The first panel of the day addressed homosexuality from the perspectives of biblical theology and ethics.
Robert Gagnon opened the panel and began with a rebuttal of the gentile inclusion analogy. According to the analogy, gentiles were included in the church apart from having to observe the ceremonial laws because of the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. So by analogy, if we see homosexuals evidencing the fruit of the spirit, why not include them in the church despite their nonobservance of the letter of the law.
Gagnon pointed out that a principle of analogical reasoning is that the analogy, which has more significant corresponding points is the better analogy. Gagnon observes that the Bible does not ground circumcision in creation. He holds that circumcision affects the people of God only as a superficial act, but that the prohibition on homosexuality is part of what the Jews considered the Noahide law which the Jews considered binding on all, not just Jews. Therefore, he believes that homosexuality is better compared to other, more lasting, ordinances which the Gentile Christians were supposed to observe.
Next, Gagnon took on the question, What precisely is the problem with homosexual practice? He enumerated several: (1) Conceiving of a sexual same as a sexual other which is tantamount to sexual self-deception. It is (2) treating one's maleness or femaleness as only half-intact, which is sexual self-dishonor. According to Gagnon, the logic of homosex is that two halves of the same sex make a sexual whole, which is in opposition to the logic of heterosex: a whole male and whole female form a single sexual whole. For Gagnon (3) experiencing arousal at the distinctive features of the same gender is sexual narcissism. And he claims that (4) failing to moderate the extremes of a given gender (by filling in the gap with the opposite sex) results in sexual harm in the homosexual relationship. He points to perceived unbalance in homosexuals' relationships resulting in abuse as evidence of this point.
Gagnon does not believe all sins are equal. Jesus spoke of weightier matters of the law, and in the Old Testament God punished sins in proportion to their severity. He pointed out that some of God's severest judgment came for sexual sin, and so views homosexuality as a severe form of sin. Gagnon concluded by asserting that the command to not judge each other includes not acquitting people of behavior that God has not acquitted them of.
Richard Davidson said he would lead us in a Bible study for "Sabbath School time." He started with Gen 1:16-18, pointing out that being sexual is part of being human and that homosexuality cannot fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply. He sees the "let us" as referring to a deliberation within the I-Thou relationship of the godhead which results in creation. And the results of this creation is that human beings have a polarized rationality and procreativity through our sexuality.
In Gen 2, Davidson says that God puts Adam to sleep so that he won't think he had anything to do with the creation of Eve. He sees Gen 2:24-25 as the divine mandate for marriage. The words ish and isha (Hebrew: man and woman) make explicit within the text that God's paradigm for marriage is heterosexual. He sees that the rest of Scripture builds on these passages when addressing the topic of sex, including Leviticus.
Citing Gagnon, Davidson says that the Levitical code on homosexuality is unique in the Ancient Near East in that both parties are penalized, not just the one in the dominant role. This implies consensual intercourse, not just rape. There is no specific mention in Leviticus of lesbianism, but the masculine language in the Torah is gender inclusive.
Davidson also sees three hints in the text that the prohibition of homosexual activity goes beyond Israel's context: (1) the word "abomination," which is specifically attached to homosexual intercourse; (2) the other nations were to be judged for doing these activities (Lev 18:24-25); and (3) foreigners in their land were to keep these laws (Lev 18:26). Regarding the applicability of this law to Christians, Davidson finds that the Jerusalem Council took their list of requirements for gentile Christians from the laws Leviticus 17-18 that were applicable to foreigners in the land of Israel.
Miroslav Kis - Those who have had Kis as a professor will not be surprised that be began by informing everyone that he used to be a watchmaker. He then presented a paper which outlined three concepts that he believes pertain to homosexuality: (1) innocence, as in the nakedness of Adam and Eve; (2) guilt, both objective moral guilt and subjective feelings of guilt that both convict and punish the one who has lost innocence; and (3) shame, which arises from the failure to live up to the internal conception of the self, the gap between what 'is' and what 'ought'. According to Kis, guilt and shame warn us of danger in our ways of being and doing. Kis believes that the solution to guilt and shame is receiving forgiveness through confession to God.
Next Kis introduced the concept of shamelessness--a brazen and impudent attitude--in the context of Rom 1:26-27. Kis understands that, for Paul, homosexual acts are shameless because they are idolatrous. This means that when God is put aside there is no difference between truth and lie, right and wrong. They are also shameless because they are unnatural. And finally, Kis believes that they are shameless because of an almost universal experience of private shame before homosexual attitudes come out in the open.
Kis believes that society has failed homosexuals because in a democratic society, yesterday's 'is' becomes today's 'ought.' So when society then moves from 'ought' to 'is', the 'ought' is so strongly influenced by the 'is' of homosexuality, that the enterprise of forming standards becomes confused. On the other hand, the church has had a tendency to emphasize the biblical 'ought' in a way that implies that the 'is' of homosexuality is hopeless.
Kis concluded by asserting that God's love is the cure for homosexual sins through confession and forgiveness. But he also says that homosexuality is a condition that may never be eliminated from human lives. He also believes that the church and society can cooperate in helping those with homosexuality while not interfering with one another's domains.
Roy Gane, the panel chair, gave the final paper, "Some Attempted Alternatives to Timeless Condemnation of Homosexual Acts," which is essentially a rebuttal he wrote for arguments in the book, Christianity and Homosexuality. To the argument that not all biblical laws have modern applications, he admits this is true but believes we should use biblical principles, not political correctness, to discover which laws have modern application. He also notes that biblical laws other than the 10 commandments are presented as eternal ordinances.
To the argument that homosexual acts only caused ceremonial defilement, he cites scholars to the effect that there is a difference in Leviticus between ritual/ceremonial impurity and irremediable moral imperatives covered in the Holiness code of Lev 17-27. To the argument Christians do not observe the code regarding menstruation in Lev 18, where the homosexual prohibition is found, Gane agrees but says that inconsistency of God's people in following his ordinances does not negate their applicability.
To the argument that Paul only condemns homosexuality of a self-indulgent, lustful, and exploitative sort, Gane claims that the Pauline allusions to Leviticus show that Paul is referring to their ongoing applicability to all homosexual relationships. To the argument that Paul only condemns pre-Christian homosexuality, Gane notes that if this were true it would undermine Paul's argument in the first chapters of Romans that for these reasons the Gentiles also need Christ.
To the argument that the Bible does not condemn homosexual relationships of persons born with homosexual orientation, because the ancient Israelites did not understand that concept, and therefore, the prohibitions of the bible only apply to those without a homosexual orientation who engage in homosexual acts; Gane asserts that because God knows everything known to modern science it would be wrong to think that the Bible was not written with those considerations in mind. He acknowledged that it could be further argued that it is not fair that homosexuals cannot find fulfillment in this life, but who is to say, he argues, that life in a sinful world is fair?
Disclaimer: I have summarized the views of the presenters to the best of my ability, however my summary should not be conflated with their actual views. For this reason, any attempt to debate the presenters views in the comments section will be deleted. Comments that seek clarification are welcome.
Blogging the Homosexuality Conference (other posts)