Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Tuesday, February 5

Gay Marriage

The bill to legalise gay marriage in England and Wales is being debated in Parliament as I write.

Given the standard but very conservative position I held on homosexuality only a few years ago, I find it quite astonishing that now I hope that the bill passes.

I have moved from the standard assumption that homosexuality is a sin, and that we should love the sinner but hate he sin, to a new assumption that the emancipation of homosexuals is part of the ongoing work of God, which as ever proceeds despite the church rather than because of it.

I have heard all of the secular arguments against gay marriage, and frankly, they don't hold water. 

I have heard all of the Christian arguemnts against it, and again, the position is by no means secure.

As a good Evangelical, I believe that the Scriptures are our guide.  Part of this belief is that verses should not be taken out of context; you have to look at the whole book.

Starting with 1 Corinthians 6, then.  The 'homosexual offenders' - arsenokoitai in the Greek.  This word is only used one other time in the NT, in Timothy, and there it is NOT translated 'homosexual offenders'.  So there must be some doubt about its meaning.  In fact, arsenokoitai is not a normal Greek word.  It is one Paul made up.  Etymologically it has arsenos - man, and koitai - sexual bedding.  So its easy to jump lazily to the 'homosexual offenders' translation.  But where did Paul get it from?  Leviticus 18, where in the septuagint it says [from memory here] ho an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos.  I think Paul lifted it from here, and that what Leviticus means, he means.

So lets look at Leviticus 18.  titled neatly in the NIV as Sexual Sins.  But in the text it is bracketed top and bottom as 'Things the pagans do'.  The first part of it, rather than miscellaneous sexual sins, is all about incest.  Then as you read on you trip over the verse that says you should not offer your children to Molech.  This is not a sexual sin at all.  Sin yes but not sexual.  It is a sin of idolatry.  The next verse is the notorious 'abomination' verse, and then one about sex with animals.  The latter was an idolatrous practice - in the fertility cult sex with an animal in the presenceof the god would ensure fertility.  Likewise sex with a person in the temple - hence temple prostitution, hence the verse we are looking at.  Looking at the passage using my good Evangelical study tools, it is pagan idolatry that is condemned, not gay marriage.

Still looking at the verse:
  • Do not lie with a man as MEN [note the plural] lie with a woman [note the singular] <-- its="" prostitution.="" temple="">
  • A minor point: most of the Bible is written in the male voice to a male audience, so it is reasonable to assume that it is telling men not to lie with men, but it is possible it is telling WOMEN not to lie with men in the same way that men treat them.
  • In the NIV the phrase 'Do not have sexual relations with ...' is used throughout, but in the septuagint it uses one phrase for the incest sins and another for the pagan temple sins.  I think it is naughty of them to blur a distinction that is made in the Scriptures.
More importantly, comparing this verse to its equivalent in Deuteronomy (the Second Law), it says 'no man or woman of Israel is to be a temple prostitute'.

So I think that's quite conclusive - its not gay marriage, its temple prostitution that is an abomination in the OT.  Supposrting this I have read soe documents that indicate that the Hebrew word translated 'abomination' actually implies something idolatrous in itself, and again form memory I think the otherplace it is used is also a pagan idol matter, but I might be wrong on that one.

So what about Sodom?

Compare the story of Sodom to the story of Gibeah.  They are very similar. At Gibeah the offer of a female substitute was accepted, but the city was still severely judged.  The issue is a breach of hospitality and general wickedness, not specifically homosexuality.  Ezekiel 16 says the sin of sodom was arrogance, greed, and lack of care for the needy - no mention of perversion.  I trust the Scriptures themselves to judge what the sin of Sodom was!

Now, Romans chapter 1.  I have heard several pro-gay responses to this, and I admit that they are not 100% convincing.  It goes on the other side of my decision-making process.

Complementarity ... 'It takes both a man and a woman to represent the image of God'.  This is apparently a relatively new doctrine, form sometime in the 1800s.  But in the case of homosexual people, the genders are not coneniently divided and both have aspects of both genders.  So both male and female characteristics are present in the gay marriage, just distributed differently. 

... and so on

My arguments FOR gay marriage are not completely watertight.  But on balance, I would rather be judged for compassionately tolerating a thing that turns out to be wrong than be judged for perpetrating historical persecutions.

I must go.

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