Grand Rapids East Report #5
Statement For Same-Sex Marriage: Paul Prohibits Excesses, Not All Same-Sex Acts
“Additionally, some affirming scholars state that Paul condemns the lusts he describes because of their excesses—that is, when men or women who experience opposite-sex desire and participate in opposite-sex intercourse proceed to extend their sexual behavior to include same-sex intercourse for the purposes of recreation or a demonstration of power (for example, see Brownson).”
With each vice Paul listed in Romans 1:18-32, humans are capable of making the opposite, virtuous choice. Instead of worshipping idols, we can choose to worship God. Rather than succumbing to greed, we can choose to give generously. Instead of hating, we can choose to love. For Paul, same-sex relations fit into that same pattern: Rather than following same-sex attractions, we can follow opposite-sex attractions. … In other words, men who engage in same-sex behavior could be satisfied with sex with women, but their rampant lust leads them beyond it. … We have to remember: what Paul was describing is fundamentally different from what we are discussing. … [There are] reasons for Paul’s negative statements about same-sex behavior. … The key point to note … is that none of those reasons extends to the loving, committed relationships of gay Christians today. The main argument for why Romans 1 should extend to gay Christians—anatomical complementarity—is not supported by the text itself. … For Paul, same-sex desire did not characterize a small minority of people who were subject to special classification—and condemnation—on that basis. Rather, it represented an innate potential for excess within all of fallen humanity. When that potential was acted upon, it became “unnatural” in the sense that it subverted conventional, patriarchal gender norms. … From the church’s early centuries through the nineteenth century, commentators consistently identified the moral problem in Romans 1:26-27 as “unbridled passions,” not the expression of a same sex orientation. Furthermore, no biblical interpreter prior to the twentieth century even hinted that Paul’s statements were intended to consign a whole group of people to lifelong celibacy (2014, 103, 113-115).”
The concepts of recreation or a demonstration of power and excesses are not found in Romans 1. Those concepts are not mentioned there. It is doubted one will find any of those terms in any English translation of these verses. In order to see them as part of the message of this passage, doesn’t one then have to import them into the passage?
On the other hand, what Paul does explicitly say is that women gave up natural relations (verse 26) and the men gave up natural relations with women, i.e. heterosexual sex, and engaged in sex with men (verse 27). Verse 26 lists dishonorable passions. Verse 26 and 27 then go on to define these dishonorable passions as women and men turning away from heterosexuality. Therefore, is there any other way to understand the message of this passage other than it explicitly states there is a problem, dishonorable passions, and that problem is homosexuality?
Vines is not correct concerning the main argument of Romans 1. The main argument is not anatomical complementarity. The main argument is what Romans 1 explicitly states. Romans 1 explicitly states that the problem is homosexuality. The passage does not list any exception, such as pederasty, it simply lists same-sex acts, women with women and men with men. When it states things this way, without exception, the prohibition is all-inclusive in nature.
When one is working to prove a case, it does not work to state as fact what you are trying to prove. That just doesn’t work. One example of this is when Vines states, “[There are] reasons for Paul’s negative statements about same-sex behavior. … The key point to note … is that none of those reasons extends to the loving, committed relationships of gay Christians today.” Vines is working to make a case that certain same-sex acts are morally upright. For Vines to say that Paul’s negative statements about same-sex behavior do not apply to loving, committed relationships of gay Christians today is the very thing he needs to prove. It does no good to simply state it as fact. The historic understanding of Romans 1 is that Paul makes a blanket statement that same-sex acts should never happen. Much like Leviticus 18:22 states in an all-inclusive manner you shall not lie with a male as with a female, i.e., no male is to have sex with a male in the same way males have sex with females.
There are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration when examining a given passage of Scripture. It is always good to have as many people as possible looking at the passage. In order to learn from Scripture, one thing we must be sure to do is to note exactly what the passage does explicitly teach. When we are careful to distinguish between what the Bible does teach in contrast to what it might teach, then we will keep our feet on the right path.
If you were being defended in court and the Statement above was the kind of case your defense attorney was presenting on your behalf, would you be confident of the outcome?
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