis for my belief on this is not one or two passages, or a case that is without any substance. It is a prolific case to be made, based on many truths of the Bible and the issue. I am a gay, born-again believer myself, who has the Holy Spirit, and who has love.

I don't think your position has given consideration to the context of what was spoken of in these passages. If you believe that Paul spoke with full knowledge on this issue, then you believe that he was not speaking only about a certain kind of rebellious person, but he spoke correctly in condemning all homosexual people to hell, including those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some people do not see it this way, but Scripture is clear about this ("it is not only faith...demons believe and shutter"): what he spoke of in pronouncing judgment on those who will not be entering into heaven, was a statement that these kinds of people are not true believers...not that they will be saved if they ask for forgiveness, but do not repent.

Dr. Bock, I've given you some things to consider further about this issue; I'll be interested in your assessment of this, and I welcome your honesty. Thank you very much for your time and your patience. God's blessings to you.

Lynn

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Lynn:Again, a short reply. I see what you are doing in your first point as an attempt to create a category the Scripture does not give room for. You speak of love as positive, but we have nowhere in the Scripture where sexual same sex love is spoken of positively. In other words, one has to be able to establish that this category is a neutral category, not ruled out for such a consideration, before we get to the application of the kind of liberty principles to which you are appealing. I see nothing about the way Scripture handles this specific practice that takes us to such a place. (I also think that the way you try to connect discussions on hair and jewelry as equally condemned is a stretch). But let us assume you are right on those connections. A proper response is not to permit acticity in the area condemned or criticized (or treat it as permitting another area to be so handled), but to urge the church to be faithful in responding in those areas as well.The difficulty you have dealing with the accepted cultural backdrop for Paul's negative remarks (Ie, alternative lifestyles are not accepted as moral) and the nature of inspiration is also a major problem for your approach (as is the appeal to biological factors). Did God not know about these biological realities in His creation as he speaks ot these topcis through Paul and others? God is NOT merely allowing a misunderstanding in such cases in his Scripture; he would be misdirecting our basic ethical instruction in the area. But Scripture is said to be able to guide us into truth in these very areas of how we live (what they church has called faith and practice). I do not have to believe that Paul spoke with full knowledge of the area (as you say), but with sufficient knowledge and with a proper sense of God's mind on how to view the area. In sum, Paul's tone gets his basic exhortation in these areas right.Now as for condemnation. The beauty of the gospel is that grace triumphs over sin. There are thousands, I am sure, saved homosexuals. Just as there are thousands of saved liers, slanderers, greedy, etc. Many of these people struggle to overcome that for which Christ died. What is disturbing about the position you are holding to is that it fails to truly face the way God spoke about this practice. You even make a point of it in stating your personal identity ("I am a gay, born again believer myself"). I can be greedy and angry as a person, but that does not make me proud to have those qualitied in my life and I pray that God continues to work on these areas. Grace is capable of reversing and is at work on these. Your position is such that you are arguing this is not necessary in an area Scripture consistently portrays negatively. That fact alone would give me pause, if I were you, about whether my view of liberty is actually correct. Please note I say this not to judge, but to observe about what Scripture says and seek to apply the Word that comes from the one who loved me enough to die for me and enter into my life to help me become the person he designed me to be.Lynn, I have no doubt by the tone of your interaction that your desire is to honor God and seek his will. This is why I write so directly. In everything God has revealed to us directly on this area of discussion in his Word, his remarks challenge this lifestyle as offensive to his design. He has not faked us out here. He means it. So with all the best intentions, I hope you will reconsider how you have created a "safe haven" for an alternative lifestyle. It is not a safe place to be. God desires more and better things for us that what that lifestyle offers. Sincerely in Him, dlb

Dr. Bock,

You said: "I would say that there are many people in the church who can testify to this orientation being dealt with and reversed through their experience of Christ..."

I realize this is a theological discussion, but since you raised this point, I thought I'd ask. Why is it only religious people who claim to have reversed their sexual identity, and why are these changes never confirmed with scientific study?

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Skeptimal:Are you saying that people who had an experience with Christ, show it in changed behavior, and who appear to be changed really are not? Is the Holy Spirit able to change us? You are correct; this is a theological claim. But it applies to a whole series of areas of which this is just one.dlb

."Are you saying that people who had an experience with Christ, show it in changed behavior, and who appear to be changed really are not?"

I think there is tremendous pressure on gay people in our culture, so if some chose to ignore their sexual attraction and act as if they were straight, it would not be a surprise. If sexual attraction can be changed, we would expect to see it occurring outside of religion and to see it being scientifically proven. The fact that only the religious are claiming this change is possible (just as only the religious claim creationism is science) makes it suspect.

"Is the Holy Spirit able to change us?"

I doubt you and I would be able to agree on this question. People religious and otherwise do sometimes choose to make healthier decisions. Is that the Holy Spirit? We couldn't prove it wasn't.

Skeptics and theologians *can* theoretically come to agreement, however, about whether or not those individuals who claim a change in sexual identity are actually now physically attracted to the opposite sex. All that would be necessary is rigorous scientific testing opened to peer review by religious and non-religious scientists alike. Since such a change would strongly bolster the Christian political view, I would expect that many reformed gays would be willing to participate in such a study.

On a personal note, I greatly respect your participation in the creation of the Evangelical Manifesto. Although I'm not a Christian, and although you advocate positions with which I strongly disagree, I think a lot of Buddhists, liberal Christians, atheists, and skeptics would welcome it if Evangelicals would abandon attempts to enforce theocracy and return to the table as partners in democracy. I know I would.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

I find the seeming choice between science and theology you pose interesting. I do agree about your view about the existence of pressure to conform, but that does not mean will power alone gets it done. Many people cannot overcome issues in their lives by will power alone. I do not mean that will power never works, but you are suggesting when a reversal comes that is always the case. Probably we are up against a worldview difference here.As for the Manifesto, please know that many evangelicals have never pursued or are interestdd in a theocracy. So thanks for that note.dlb

"I find the seeming choice between science and theology you pose interesting. I do agree about your view about the existence of pressure to conform, but that does not mean will power alone gets it done."

I may have been vague in how I worded things. I don't think that you have to choose between science and theology, necessarily. A high percentage of scientists are Christian (though admittedly not the majority). I was just saying that the question of whether legitimate positive change has come from the Holy Spirit is a question of faith unanswerable by science. Nevertheless the change itself, in the question of physical attraction, could be measured and confirmed by science if it were real.

"Many people cannot overcome issues in their lives by will power alone. I do not mean that will power never works, but you are suggesting when a reversal comes that is always the case."

And I didn't mean to suggest will power alone is always enough to make any change. For legitimate areas of emotional healing, however, it does not take religion to make that change. Recovering alcoholics do not all become religious. People with psychiatric disorders can see improvement through therapy. People with depression can be treated medically. When it comes to gay conversion therapy, though, it always seems to be the religious who claim this change has taken place.

If you are saying that physical attraction for "ex-gays" always remains for the same sex, and that they just learn to ignore it and make do with inherent limited heterosexual attraction, that's one thing. If you're saying that the physical attraction actually changes through religion, then that can be proven or disproven.

"As for the Manifesto, please know that many evangelicals have never pursued or are interestdd in a theocracy. "

The Manifesto is proof of that. By the way, I hadn't realized how much anger about the theocrats came through in my post. It isn't directed at you and those who agree with you. I hope that if it were necessary, I would be willing to die to protect the rights of Christians to worship as they choose and follow where their consciences lead them. For a long time now, I've suspected I might be a fool for having that attitude, since Christians apparently did not feel that my rights mattered at all. The Evangelical Manifesto renews my "faith" that people of differing world views can find a way to cooperate for peace.

The reaction to the Manifesto is fascinating, in that merely by suggesting that peace is better than war, the authors have been accused of moral relativism and weak faith (the two most serious crimes an Evangelical can be accused of).

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Skeptimal:Thanks for the helpful clairifications on your thinking. I like your tone as well.dlb

It seems to me that a lot of the conversation about sexuality and Christianity presupposes that people are static in their sexual orientation. I am not a scientist, but I would assume that very few people are completely homosexual or heterosexual. I suspect that we are all somewhere on a spectrum in terms of our sexual desires at the moment. I also suspect that there is some ability to move oneself on this spectrum, not that such a movement is easy, but I think it is possible. So for example, although I consider myself to be currently on the heterosexual side of the spectrum I can imagine that over a period of time I could move myself to the homosexual side of the spectrum. I think such a movement is possible for most people in both directions, or in other directions towards different sexual desires. Again, I am not saying that such a move would be easy, but I suspect it is possible. I would appreciate a comment from someone who studies sexuality or might be able to speak authoritatively about this.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

John:Thanks for raising this.dlb

It seems that John is saying that there is no such thing as being either "heterosexual by nature" or "homosexual by nature," as a deeply rooted part of one's being. I'm not a scientist, but I can speak from personal knowledge and experience, and I think most people would heartily agree with what I am saying.

If you are only speaking about exploring "sexual experiences," based on "sexual desires at the moment," apart from any notion of a relationship with God or a conservative approach to life, this is probably true on a physical and sexual level for most people, if one is thinking about life in that way. But John is speaking of discussions about "sexual orientation and Christianity," and the born-again Christian is not looking for different sexual experiences, but desires a wholesome and committed life, and many non-believers are also interested in a committed life-partnership. The person who deeply understands themselves to be attracted only to the opposite sex, is not likely going to ever be interested in learning how to be in an "intimate love relationship" with the same sex, and the same is true for the person who is attracted only to the same sex, in regards to a relationship with a person of the opposite sex. John is saying that he believes this is "possible but not easy" for the straight man, for example, to learn and grow into desiring an intimate relationship with another man. (I don't believe many straight men would agree with him, but I don't know where you would find data to this effect.) "Gender" is a very important part of attraction and intimacy. It would not be a desirable thing to try to change in oneself, and I have no doubt that most people would agree.

Some people understand themselves to be bisexual, and can be attracted to either sex. In my understanding, there are two different kinds of "bisexual": One kind has only to do with engaging in "sexual experiences" with both men and women, and has nothing whatsoever to do with an intimate love relationship.

I will say, though, that the person who changes from understanding themselves as a gay person, and now feels that he or she is sexually attracted to the opposite sex, I believe was never innately homosexual in the first place, as many people feel deeply that they are, and as is evidenced for many gay people dating back to childhood. Some people are engaged in homosexuality, and it is related to other issues in their lives, and is not about being born with a homosexual orientation. I have no problem believing that this person can come out of their former feelings, and can move on the "spectrum" and become attracted to the opposite sex. This is possible especially with the help of God, as with any other addiction or issue in a person's life. It is wholeness and fulfillment in love that God desires for all people. The genuinely gay person finds fulfillment in a relationship with a member of the same sex, and just as for the straight person, this is not something that many people would want to try to change.

I appreciate the comments. I do not have any doubt that the average homophobic person would say they could never move on the spectrum towards desiring the same sex. In my mind this would only display the person's lack of introspection. If we are making anecdotal evidence important then I might note that most research students that I have spoken to about this agree that they could concieve of themselves over time being able to move on the spectrum to desire the same sex. I think this is an important point for Christians who believe that homosexuality to be immoral. If they cannot admit that it is possible for them to move on the sexual spectrum then they cannot ask others on the homosexual side to move to the heterosexual side. To do so would be very hypocritical.

Now, whether one believes that those on the homosexual side of the spectrum should move to the heterosexual side depends on whether or not they believe God has set standards for sexual ethics that are more comprehensive than a loving committed relationship with another person (Of course the Bible itself presents homosexuality as immoral, but then again theological reasoning does not stop with the Bible). I think that another point to be considered in this conversation is that if a loving and committed relationship is the standard then what about other sexual activities in which this is possible outside of homosexuality. I would be interested to hear what Lynn thinks about incestuous relationships with one's sibling or parent. If the overarching principle is a loving committed relationship then I can see no reason why an incestuous relationship could not be considered moral, if of course both consenting members of the relationship are fixed not to have natural children.

In answer to the question John poses to me, the overarching principle is more than a loving, committed relationship. If this is the standard, then "adultery" would also be acceptable, which is a violation of one's commitment of love to their spouse and is sin on this basis, which was addressed in the Ten Commandments. The question is not particularly fit to be answered, but I'll just say that I would be just as offended by the concept of an incestuous relationship as just about anyone would be. The topic here is about people being born innately homosexual, and the type of love and commitment that I am speaking of is before God and is in the light. God will be the Judge of all people. I've never stated this to be the complete criteria that God, being a righteous Judge of the hearts of all people, would be looking at.

The issue here is about "gender," and gender issues do not constitute "immorality" in my understanding of the Bible. There is an explicitly stated context in all of the references that speak of condemnation, and this context explains that it is lust, rebellion, idolatry, and unfaithfulness that constitutes sexual immorality. "In Christ there is no male or female." (Gal. 3:28) To condemn purely on the basis of gender is legalism, and takes nothing into consideration except the written law, which is wholly not how law functions in the church. There is more to be taken into consideration on this issue, considering that we are speaking about an individual's "natural makeup," not the "rebellion" that was prolifically spoken of in the Bible. Man looks upon the outward appearance; God looks upon the heart. I could give a list of examples of how disastrous it would be to cite and apply biblical passages standing alone. John states that "the Bible presents homosexuality as immoral," but this is without any view to the context in which passages were stated, or any other principles of Scripture. This is no more true and complete, than it would be to say that to work on Saturday is worthy of death, or to eat pork or shellfish is abominable in the sight of God. God has written His law on our hearts, and this is a matter of one's own conscience and personal relationship with God. Also important to note, if the condemnation were about a particular act, it would have been forbidden for all people. The condemnation was regarding a certain type of lawless person, who had a rebellious heart towards God. The context of the passages explicitly shows this to be true. This theological reasoning does stop with the Bible, and it is based on the Bible.

In speaking about anecdotal evidence regarding "moving on the spectrum" in terms of our sexual orientation, I can tell you that I am not "heterophobic" and I would not be interested in an intimate relationship with a man. As a gay woman, it is not in me and would not be a possibility for me. I don't mean to be insulting about whatever it is that John is speaking of, but there is a difference between love and intimacy, and what it seems to me that John is speaking about.

He is saying that he could move on the spectrum, and that heterosexual people he has spoken with also believe they could desire the same sex. John, are we speaking about basically animalistic activities, or are we speaking about love and intimacy from the deepest and most complete part of one's heart and being? If you are speaking about the former, that would be like macaroni and cheese, compared to a seven course, porterhouse steak dinner with wine...if you are speaking of the latter, I don't believe many heterosexual or homosexual people would agree with you. Possibly, through introspection, you feel that an experience with a man would be something meaningful--I don't feel the same way, and there is no comparison for me. Most straight men would possibly do bodily damage to you if you physically tried to explore the prospect with them. I'm sure, and I mean this sincerely, that you could find plenty of gay or bisexual men who would love to give you or your friends the chance to explore this in yourself...provided they are not walking in a close relationship with Jesus Christ, who would require much more from them than what that would be about. I think your words do reveal what you are speaking about, but perhaps you will clarify what type of sexual relationship you are speaking about for all of Dr. Bock's readers.

As far as the straight Christian who believes the gay Christian should be able to change...the premise there is that they believe that all people are to be heterosexual, end of story. (I suppose they would believe that "asexual" would be acceptable) "Hypocrisy" I believe, has more to do with one's stated beliefs in an ethical sense, so I don't see this in terms of their belief that the gay person can change, while they would have no desire or consideration of what it would be about for themselves to change. They don't understand that the gay person's sexual orientation is as deeply a part of them, and important to them as part of the gift of life, as their own sexual orientation is--and there are many truths of the Bible that they do not feel an obligation to process. (I believe there is a hypocrisy, but not in the sense that you are speaking of.) In my belief, many Christians are challenged in the integrity department. It is one thing to believe homosexuality is wrong...other things many of them are engaged in for their beliefs, are another thing altogether. Just some thoughts for consideration.

Hmmm. Well I think the idea that the New Testament does not condemn homosexuality is flatly ridiculous. I do realize that there has been an article here and there in support of the point you are making (e.g. the one by L. T. Johnson) but for the most part I understand that those supporting your stance feel that they are the prophetic voice that is taking its starting point with the Bible and are moving on from there. An outstanding scholar, John Milbank, who supports your overall position also says: “Although I favor the gay cause, I actually think the conservatives are more or less right about the Bible” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week707/commentary.html)... I certainly agree.
I still don’t see why you would think of incest as immoral. Why from scripture would someone being born heterosexual be prevented from having a deep and committed love relationship with their sibling which they also felt was before God and in the light? I do not think you can say they cannot have such a relationship without appealing to the dos and don’ts of scripture which you are so aggressively trying to avoid. You seem to feel that these laws which God gave (in the NT) can be tossed aside as long as you have some subjective sensation that you are “speaking before God in the light.” You appear to be randomly cutting out all things that sound like law and calling them legalism. What do you mean by legalism? Having a law does not make something legalistic. Legalism is following laws outside of empowerment from God’s Spirit. There is nothing wrong with following commands as long as you do not believe that you are somehow justifying yourself by following them (1John 5:3f).
Also, about your opening sentence: “In answer to the question John poses to me, the overarching principle is more than a loving, committed relationship. If this is the standard, then "adultery" would also be acceptable, which is a violation of one's commitment of love to their spouse and is sin on this basis, which was addressed in the Ten Commandments.” Obviously if one commits adultery then they are not in a committed relationship so I don’t see your point…and there you are appealing to laws when they fit your purpose.

John, people like you are difficult to have a dialog with, because you make statements regarding my beliefs that are unfounded, such as your statement about the complete criteria for an acceptable relationship being a "loving and committed" relationship, which is not what I have said. I speak of love and commitment, and I also speak of other components as well, such as one's conscience, personal relationship with God, which is who we are ultimately accountable to, and that all things will be in the light. The other reason you are difficult to have a cohesive dialog with, is because you feel that your condemnation is endorsed by God, while you give no argument in response to the truths that I have pointed out from God's Word. I'll give my answer to you one point at a time.

1. Your declaration that you could change your sexual orientation, based on "sexual desires of the moment" is, in my view, a statement that you do not cherish what you have felt to be your sexual orientation, as a heterosexual man. Possibly not in terms of your religious beliefs, as I see now from your condemning statements, but in terms of your sexual orientation, it is all completely interchangeable to you. You are making the statement that you don't feel that you have a gift of nature regarding women, that is incomparable in your desire for a woman, and you could have just as intimate and romantic of a relationship with a man. I would presume this is on all levels of intimacy, based on the more complete argument you are making. You are expressing yourself to be potentially bisexual in nature, and that you believe that basically all people are, and if they do not understand or believe this, they are lacking sufficient introspection. I completely disagree with your statements, and I have no doubt that probably most people would not consider their deeply-felt sexual preference to be interchangeable. It is a very significant part of our nature. This is from my knowledge of myself, which is based on my own orientation, and is evidenced dating back to my childhood in terms of gender-related behaviors and preferences, as with I believe most people who feel that they were born with either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation. This is also something that parents can testify to, regarding their knowledge of their children that they raised. You are entitled to your beliefs about your sexual orientation; I don't agree with it as a principle. I'll have to look for a study to see if many people feel the way you do.

2. You are expressing what you believe the Bible states in a very limited manner. I don't believe I have done that in my presentation of my beliefs. I have not stated that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, so representing my belief as being that "the Bible does not condemn homosexuality" and calling this "ridiculous" is unfounded and aimed at a shallow and limited mindset regarding the Bible. If this is how you function in your judgments of people, it is likely that you will be found to be hypocritical in your application of Scriptural laws in your own personal life. I've explained all of this pretty thoroughly, and you might want to address the actual discussion and give an answer for your beliefs on these complexities of the Bible. To clarify, my belief is that homosexuality being spoken of as condemned, is stated within an expressed context, and is related to the sinful qualities that I have cited from Scripture. This context, Paul's explanation of the type of person he condemned, is all prolifically there in Scripture. I didn't make it up.

3. The individual that you say "supports my overall position," and who is also saying that "the conservatives are more or less right about the Bible"...obviously does not support my overall position. There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the "conservative's" presentation of the Bible. (I'm not seeing them carrying out the laws of Scripture...the ones they apparently consider to be not the essence of righteousness, and not reasonable to be taken and applied at face value, as the words of Christ, while requiring this of the gay believer.) There is much that has been collectively ignored, which I have written extensively about, and which you do not address to any degree at all.

4. You don't understand why I would consider incest to be immoral, and you don't see why they could not have a sexual relationship that is before God and is in the light? I've never encountered a person for whom this is a desire or an issue ever in my life. Have you ever heard of someone saying, "This is my brother, who is also my life-partner."? This is not an issue in the church, or anywhere else, and it is self-explanatory why it is not and never will be. This renders it not "in the light," or before God. Other than something that might occur on the frequency of serial killing, this is not something that people want at all, and for reasons that are rooted deeply in our beings. My second answer is that God is the Judge, and this is not a concern of mine. Also, you are appealing to the Law, but I didn't obtain my belief on this from the Mosaic Law. His law is written on our hearts now, and this is something we understand instinctively.

5. I'm "aggressively trying to avoid the dos and don'ts of Scripture?" I don't know on what basis you believe you can make this judgment of me. God is the Judge of my heart, and this is a false and baseless judgment. I have not tried to avoid anything; I am writing about many compelling issues of Scripture, and it is based on verifiable truths of Scripture. Again, you might want to give an answer for your beliefs, in terms of the actual dialog and biblical truths that I have raised for discussion.

6. "You appear to be randomly cutting out all things that sound like law and calling them legalism." If you see a "random cutting out" of things that sound like law, you haven't read anything that I have written with any kind of thoughtfulness. I explained my understanding of "legalism," when I said that it is a use of law that takes nothing else into consideration but the written law, and applies laws simply on the basis that it is written in Scripture. Jesus Himself spoke against this use of the Law in several ways. This is also something that is imposed on other people, and is a principle that those who do this imposing do not live by for themselves. Many laws have no place in the function of the Christian faith.

You said, "There is nothing wrong with following commands as long as you do not believe that you are somehow justifying yourself by following them (1John 5:3f)." I haven't seen this practiced in Christianity, to blindly follow what you do not concur with in your spirit and your heart, as a born-again believer in Christ, to be inherent to righteousness. That is a main part of the substance of this discussion. You haven't addressed this, but perhaps you will back up your argument and address these truths and realities, for the sake of integrity.

Also to note, His commandments are "not burdensome," because His law is to love one another, and this is something we grow into through a relationship with Him, and in the growth of the fruits of the Spirit. We are a new creation in Him. His laws of love are found in the Ten Commandments, and the New Testament states the law of "love" to be the "fulfillment of His law." We are to "owe nothing to anyone except to love one another." (Romans 13:8) His law under the new covenant is not the body of Mosaic laws; it is only to place your trust in Christ, and to love your neighbor as yourself (and a couple of other things that He asked of us, e.g. water baptism, and communion). I agree that His law is not burdensome, if His spirit is in us. This is not quite the case, to say that "His laws are not burdensome," in viewing gender statements, apart from any context, as the law of God.

John, what is your explanation for why God set up laws in the Old Testament that had the "death penalty" and the word "abomination" attached to them, that are no longer "laws" in the faith today according to the New Testament? Does this have no meaning in our understanding of how He set up His laws, and the principles of the new covenant? Why do you believe that this particular law is in a different category, and reflects inherent truth apart from any context, unlike these other laws that I pointed out, and He would condemn a believing soul to hell based on gender issues, as Paul said in his understanding of the type of person who engaged in this? If this is how you understand God, you are welcome to your beliefs. This is not how I understand the God of Scripture, who established a complex religion in the Old Testament, and then simplified it in the New Testament to be "fulfilled in a word." We will all stand before God. My beliefs are based on Scripture, as I understand the bigger picture to be clearly presented in His Word.

7. As to your last point, if someone is going outside of their marriage to be with someone else, in a relationship that they are promising commitment to, then it is possible to claim a commitment of love to the second party. You said "committed," which means they will always be together, you didn't say "exclusive." You should be clear on how you are claiming to represent the totality of my beliefs, which are not what I have claimed on either count.

Also, the "laws that I appeal to" are the laws of love, as explained by Paul, when he spoke of the principles of how law functions under the new covenant. You must have missed all of these aspects of how I have presented my beliefs.

8. As far as your statement that, those who believe God does accept His gay and lesbian children, who live for Him and have love for God and for humanity, as claiming to be "a prophetic voice that is taking its starting point with the Bible and are moving on from there"...it seems to be the case, that the people who do not live by all of the laws of the Bible, even if you only want to count the New Testament, do not bother to give a reasonable explanation for their dismissal of laws, they just simply don't talk about it (which is approval by popular opinion). Paul stated that "women who make a claim to godliness, are not to wear gold, pearls, braids, or expensive dresses"...and he also said that we are not to "think beyond what is written." I do believe we need to think reasonably, and seek to understand what was intended in some of these statements. There is a basis for liberty, and it seems to me to be explained well in Scripture.

And before you say that I am picking and choosing what I am going to accept from the writings of Paul, let me address this by explaining, again, that there is a basis for concurring with the spiritual principles that he spoke of, as a born-again believer who has the spirit of Christ in them, and distinguishing this from laws given by Paul. I do believe he was capable of speaking not in complete terms, in some of the statements and requirements that he gave, and I believe I have proven this well.

I'm pretty sure this concludes my portion of the debate here, and if I answer further any point that John or anyone else may make, I will be brief. I'll reply to Jim soon, and I appreciate his story very much. And Dr. Bock, thank you for allowing this dialog on your blog.

First, let me state that I appreciate the tone and the open dialogue that Lynn has used.

This matter is very real to me. I was raised in a Christian home and put my trust in Christ at a young age. At some point in grade school, I increasingly became attracted to men. Living in a very conservative home, I had no clue or context to understand what was going on or that I was having homosexual desires. It wasn't until middle school that I even started to understand.

At the same time, I felt called to be a pastor. It was while attending Dallas Seminary (I had Dr. Bock for Greek class for 1 Corinthians) that the two worlds collided head on. That began a journey for me. I have wrestled through this and have come to a few firm convictions.

First, while every part of my being wanted to become intimate with a man, I have come to realize that this is not my identity. I am not a gay man. I am a man -- period. And when the biblical understanding of manhood is developed (which is very extensive), it is clear that a man was designed for a woman. This was not an ignoring of my physical desires. It was taping into an even deeper, core desire that was in my soul. This can't be "proven" by psychology or science, but theology seems to correlate well with reality as I have experienced it and as I observe in others.

Second, if a man at his core is a man in his very soul (and a woman the same as a woman), then I believe the most unloving thing I could ever do is suggest he get or stay involved in a sexually intimate same-sex relationship (and the same for a woman). While it would deal with the surface desires, it would actually damage the very soul of the person.

There is no way I could explain all of this in a short comment in a blog. I can only state what has been true for me. It took 10 years of struggle and working through this, but I am now very happily married and have a son. Yes, I still am attracted to the same sex. But that is not my identity. And I can say with full conviction that my wife complements me in a soulish way that a man never could. Our relationship is not just based on my physical arousal. It is based so much deeper than that. While I have no doubt that same-sex relationships can be very deep and loving, they can't complement each other in the same way as a man and woman do in their soul any more than they can physically match and complement each other in their body parts. In other words, without a physical bodily change, gay sex is unable to replicate heterosexual sex in how a man and woman come together and are able to reproduce. The complementing in gay sex physically and soulishly is changed and adapted from what it was meant to be. Yes, it works on one level, but I find it a pale imitation of the original.

Bottom line, my identity has nothing to do with my desires. It has everything to do with my soul, and as a Christian under the New Covenant, my soul has already been transformed. So at this point, to live a gay lifestyle would be a violation of the very foundation of who I am. So while it is still a temptation at times, it is never an option that holds any appeal in the light of day.

Let me just add, knowing how hard the struggle can be, I definitely do not judge those who embrace the gay lifestyle. But at the same time, it would be unloving for me to accept it as the best choice for him or her to make.

Jim, I very much appreciate your thoughtful letter and your personal story. I am not one to be threatened or feel a need to insult those who believe as you do, and who hold the deep convictions that you do. I do not believe as you do, but I respect your beliefs. God is the only One who can give honor to His children as being obedient to Him, and I have no doubt that you will be rewarded for your obedience to your conviction and your understanding of God's Word and His will for you. In my understanding of the bigger picture of His Word, as I have explained, and in what I have experienced profoundly in my relationship with Him, I am being obedient to my deepest convictions regarding His Word and His will for me. I'll just give you a few thoughts on how I understand what you are speaking about, and my understanding of these things.

I see what you are saying about your "identity" not being found in your desires, but in your soul. I understand my identity as being who I am in my soul as well. My sexual orientation is not how I define my identity, any more than my hair color, eye color, or any other aspect of my natural makeup. It is an aspect of who I am, and who God made me to be. It is not "who I am," but it is certainly part of who I am in this life, and I would say that it is an important part of who I am. It is on the same lines as the "heterosexual" aspect of a person, and is part of the gift of life. But as far as my identity, this is found in who I am as a person, and as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. If all were lost tomorrow, including any of my senses, physical mobility, ability to think rationally, or my life itself...I would still be who I am in Christ, which is eternal. You are separating your "natural sexual orientation" from "who you are," but at the same time, understanding that who you are is a "man." In my belief, this is part of who I am as a woman, and that appears to be where you disagree on this aspect. I am a woman...I'm not a man trapped in a woman's body, but I am a gay woman in my natural, God-given makeup. My "desires" are in the same category as the natural-born heterosexual's desires. You have chosen to deny your homosexual desires, but I don't believe that to permit this aspect of a relationship establishes it to be your identity itself, though I believe I understand what you are saying.

You seem to understand your sexual orientation as a "disorder"...I do not understand my natural sexual orientation as a disorder. If it could be shown to cause harm, through evidence or even compelling reasoning, I would agree that it should be denied of oneself, if we are to place God first. If something were to come into a person from some adverse experience in their life, as opposed to from birth, I would agree that "wholeness" would be found through healing from this experience. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb by God. (Psalm 139) An accident of birth, a true disorder, has a definable, adverse consequence involved. (They are who they are eternally in Christ as well, and God is a God of hidden blessings sometimes.) Jim, you spoke of this as being "surface desires," but I don't see it this way. In the deepest "core" of my being, not in terms of the eternal soul that I am in Christ, but the person I was created to be in this life (viewing this in the same category as for the heterosexual person), I am still very much a gay woman.

To address very briefly the biblical "hierarchy" and what is said about marriage...let me just say that there are exceptions to this model: in the life of the single person, the Christian marriage where this does not play out, due to a desire for a more equal partnership, and yes, the same-sex relationship. The man may be the head of the household, but Paul seems to be speaking about much more than that, saying that "Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman." To not strictly adhere to this model, I believe does not constitute something that is immoral. We all have our own relationship with God personally, and as I understand God's plan, He works through all of us as we avail ourselves, and as He pleases.

As to the complementary balance of the soul of the male and female that you are speaking of...it is evident in God's creation that all men and all women are not the created the same. There can be vast differences between men and between women. Some men are much more sensitive and emotional than other men, and some women are much more dominant, or even emotionally private, as you might associate with many men. As I see this, there could be a much better match between two men or two women, than between many male/female partnerships (as the divorce rate might suggest, but I would agree that there are also other issues involved there). A complementary experience does not simply fall along gender lines, and we do not have to be opposites in every way to compliment each other in many ways. We are all people, and we are all different. What you are saying is probably true "as a rule," but not "as a principle" across the board, which is why I believe we need to be flexible in our thinking about these things. Some people are created gay, or one might prefer to say with a homosexual orientation. I don't believe we are in too much disagreement on this point, and though I don't want to presume to speak for whatever your complete understanding of this may be, I believe you are a testament to this fact.

I might add that you seem to be very satisfied in your heterosexual relationship; you obviously have an adequate supply of an intimate, physical attraction to your wife, considering that she is staying married to you, and this is obviously how God has led you...but it could not be that way for me. I have no attraction to men at all. They are fine as friends and individuals to talk to, but the concept of intimacy with a man has no appeal for me whatsoever. If I were married to a man, this would be a serious injustice to both him and to myself. Any notion of how much better heterosexual sex might be is not important to me, because it is incomparable. More personal information...there are no abuse or neglect issues for me either. I was raised in a very healthy home, and never had any abuse experience in my life. In my understanding, what God calls "ideal" and what He calls "moral" is not going to be rendered along the lines of gender on that day, but will be rendered in a different way. You are obedient to what you believe to be true, as am I, and God will be the Judge of all people.

One thing I want to say, in defense of myself against many accusers (one not being Jim)...my understanding of this issue was not born out of any fleshly desire for sexual activities. I have always known that I was attracted to females, as of age twelve, but I never saw this as being something that would be fulfilled. I assumed that I would do what everyone else does, as a girl growing up in a small town in the 1970s. When I was 18, I felt deeply that I was called to serve God in a life of ministry. I later understood that I would not be getting married, and that there was no place for a husband in how I now saw my future, and I was very happy to realize this truth the year after I gave my life to God. I took the Bible in the same way that most people do, and this was not even a remote issue for me, or something I thought much about. I was very contented in how I understood my life and my calling from God, and the eternal rewards that would follow. I absorbed myself in His Word, and His music, and the ministries of all the great teachers.

It was not until my early twenties that I began to listen to a lot of talk in the media about the issue and all other issues, when I heard many untruths being spoken by Christians about the issue, and sometimes what I would consider disregard and even hate for people for whom this is a reality. Being in Denver Colorado, it is a very prominent issue here, which opened my eyes to this reality as it exists for many people (though still very much a minority of course). I began to see many truths of Scripture that are not spoken of in the church, and listened to many distortions from Christians, in the media and personally, and this is where my understanding of the issue began to be formed.

The point that I want to make here, is that I never looked at the Bible from the perspective of looking for how I might justify my desire or attraction to women. It happened quite from above, and this is what God has led me to do, to write about these truths of His Word, and His love and acceptance for His gay and lesbian children. This is a biblical explanation for how and why He will not be condemning these individuals as immoral, disobedient, and destined for hell. In answer to Sean, I'm sure many, many people would agree together that "Lynn has misinterpreted the Bible." But the fact is that God will be the One to say who understood and who didn't. I'll address his post briefly in a while.

I am writing this book and blog, for the sake of bringing out these much unanswered and ignored truths of Scripture, and I am genuinely open to being shown what anyone believes I have misstated about God's Word. I wrote a slightly revised version of why I ended the "comments" section in my post, "A Better Method..." but I maintain my openness to the whole picture on the issue, and I will write about all that I might see in this regard. Jim, I may post your letter on my blog, with your permission of course, because I believe people who were born with a homosexual orientation should see all that can be said truthfully about the issue, in the sense of how this is to you and has worked for you, and I will work to promote the whole picture for as many people as I can reach...including reaching people for the truth of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel, which is incomparably the most important truth of all. This presentation of the issue is the subject of many insults, and God will sort out and judge the hearts of all people. Again, biology is not rebellion, lust, or idolatry, and God loves all of His children with an infinite abundance and promise.

Jim, please contact me through my blog if you would like, and let me know if I can use your well-written letter in my book and blog, or you can write a more complete version if you would like to contribute that way. I understand if you would rather not, but I find your story compelling and important for this study. It's possible you've written something more extensive that I could read. All that may be necessary is a link to your letter on my blog, so we'll see, but I hope to hear from you. God bless you and thank you.

Lynn

Lynn,

I could not read your whole post right now but will do so later. (I did a very quick read / scan.)

One new thought: How exactly do you define the term "New Covenant"? I did not see that right away on your blog and feel it is crucial in your argument. What exactly did Christ do at the cross for us? I see us having a new purity and a new identity as a result of the New Covenant. How does this make something that is clearly sin acceptable? When you look at other issues the church has "changed" on over the years (such as slavery or the role of women), it does not come out of nowhere. There are some pretty strong suggestions of another option. I just don't see that in regards to issues dealing with sexual morality. That is one topic the Bible consistently and overwhelmingly treats as wrong and harmful. To suddenly say that a same sex relationship is ok when there is not even a valid hint of this in the Bible seems questionable to me. Other than reinterpreting Romans 1, where else would you see the Bible as allowing for this exception?

I went to your blog but didn't see how to comment. I will look again. I would rather write something with more thought and conciseness if you want to post it or use it somewhere else. If I come up with something I will be glad to post it there.

Lynn,

I went into this while searching for something else entirely, but I needed a break from research so I read. I purposely went into this to try and understand your point of view and how, as a follower of Christ, that you would find it in the Bible a place where any type of a homosexual relationship would be justified, because our actions do have to be justified. But when I read down to the end of one of your posts that stated "I agree that God is ultimately responsible for these declarations, and He inspired and governed the writings of the Scriptures. I believe He allowed a misunderstanding of His judgment on this issue, for His own reasons." So no matter what the Bible states, if you believe in something you can find justification in the matter (according to you) that God meant for there to be a misunderstanding of his Word. This is one of the most intellectually dishonest views of the Bible and God that I have ever heard. As someone else posted, you have indeed nitpicked and misinterpreted scripture, but when they were all addressed as being false you fall back on a position of saying that what God said isn't really what He meant. If that is the case, then why choose to be religious? If your position is that of "interpretation", then there is no point in following anything in the Bible.

Lynn, thanks for the exchange. I am sorry you feel I have made unfounded statements about your beliefs. I understand that to be the nature of a back-and-forth dialogue, with both sides trying to come to an understanding but falling short in some ways each time they respond to one another. As for your disappointment in my limiting your criteria to a loving and committed relationship, I would be comfortable including the other things you list (i.e. conscience, existential relationship with God, etc.) and still made the same points. I don’t know why you wish to characterize what I have said as “condemnation,” except perhaps to victimize yourself. I disagree with you, and at the moment I would even say that I think you are wrong, though I am open to correction (I, like everyone else, has thought things to be wrong in the past that I now think to be ok). I certainly do not condemn you. I would even be willing to say that we would get along quite well in person. As for your other comments, I will give a response below to some of the points, and other than some brief future comments this will be my final extended post on the whole matter.

1. I am not a geneticist so I can’t speak to how much we are wired at birth for certain orientations. I do believe that we are all born sinful and that there is something innately wrong with our orientations to all aspects of our future lives. As to your other comments on your first point, I think it comes down to that I think all people have the potential to change in their sexuality (in all areas, not just in terms of homo/hetero sexuality) and you do not. You feel that we all have an unchanging orientation and I do not. You feel that most people would agree with you I think the same about the opposite. I appreciate your looking for several studies as, if you recall, this was the point of my initial post on the matter.

2-3, 5. I agree with Darrell’s comments on the specifics regarding the fuller “presentation of your beliefs” about the Bible, which he sums up saying: “Now as for condemnation. The beauty of the gospel is that grace triumphs over sin. There are thousands, I am sure, saved homosexuals. Just as there are thousands of saved liers, slanderers, greedy, etc. Many of these people struggle to overcome that for which Christ died. What is disturbing about the position you are holding to is that it fails to truly face the way God spoke about this practice. You even make a point of it in stating your personal identity ("I am a gay, born again believer myself"). I can be greedy and angry as a person, but that does not make me proud to have those qualitied in my life and I pray that God continues to work on these areas. Grace is capable of reversing and is at work on these. Your position is such that you are arguing this is not necessary in an area Scripture consistently portrays negatively. That fact alone would give me pause, if I were you, about whether my view of liberty is actually correct.” If you wish to rehash your overall arguments I will let you do that with him.

I would only add to his statement that it is not just a practice which “Scripture consistently portrays negatively” but it is also a practice that those in the 2000 year history of Christianity have not questioned as being incorrect, and even now, your beliefs are an extremely small minority of worldwide ecumenical Christianity. I realize that you are sincere in what you think, as am I, but sincerity in the context of a relationship with God does not make one’s position correct. Clearly, one of us is sincerely wrong and only time will tell if your position is adopted by the rest of Christianity (in which case I would also adopt it) or if it will, as so many other past notions held by sincere Christians, be judged to be incorrect and outside of Christian teaching.

4. Just because neither of us have encountered incestuous relationships in the church does not mean they do not exist. I have not doubt that a long time ago you could have made all the statements that you have never heard of someone in a homosexual relationship that also believed themselves to be Christian, and that something like that “might occur on the frequency of a serial killing.” Since homosexuality is only recently a real issue in the church you cannot say that because incest is not currently an issue that it is illegitimate to make it one. You have not really engaged this issue, and perhaps you could explain why it is so “self-explanatory.” I only bring it up because I think your same method for justifying homosexuality could be used to justify incest. Obviously, sincere Christians disagree on a number of issues and so I do not give much weight to your “instinctive” understanding.

6. There are laws established in the Hebrew scriptures that Christians no longer follow. It is important to realize though that Christians would still want to follow the spirit of those laws even though they do not follow the laws in their wooden sense. I think you have to say this or else you will make God’s revelation in the NT in disagreement with his revelation in the OT, which then would be Marcionism. Darrell is a dispensational scholar so perhaps he has fuller thoughts on this then what I can present. However, I don’t even see this as an issue with homosexuality since it is presented as sinful in both the Old and New Testaments.

Finally, those who believe homosexuality to be sinful do not believe it haphazardly. It is born out of a deep desire to obey God, perhaps even against some of their own sexual tendencies, which they would also believe to be rooted in their sinful nature. Again such sexual tendencies need not be limited to homo/hetero sexuality but all areas of sexuality. Also, love is not absent from those who believe homosexuality is sinful. There is a desire to love God by obeying what they believe he has told them and there is a love for neighbor in the belief that their relationship with their neighbor is best when they are obeying God.

John:
May I also add to your response to Lynn, that in an earlier post she condemned a situation that involved adultery. For Lynn, homosexuality is ok as well as pre-marital sex...but adultery is somehow out of bounds. This is the faulty logic that I brought up with her assessment about God making the Bible to be intentionally misunderstood. with that theory, you can justify anything you want to at all and there is nothing that anyone can say contrary. When you believe in a theory that allows you to change the rules at any time for any reason, there is no sense trying to make a point to someone if they have no intention of 1)being honest 2)entering a conversation about something with an open mind, which is needed if you are looking for the truth, because life changes will have to be made. But that is not what she wants to do. She doesn't want to do the right thing, hence her continued faulty arguments which have been dispelled by each person who has responded to her, and yet she just takes something else out of context (because the bible was meant to be misunderstood, right?) to try to defend her lifestyle which she has absolutely no intention of changing. What she wants is some kind of justification for her lifestyle and someone to say "Hey, you're right, God didn't really mean it. Times have changed and God wouldn't have know that way back then." ...and other excuses that have been or will be brought up. None of it will be truth, however.
The other problem I have with her is that of her being a false teacher because she knows that homosexuality is wrong, which is why she is trying to get someone to agree with her....validation. But the problem I have is that she is using what she thinks thinks the Bible says, which is text taken out of context, flat out wrong, or simply made up when she needs it to be...and she has put herself in a position of being a false teacher. So not only is she bringing herself down, but others as well, and that is not acceptable. I would normally be much more respectfull in others beliefs, but this person is not looking for the truth...she's looking for someone to agree with her so she feels validated/justified with her actions.

Sean,

Your comments about my beliefs are far from anything that I have said, so you would've done well to be careful before God in what you are doing, if you are going to claim to be the one speaking the truth in this conversation, because God condemns all liars. I have spoken nothing falsely about the Bible. Addressing liars is a waste of my time, but I am going to defend myself and be done with the hatefest that you are embracing for your God. To lie about people is to hate people, and what awaits liars is wrath. I'll address your lies and your irrational statements one at a time, starting with your first letter.

1. You have no ability to distinguish the concept of a "principle" in Scripture. The principle that I am speaking of, is that the law of God under the new covenant, in its entirety, is love. Paul explained that all that defines love is the law of God, and we are accountable to each other for nothing more. Laws are subject to new covenant principles. This is verifiable several times over. This biblical fact renders your statements about me to be false. Nothing about what I am saying places all of Scripture in a state of being dismissible. I don't expect you to understand this, because your false statements are devoid of any spiritual understanding, reason, or discernment.

2. Based on your statements, unless you live by all laws stated by Paul, and speak out to defend all of his laws, you will be found to be the worst of all hypocrites, because of your severe judgments which are based on many false statements. You have not engaged in the debate here, you have merely launched an attack on me. If you have a shred of integrity, explain why it is no longer a disgrace in the church today, for women to attend church and pray without their heads covered, in obedience to the explicit teachings of Paul. Explain why this is no longer a teaching in the church. This is just one example of several, but I am keeping my time spent addressing you to a minimum.

3. For me to believe that God inspired and governed the writings of Scripture, and to believe that He allowed Paul and others to misunderstand what precisely was condemned by Him, in regards to same-sex relations, is not intellectually dishonest. It is not unreasonable to believe that His purpose was to nail down the predominance of heterosexuality for societies, and for "judgment" to fall along the lines of condemning the heart of rebellion only, which is explicitly laid out in the context of the statements. There are many compelling facts of how He purposely established His Word, which leads me to be convinced of this. This issue involves clear complexities, and God is a righteous Judge who looks upon the heart.

4. You are claiming that I have "nitpicked" Scripture. I assume you are referring to the many laws that have no place in Christianity today. Is this what you are going to say to God about these facts that I have brought up for discussion? "She nitpicked Lord; why should I be accountable for my judgments on her, and my dismissal of laws for us?" This is concerning what your judgments would suggest you believe to be God-breathed commandments for all time. If you do not believe they are, you are speaking hypocritically. If you do believe they are, no address of commandments of God, which have been wholly dismissed by the church, should be considered nitpicking.

5. ..."but when they were all addressed as being false you fall back on a position of saying that what God said isn't really what He meant." I don't believe you can show me one example where I was shown to have stated something that was false, much less "all." If you have a shred of integrity in you, show me where what I said was shown to be false.

Question: When God condemned a person to being stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, did He mean what He said for all time? Is this His law today? Even without the death penalty, is this His commandment today, that not one stitch of work is to be done on the Sabbath (yes, the Sabbath), and that this is disobedience to His law and of the severest of violations? When He stated the consuming of certain foods to be an "abomination," did He mean what He said for all time? These things were explicitly stated in the New Testament to be a matter of one's own conscience and personal relationship with God, and not subject to man's judgment. Quite a contrast from the OT, especially considering the severity of what was stated there. You've placed yourself in the position of judge...I'll be waiting for your answer.

6. "If that is the case, then why choose to be religious? If your position is that of "interpretation", then there is no point in following anything in the Bible." So wisdom says, unless you embrace all of the laws of the Bible, why embrace the gospel of the one who died to save your soul? Great logic there. Truth: "Pure and undefiled religion" is to serve the vulnerable and those who are in need. It is not the commandment of Christ to live by the entirety of the Mosaic Law and the laws of Paul. As to "interpretation"...I'll be waiting for your answers to these questions concerning God's Word.

Second letter.

1. As to your first point, of course I condemn adultery. The law of God is love; adultery is a violation of love. You are saying that if you liberate anything in Scripture, something that Paul himself did, "you throw out all laws," including the laws of love. (I'm sure you will be found to be the one with the sound logic. You reflect no spiritual understanding in your statements, or honesty.)

2. "For Lynn, homosexuality is ok as well as pre-marital sex...but adultery is somehow out of bounds." Not only do you not see why I would understand adultery to be sin, as if you've read nothing that I have written, or can't think intelligently at all, you lie and slander boldly for your God. All liars will be condemned. I would suggest you repent of this before seeing Him.

3. "Changing the rules at any time for any reason"...You have no sense of reason, or any concept of this from Scripture, so I won't take the time to answer this.

..."there is no sense trying to make a point to someone if they have no intention of 1)being honest 2)entering a conversation about something with an open mind, which is needed if you are looking for the truth" Honesty? A conversation with an open mind? I'll be waiting for your answers to my questions.

4. Your next statements are an ignorant judgment of my heart, my intentions, and my relationship with God. You don't know me, and God will put you in your place before all. I look forward to it.

5. "She doesn't want to do the right thing, hence her continued faulty arguments which have been dispelled by each person who has responded to her" Unless you are going to run away whining...please detail for the readers where I have been shown to be presenting a patently false argument.

6. The statements that follow this, are statements to the effect that I am "looking for someone to agree with me." Another false and ignorant assessment, for which you will answer to God one day, where He will ask you for the foundation of your judgment. This is a study on the written Word of God. Truthfully, what I am doing is quite the opposite of what you are saying, which says a lot about where you are coming from. I'll be surprised if you spend some time and give an answer for your beliefs and your judgments. We'll see.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Sean and Lynn: You are both close to crossing the line of respect to each other in treating motives and invoking God's judgment as if you each know what is taking place. I may not approve future posts on this topic if it continues. Keep the argument on topic and the biblical texts and let God handle motives and judgments.To Richard, simply thank you for your honesty. dlb

Dr. Bock,

You're right, and I apologize to you for answering Sean's accusations against me in such a direct manner. His letter contains no biblical argument, but is nothing more than an attack on me, and a false and baseless one at that. I stand by what I have said about his words...but it serves no purpose to have actually said it. It does more to place me in the category of what you are speaking of here, at least in how it comes across, than it does any good for this truth that I have every reason to believe God has led me to write about. There is a big difference between where I am coming from in my letter, and where he is coming from, because I am defending myself against false accusations. He is also stating that I have been "shown" to be speaking falsely about the Bible, as if to say it makes it true. What I am speaking about is biblical truths, and an interpretation on what I believe was intended in the statements regarding same-sex relations, which is exactly how I have presented myself.

I'll write a little more about my beliefs about the writings of Scripture on your blog, if you allow me to, but it will not be in a personal dialog with any individual who speaks hatred through false and baseless allegations about my heart, my intentions, and my personal relationship with God. I will, however, still be interested in whatever Sean has to say in regards to where I have been shown to be speaking falsely in any way, and the other questions that I asked of him.

To Richard...I do not disagree that the Bible presents homosexuality as sinful, but there is more to all that God presented in His Word, than to take this in what I believe to be a manner that looks at passages standing by themselves. The Bible that God gave to us is not Dick and Jane, for lack of a better comparison, and many gay and lesbian believers, who love God with all their hearts, do not share your conviction about the Bible's meaning on the issue. Indoctrination is likely the difference in regards to our consciences, and I do not find that this law is written on my heart, nor are many other laws of Scripture. When God said, "I will make a new covenant, and I will write My laws on their hearts." (Hebrews 8:9-11)...He clearly did not write the body of the Mosaic laws on our hearts. What is written on my heart, though, is a confirmation from the living God on how I have understood His Word, regardless of anyone else's belief about me. He is first in my life. You speak your own conviction, and you are entitled to that; I don't believe it is a proven truth, any more than it is a fact that people who eat pork are committing an abomination, or people who work on the Sabbath are worthy of death in God's eyes. True, these specific things were addressed in the New Testament as having liberty applied to them, but it is quite a contrast from the severity that God spoke of in the Old Testament, to have this liberated. This and many other biblical truths are compelling to me...only God can decide what people are accountable to have understood in regards to these truths and this issue, but He will never endorse anyone who lies.

Dr. Bock, again, I profoundly apologize to you and to your readers. I ask that you try to understand why I answered the way I did. I came here for a Bible-based discussion, and nothing is more difficult to listen to than lies about oneself. Thank you again for hosting a discussion here, and I appreciate your requirements. Anything more that I write will be kept brief, and will not be an attempt to present my entire argument. I feel that I'm almost finished here. Jim, I'll be writing a new edition of my book, and I would like your perspective and experience to be present in it, if you will allow it. Please contact me by email through my blog, if you want to and if you're reading this, although I no longer allow comments there, and it is now only an examination of writings from the Web. Sorry, I don't seem to know how to be real brie

Lynn

John, I'll give you my response to your comments, and this will wrap up my side of our dialog here on Bock's blog.

1. I suppose it is easy to misunderstand people's beliefs that you do not agree with...but personally, I do think you could try a little harder to accurately represent the beliefs of the person you are disagreeing with. Saying things like "you appear to be cutting out all things that sound like law"...I don't believe is trying very hard to be accurate or fair in the dialog. This teaching is not about "anarchy." The law of God is all that defines "love," which encompasses quite a few laws. Read again Romans 13:8, and there are several other passages that also speak of this truth. This is not a "subjective sensation of speaking before God in the light," this is a principle of Scripture, and is the foundation of this teaching.

Saying that I claim that "the Bible does not condemn homosexuality" is also something that is an unjustified statement, if you are making an effort to understand my beliefs with some depth and honesty. This is something that I have addressed in my ebook in regards to people who make this statement, which I do not agree with, and it is a misconstrual of what I have spoken about here. (1) The Bible condemns many things that are not laws in the New Testament or in the church today. (2) Paul showed himself to be capable of associating certain activities with a godless character, in ways that would not prove to be true when viewing the bigger picture. Also, his words do not have the type of witness that the words of Jesus have from God, and we do need to be discerning about some of his statements, in my belief.

2. In regards to your argument about incest...you started out speaking about my belief as reflecting a criteria of "loving and committed," and when I tell you that there is more to the criteria than that, you seem to be saying that you would have the same problem with this teaching, basically no matter what I present the criteria to be.

Let me just bring out this element: One of the important aspects of the foundation for this liberty, is the principle of "reason." Much to the disagreement of many people, this is a principle of Scripture. We see it in Mathew 12 for example. We also see the necessity for reason in some of the statements of Paul, in my view. "Reason and discernment" would not permit what you are speaking about. John, in answer to your statements about the unreliability of "instinct" and "differences in beliefs"...this is not an area of disagreement in the church! If you are still concerned that this teaching could be used that way, my answer to that is that I am no more responsible for a misuse of this teaching, than God would be for a misuse of His words in the Bible (e.g. killing for sin), which could be misused very easily. He expects something more from people. His law is written on the heart, and it would be between God and the individual. If an individual sears their conscience (the law written on the heart), this does not constitute escaping judgment.

3. My reference to "condemning statements" was merely a statement of fact. You started out speaking about your abundantly open mind to all things related to sexuality, and then it later became clear that you condemn homosexuality. Clarifying that is all that I was intending. The definition of "condemning" is "to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of; censure." I don't know why people have trouble embracing this as a simple statement of truth. You condemn homosexuality, plain and simple. So, no, I was not trying to "victimize" myself. Dr. Bock condemns homosexuality also. This is not a statement that he is a harsh judge of people; it is simply a factual statement of his heart-felt conviction. I wouldn't have written to his blog if I felt victimized by this belief.

4. As to your statements regarding changing your sexual orientation: I believe, frankly speaking, you have made arrogant statements, claiming that you know more about people than they know about themselves. Gender is a strong part of desire, and this is not something that many people would want to change. I am speaking about how I know it is for myself, and I know it is this way for very many people. You claim that all people can change, and the very few who believe they couldn't, lack introspection, so they really could in your view.

Also, you misstate my beliefs here again. I haven't said or even suggested that "no one can change their sexual orientation." If you want to read back on the dialog, you will see that I said the opposite for people for whom it is not rooted in their makeup. I also believe many people could discover themselves to be bisexual, depending on how they view societal or religious expectations, which I wrote about in my book. I'm not one of those people.

You have either discovered yourself to be potentially able to be with a man, and enjoy it as much as being with a woman, or you are speaking untruthfully in trying to make a point based on your religious beliefs. Only you know the answer to that. The fact that you say you could change in "all ways" sexually, I'm not going to address in detail. I don't think, whether you are a born-again Christian or not, that is a healthy way of thinking. You are alluding to all kinds of wickedness as a possibility in your being. I think you are merely trying to assert your belief that the gay person can change. Regardless, descending into debauchery and wickedness is not and could not be in me, because of love for God and people.

5. As far as reiterating Dr. Bock's statement about grace and condemnation...I don't disagree that people who repent of sin are acceptable to God. It's a little off any point that I am making. Also, I disagree that it is a very small minority of Christians who accept homosexuality, and who feel that it has been misunderstood. I can't recall the figures right now, but it is not a "very small minority." I find it strange that you would accept it, if the rest of Christianity accepts it.

As far as speaking about how "facing the way God has spoken about the practice": Basic logic tells me that, if God has addressed several things with severity, and changed the very nature of how these things are understood and applied in the church, this places laws subject to consideration of the intention and applicability of laws. This involves a meaningful set of criteria, as to His intentions for His people, and I believe it is not the open-and-shut issue that people claim that it is. With the law being restricted to all that defines love, as expressed by Paul, and many other compelling facts of the Bible and the issue, I do believe many people have not considered the potential for liberty on this issue, in relationship to the realities of how God has established His Word and the principles of the new covenant. He is a God of the heart.

6. "Following the 'spirit' of the Mosaic Laws"...is very far removed from the letter of those laws. This is not how we follow Christ, with any kind of practicality in the least. If it were, I would be following all of them. Also, the church does not follow all that is presented as the law, on the basis that it is in both the Old and New Testaments, or it would be forbidden for women to speak in a church service. (1 Cor. 14:34,35) The principles that I have brought out still establish liberty for the gay person in my view.

7. Your last point addresses the fact that, people who believe homosexuality is wrong, do so out of love for God and a desire to obey Him. For very many people, I have no doubt that this is true. And His commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. That is the law that Christ gave. It is not based on the entirety of the Law. His law is written on our hearts. My beliefs are not born out of something less than a desire to obey Him.

I am speaking the truth before God and people, of my love for God and desire to not fall short in any way: All of these truths make it difficult for me to simply accept that the issue is as it may appear at face-value in the Bible. In the way that God has established His Word, it does not work to take passages standing by themselves. It is not about simply dismissing things; it is about looking at and considering the whole picture, and considering all principles of Scripture. I have every reason to believe that Paul did not fully understand the issue. If someone says there is no element of "interpretation" in how we understand God's Word, I believe they are either not honest, or they haven't actually read the Bible. That is why I have explored why it seems so abundantly clear to many other people, and what exactly is their answer to what I see as these compelling truths of both the Bible and the issue itself. People will speak against my beliefs, and some will judge me in a manner that is accusatory against my heart and intentions, but it is God that I live for, and it is for Him that we seek to understand what His will is for our lives.

I've taken up more than my share of space here, which I didn't intend, but I felt that some things needed to be answered. I'll be writing only a few more things and be finished here. Thank you for the dialog, John, and take care.

Lynn

Lynn, I will try and briefly address your points

1. I do the best I can to understand where you are coming from. Ultimately I am not you and so I try and understand you from my frame of reference. I am sure you feel misunderstood at times, as do I, and I assure you that it is not malicious on my part. I do not pour over your comments for hours but read it once and write a response. I am a very busy person, as I am sure you are as well, and so I will probably never try and set your blog posts in the greater context of your thoughts that are laid out in your e-book. I think this is how blogging works, being a rather informal dialogue, and so I think you have to expect not to always be understood quite in the way you would like to be. As to your points about Paul and Jesus, (1) given the fact that Jesus was a traditional first century Jew I have little doubt that he would have thought the very act of homosexual behavior to be immoral in that it violates God’s purpose for his creation. (2) Certainly within Christian belief you cannot draw a line between Paul and Jesus. I know this sort of thing happens in academic circles all the time, but it has never held a place in Christian confession.

2. Why is homosexual activity so much more reasonable than incestuous activity? I agree with you that the church believes incest to be immoral. However, the vast majority of worldwide ecumenical Christianity also believes homosexuality to be immoral. It seems to me that most of Christianity feels both incest and homosexuality to be immoral and thus unreasonable.

3. Having an open mind does not mean you have no opinions about anything. I only means that you are willing to change those opinions. It means that you are willing to be convinced you are wrong. I do think that the act of homosexuality is immoral, but I am open for correction. I feel that not making yourself vulnerable to another point of view is a bad ethic of listening and thus sin. I often feel that the word “condemn” is used in these sorts of discussions about the person rather than the activity. Of course I would condemn the act of homosexuality as I would any other sin, but since I am a sinner I would never condemn the person committing the sin. Thus, I believe I can separate you from your homosexuality…I know you disagree with this, but I think it is important for you to know that in my mind I do not condemn you.

4. Again I, like you, can only speak from their own perspective. I only developed a stronger opinion that people can change in their sexual desires (over a very long period of time) after having the conversation with many of my peers and them agreeing. Perhaps unlike yourself, I do believe that I am capable of almost any sin, which I why I, like everyone else needs the assistance of God’s Spirit to stay where I should be sexually in all ways. I could never make your statement: “descending into debauchery and wickedness is not and could not be in me.” I believe that even now as a Christian it is possible for me to sin against God, and I think I would be a fool to underestimate the extent of that sin.

5. Truth in Christianity has always been based on ecumenical agreement guided by God’s Spirit. That is how we even have the ecumenical canon, creeds, etc. So of course, hypothetically speaking, if worldwide Christianity believed something to be true, I would also hope I would believe it. As for your other comments, God is a God of the heart, but God knows our hearts. We all have hearts which deceive us in various ways. Very well intentioned people sometimes believe and do very bad things. As a Western person, I would like to accept homosexuality as correct because then I would fit in with the rest of my Western culture, but I feel inhibited from doing so by the Christian tradition. In other words, my thoughts about homosexuality have not been made without thought.

6. Well I think you should follow the “spirit” of the Mosaic law. It is the same God. As far as women go, this is another discussion because Biblical trajectories for women are much more liberating than those for homosexuality, which tends to be addressed as statically immoral. On another note, I might add that most Christians still do not condone women taking certain positions (all Roman Catholics, Easter Orthodox, and most Protestants outside the Western world).

7. I realize you have a confirming feeling in your heart about your position on homosexuality. However, for me the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence and Christian tradition (which has interpreted the Biblical evidence as you are trying to do) is against your position. Almost 2000 years of Spirit filled interpreters of the Bible have come down against you and the majority still do today. I am sure we will be in heaven together and I would love to be on the same side of other arguments with you (perhaps against people who discredit the resurrection or something like that), but on this one I have to remain as I am.

Lynn:

I am completely capable of having a Biblical discussion. However when the person I am going to discuss it with believes that God intended the Bible to be misunderstood, then there really is not point since every passage can be made to say what you want. If you can get past that dishonest approach to studying the Bible, let me know.
When I study the Bible, I don't look for excuses or loopholes to try and justify any sinful actions. I study and pray and make an effort to be aware and avoid those actions. If it is an environment that spurs an action, then I would remove myself from that environment. What I don't do is say that this is just who I am or this is how I was made, and then try to study the Bible from that perspective. I study to understand what I am and am not supposed to be doing, not by what I want to believe, but by what the Bible actually says. Part of that include studying and understanding the context of the time and the culture.

You do not have to spout book chapter and verse to have a basic understanding of the Bible. For example, if I were to believe that God meant for the Bible to be misunderstood, how am I supposed to know what parts are true and which are false? Because for someone to make a statement that is meant to be misunderstood is essentially a lie. No need to look that up in the Bible...Webster perhaps. Do you understand where I am coming from?

Let me put it another way. Suppose you are studying the Law and you are studying the Rules of Evidence. But your professor tell you there are rules that don't really mean what they say, but nobody knows which ones. How is a courtroom to conduct itself then? The prosecution will say that a particular rule means one thing, but then the defense can claim that it means something else entirely. In that instance you have taken a set of well thought out rules and made them meaningless because they are now open to interpretation. At that point, it would be imossible to carry out court proceedings and criminals can do as they choose because the system is now meaningless and there is no fear of punishment.

God wants us to go to Heaven. God is perfect. God would not make the rules that he gave to us not understandable. You cannot have a discussion with Biblical content if the person believes that Word is deceiving.

A few more comments for John, out of the necessity for clarity and the pursuit of truth.

It may be an informal dialog, but it is an important discussion, so every effort should be made for not only accuracy in what you are disputing, but an actual address of the issues raised here. On several counts, the way you represent my position is contrary to what I have specifically said. What an involved science it would be, to lay out all of the ways various components of my belief can be misrepresented, which is why I ended the comments section of my blog...but I am willing to carry out the discussion here until some clarity has been reached. I consider misrepresentations of my statements and my beliefs sufficiently addressed.

I will be looking for specific answers from both yourself and Sean, in order to bring some clarity to my actual position, which you have both avoided. Maybe you don't have a position on the complexities of Scripture. I'll get to Sean's comments in a minute, and address John a little further first.

It seems to me that Jesus spoke beyond the parameters of traditional Jewish thinking. This a significant truth about His teachings, which is seen in several ways. I won't elaborate on this, other than to say that He raised eyebrows on several occasions in speaking the pure truth of God. The law that Jesus promoted was limited to the Ten Commandments, and the Two Commandments concerning loving God first and loving your neighbor as yourself, not the entire body of Mosaic laws. I see Jesus as being compassionate and loving people, also as speaking things that people would not expect. He did say that not a stroke or letter of the Law will be removed, until a particular event had been accomplished, and this event has now been accomplished. The law of God is now explicitly stated to be love, in its entirety. Here are a few biblical truths and reinforcements for my belief:

(1) We are not under the Law; (2) The law forbidding same-sex relations is not part of the T.C. and it could easily have been; (3) Jesus did not speak against same-sex relations, which He could've done, in light of the realities of the issue and the future controversy; (4) There is no importance stated in the Book of Revelation, regarding the concept of "the order of the genders." None of this matters to the ecumenical, traditional Christian belief, but it speaks a great deal to this complex issue in the family of God.

You are saying that there is no line to be drawn between Paul and Jesus? My question to you--aside from mentioning the fact that Jesus is the Lord, and Paul is a mere man--where do you find this substantiated in Scripture, as borne witness to by God? I see God bearing witness to His Son in many ways. I see a witness upon Paul, but not in the manner that you are speaking of. So I don't see a biblical basis for taking Paul's words as the words of Jesus Christ, with no reason or discernment needed, nor do I see this supposed belief of ecumenical Christianity carried out in the church. Based on this truth, his culturally-based teachings are subject to these principles that I mentioned, which we also do see in the practice of the Christian faith, but not talked about much or established as being based on principles of liberty.

In answer to your question about incest: There is no compelling reason for the acceptance of relations between family members. The issue of homosexuality does have compelling truths, that have evolved in humanity and emerged at some point in history. That is why there is disagreement amongst good-hearted believers in the Lord about the issue. That is why it is considered unreasonable by many, to require gay people to be straight or to be celibate, and to believe that these truths of the issue mean nothing to a kind, compassionate, and reasonable God.

I guess we'll have to disagree on this next point...there is much wicked behavior that I could never engage in. I'm quite capable of failing, but not in all ways. I live in Christ, have love and empathy for other people, and I fear God. Jesus was tempted in all ways, as we are, and the ways that we are tempted are not in all things. He was not and could not be tempted in all things, only the things that He could be tempted in was He tempted in, having to do with weakness of the flesh. This is how I personally understand our good Lord.

Next point: "Truth in Christianity has always been based on ecumenical agreement guided by God’s Spirit." It's easy to state a simplistic version of what we believe in. The core of our beliefs is the same, regarding who Jesus Christ is, and our need for Him. When it comes down to specific laws of the Bible and the practice of the faith...we don't practice what we claim to be true, if we are stating Paul's words to be the words of Christ. What is God's Spirit on these things? It's probably best that we don't talk about it, thus "agreement" in the church does not necessarily establish "truth." And agreement is not going to grant an individual a place of honor in God's kingdom.

I agree that our hearts can deceive us in many ways. This has been brought before God well, and examined thoroughly in light of the whole picture of God's Word. So, no, it is not about a "confirming feeling." It is all well-reasoned, and based on many truths. You don't have to believe this. You are entitled to believe that God despises all intimate, same-sex relationships. The point is that our accountability is to God, and to do no harm to our neighbor. Beyond this...I believe we are to mind our own households and our own relationships with God. People are entitled to voice their beliefs, but there is much that they have ignored, and their position does not have nearly the strength that they believe it has in my view.

The Mosaic Law established an "image" of holiness, largely speaking, in my understanding, and I do follow the spirit of the Law. "The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

As far as your statement about "Biblical trajectories for women"...I'm not following your point. Paul was very clear about the limitations to be placed on women, and how he expected them to conduct themselves in regards to the things that I've mentioned.

"However, for me the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence and Christian tradition (which has interpreted the Biblical evidence as you are trying to do) is against your position. Almost 2000 years of Spirit filled interpreters of the Bible have come down against you and the majority still do today." And it has been very easy for them to do this on the subject of same-sex relationships. It doesn't prove that they represent the heart of God on the matter. The way He established His Word provides for this understanding of the issue. He is a God of the heart, meaning that it is the heart that He looks upon, which man cannot see.

Sean: I'll be giving my final comments at some point in this discussion, and this will address your statements: "The Bible is not true?" and my supposed "dishonest approach" of how it seems to me that God will be addressing this issue, which I am also addressing in this letter.

In the mean time, I'll address your comparison between the Bible and how we must view the laws of the land, and then I'll ask you a question about your understanding of the Bible.

Simply put...the laws of the Bible, and the law of the land, are two very different concepts. Is this an opinion that I have derived for my own purposes, or is this abundantly, undeniably provable in Scripture? It is provable, and it is the Bible that God has given to humanity. This will be a time-consuming task, but I will have to in time, for the sake of this study, count how many laws in the Bible we do not find in the function of the Christian faith. The law of the land functions in a much different way.

In claiming that this is very clear and not subject to discussion, on the basis that God would not allow something to be, in truth, not as it appears in the Bible (which He did even within the context of the Bible itself, regarding foods and days of the week)...I believe you are working to maintain what is a patently false belief, that the Bible is or contains a simple set of laws, which represent inherent truth, and will remain authoritative until the end of time. In doing so, you believe that it is you who is speaking the truth about the Bible. You also believe it is you who is speaking the truth, while putting yourself in the place of God, though judging my heart falsely, and speaking falsely about me in other ways. So, because it is you who speaks truthfully, and not me, you will not simply state where you claim that I have been shown to have spoken falsely.

Questions for both John and Sean: (1) Why is it no longer a "disgrace" for women to attend church, and pray without their heads covered? Is this not the command of Christ, being spoken by Paul? (2) Why is it not a compromise of her glory and her covering to wear her hair short? Does not nature teach that it is? (3) Why is it not a teaching of Christianity today, that women are not to speak in church? I've never seen this carried out in a church, or taught as the truth of God. (4) Why is it not taught that a man may keep his virgin daughter unmarried if he so chooses? (5) Why is it not a teaching of Christianity that a woman may not wear gold, pearls, braids in her hair, or expensive dresses? Is this not what the ungodly women do? (6) Why is it not a teaching of Christianity that tattoos are forbidden? (7) Why is it not taught that a farmer is to leave his entire crop for the poor every seventh year? (8) And lastly, the fact that God set up laws in the Old Testament that had the "death penalty" and the word "abomination" attached to them, and in the New Testament, these things are explicitly stated to be not a law of God, and required of His believers...does this make God a liar? He is the same God, but laws have changed, and do not necessarily represent inherent truth. John 1:17.

As to the idea that "it is all very clear," and God did not intend for one person to understand things one way, while another person understands things another way...what is the meaning of all that is spoken of in Romans 14? It may not be a thing of grace, but we are having a fact-based debate about the Bible...I believe I've proven you wrong here again. Differences of interpretation are clearly part of the plan of God, based on the realities of how He established some complexities in His Word. It does not subject everything to interpretation by any means. It does subject some things to interpretation, and there is much to be said about the context of the passages that address this issue, the question of the blanket authority of laws, and the truth that some laws did not represent inherent truth, but were stated within a particular context, and for a particular purpose to be fulfilled.

Sean, your own words: "I study to understand what I am and am not supposed to be doing, not by what I want to believe, but by what the Bible actually says. Part of that include studying and understanding the context of the time and the culture." I'll leave that alone, but I just wanted to repeat your words here.

This understanding did not come about from what I wanted to believe, and it is based on many verifiable truths. These truths are the focus of this discussion. It is somewhat intense, but it is important to scrutinize the truths of the Bible and the issue, because of the judgment of people who see and use the Bible in a very selective manner. Many people see these truths, and will have no part of condemning the innocent, because some people were born gay and this is evident in God's creation of humanity. "Rebellion of heart," which is clear in the context of the biblical statements, is not the same as an individual's "biological and psychological makeup." How a person lives is what constitutes their "lifestyle." The gender of one's partner does not speak to lifestyle, but is simply a component of their relationship.

I will be very interested in your answers to my questions. If you can make a judgment on a person or their beliefs, you should be willing to explain why their beliefs do not hold water in your view, in response to the basis for their beliefs. I'm open to being shown where I have misstated anything about the Bible or the issue, as I have said.

Lynn,

Unfortunately I do not have time to continue this conversation. If you want something of my own take on women's issues, I would largely agree with Webb's work, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. On the point between Jesus and Paul, Christian belief is that God has equally inspired the words of the gospels as well as the epistles. The earliest Gospel (Mark) was written at least 30 years after Jesus and there is much theological reflection that has gone into the writing, which has then effected how Jesus is presented. In other words the gospels are not some video recording of Jesus but are edited according to the theology of the writer. That Jesus is not listed in the gospels speaking about homosexuality is more reflective of the community of the gospel writer than of Jesus himself. Paul is also influenced by Jesus traditions (and his writings are earlier than Mark so you could even say that he is closer to Jesus), but he is not as explicit about them. Bottom line, both the gospels and the epistles are influenced by the impact left by the historical Jesus. Christian belief is that God has equally inspired both of them.

John

John, I don't know why you're speaking of "women's issues," this is about the Word of God, which is all of our issue, and that seems to be making the debate something other than about the Word of God.

I believe God inspired the writings of Paul, but some things appear to be only to the people of his time, and need to be viewed discerningly. Some of Paul's writings also show that he was capable of speaking in a limited manner on some things, while applying significant words of judgment, which could not be said to be complete and true in all settings. You seem to be in disagreement with this, but it is hard to tell because you declined to touch on answering the questions. (Your statement about the absence of a reference to Jesus' words on the subject is purely an opinion, and God governed how His Word was established.) It is still a fact that Paul was a mere man, though anointed by God for the work of his calling, and my accountability is much more to the words of Jesus Christ, about whom God said: "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased...listen to Him! My accountability is also for what is written on my heart. It is easy for you to say that the words of Paul have the same authority as Jesus to the church today, but I don't see this belief practiced in Christianity, so it would fall into the category of "You honor Me with your lips and not your hearts." (Matt. 15:7-9)

If I believe something is a commandment of God, which is God-breathed and is for all time, it is His will for my life. This is how our consciences work in our accountability to God. I am honest about liberty in my life. If the mainstream church doesn't want to admit to having applied "reason" to some of these statements of Paul, and that they are "discerning" the meanings of things, and the true essence of righteousness and the will of God in their understanding, and that Paul may have spoken on some occasions from his experience and knowledge of his culture...there is an inconsistency between what they say and what they do, and we all know what that means. And they maintain their claim, to the condemnation of good people who love the Lord.

This is simply an honest and reasonable approach to understanding God's Word and His will for our lives (though it is easier to simply agree upon a claim and not live by it). The greater principles of Scripture speak much more to His will for my life, and I won't have any part of lip service to God.

Maybe the church has fallen short in not teaching all that Paul taught as the commands of Christ today, based on the blanket authority you believe Paul was given by God, which your beliefs suggest is to be carried out regardless of our understanding or any other facts for consideration...but for some inexplicable reason, this hasn't been done.

I accept the teachings of Paul as God-breathed, and there are many treasures of wisdom and knowledge...but what appear to be culturally-based instructions, or acceptable based on the cultural beliefs of his time, or something that is heavily steeped in an explicit context (or lightly), I believe is subject to question and discernment, plain and simple. I live by what I claim to believe. Thanks John.

Lynn

Lynn,

Thanks for the conversation.

John

I'm interested in hearing more from people like Jim who said he is attracted to men but has married a woman. I value his honesty, because the people I have known who were strongly inclined towards same-sex relationships and are now married tend to claim that their same-sex attractions are gone or greatly diminished.

Don't bisexual people feel sexual urgings for men and for women? Given the choice, I can see why many would choose to marry a woman: among non-Christians it's a more conventional and acceptable lifestyle and many Christians view marriage as the only moral life-relationship.

Like Jim, I was raised in a Christian home. When at puberty I discovered my attractions to be exclusively homosexual and contrary to my beliefs, I simply went into hiding until finally revealing this truth about myself to friends and parents at age 18.

At age 20 I entered therapy with a Christian counsellor, and continued weekly sessions with only Christian counselors for about five years. One, who was head of counseling at a prominent Bible church with strong links to Dallas Theological Seminary, ended our sessions -- saying, if I can interpret him correctly, that he felt I was healthy enough to make my own decisions regarding my sexual behavior.

During at least three of those years I faithfully attended a Christian group for men seeking to reverse their homosexual feelings or avoid homosexual behavior. I had never had any sexual contact with a person of the same sex but hoped to eliminate or control what I felt to be a strongly homosexual orientation.

As you might imagine, this orientation never changed. My assurance of Christ's love for me also remained intact through some very dark times when I felt my faith and my sexuality to be irreconcilable. Still not sexually active but seeking a group of believers where I would feel less crushing pressure, I started attending an Episcopal church.

At first I was very uncomfortable with the kneeling, weekly communion, and women preaching: all the trappings, I believed, of error and idolatry. But I found believers who removed from me any pressure to change. That alone has eliminated -- for the last 15 years -- any serious depression and battles with suicidal feelings that I had faced before when I adamantly believed that my homosexual feelings were wrong. Further sadness was caused by believing that my problems had their genesis in weak parenting.

It forced me to question the goodness of people I loved. My mother had never seemed domineering or my father distant. But a non-Christian theory had me convinced that they somehow had been -- and had in reality caused me no end of suffering, when I could have been happily married by that time.

Even worse, it seemed my parents had done this completely by mistake. Could you mar someone's life just by carelessness? This didn't ring true.

I spent a good deal of time grappling with the Scriptures. Let me say now that if Lynn has indeed stated that she believes that the NT does not condemn faithful same-sex relationships, I agree with her (I only read enough to discover that it was claimed she said that; I did not read her actual words). With all respect, it doesn't matter what other people think. I am the one who has to answer to God for my life.

Starting in the OT, I don't accept the story of Sodom as condemning faithful same-sex relationships because the men of Sodom threatened homosexual rape. Further, Lot offered them his daughters as if heterosexual activity might satisfy homosexual desires. Clearly, something else was going on.

What used to be translated "sodomite" in the King James Version is in newer translations made out as "temple prostitute" or "male prostitute." I can accept that sexualized worship is immoral. Perhaps Dr Bock can explain more about other OT references to homosexuality and proper translations.

Homosexuality was an abomination to God. My Bible also calls lobster an abomination. So the forceful words alone don't mean God rejects it for all time. He wanted to build a nation of His chosen people. Homosexuality does not increase population.

Skipping over Romans, I struggled with I Cor 6:9 where both malakos and arsenokoites are mentioned in the list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Malakos is translated "soft," "effeminate," etc. Arsenokoites is translated "homosexuals," "offenders of themselves with mankind," among others. A transliteration is "male bed offender." If I'm not mistaken, the word is never repeated in the NT or any other known writing.

If Paul intended to make it clear that all homosexual behavior was wrong, why did he specify two sorts of homosexuals? Instead, isn't he condemning a specific behavior? To us, it might not be clear exactly what it is because we aren't even sure how to accurately translate the words. Dr Bock may say otherwise.

It's easy to simply conculde that Paul is condemning both the passive and the dominant partner in homosexual activity. But why on earth would he go into such lurid detail? No one who condemns the sex trade specifies that prostitutes *and* their customers are both wrong. If you think abortion is a sin, there's no need to point out that both the women who receive them and the doctors who perform them are both committing murder.

I've always concluded (and I am sure that that Dr Bock has heard this many times) that the Apostle Paul was only condemning the prevalent and extreme homosexual activities of the Roman Empire, namely pederasty, the practice of men taking boys as lovers as an alternative to their wives. This, for me, could explain what Paul calls "exchanging the truth of God for a lie." Men left their wives to spend time sexually abusing young boys. Their wives, perhaps out of frustration or sheer boredom, found girlfriends. I can agree with anyone who condemns this.

Another question has bothered me. Why did Paul mention homosexuality so rarely? Why didn't he cover it in every letter to close off any debate? Were no Philippians involved in homosexual relationships, or did Paul, by not mentioning it in his letter to them, just assume they knew it was wrong? Surely not every Christian could read all of Paul's letters as they circulated among the early churches.

Weren' t there *any* gay Philippians who needed condemning? There seem to be many gays who need condemning by followers of Paul today.

If the NT does condemn homosexuality without exception, then I've made a mistake. My male partner of seven years and I still go to church every Sunday. I see my faith as an indispensable part of my life and Christ as my savior. If others think I'm wrong, I must disagree. It is God and not other people who will finally and fully confirm who is right and wrong. I have made my choice in faith and will answer for it. I trust God.

The idea of this discussion is good, but some of the responses remind me why Evangelical groups are no place for a person who has trouble maintaining an Evangelical view of what it means to live rightly. How wonderful it would be if we could leave it at the question: "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your savior from sin?" I could answer yes. But in the Evangelical tradition, more questions and seeming demands inevitably come if you want to stay in the club.

We can debate head covering and adultery: but if participants in this discussion want to condemn homosexuality while attending churches where women's heads go uncovered, and while they fraternize with those who are divorced and remarried who are arguably adulterers, I will find it all too easy to dismiss the hypocrisy in it.

Dr Bock, it is true that it is a non sequiter to say that a person who is wrong in one area is wrong in all, but I believe that the spirit of dealing with homosexuals in the Evangelical church is what Lynn was trying to plead for. And I do find it hard to listen to people who dicontinue following some teachings, while with utmost strictness they uphold others.

What is worse, no one who pays attention will listen until Evangelical believers stop debating things like headcovering and adultery and simply obey -- just like they expect homosexuals to.

In my Ryrie study Bible, the notes pointed out that the reasons for headcovering are not cultural. Christian women should do it for three powerful reasons: the order of creation, Christ's headship and the presence of angels. This seems hard to talk your way out of, but virtually every Evangelical I know has found a way to do it.

Likewise, thirty years ago, divorced and remarried people were considered adulterers and excluded from fellowship by all but the most liberal. Now they are part of the fellowship of all but the most conservative.

Do you find it surprsing then that people like me want the same kindness from our fellow believers? I think that is what this debate is about. Few Evangelicals offer this.

John A

I just want to clarify what my belief is about the New Testament statements on the subject.

John A, you said: "Let me say now that if Lynn has indeed stated that she believes that the NT does not condemn faithful same-sex relationships, I agree with her."

I'll quote from one of my letters: "To clarify, my belief is that homosexuality being spoken of as condemned, is stated within an expressed context, and is related to the sinful qualities that I have cited from Scripture. This context, Paul's explanation of the type of person he condemned, is all prolifically there in Scripture. I didn't make it up."

It would definitely be accurate to say that I do believe the Bible does not condemn the faithful, same-sex relationship, which is a broader understanding of the issue than what the Bible addresses.

My clarification was in response to John's statement: "Hmmm. Well I think the idea that the New Testament does not condemn homosexuality is flatly ridiculous."

People who speak against the belief that God does accept the faithful, same-sex relationship, tend to speak in simplistic terms about the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality, in order to make it an open-and-shut case for condemnation, and make it seem ridiculous to dispute this. People who think with a little more depth--and I'm not saying this to be insulting, because the simple version is not entirely without foundation--sometimes will say that "the Bible does not condemn homosexuality."

In my view, both of these portrayals of the Bible are extremes. One of my goals in how I have presented my beliefs, is to see and address the Bible for what it is actually saying. I hear what is stated about "pederasty," the sexual abuse of young boys by heterosexual men, but I don't see this described in the Bible. (I'm open to correction on anything I've said, by the way.) What I see spoken of is "sexual acts" between men and between women:

"For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." (Rom.1:26,27)

Based on these words, speaking specifically about acts themselves, I don't agree with the statement "the Bible does not condemn homosexuality." It clearly is condemning same-sex acts. What I do say is that the bigger picture shows something much more to be considered, as is also seen in all other references to same-sex relations in Scripture. The bigger picture of the issue is also seen in viewing other biblical principles, such as the law being "fulfilled in a word" and limited to all that defines "love," in the truest sense of the word. (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14) There are also other passages which establish liberty from adherence to the letter of the Law, in favor of the true essence of righteousness, which was spoken of by Paul on several occasions, and by Jesus.

There is a richly described context, in and surrounding these words in Romans 1, none of which speak of pederasty, which I am not doubting was a prevalent practice of the time. What the context does speak about is "lust," "rebellion of heart," and "idolatry." These three concepts are stated explicitly in this passage, and in the larger text dealing with this in Romans 1. This is a specific type of spirit, which Paul went to great lengths to describe, and does not describe all gay people or their relationships.

In my belief, the bigger picture proves the opposite of what those who cite the simple version claim is proven, but as John A rightly noted, "With all respect, it doesn't matter what other people think. I am the one who has to answer to God for my life." People will feel strongly on both sides of the issue, and we will all be accountable to God as individuals.

One clarification of a comment John A made: "Dr Bock, it is true that it is a non sequiter to say that a person who is wrong in one area is wrong in all, but I believe that the spirit of dealing with homosexuals in the Evangelical church is what Lynn was trying to plead for."

I apparently have issues with wanting my words and beliefs to be represented accurately. You're correct in one sense, but I wasn't saying that "if you are wrong in one area, you are wrong in all."

What was being spoken of here is the question of citing laws to speak against the beliefs of others, while it is somehow not necessary to take Scriptures in this same manner for yourselves, that speak against something that you find unreasonable to apply as it appears by the letter. What is being required of the gay believer in Christ, is that we accept these statements of Scripture, simply as it appears at face-value, with no "reason or discernment" needed. These principles are not spoken of, at least not that I have heard in all my years in Christianity, but seem to be embraced regarding several explicit instructions of Scripture in the mainstream church.

Let me clarify that my original point was not so much about disqualifying someone from making a judgment, but to provoke thought regarding considering Scripture with a little more depth and reason, as you do for yourselves. His answer was not completely off the point, but it was a broader sense of considering how we take laws of Scripture that I was aiming at. He made the statement that, "being disobedient in one area does not disqualify a person from making a judgment in another area."

Though this was not a fuller address of my original point, because I don't believe liberty in good conscience is disobedience, my answer was that Jesus spoke directly to his statement, so I'll cite this here:

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt. 7:3-5)

It is a principle of God's Word that if you are disobedient in one area, you need to get this taken care of before speaking against someone else. My appeal is simply to consider the complexities of the Bible and its laws, and to try to strike a little more consistency in how we understand and apply the laws of Scripture. Christianity is not a religion of many laws, when it comes down to it, although the Bible is. The Bible also clarifies, with respect to this fact, that love is the entirety of God's law. But so many find this particular law very special, and we must maintain the definition of Christianity as being "heterosexuality only," regardless of the fact that a segment of the family of God is clearly not heterosexual in their nature. We are a new creation in Christ, and this is described well in the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:21-23)

On another note...I appreciated the story of Jim, and yours as well. Ideally, people who were born with a homosexual orientation should have all views and life-experiences available to them.

I'm glad to see this conversation is still going on. I found myself reading in 1 Corinthians last night, and it prompted two questions I was hoping to ask you.

1) Regarding 1 Cor 6, Lynn quoted vs. 12 to Dr. Bock. But immediately prior to that, Paul says something rather straightforward about unrighteousness. "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And 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." (1 Cor 6:9-11; all quotations will be from the TNIV).

Paul provides a list of things that the unrighteous do, and then he says that these things have been set aside once the Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified. In other words, those things are no longer the case.

Smack dab in the middle of that is "practicing homosexuals." Obviously, there is more than one exegetical possibility here. But if you want to argue that a person remains a homosexual, but simply stops practicing homosexuality, how does that fit with the context here? Can someone be a non-practicing drunkard or thief? Can someone remain sexually immoral, and just stop acting on the immoral thoughts? Or does his use of the word "were," along with the statements about washing, signify that a change has taken place, and that the old is replaced by something new?

2) Paul proceeds in chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians to provide pastoral advice regarding marriage and sexuality. He addresses several aspects here. I don't have time to cover them all, but I do think it is important to get the thrust of his argument. Verse 2 says "But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband." He then winds his way through various issues, but his primary theme is this: it would be better to remain single, but if you cannot control your passions, you should marry. Abstinence is for single people, and marriage is the answer for those who cannot abstain. There don't seem to be any other categories.

My question is this: If homosexual relationships are honored by God, as has been asserted elsewhere in this thread, then where are Paul's instructions concerning proper homosexual conduct and partner fidelity? This whole section of the letter is an outpouring of pastoral concern, trying to get people to live morally upright lives and forsake sexual immorality, yet the chapter ends without a single admonition or even a mention of the homosexual. Why is that?

Lynn, thank you for the reply. We seem to be approaching the same conclusion from different angles. I would like to hear from others as well. You do definitely seem to want to have your beliefs and views represented accurately, as anyone should.

Abiding by the law of love, many churches embrace some fellow believers who arguably in error. It's only reasonable to hope that the embrace now extended to divorced and remarried people should be extended to people in faithful same-sex relationships. I believe they eventually will.

Churches who notice that the congregations they now support do not fully represent a cross-section of their community because they exclude gay people will realize they are mostly reaching the converted, and start reaching the many others are interested in the faith but do not fit the Christian mold.

Some might argue that they already accept gays, in fact they have all kinds of programs for helping them to change their orientation. But do they have groups for rebellious women who need to learn to cover their heads? Where are there repentance gatherings for people who are divorced and remarried who need to learn that their relationship is not marriage in God's eyes?

Lynn, Christ urges you not to throw our pearls to pigs, "because they might trample them and turn on you and tear you to pieces." Some who are listening to your words are inclined to dimsiss you, even hurt you. Dr Bock is obviously interested and qualified to discuss these issues: but not everyone who reads his blog seems equally objective and fair.

This is, nonetheless, an intersting discussion. Several contributors have declared no stance in their faith or sexuality, though we can read between the lines. James has made it clear he is a Christian believer who has same-sex attractions but is faithful to his wife. Richard feels called to celibacy.

Many times I was prepared to adopt Richard's way of life, but I could not accept his deprecating view of his sexuality. I believe, as he does, that we are all born sinners. But I have come to to the conclusion that I that not all who are in same-sex relationships, as Richard says, "idolize [them]selves and rebel against God with a most depraved sexual sin."

Richard pointed out that "There are thousands of Christians who struggle with this sin. How is it that most Christians do not know even one?" The answer is clear. Homosexuals are hardly seen in the Evangelical church because they are not welcome there.

After all, why should you stay if your pastor, who is divorced and remarried and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary tells you that a faithful same-sex relationship can in no way be part of a Christian life? Should you follow his hermeneutic to a perpetually self-condemning view that he, presumably by God's grace, has escaped or overcome? I can only say that I didn't approach the pastor to have this intensely personal conversation. In his church, his kind were welcome; my kind were not.

Lynn cuts to the quick with Christ's question about the speck in your brother's eye. Sadly, many people don't get it, believing that if they dont' have a "log in their own eye" this truth doesn't apply to them, thus, hunting for specks is a solemn duty. But isn't the log a blinding intolerance?

Much that is wrong in the church is built on the phrase "Love this sinner; hate the sin."

I would like to simply strike the second half of the phrase to align it more with the message of Christ, who said "Love thy neighbor." Or did he say, "Love thy neighbor and hate thy neighbor's sin"? No, something quite different: "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you." Heap burning coals on their heads.

I've heard that more people have been sung into heresy than preached into it, but if I can trust the theology of Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortess Is Our God," I've been curious - ever since childhood - what "little word" is referred to in this stanza:

The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure
For lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him.

Is "love" that little word?

I'll look upon this as an opportunity to sum up my understanding of the Bible and this issue, and leave the issue for the rest of you to discuss.

Matt, in reference to what is stated prior to 1 Cor. 6:12, my belief is that Paul associated homosexual acts with the ungodly people he was aware of, which he described in detail in Romans 1. The only example he had to work with in his understanding of the issue were the people who were in rebellion against God. It is easy to see why he would have understood it this way, because that is all he knew about or saw, including from references in the O.T. regarding violence, promiscuity, and temple prostitution. My belief is that he did not have full knowledge of the issue as it would come to be known in the future, and as we see evidenced in the very physical and emotional makeup of many homosexual people. A person's inherent makeup (whether it is very apparent or not) is in a different category from a heart of rebellion, lust, and idolatry, and it is the heart that God looks upon.

The belief of "conservatives" is that this doesn't matter, if it is even true, and these individuals are to live by the written law, regardless of their personal understanding or any other facts to be considered. Their belief is that homosexual acts are rebellion, because they go against this law of the Bible, and they cite this as proof of their belief.

The truth is, this approach to interpreting the believer's obligation to the laws of the Bible is not consistent with the way the Christian church understands or lives by the many Scriptural laws for themselves. It is also not consistent with the New Testament teachings regarding the believer's obligation to the laws of Moses, as a body of laws. Laws of "morality" are not subject to liberty, because they are based on love for your fellow humanity. They are also based on "order" in society, and many of Paul's laws that have been dismissed in the church, are adapted to our cultural beliefs and ways, and do not cause disorder in society. Same-sex relationships are absent of any evidence of harm, and therefore do not violate the law of love for your neighbor, which in my view is the only law that applies (Rom. 13:8-10), and this gender-based law is subject to the new covenant principle of "liberty" in Christ. (It is a question of what truly is moral, and what is not essential to the faith. Self-denial is a good thing, but there is a truth to be realized here.) Liberty is a component in the function of the Christian faith, but not spoken about as a doctrine that I have heard. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free..." (Gal. 5:1-3) This was regarding freedom from laws that were not the essence of truth and righteousness in themselves.

As to verse 6:12, I believe Paul was clearly speaking of the principle of liberty, which was not a license to do whatever one wishes, but required a view to fruits of deeds and self-control. Based on what I believe is evidenced in several compelling ways, Paul had only partial understanding of the issue, and had no way of knowing that same-sex relationships could be completely absent of the sinful qualities that he saw and described, and therefore he had no way of perceiving that liberty may apply to God's gay and lesbian children, in His great love for them. Many people will never see the issue this way, and they are entitled to their view. This is how I understand the issue, and it is God that I answer to. I believe God is testing the hearts of all people on this issue today.

I would make the point that the homosexual person does not have their sexual orientation changed through the washing and renewal in Christ, and it is because it is not from a sinful spirit. If something is embraced in the heart, the person is guilty of the sin according to the teachings of Jesus, so they are essentially "practicing" in their hearts. (Some things this would have no application to, as you said.) I've heard it said that "it is acceptable to be gay, as long as one is not practicing," but this is the only so-called sin that anyone would say this about. It doesn't work according to the teachings of Jesus, and the gay believer would be obligated to completely renounce any identification with being gay, if you believe it is wrong.

I'll leave chapter 7 for someone else to address if they want to, except to say that much of this chapter of the Bible is not a teaching of the Christian church today, nor do we even encourage singleness today, much less say that you should remain in the marital status you were in at the time you were called. Marriage is the desire of the hearts of virtually all Christian people. It is a spiritual union before God in my view, and does not exclude same-sex couples.

Sexual sins are of the most serious of all sins, because they are born out of a heart of complete indifference to God, they compromise the spiritual quality of an individual in their body, and they pose a threat to the health and well-being of the people involved.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone who can address what I am saying thoughtfully and intelligently, in terms of the biblical doctrines and the health of society, which should be accepting and inclusive of all of its citizens (of course with the exception of criminals), as to why what I am saying is unsound in your view. Also, is "the family" strengthened, as we hear from certain politicians, by excluding its gay and lesbian members, or pretending that they are somehow not part of the families you are speaking of?

A note to John A, the things you are speaking about concerning the church are interesting. There is sometimes a claim of "acceptance" of gay people, but the thing is you must change your sexual orientation eventually. Some have changed their behavior, therefore "gay people can become heterosexual." There is also the false theology of "grace covering unrepentance," which renders you acceptable, and which I don't accept as correct theology or even close to honoring God. Grace is for a relationship with God. Another point is that there is an issue in the church with offending the majority, who are heterosexual and conservative, so it is difficult for many churches to think of pioneering this acceptance for practical reasons, as they see it I believe. I do believe the church will grow more into acceptance. It is a difficult issue, and many people are doing their best to understand, and to also embrace what they believe to be honoring God. He knows who is who, and He knows who genuinely loves truth.

About casting pearls before swine...this was on my heart heavily the other night before reading your letter yesterday, and with thoughts about persecution. I believe I concluded by morning that this was a worthwhile debate, because the truth will shine for the faithful in Christ, when its time is due. My original intention was to discuss this only with Dr. Bock, who was indeed a respectful and phenomenal person about this, and I only hope he feels that I treated him fairly in my post on my blog. I naively thought that was the end of the discussion, but I felt that something was left sitting there that was quite bogus and needed to be addressed, and that drew me into a full-blown debate. If you check back where I reentered the discussion, you'll see what I'm talking about. John is entitled to his beliefs, but it needed to be addressed. The rest was not good in some ways, but good in other ways, and many truths were brought out.

John A, I believe our approaches on the issue are in a lot of agreement. The biblical addresses were regarding what the evidence shows to be something other than what we are talking about. To disregard the heart and spirit of the person, and facts of the issue, is legalism in my view. God loves His people and is a just Judge. John A, I would like to see the complete words to this hymn; you can sent it to my email through my blog if you want to. I appreciate your comments very much. I'll be concluding my part here very soon.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Thanks for participating. One closing observation: Your take on Paul and his understanding is seriously flawed. Christians believe Paul writes under the inspiration of the Spirit.  So your claim Paul does not understand the realities tied to the choice of gender actually indicts God of a lack of understanding through inspiration. Chrsitians have argued inspirtation especially applies to issues of faith and pratice (and this is an area of practice). This is a major reason why people react to your view, not because they do not discuss the issue intelligently (which is a way of saying that if they do not agree with you they are not seriously engaging you- not exactly a respectful way to engage on a disagreement of how to read the text). They are addresing intelligently how Scripture is seen to function in the church. The result of the approach you take is to pick and choose within the Word what is to be responded to and what is not, reserving the right to continue to do so because there are other areas Christians do this (You may be right here about Christian inconsistency, but the way to address it is not to extend the error by handling other areas inconsistently by adding yet another area to the list). The same Paul who preached the pronciple of love you affirm also authored Romans 1. So I will hitch my wagon to the apostle and the Spirit who wrote through him. dlb

Lynn: it appears that you are leaving soon. Dr. Bock has provided some parting thoughts; I'll add a couple things that I hope you will consider. I urge you to pray about them, to read the Bible, and to seek godly counsel from people who are committed to the Bible being the infallible Word of God.

The concern many here have for you is that your beliefs are not grounded in a right understanding of the Bible.

For instance: your belief about homosexuality ignores the order of creation. God made mankind male and female. Even the body parts and reproduction testify to his plan. Further, He instituted marriage in Genesis 2 in this way: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen 2:24, TNIV). Nowhere in Scripture is there ever an indication that God's definition of marriage is anything different that the one He instituted back in the Garden. So your idea of marriage as "a spiritual union before God that does not exclude same-sex couples" may appeal to many, but it has zero basis in Scripture.

When we trust our beliefs over what God has revealed explicitly in Scripture, we put our own beliefs ahead of God's revelation. In effect, we become our own god, because we ignore God's standard and adopt our own. When this happens, we risk being in rebellion to God without even knowing about it. Sincere people can be sincerely wrong in their beliefs.

You also said that "the homosexual person does not have their sexual orientation changed through the washing and renewal in Christ." Unless you choose to do violence to Romans 1 with your interpretation, there is clear evidence that natural relations are with women for a man, and with men for a woman. If you accept that Scripture is sufficient, then homosexuality deviates from God's intended pattern. All of this is consistent with the teachings in Leviticus, where God forbids relations with animals and other things, and consistent with the Bible's teachings on marriage.

From Jesus as well, by the way. In Matthew 19, Jesus says "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." And his disciples reply,"If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." Jesus' reply to them is instructive, and sheds light on the 1 Corinthians 7 passage I referenced: "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others have been made eunuchs; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Mat 19:9-12, TNIV). Jesus knew it would be the minority.

Your take-away is this: as Dr. Bock said, several folks have tried to interact with you, but apparently haven't met your "thoughtfully and intelligently" criterion. Irrespective, I think several have done it Biblically, and that should be your main concern as well, particularly as someone who claims to be committed to God. Since you will answer to God, as we all will, I urge you to make sure that the God you believe in and worship is the God who has actually revealed Himself in the Bible, and not one you have fashioned out of your own beliefs.

One final note: your statements consistently address "liberty" of believers. I briefly perused your blog, and saw much more of the same. The problem with your view is that Christian liberty doesn't apply to sin. Christians have liberty, but not where sin is involved.

It all boils down to this: in many places, the Bible says that sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin. And marriage is defined (again by Scripture) as one man and one woman. There is no liberty to go outside this plan, because it is how God designed it. That is where your argument is faulty.

You may feel free to disagree with me, but please, don't stop there. Go back and read Genesis. Read Leviticus. Read Romans again. Read the Gospels. When Jesus calls sinners, he asks them to change. He tells them to stop sinning.

On one side, there is everything in Scripture, which says that homosexuality is a sin. On the other, there is your notion of liberty. Please consider whether this idea you've come up with is based on what God has said in His Word, or how you think God works based on "your beliefs." And whether your beliefs match up with God's Word.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Well said.dlb

Dr. Bock, once again, I very much appreciate the opportunity to hear your understanding of this issue, and what you have to say about the teaching that I believe God has laid upon me to write. The one thing that I hoped to not hear you say, is that I have been disrespectful or unfair in any way. God led me to engage in this dialog, and I believe I have been respectful of your belief, and the beliefs of those who hold the same belief. So I want to look at what you are referencing in saying this. In part, it is based on something I said where I possibly misspoke, when I said:

"I would be interested in hearing from anyone who can address what I am saying thoughtfully and intelligently, in terms of the biblical doctrines and the health of society, which should be accepting and inclusive of all of its citizens (of course with the exception of criminals), as to why what I am saying is unsound in your view. Also, is "the family" strengthened, as we hear from certain politicians, by excluding its gay and lesbian members, or pretending that they are somehow not part of the families you are speaking of?"

The part where I possibly misspoke is contained in six words in this entire paragraph: ..."in terms of the biblical doctrines"...If you take out these six words, what is left is something that hasn't been addressed in this entire dialog. So to be looking for an address of this all-important aspect of the issue--how society is impacted by the acceptance of same-sex relationships--and to be doing so by seeking a "thoughtful and intelligent" address, I don't see where I have been disrespectful of anyone in this dialog.

As far as the six words...I am in no way, shape, or form, saying that "if anyone disagrees with me, it is not a thoughtful or intelligent address."! I consider your address thoughtful and intelligent; I consider Matt's address thoughtful and intelligent; and with the exception of Sean, the other comments were thoughtful and intelligent. I do see why you would say that I was not respectful on this part, but the reason I referred to "doctrines" in this paragraph, is because I'm not sure what I've brought out here has been fully addressed. I didn't mean for it to come across the way it did.

The reason I even used those particular words is because of Sean, and I am still looking for clearer answers to what I have raised here, but not from anyone approaching this with his arrogant and falsely judgmental attitude.

But in reference to a sincere approach, in regards to John: I consider much of John's commenting a thoughtful and intelligent address of the Bible, even though I disagree...but on other parts, it is hard to tell if he has been honest. "Honesty" is obviously the question for all people, because we do have the ability often to hide from the light in our hearts and deceive ourselves, and God knows who has been completely honest, and who has not regarded truths that He considers that they should have regarded (including individuals in the non-participating audience). I will explain what I believe has possibly been blatantly dishonest in John's address. It is not any kind of cheaply stated allegation of this, which anyone can do on anything they disagree with, and I don't believe it is disrespectful towards him for this reason.

I believe he has possibly been dishonest, because he doesn't elaborate on what he believes he could accomplish in changing his sexual orientation, and until he elaborates on what type of relationship he is speaking about, this would be hard to tell. Love, romance, intimacy, desire on all levels, being in love and the excitement that goes with that, tenderness...these things are not part of what goes on in bisexuality, for not all, but for many people. I find it impossible to believe that basically all people could make this change, which is John's argument, using himself as an example, which he did not convince me was an honest belief.

I also personally don't believe him to be honest in regards to something he questioned me on repeatedly, which is, in my view, in the category of child rape, bestiality, violent sex, group sex, and polygamy...because I don't believe he doesn't see how something that cannot and will not ever be spoken of "in the light," would be the same as this issue, which has and can very well come into the light, and is a very legitimate and well-founded cause in society. There is acceptance of these things amongst some people, of course, but none of these things will ever possess even a remotely significant movement towards acceptance in society, which places "incest," which no one would claim publicly, in a category that is not at all the same as this issue, which is based on the realities of gender issues in God's creation. So those are the reasons why I am questioning the complete honesty of John in this dialog.

I might add that this could be seen to be a minor address of societal issues, but it is based on extremely unfounded concerns. It seemed to be presented as a doctrinal flaw regarding the soundness of my belief, on the basis that to liberate one thing would have to liberate all things (although he continued to dismiss what he believed to be the criteria, until there wasn't a criteria left, which dismissed his original argument). "All things" are not liberated in my belief, and it falls well outside the criteria of "the law of love," which would be hiding nothing in the darkness of shame. And I speak about this with a view to the basis for why this need not remain in the darkness, as it was before. It is a gender issue, which is very clearly evidenced in God's creation, and nothing more.

As far as honesty in the doctrinal debate...we can continue the debate until clearer answers have been reached, if you are willing. I respect you Dr. Bock, and I feel a little uncomfortable intensely questioning you, because I try to be a person of grace in how I treat people in life. But this is a debate, and I would be interested and willing to question both you and Matt further on the doctrinal issues. I'll have to think about your views a little further for summary purposes, but I would like to question you further on your beliefs. It's possible that I just need to sum up your beliefs, and I'll conclude that your beliefs are honest and complete (in my humble view), but I do believe there are still unanswered questions here. Nothing is about getting you into a choke-hold until you agree with me, and I've been clear that simply believing that homosexuality is wrong is not where my biggest issues are in the church, and I would not say that this is a dishonest belief in itself, but right now I'm not sure the issue has been explored. I would like to address statements in both of your letters, and sum up what your beliefs are as I see them, and I will at least do that before I leave here. I would like for you to tell me if I have misstated your beliefs.

To Matt: your letter is possibly the best address of my beliefs that I've received in five years of dealing with this issue online, and there's been extensive dialog, not just a note or two here and there. It is the best address. (I've been clear that that is what I'm looking for.) Dr. Bock has also addressed this with a view to the various areas to be addressed, possibly more than others have. I am still looking for clarity, and I have some questions for you. I'll admit if I've said anything regarding the biblical foundation of my belief that I'll have to agree is not completely sound, honest, and verifiably true in Scripture, but I see a sound, biblical foundation for my belief. I'm committed to the truth of God, and I am hiding nothing in my beliefs, which are based on the whole picture of Scripture, as you believe that yours are. I'll get back to you soon.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Lynn:My response to you about thoughtfully and intelligently was not so much about where you started as in responses that followed appealing back to this claim. I hope this clarifies matters. I suspect the "liberty" example we might discuss with value is adultery. How does your "liberty" principle differ from it or does it? To me both of these categories are equally challenged in Scripture with little positive said about either -- and both identified as sin. So how does that work?dlb

Actually, this doesn't clarify matters. Now you are the one saying that if I don't agree with something, I have not been respectful. I am arguing my understanding of Scripture, and my argument is based on Scripture. If I asked for an example of disrespect for anyone's understanding of the Bible, I can't imagine what that example would be, but since you are placing this allegation upon me, please explain to me where I have disrespected anyone for their beliefs and statements on the Bible. Careful scrutiny of beliefs and disagreement is not disrespect in my view.

I was just finishing what may be my final letter to your blog, when I came here to see if you had posted the last one yet, so I'll answer your question there and I'll be sending that later today.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Throughout your responses you have sometimes suggested that challenging your view is not to speak with respect, not to speak thoughtfully or not to really hear you. I think people have heard you and not bought what you have claimed. Even your claim to argue using biblical arguments actually is not based ultimately on Scripture and what it says on the topic at hand, but the claim ultimately rests on your experience arguing that what Scripture says no longer applies because of what you know to be true or through an appeal to other texts on other topics to undercut (not always clearly) what several texts on this topic do say. I did not seek in my clarification to say you were not being respectful (except where you and Sean got into it with each other- and you agreed with me there). All I was saying is that my response to you was not directed at your original post. I am NOT saying you are not being respectful. I AM saying that to go this way is not really to take on their argument. It is to dodge the issue by making a charicature of a counter position.  dlb

Lynn,

I assure that I have always been very honest. If you choose not to believe me...well, what further can I say. If you recall my original comments on the issue of changing sexual orientations was put forward as what I "suspected" to be case. I was tossing it out for conversation. I think it would be an important point for those who argue homosexuality is immoral to admit that sexual orientation is somewhat fluid for all people, including themselves and others.

About the incest remarks, I think that methodologically you could justify incest in the same way you seek to justify homosexuality. I am not persuaded by your remarks: "here is acceptance of these things amongst some people, of course, but none of these things will ever possess even a remotely significant movement towards acceptance in society." I am not persuaded because this same statement could have been made about homosexuality for most of Christianity's existence.

John

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