Grand Rapids East Report #8
Statement: Paul's Prohibition Not General But Limited To His Understanding
Paul’s arguments should not be overgeneralized. Paul argues on the basis of his experience and the Hellenistic Jewish tradition. There is no reason to assume that he would speak of a ‘generic homosexuality’ on a theoretical level beyond his experience and without a cultural context. Paul, like his contemporaries, could not possibly take into consideration homosexual orientation or identity. He only knew people who ‘change the order of their nature.’ Whatever he knew about the slave pederasty and boy-prostitution of the Romans he utilized to confirm his views about the nature of homoerotic relations. … In line with Jewish teaching, Paul labeled homoerotic behavior as a whole as debauchery, lustful deeds, and abnormal transgressions of gender boundaries, that is, ‘unnatural’ acts performed by ‘normal’ people. Already John Chrysostom in his commentary on the Romans remarks that Paul speaks here not of love but lust. … Paul is likely to have been familiar with some forms of homosexual behavior, although he does not disclose exactly what kind of homoeroticism he has in mind. His mention of women shows that his arguments are not limited to pederasty. His references to ‘homosexuality,’ however, do not come from outside his experience and world. Therefore, his statements cannot be understood as if they deal with ‘homosexuality’ theoretically and generally (1998, 111-113).”
Nissinen states, “Paul argues on the basis of his experience and the Hellenistic Jewish tradition.” Isn’t that saying Paul’s comments in Romans are more human than divine? Doesn’t that assertion deny the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when it comes to the nature of the Bible? Can those of us who hold to the Bible as our sole standard for faith and practice agree with his statement? If it was in fact Paul’s message, and the Holy Spirit’s message, that only violent same-sex acts are to be prohibited, wouldn’t that message have been made clear by the simple inclusion of the word “violent”? The passage does not include any such indication.
Nissinen’s comments in the Statement indicate he believes Romans 1 is limited by the human limitations of Paul’s day. His position does not allow room for an all-knowing God to speak to us in His divinely inspired Word. Rather than accepting this position we need to be focusing on what God’s Word does in fact say. We are going in the wrong direction when we say that God’s Inerrant Word contains errors.