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Because Christians approach the Bible with different assumption, they interpret it differently. This results in many conflicting beliefs about almost all controversial topics within the Christian religion. Human sexuality is no exception. 

Topics on human sexuality form a large part of the moral code for some Christian denominations and individuals. For many, sex also forms the most important segment of morality. For example, among Evangelical Christians, a major concern of parents is that their children remain virgins until marriage. Many in the Evangelical community believe that continued homosexual behavior will prevent a person from entering heaven, regardless of whether they have been saved by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

Some of the reasons for these diverse beliefs on sex are based on:

bullet Their balancing of the general with the specific: When developing and defending their moral codes, some individuals and groups stress specific biblical passages; others appeal more to general themes of the Bible. They often reach different conclusions. For example, on the topic of homosexuality:
bullet Conservative Christians generally concentrate on the approximately ten biblical passages that condemn certain same-sex practices, and conclude that gay and lesbian behavior is incompatible with Christian beliefs. 
bullet Liberal Christians tend to concentrate on the biblical principles of justice acceptance, love, and reciprocity (the Golden Rule). They conclude that exploitive sexual behavior -- sexual activities that harm people -- is a sin. They may also decide that non-coercive, non-manipulative, safe, consensual sex within a committed, monogamous relationship is not sinful -- whether the couple is of the same or different genders.
bullet Their balancing of the absolute with the relative: During the past two centuries, great moral issues have been debated:  slavery, childhood inoculations against disease, birth control, racial segregation, equal rights for women, inter-racial marriage, inter-faith marriage, abortion, equal rights for gays and lesbians, etc. Religious denominations played a major in debating these topics. Many arguments, pro and con, were biblically-based. Most have been resolved. The resolution was often accomplished by changing the interpretation of certain biblical passages from absolute truth to relative truth:
bullet Absolute rules of behavior are applicable for all societies, all religions, all cultures, all geographical areas and all eras. "Thou shalt not murder" from the Ten Commandments is a good example. 
bullet Relative rules of behavior are not universal but are applicable only for one society, or one area of the world, or one time period in history. One example is the prohibition against eating pork or shellfish. With the advent of refrigeration and improved cooking methods, pork and shellfish can now be consumed safely . What was necessary in ancient times to avoid food poisoning is no longer applicable. 

Consider the topic of pre-marital sex:
bullet Some would argue that Paul's prohibition of pre-marital sex is absolute -- covering all individuals, all societies and all eras. 
bullet Others argue that the need for virginity before marriage was critical in the 1st century CE, when:
bullet There was no effective contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy. Then as now, a child being brought up in a single parent home tends to be disadvantaged.
bullet A woman with a child could not survive without the support of a father or husband.
bullet There was no dependable method of avoiding transferring sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
bullet There were no effective treatments or cures for STD.
bullet The average time interval between puberty and marriage was only a few years -- perhaps even months. 
bullet But with the availability of good birth control methods, financial support programs, safe-sex practices, effective treatments for most STDs, they might argue that sex between a committed, monogamous couple who practice safer sex is not a sin. They might conclude that since the time interval between puberty and marriage is now on the order of 15 years, it is impractical to  expect most youth to maintain a state of virginity until marriage

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Copyright 1997, & 1999 to 2001 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Removed from the Human Sexuality menu on 2001-MAR-3
Latest update: 2001-MAR-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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