The second argument against a traditional view of Romans 1 states that the same sex activity in 1:25-27 violates Jewish purity laws but isn’t inherently sinful. According to Paul’s Jewish

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queeringthechurch.com

upbringing, same-sex activity was a taboo, a violation of ritual purity (e.g. Lev 18:22). And Paul cites his own tradition in a rhetorical sting operation in order to get his Jewish readers on his side. Then, in Romans 2:1 Paul whirls around and kicks his judgmental opponent in the teeth: You have no excuse, you judgmental moralist!

Several influential scholars have promoted this argument, including William Countryman and more recently Daniel Helminiak, who wrote a very popular and accessible book on homosexuality (What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality). Helminiak and Countryman say that Paul talks about sin in 1:18-23, and then about purity in 1:24-27, and then again about sin in 1:28-32. If this argument smells fishy, that’s because it’s filled with red herrings. Douglas Campbell goes so far to say that Paul speaks in the voice of a Jew in Romans 1:18-32 but ends up disagreeing with this entire section later. For Campbell, all of 1:18-32 is a rhetorical trap, not an exposition of what Paul actually believes.

This view finds its most immediate proof in Paul’s use of the word “impurity” (Greek: akatharsian) in 1:24. Paul therefore believes that same sex relations violate Jewish purity codes—they are akatharsian—but they don’t constitute sin. And since Paul elsewhere believes that Jewish purity codes are no longer relevant for the New Covenant believer, his prohibition of same sex intercourse here is purely rhetorical.

This argument has a lot going for it and nearly swayed me except for one missing piece: evidence. The word akatharsian does mean “impurity” but Paul often uses this word synonymously with sin (see e.g. Rom 6:19; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; 1 Thess 2:3; 4:7). In Romans 6:19, for instance, Paul writes: “just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity (akatharsia) and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” Impurity and lawlessness are equated. The “works of the flesh,” Paul writes, include “sexual immorality, impurity (akatharsia), sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,” among other sins (Gal 5:19-20). Paul’s use of akatharsian in Rom 1:24 does not mean that he’s not talking about sin. In fact, Paul sums up his entire discussion in Rom 3:9 (and v. 23) by saying that everyone—Jew and Gentile—is “under sin.”

So what about the whole rhetorical trap in Romans 2:1? Isn’t this Paul’s real mission, to capture his moralist opponent who agrees with the stuff he says in 1:18-32? Yes and no. There’s certainly some truth to this argument. Romans 1:18-32 sets up 2:1-29. And yes, Paul is hoping that his Jewish opponent will be nodding his head when reading 1:18-32. But it’s a false dichotomy to say that since Paul traps the moralist in 2:1, therefore Paul isn’t really concerned with the sins in 1:18-32. Paul also condemns idolatry, covetousness, envy, murder, strife, gossip, and slander in 1:18-32. Are all of these vices irrelevant to Paul’s actual ethical beliefs? Yes, Paul uses various sins in 1:18-32 to trap the moralist in 2:1, but this doesn’t mean he is any less concerned with those sins. It’s a both/and, not an either/or.

But this is why some scholars chop up Paul’s argument and divide it in terms of sin (1:18-23), purity (1:24-27), and sin (1:18-32). They

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pghenvironmental.wordpress.com

need to do this to allow Paul to agree with his own words in 1:18-23 and 28-32 but not with his words in 1:24-27. My initial counterargument is: really? Look, I’m eager to admit when an argument is good , even if it challenges my beliefs. In fact, the last two counterarguments to the traditional view are actually very strong (especially the 5th one, as we’ll see). But the only real textual evidence for chopping up 1:18-32 in terms of sin/purity/sin is in the word akatharsian (1:24), which we’ve already shown to be a bad argument. Plus, the three-fold “God gave them over” in 1:24, 26, and 28 threads the whole passage together, as does the three-fold use of “exchange” in 1:23, 25, 26. Paul presents a web of sin in Romans 1:18-32 that wasn’t meant to be untangled.

So I don’t find this “purity argument” to be very convincing. And it’s not just because I want to defend a traditional view at all costs. Even non-conservative scholars, such as Bernadette Brooten, aren’t convinced by this argument against the traditional view of Romans 1. Brooten agrees that Paul prohibits same sex relations in Romans 1. She simply hopes “that churches today…will no longer teach Rom 1:26f as authoritative” (Brooten, Love Between Women, 302).

I admire Brooten’s honesty and am impressed with her robust exegesis of Romans 1. I only disagree that Christians can pick and choose which verses are authoritative.

Series Navigation<< Does Romans 1 Only Prohibit Illicit Same Sex Activity?Is Romans 1 About Straight People Having Gay Sex? >>

13 COMMENTS

  1. I would agree with you Preston, it doesn’t seem to me to be an either or, but more of a both and. Paul does seem to think homoerotic behavior is sinful. I am curious, what reason Brooten gives for not holding the passage authoritative anymore? Is it just because she doesn’t like it or does she give a reason.?

    It still seems that one could argue her position, but it would depend on, again, answering that why question.

    • Ya, good question, Joe! Brooten actually brings up a really good point. Here’s her full quote:

      “I have argued that Paul’s condemnation of homoeroticism, particularly female homoeroticism, reflects and helps to maintain a gender asymmetry based on female subordination. I hope that churches today, being appraised of the history that I have presented, will no longer teach Rom 1:26f as authoritative” (Brooten, 302).

      That bit about “female subordination” is huge. For Brooten, same sex relations were believed to be wrong because they forced the passive partner to act like a female, and females were considered to have a lower status. Therefore, if we want to take Paul’s words as authoritative, then to be consistent we should also take his moral logic as authoritative too.

      My main pushback, though, is that Paul does not seem to share the same cultural view of women as his contemporaries. Paul breaks cultural codes by calling several women “co-workers” (Rom 16:3-4; Phil 4:3), “workers in the Lord” (Rom 16:6, 12) deacons (Rom 16:1-2; 1 Tim 3:11), prophets (1 Cor 11; cf. Acts 21:9), and he quite possibly calls Phoebe a “patron” (Rom 16:2) and Junia an “apostle” (16:7). In Christ there is neither “male nor female” (Gal 3:28) and woman have just as much authority over their husbands bodies as their husbands have over theirs (1 Cor 7:3-5)—a revolutionary statement in its own right. Even if Paul advocates for different roles within the household and the church (e.g. Eph 5:22-33), he commands men to self-sacrificially serve their wives and never, contra Josephus, advocates that females should submit to their husbands because of some inferiority in women. Instead, Paul grounds these different but equal roles in the trinity.

      Now, this is not the place to argue for or against women in ministry. Both complimentarian and egalitarian readings of Paul (most of them, at least) would acknowledge Paul’s strikingly high view of women, especially considering his cultural context. Yet Brooten (and Brownson, actually) assumes that Paul agrees with his Greco-Roman contemporaries that
      women are inferior and that this belief drives his moral logic for prohibiting
      homoerotic activity. Unless Paul comes out and says this explicitly in Romans 1—which many Greco-Roman writers did, but Paul does not—then there’s little exegetical merit in assuming that homosexual activity “degraded the passive partner into acting like a woman” and thereby clothing them in “shame” (Brownson). Maybe Paul did believe that homoerotic activity confused God-given gender roles. But there is no reason to assume that Paul upheld a socially constructed hierarchy in these roles. Women—like Priscilla and Junia—were equal to men.

      • Hi Preston,

        I think you pointed out the precise problem here, which is “Paul did not say”. So the question is where do we go to find the answer to make practical theology from the scripture in this case. Brooten suggested that for lesbians it is the out of norm desire for sex
        that drove woman into playing the active, dominant role. So
        homosexuality was not just feminizing, it was breaking the concept of
        purity classes if we choose to say Paul agrees with other Jewish moralists.

        On Paul’s view on women, I think that he advocates equal treatment of all people, male or female, slave or free, but he still wraps theology around how people who with certain God given roles should behave and act in view of society. His words “women are saved by child birth” may be read in the same manner as he says homoerotic behaviors are unnatural and be used to say married women who chose not to conceive to be unsaved. I personally think (and am confused) that there is a fair amount of pick and choose here in our attempt to understand gender roles in light of the scripture. Is there really a clear differentiation between cultural norms and God given norms in Paul’s or his audience’s mind? What do you think?

        Is it fair to consider that if Paul’s prescription of sexual aspects of gender roles is so deeply rooted in his tradition and historical context, that his “unnatural” may not be as authoritative today just like his idea of head covers? I think we really need to take what the function of Romans is to his audience like Brooten did in her book.

        Paul’s high view of women in contrast to his words in the letters may suggest another way to apply Rom1 to the issue today. Although we have to keep in mind that homoerotic behaviors in his time, including the loving committed ones, were surrounded by a lot of negative examples(Nero’s marriages )and notions(Stoic and Jewish philosophers) echoing Brownson.

  2. I’ve enjoyed your series. There’s a typo you might want to fix in the last reference in the sentence:
    “But this is why some scholars chop up Paul’s argument and divide it in
    terms of sin (1:18-23), purity (1:24-27), and sin (1:18-32).”
    Should be 28-32 instead of 18-32.

  3. Hi, Preston, it’s me, “the straight woman” (inside joke, readers),

    Here’s the excessively long post I warned you about (I wasn’t sure if I should put it in the last blog or in this one).

    I’m not sure why you’d think the interpretation I’m suggesting is weakened by the idea that Paul didn’t put much stock in procreation. Paul isn’t elevating procreation in the sense that it’s the goal of sex/marriage. He’s elevating procreation in the sense that it’s the supreme evidence that there is a Creator (cf. Rom. 1:20, “understood through what has been made”). The ultimate rejection of that Creator as seen in procreation would be engaging in heterosexual anal intercourse. In essence, a man and woman participating in the procreative act is a picture of a man and woman acknowledging God as Creator. So, in essence, a man and woman participating in anal intercourse (a man planting his seed in infertile ground) is a picture of a man and woman rejecting God as Creator. Participating in the act doesn’t necessarily mean the participants acknowledge God; it simply represents a picture of that. If engaging in anal sex is a picture of the ultimate rejection of Creator as seen in procreation, then it makes perfect sense that the “natural function” that was exchanged and abandoned as an expression of exchanging and abandoning the Creator relates to the procreative function. (Read the passage again with this in view in mind and see if there’s any connect for you.)

    This is the primary reason I see Romans 1 as speaking about anal sex with women rather than lesbianism. The other reason is that there is no mention of lesbianism in the OT and no mention of lesbianism in Paul’s sin lists. Arsenokoites relates to men. And if Paul didn’t bother to put a word for “lesbianism” in his sin lists, why do we assume “arsenokoites” is an umbrella term for all forms of male homosexuality? Female homosexuality is okay, but male homosexuality is not okay? That doesn’t make sense. Thus,arsenokoites must be limited forms of male homosexuality.

    You’re unconvinced that “natural function” relates to the procreative function. Could we say that anal sex was considered a breach of functions of the man and woman in the context of family and thus the prohibition of “lying with a male as with a female” was given? A male having anal intercourse with another male is a breach of God-given functions for a man and woman. If the Leviticus prohibition relates specifically to anal sex and if Paul’s use of χρησις “use, function” is informed by Leviticus, couldn’t we reasonably conclude that “natural function” relates to the procreative function?

    So, the question becomes, is anal sex ever okay? I’m not entirely sure. Paul makes it sound like these idolaters deliberately chose to not retain the knowledge of God (v. 28). They knew God (v. 21)—the Creator being clearly seen through what has been made (v. 20), especially as seen through procreation. They willfully exchanged Creator for creature. Thus, it sounds as if their physical exchange was a deliberate act of rebellion expressing that spiritual exchange. It reminds me of the act of rebellion as seen through the deliberate breach of functions by the “sons of God” (if these are angels, it’s implied they’re not supposed to procreate, Mt. 22:30) with the “daughters of men” during the time of Noah and the act of rebellion as seen through the attempt of the deliberate (& violent) breach of functions by the men of Sodom with the angels. So, does all this mean that anal activity outside of rebellion against God is okay? Can God-given functions be breached as long as it’s not motivated by rebellion toward God?

    So, this brings me to one more thing I want to throw into the mix. The Leviticus prohibition (even though it has a cultic worship backdrop) doesn’t sound like it’s limited to rebellion emerging from such worship; it simply prohibits the activity. But even if in Israel and in Paul’s day participating in such an act was universally prohibited (i.e. absolute), is it a timeless prohibition? Although the Leviticus offenses are generally sexual rather than cultic, there is a cultic worship backdrop that is relevant for “why” this offense is singled out. And Paul singles this act out because it appears to have been a particular way in which the idolatrous Greeks rebelled against God. But today, it is not known as a particular way in which heterosexual idolaters rebel against God. In Paul’s day, refraining from wearing a head covering was a culturally-known way women resisted headship. And Paul even used a natural order type of argument (Genesis account order of origination) on which to base his instruction to the women. But today, the act of wearing a head covering doesn’t have the same connotation it did in Paul’s day, so today’s Christian women, who honor the concept of headship, don’t feel obligated to wear hats in church. Today’s women have other, more culturally-recognizable, ways to demonstrate resistance to headship. In Paul’s day, it appears that anal sex was a culturally-known way (heterosexual) people demonstrated rejection of the God of Israel as the only true God (at least, Rom. 1 seems to imply that). Today’s idolaters have other, more culturally-recognizable, ways to demonstrate rejection of the God of Christ Jesus as the only true God. Today, participation in anal sex (in committed unions) says no more about rejection of God than not wearing a hat says about resistance to headship. So, it’s not that anal sex is okay today as long as it’s not in rebellion against God; it’s okay today because the reason the prohibition existed in Israel and in Paul’s day is no longer relevant. That reason being it was a breach of God-given functions that came to represent rebellion against the Creator. Preston, I’d like your opinion if this argument is at all sound. Maybe it’s flawed. I’m not sure. I mean, it’s still a breach of functions; but if the prohibition is solely based on the grounds of a violation of functions, wouldn’t oral, for example, also fall into the category of breaching functions (even if the imagery does not portray the ultimate antithesis of making use of the procreative function)?

    Ironically, I don’t wear hats to church—yet I love hats (I have many!)—even though the charge was given for the sake of the angels (1 Cor. 11:10). I almost feel like I should either wear hats to church or give up my impression that anal sex is inherently wrong. And, “for the sake of the angels,” what does even that mean? What is it that reaches into the spiritual world that wearing a hat could possibly invoke? Does that mean we should still wear hats today? I mean, Paul’s argument sounds spiritually driven, right? But if we’re willing to dismiss that charge, why would we feel obligated to adhere to the charge to refrain from anal sex (which is also spiritually driven as it is compared to an inner spiritual exchange of Creator for creature)? And what is the connection, if any, to angels, breaching God-given functions, and the prohibition on anal sex?

    Okay, one last point that I don’t think we should take lightly. There are Christian gay couples who not only are not given over to a depraved mind to do all the things in v. 29-31 but whose lives reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Should we really place our interpretations of ambiguous Scripture over the evidence of the Holy Spirit in these people’s lives? Shouldn’t we, at least, allow the clear work of the Holy Spirit in these people’s lives inform our interpretations and thus shape how we live out our interpretations? Isn’t this a valid argument?

    Sheesh, that’s a long stinkin’ post. 🙂 Who needs another book, Preston, when you’ve got my posts?! LOL! Okay, okay, if you want anything scholarly, my posts sure won’t suffice.

    • Hey Julie,

      Uhhh…wow! That’s a long post! Due to time constraints, I can’t respond as thoroughly as your post deserves. I’ll keep mulling over it, though. You’ve given us much to think about.

      Few things.

      I’ve read your first paragraph several times, and gone back to Rom 1 to try to read it along the lines you have suggested, and I’m sorry but I just do see how 1:18-23 has any hint of an underlying “procreation” logic to it. You said:

      ” Paul isn’t elevating procreation in the sense that it’s the goal of
      sex/marriage. He’s elevating procreation in the sense that it’s the
      supreme evidence that there is a Creator (cf. Rom. 1:20, “understood
      through what has been made”). The ultimate rejection of that Creator as
      seen in procreation would be engaging in heterosexual anal intercourse.”

      I see the parallel you trying to draw–God creates (vv. 19-21) and therefore we should worship Him by imitating his creative or procreative activity in procreative sex. The analogy has some merit (particularly in Gen 1), but I just don’t see this as Paul’s point in the argument. If Paul believed that “The ultimate rejection of that Creator as seen in procreation would be engaging in heterosexual anal intercourse” and thus illicit the “wrath of God” (v. 18), I would certainly expect to see a major strand of OT, Jewish, and NT evidence that likewise condemns anal intercourse, but there’s nothing. Genesis 2–the main passage about marriage–doesn’t mention procreation. And Song of Songs presents the beauty of non-coital heterosexual sex. Neither Jesus not Paul condemn non-procreative forms of heterosexual sex.

      Moreover, never is heterosexual anal sex ever called “against nature” in all the Jewish Greco-Roman literature I’ve looked at, and yet lesbian sex is very often and widely considered to be “against nature.” (If you or anyone else wants references, I can give them.) In fact, some latter rabbis believed that a man can have sex with his wife in whatever way he wanted (b. Nedarim 20a-b; b. Sanhedrin 58b).

      So, although you have a good deal of early church history on your side (e.g. Augustine), I’m still not convinced that Rom 1:26 is referring to non-procreative forms of heterosexual sex.

      Now, as for 1:28-32, I don’t think Paul is saying that all gay people will show these characteristics. 1:18-32 is a very broad sweep of human sin and rebellion, and not isolated to the cause and results of homosexual activity. Does that make sense?

      But you bring up a great point: why is lesbianism rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Bible? (Rom 1:26 is the only vague reference.) I think there’s good historic merit in saying that the Bible didn’t need to address lesbianism since it was much more rare and almost universally condemned by Jewish and Greco-Roman writers.

      For instance, I abhor bestiality. I think it’s a horrible sin. And yet, I’ve never and probably never will preach a sermon on it. In all my blogs, writings, lectures, and sermons, I’ve never even mentioned it. (Please hear me! I’m not comparing lesbian sex to bestiality!! Just making an analogous point about why certain moral issues are addressed and why others may not be.) The same very well could be true in the Bible. In every culture that it was written (ANE, Jewish, Greco-Roman), there was near universal condemnation of lesbian sex. Therefore, there may not have been any need to address it.

      An argument from silence, I know, but some arguments from silence rightly listen to the echoes from history.

      • Preston,

        You agree, I think, that Paul does, indeed, present a parallel. And that parallel suggests that as one exchanged the Creator for the creature, one exchanged the natural function for the unnatural. Why the parallel? Is there nothing to glean from his deliberate parallel? In what way does Creator correspond with natural function? If natural function does not relate to procreation, what does it relate to? What is Paul’s meaning of natural function? Because whatever it is, it would seem it must somehow correspond to “Creator.”

        As for v. 28-32, I do understand your explanation of why all gays wouldn’t necessarily show the vices in this list. But to be honest, I’m not sure why we’re given the impression we can know a tree by its fruit if we really can’t know a tree by its fruit, since, like you said, even unbelievers have fruit. It would seem to me, however, that if someone professes Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior risen from the dead by God AND they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, that should be enough evidence for us to believe it’s a “good tree” in whom God’s Spirit is working. And if God’s Spirit is working within the hearts of gay couples, I just don’t understand why we’d feel we can condemn these couples. Because of a prohibition on anal intercourse? How is that sufficient evidence for condemning gay unions? Because of one ambiguous passage in Romans that could possibly, maybe, perhaps be prohibiting lesbian sex? How is that sufficient evidence for condemning gay couples?

        You mention that lesbian sex is considered “against nature” in literature. In literature predating Paul’s use of the phrase?

        Wasn’t there universal condemnation of murder? Yet the Bible addresses it–there was “need” to address it. So, I just don’t see how your “argument from silence” is convincing. If Paul thought lesbianism should be prohibited, he could have figured out a way to include that prohibition in his sin lists, but he doesn’t.

        I’m not convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Romans 1 is talking about anal sex with women; it just sounds more likely to me. Are you convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s talking about lesbian sex? And if you’re not, can you explain why it’s okay to use it as condemnation of lesbianism?

      • I posted this a couple days ago, but it’s still not up…maybe there was a glitch?

        Preston,

        You agree, I think, that Paul does, indeed, present a parallel. And that parallel suggests that as one exchanged the Creator for the creature, one exchanged the natural function for the unnatural. Why the parallel? In what way does Creator correspond with natural function? If natural function does not relate to procreation, what does it relate to? What is Paul’s meaning of natural function?

        As for v. 28-32, I do understand your explanation of why all gays wouldn’t necessarily show the vices in this list. But to be honest, I’m not sure why we’re given the impression we can know a tree by its fruit if we really can’t know a tree by its fruit, since, like you said, even unbelievers have fruit. It would seem to me, however, that if someone professes Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior risen from the dead by God AND they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, that should be enough evidence for us to believe it’s a “good tree” in whom God’s Spirit is working. And if God’s Spirit is working within the hearts of gay couples, I just don’t understand why we’d feel we can condemn these couples. Because of a prohibition on anal intercourse? How is that sufficient evidence for condemning gay unions? Because of one ambiguous passage in Romans that could possibly, maybe, perhaps be prohibiting lesbian sex? How is that sufficient evidence for condemning gay couples?

        You mention that lesbian sex is considered “against nature” in literature. In literature predating Paul’s use of the phrase?

        Wasn’t there universal condemnation of murder? Yet the Bible addresses it. So, I just don’t see how your “argument from silence” is convincing. If Paul thought lesbianism should be prohibited, he could have figured out a way to include that prohibition in his sin lists, but he doesn’t.

        I’m not convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Romans 1 is talking about anal sex with women; it just sounds more likely to me. Are you convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s talking about lesbian sex? And if you’re not, can you explain why it’s okay to use it as condemnation of lesbianism?

        • Good thoughts, as always, Julie. My brain’s a bit fried right now (been traveling the last few days), but here’s some thoughts.

          The best parallel I see is that just as creation exchanged its natural worship of its Creator by worshiping itself–creation (vv. 1:19-23)–so also men and women exchanged the natural use of “the other” to have sex with its own kind–males with males, and same with females. That’s one option, at least.

          I think you may have misunderstood my point about vv. 28-32. I’m not saying that gay couples (who are Christians) are necessarily condemned. If those of us who are gay and saved, then we have the Spirit and will produce the fruits of the Spirit. Now, theoretically, I can say this while at the same time believe that gay and lesbian relationships are sin. Divorce is a sin, but a lot of divorced people, who are Christians, exhibit fruits of the Spirit. This does not mean that BECAUSE they (divorced people, or LGBT Christians) have the fruit of the Spirit that therefore their marital decisions are God’s will. Does that make sense? In short, the fact that we see the fruits of the Spirit doesn’t sanitize all the actions of that person.

          With the argument from silence, your counterargument doesn’t work. Murder wasn’t universally condemned at all. In fact, Judaism’s own history is filled with tons of killing, and Jesus’s fellow Jews would have been quite okay with Jesus taken out a few Romans. So, Jesus (and other NT authorities) addressed murder.

          The gospels and the rest of the NT was highly contextualized; it addressed pressing needs. So again, Jesus never addressed bestiality, neither does Paul. Jesus never addressed incest, but actually Paul does. Why? Because he needed to (in 1 Cor 5). Why didn’t Paul address incest to the Roman church? Apparently he didn’t need to.

          This isn’t a bad argument from silence; it’s just historical reconstruction.

          “Are you convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s talking about lesbian sex? And if you’re not, can you explain why it’s okay to use it as condemnation of lesbianism?”

          Good question! And the answer is no. But there’s a lot of things I believe that I wouldn’t say “are beyond a shadow of a doubt.” But if the reason for prohibiting gay sex has to do with gender confusion (still working on this one), and since–I know you don’t buy this, but…–Jesus/Paul didn’t need to address lesbian sex with the same amount of ink and specificity and gay sex, I don’t think having only one reference to lesbianism means that it’s therefore not a big deal. Again, we’ve no reference to bestiality and only one reference to incest, but this doesn’t mean that the issue if morally ambiguous.

          • Ah, okay, I see what you’re saying, Preston. Well, yes, I can see that as a valid option. Hmm…I will have to give that more thought.

            And thank you for clarifying your thoughts regarding vv. 28-32. I understand what you’re saying.

            I’m a little confused about the argument from silence thing. None of the prohibitions in the Bible are universally condemned? Some universally condemned acts are prohibited in Scripture. Yes? So, I don’t find it a very convincing argument to say that Paul didn’t prohibit lesbianism because it was universally condemned. And if Paul thought lesbianism should be prohibited, he could have figured out a way to include that prohibition in his sin lists, but he doesn’t.

            Are you saying that in Paul’s sin lists, he only included things that needed to be addressed for the sake of his current audience/readers?

            You’re right—it may be a big deal. But isn’t there just as equally a chance that it isn’t as big of a deal as the conservative church has made it out to be? And, as for bestiality and incest, we have proof outside of Scripture that helps us determine that it’s a moral issue. Abuse of a creature is morally wrong. Incest hurts the offspring of such unions. Does it make it okay if you don’t procreate? That’s not the point—the point is that we have evidence outside of a direct prohibition that reveals it should be prohibited for the safety of others.

  4. Preston,

    I thought I’d reply to your recent comment to me in this venue, since it relates to my previous post in this blog.

    Even though there was no Greek word for “lesbian” in Paul’s day, he still had many words he could have used to express the idea of two women together sexually. So, if Paul had wanted to prohibit a woman with another woman sexually, he could have figured out a way to put that prohibition in his sin lists. So my argument stands. Unless someone can give me a good reason as to why Paul didn’t prohibit two women together sexually in his sin lists, I just can’t find a reason to think Scripture prohibits it. Like I said, I know there’s the Romans 1 passage but not only does my view of that passage take lesbianism out of the picture, why would anyone want to make a firm decision against lesbianism using only that vague passage? And if there’s no prohibition against lesbianism, then arsenokoites found in Paul’s sin lists must be limited forms of male homosexuality, since it would make little sense that all forms of male homosexuality are prohibited but not female homosexuality.

    You also mentioned that you don’t buy the argument regarding Christian gay couples who display the fruit of the Spirit, because even unbelievers can exhibit traits that fall under the category of fruit of the Spirit. But Paul says that these heterosexuals who participated in homosexual acts were given over to a depraved mind. Paul doesn’t say that God does that to any old unbeliever (i.e. atheists), so it’s not like we’d expect it to see that with them. However, he did say this happens to those who engage in Rom. 1 homosexual-type activities. So why aren’t Christian gay couples displaying these vices?

  5. Hi Preston – Your post, plus the productive comments of your community have raised an interesting issue: In Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding the qualities that an overseerer or deacon must possess, Paul doesn’t include not being a slave owner. So, it would be fair to assume that there may have been overseerers and deacons in the Ephesian church who owned slaves.

    Now, today, would we consider slave owning a sin? I would think so in light of the principle that all human beings bear God’s image and should serve only one Lord. So, I assume we should not ordain unrepented slave owning pastors. If we agree, then should we interpret biblical ethics/morality as (at least in some cases) a trajectory from a current good to a future best, similar to how Jesus dealt with divorce?

    How does this analysis bear on the question of homosexuality? Perhaps, if sexuality is not limited in its virtue to reproduction, then maybe a committed union is future best for those who have a same sex attraction. I don’t hear a lot of protestants talking about sex only being appropriate in the context of intended procreation. I also am sensitive to my understanding that all of the homosexual males I know did not choose their sexual gender attraction. Are they sick? Are they a distortion, a victim of the “fall”? Is this their “cross” to bear? I don’t know, and the more I study this topic the less certain I am. Thus, I would love feedback from you and all of your blogging community. Peace 🙂