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Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the Bible

Matthew Vines' presentation & interview on loving,
committed same-sex relationships & the Bible.

Part 2

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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  • The Bible's six clobber passages on homosexuality and their historical interpretation (Cont'd):

    • 1 Corinthians 6:9: Paul lists ten behaviors that would prevent people from attaining Heaven after death. There is no consensus over the meaning of two Greek words that he used:

      • "Malakos" rendered in the King James Bible (KJV) by the vague term "effeminate" and

      • "Arsenkoites" which was rendered by the KJV translators as "abusers of themselves with mankind."

      In ancient time, "malakos" meant "soft" and was an insulting term used to refer to people who were weak-willed, cowardly, lazy, licentious, and/or prone to debauchery. Most of the meanings were not sexual in nature; those that were sexual referred only to opposite-gender sexual activities.

      The meaning of "arsenkoites" is unclear because it was very rarely used in Paul's time and later. Also, the first appearance of the word was in Paul's writing, and he doesn't define it. Subsequent times that the word was used it was grouped with economic sins as in coercive and exploitive sexual arrangements -- e.g. a man and a young slave as a sexual object. It clearly unrelated to today's loving, committed same-sex relationships between two adults.

      It was only in the mid-20th century that a bible translated "arsenkoites" as "homosexuals" for the first time. In subsequent decades, when people started to differentiate between homosexual orientation and same-sex behavior that terms such as "practicing homosexuals" were used. However, the concepts of sexual orientation and homosexual orientation did not exist in ancient times. The term "homosexual" was not coined until the late 19th century CE.

    • 1 Timothy 1:9: This passage starts with "arsenkoites" which is translated in the King James Bible as "them that defile themselves with mankind" . As for 1 Corinthians, this seems to condemn some type of economic exploitation thorough sexual coercion -- rather far removed from consensual same-gender sexual relationships and loving committed same-sex couples.

  • In conclusion, Matthew writes that the very few references to same-sex relationships:

    "... are in completely different contexts than loving relationships. In Genesis 19, there is a reference to threatened gang rape. In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, there is a reference to what appears to be sexual exploitation. In Romans 1, Paul refers to lustful same-sex behavior as part of an illustration of general sexual chaos and excess. And though he labels this behavior “unnatural,” he’s using this term in the sense of 'uncustomary' gender roles, just as he’s referring to social custom when he labels long hair in men 'unnatural.' The only place in Scripture where male same-sex relations are actually prohibited—in Leviticus—comes in the context of an Old Testament law code that has never applied to Christians.

    The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships. There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people."

  • In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul mentions that he is celibate and unmarried. But he recognizes that such a life is not for everyone. He suggests that for those who do not have the gift of celibacy "It is better to marry than rather than burn" with passion. Since gays, lesbians and heterosexuals all have the potential of burning with passion, one might argue that the solution -- marriage -- would logically be an option to all -- homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals.

  • Persons of all sexual orientations are children of God and are loved by God. "But that doesn’t mean that I need to hate myself, or somehow wallow in self-pity, misery, and loathing for the rest of my life. That’s not what God created me to do." Jesus emphasized being compassionate towards the marginalized and outcast in society and to empathize with them. Instead, many Christians are attacking lesbians and gays by:
  • "... striking to the very core of another human being and gutting them of their sense of dignity and of self-worth. ... reinforcing the message that gay people have heard for centuries: You will always be alone. You come from a family, but you’ll never form one of your own. You are uniquely unworthy of loving and being loved by another person, and all because you’re different, because you’re gay. ... To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. ... Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love."

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Interview by The Christian Post: 1

During the interview, Vines acknowledged that certain types of sexual behavior are condemned by the Bible, including:

  • Sexual activity that is against the individual's fundamental nature. That is, either same-sex behavior by heterosexuals and opposite-sex behavior by homosexuals.

  • Sexual activity that is driven by lust and is within a casual -- not a committed -- relationship.

However, unlike most conservative Christians, he interprets the Bible as not condemning loving, committed same-sex relationships.

He bases his beliefs upon several dozen books on the topic of which he found "Homoeroticism in the Biblical World. A historical perspective" by Martti Nissinen 2 to be particularly well thought out. He has also gained insight as a result of talking with other Christians and other gays.

He concludes that opposition to same-sex relationships within Christianity was linked to natural law theory and became a part of Catholic doctrine starting in the 13th century CE.

He suggests that many persons with a heterosexual orientation tend to project their own experiences onto the LGB community and conclude that gays and lesbians are simply misbehaving when they enter same-sex relationships. They don't realize that lesbians and gays are fundamentally different and have a different sexual orientation. Many Christians have absorbed homophobia from the culture and read it back into the Bible.

He views progressive and mainline Christian denominations as making major changes in their policies and beliefs about the LGB community. This is largely driven by LGB members coming out to their family, friends, and fellow church members. However, more conservative denominations typically have not yet begun to openly discuss the topic.

He has deeply analyzed the relatively few biblical passages that have touched on same-gender sexual behavior and concluded that none of them discuss loving, committed same-sex relations within the LGB community. He feels that most LGB's are interested in pursuing such a relationship and marriage. In view of this silence within the Bible, he believes that other biblical passages -- those dealing with love, justice, compassion and dignity love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control should lead Christians towards acceptance  for LGBs and their relationships. He views loving committed same-sex relationships as exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Vines urges that LGBs who have left Christian denominations because of marginalization, ostracization, rejection, etc. to distinguish between the churches that they have left with what Jesus and the Bible calls Christians to be. He suggests that they keep reading the Bible and to search for a positive and accepting church community.

He feels that only one position on loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationships will eventually prevail. Denominations which are currently split between a rejection and acceptance of such relationships will eventually move towards acceptance. He concludes:

"I feel that once straight Christians put themselves fully into the shoes of gay Christians, and walk a mile or two in their shoes, and ... consider how to apply the Golden Rule in that situation, that's when attitudes can really begin to change. Because that is happening more and more, that is why I feel optimistic that the position of acceptance of gay Christians is going to prevail."

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stoyan Zaimov, "Matthew Vines: Bible does not condemn homosexuality," The Christian Post, 2012-SEP-25, at: http://www.christianpost.com/

  2. book cover image Martti Nissinen, "Homoeroticism in the Biblical World; a historical perspective," Augsburg Fortress Publishers (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2012
Latest update: 2012
Author: B.A. Robinson

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