Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Homosexuality

Yesterday Baptist ministers in the area gathered together to study biblically and theologically where we stand on homosexuality.

Within the room there were a variety of beliefs and understandings, yet the whole time together was one of listening and desire to be faithful to God.

John Colwell lead our time and sought to take us through four understandings and interpretations of homosexuality from a biblical and theological position.  In doing this we were able to see that a part of this issue is the way we hear and read the Bible; it is an issue of hermeneutics and how we understand the manner of Scriptures authority.

Around 15 years ago Nigel Wright, the former Principle of Spurgeon's College, presented to the Baptist Union four views on homosexuality that, by in large, represented the views of the people in our Baptist Churches.  The four views are:

1. unqualified rejection
2. qualified rejection
3. qualified acceptance
4. unqualified acceptance

John then argued for each position
from a biblical and theological position as passionately as he could without, he hoped, revealing where he stood on the matter.  This was so that we might hear each view forcefully and fairly.

Very briefly each view is understood thus (being aware that views 2, 3, and 4 have blurred edges):

unqualified rejection - not only is homosexuality sinful, but the very desire is sinful and therefore repentance and healing is to be sought.  Romans 1:18ff is a catalogue of sins and reveals how we reap what we sow; homosexual acts and desire reaping the wrath of God.

qualified rejection - homosexual acts are sinful but the desire itself is not sinful. It is a consequence of the fall and so must be lived with through celibacy.  'Exit' strategies (in other words, being 'healed') are limited and often damaging.  Romans 1:18ff not a catalogue of sins but revealing consequences of the fall.

qualified acceptance - there is a problem of lonliness, so celibate partnerships of covenant love are good. Perhaps however this is not always possible and therefore a committed sexually active same-sex relationship is the best that can be attained in this context, even if it is not God's best (parrallel divorce and remarriage). Scripture has example of non-sexual (?) covenant love, as well as revealing the provisinality of sexual distinction (Genesis 1:27, 2:22, Luke 20:34-6, Galatians 3:28).

unqualified acceptance - Scripture has nothing to say about committed same-sex relationships as the examples in the Bible relate to cultic and pæderastic practice (see Romans 1:18ff and 1 Corinthians 6:9. Perhaps Matthew 8:5-10?).  The disciplines of marriage enable same-sex couples to commit for life wheras denying them marriage can have an opposite effect.  If sin is defined in terms of love rather than law, then how do committed homosexual relationships militate against love for God or others?

As I have said, this is a very brief description of each view, with the nuances and depth of discussion not included, but it does give an outline of each position.

After spending some time looking at these four views we then thought about the practical and everyday reality of how this relates to our own churches and situations. Certainly we live in a kaleidoscope of colour where being black and white on this or any number of issues is unhelpful biblically, theologically and ethically. This revealed itself as we all talked and shared together.

Gregory of Nyssa speaks about the Divine nature and goodness being limitless and without boundary. God's perfection therefore is not static or limited, rather it has no ending. So as we seek to become more like Him, by the Holy Spirit, we should not be surprised by the way He reveals new things to us as to what that goodness and nature looks like. So when it comes to Scripture, Church, tradition and the Spirit's continued action in the world we are challenged century by century to be prepared to be changed and challenged as to God's own revealed self and will; look at the Church's position on slavery, divorce, woman etc. We have to come with humility to this whole issue, whatever side of the debate we may be on. What is interesting is that in 50 years time the discussion and conversations will look very different; I would guess that the majority of children and young people in our churches do not see homosexuality as sinful or problematic.

We also need to recognise that this is real life, real people, real families and situations, not some abstract discussion.

I have wondered why this issue, out of all the things that we could be talking about, has become so dominant within our churches.

Maybe it is because we are so violent by nature.

Violence enables us to dehumanise each other.  Violence enables us to distrust each other. Violence enables us to be afraid of each other. So as naturally violent people we can look at one another with suspicion and blame each other for the reason why the life of the Gospel is being lost in our communities. Violence enables me to place on another all my fear, pain, uncertainty and doubt. They then embody all my own violence and can be dehumanised.

So with all the fear, chaos and uncertainty this issue becomes the source of venting and domination.

However, if Jesus is the Rock upon which all things find their place, the One who can be trusted and who is faithful, then we need to look upon Him first and foremost.  And in gazing upon Him we begin to see His Divine spark in one another, and in doing so we recognise that they too are created in the image of the Risen Lord. Once we can do that we can move forward in finding ways to be reconciled to one another and be people of reconciliation. That reconciliation does not mean we have to agree, but it does mean that we see each other according to the heart of God.

But I suspect there is a very rocky road ahead...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

As soon as I saw 'homosexuality' as your blog title, I couldn't resist to read your views. It only so happens I was talking to a fellow Christian yesterday on this very subject. We both shared the same views, and agree that its an area that the church have failed to address for far too long. I fear that in 50 years, the church wont have moved much further on, as the topic seems to cause an enormous barrier!
Were any conclusions drawn from this meeting? I would love to know the generic view that the church holds on this matter.

I would also be interested to know why homosexuality is even categorised as a sin? Something struck me the other day when it was brought to my attention, how many historical figures were in fact gay. I didn't realise how normal and acceptable it was to have a gay lover or partner across the roman empire. This makes me wonder whether in fact it was indeed totally normal and okay back then? Is the reason why there is no specific scripture on the matter, purely because it wasn't even a question or debate in the first place?

I stand from the view point that there is literally nothing wrong or sinful about being homosexual. I struggle to see a valid reason why it is? I fear that somewhere in the depths of history it became culturally unacceptable and that the church labelled it a 'sin' in order to justify rejecting it.
Because lets face it - Being gay makes Christians uncomfortable. Mentioning sex full stop can make some churches wince, let alone same sex relationships. But why? Why does the church struggle so much to talk frankly about real, current and relevant topics such as this?

I don't attend church anymore. I don't miss getting bogged down by the 'spiritual politics' of what is right and what is wrong. I trust and honour God. If he is a God of Love and that Love is the most important message in his word then I know he wont judge me for my mistakes/sins but instead for my heart. He already died for my sins (big respect!!) but there's no excuse for a bad heart.

If I happened to fall in love with the same sex, and knew I had no choice in this inclination - is he really going to condemn me? Is he going to send me to hell? Will he punish me? Even if I was a good person and love him with all my heart and soul? If he does then that is no God of Love.

So I try to be Godly, and think that if love is the key, then the most important thing here is to love homosexuals.

Joe Haward said...

Hi Anon!!

Good to hear your heart. Thanks for this.

Within the room at the discussion I would say there were people certainly ranging from position 2, 3 and 4. I don't know if anyone was at position 1 or not.

It is certain that the views within our churches are very diverse, so there is not a generic view on homosexuality. But then that is true for most things in the church!!

Wherever people stand on this issue one thing is for sure and that is how the church has been rubbish at welcoming and loving the LGBT community. And this is something that the church needs to sort out.

Grace, peace and blessings!