The Best Arguments in Favour of the “Affirming” Position on Same-Sex Relations image

The Best Arguments in Favour of the “Affirming” Position on Same-Sex Relations

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“You may find it shocking,” writes Preston Sprinkle at the start of his excellent new book, People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue, “but most scholars who have written books about homosexuality in the last forty years have concluded that the Bible does not condemn consensual, monogamous, same-sex relations.”

Both that statement and its implications could be challenged, of course. I’d imagine both that a number of books by evangelical scholars were not included in the count because they are written at a popular level (Wes Hill, Denny Burk, Heath Lambert, Kevin DeYoung, as well as Preston himself), and that scholarly monographs are more likely to be written on a subject when they represent a minority view (so I’d expect most scholarly books on the rapture to be written by dispensationalists, for instance). Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful opening salvo, because it takes seriously the need to engage in serious discussion on the texts, rather than engaging in dismissive handwaving. Which is precisely what Preston does, both on his blog and in this book. Here, for instance, is his summary of the best arguments for the “affirming” position, as well as the best challenges to the “nonaffirming” one (pp. 123-125).

First, none of the Bible’s positive statements about heterosexual marriage were originally addressing homosexual relations. It’s not as if the Pharisees asked about Joey and Frank’s forthcoming wedding and Jesus responds by saying, “God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman.” Jesus and Paul do highlight sexual difference in marriage but not in the context of addressing homosexuality. Still, as I said in chapter 2, I don’t think that the marriage passages are irrelevant. I just think they should be used with caution.

Second, the excessive-lust interpretation of Romans 1 raises some good points and I don’t think Paul envisions homosexual marriages when he writes Romans 1. As we have seen, though, his language is so broad that it ultimately applies to all same-sex relations. While I think that the excessive-lust interpretation reads too much into the passage, the strength of this view should prevent Christians from simply quoting Romans 1 and thinking that this solves the debate.

Third, while there is some evidence for same-sex marriages around the time of Christ, most homosexual erotic behaviour was extramarital, exploitative, pederastic, or exhibited unhealthy power differences that are deemed immoral by all Christians today. Affirming writers have been pointing this out for years, and I don’t think many nonaffirming Christians have considered (or been able to refute) the implications of this argument. Many affirming writers agree that the Bible condemns the forms of same-sex relations that were popular in its day. But the forms available to the biblical writers are not the forms that affirming Christians are arguing for today: consensual, monogamous, same-sex unions.

This argument has some strengths, although ultimately I believe it is overplayed. As we have seen, Leviticus 18, 20, and Romans 1 use language that is all-inclusive. Neither Leviticus nor Romans mentions pederasty or power differences, rape or prostitution; both Leviticus and Romans use language of mutuality in their same-sex prohibition. Moreover, Paul’s reference to (consensual) female same-sex relations solidifies this point: Romans 1 does not clearly reflect the dominant versus dominated sexual paradigm. Plus, Paul grounds his prohibition in the creation account, which highlights God’s opposite-sex design for sexual relations ...

But the Bible also challenges several nonaffirming assumptions.

First, a bad argument used to support the right view is still a bad argument. “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” type of arguments are unhelpful, unchristian, and a poor use of our God-given intellect. They are not funny and they are not intelligent. Please stop using this stupid argument.

Second, “gay pride is” not “why Sodom fried.” I don’t think it is wise to use the Sodom story to prohibit consensual, loving, same-sex unions today. That’s like comparing apples with orangutans. When Christians race to quote Genesis 19 to condemn same-sex unions, it feels like they are not interested in what the Bible actually says, but only want to load their gun with proof texts that have little to do with the current discussion.

Third, Jesus’ encounter with people who were considered sinners by the religious elite provides a good model for how nonaffirming Christians should relate to non-Christian LGBT people. Jesus didn’t open up a relationship by giving his stance on a person’s sin. Rather, he opened it up with love. If we desire for people to live holy lives, then we need to begin with love.

Fourth, homosexual sins are never mentioned in isolation. They are always brought up in contexts where mayn other sins are mentioned – greed, slander, gossip, and others. To consider your own sins as not as bad as those of LGBT people is to join hands with Pharisees whom Jesus condemned to hell. And that’s not a safe crowd to run with.

That’s well worth thinking about. I’ll post Preston’s arguments for the nonaffirming position, which he himself holds, on Wednesday.

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