Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blogging the Homosexualty Conference: Day 3, Main Presentation

Richard Davidson had the main presentation of the conference, and for it he gave his paper, "Homosexuality and the Bible: What Is at Stake in the Current Debate." He believes that the fundamental issue in the debate is the authority of scripture. Citing Is 8:20, he asserted that the authority of scripture rests on the principle of sola scriptura, which Davidson takes to mean that all other ways of knowing should be submitted to scripture.

Davidson believes that the prohibition of homosexuality is inextricably connected to the key doctrines of the Bible. But on the other hand he sees science saying that homosexuality is an inborn condition the practice of which should not be prohibited. (On this point he concedes Yarhouse's study may shed new light but argues the point academically regardless.) Davidson believes that when science and the Bible contradict, the Bible should have the final word.

Davidson pointed to the personal experiences of the ex-gays at the conference as evidence for the idea that the Bible is a more reliable source than science. But he cautioned that we should not make personal experience our rule, which he believes is what Eve did at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He then spoke of his own personal experience with higher criticism at seminary during which he lost his trust in scripture as the final authority. He told how a conference in biblical hermeneutics restored his trust in scripture, and stated that he feels like a brand plucked from the burning.

Davidson also mentioned the principle of tota scriptura, according to which we must take the whole witness of scripture on a given issue. He said that those who wish to support homosexual relationships by appeal to Scripture are creating a canon within a canon--taking some texts and ignoring others. He argues that because scripture is the Word of God it is internally coherent and harmoniously consistent. He sees certain proponents of homosexuality saying that scripture does not agree with itself on that issue, which is problematic according to this understanding of scripture.

Davidson maintains that what is at stake on this issue is the power of God's word to change the lives of those involved in the gay lifestyle and also its ability to change the lives of those who are not tempted to homosexual actions--including those who are tempted to hate the homosexual.

Davidson said that this conference has been a catharsis for himself, because he has had to think through his own treatment of homosexuals, whom he ridiculed as queers in high school. Later in college, he and his room mate generally mocked steeiotypical homosexual mannerisms. He and his theology major friends used to call their homiletics class "homoletics" because the professor had some effeminate mannerisms. He says that his reconsideration of these activities shows the power of God's word to convict of wrongdoing. He believes that this power is what is at stake hermeneutically.

He speculated that one could make a case that each one of our doctrines is at stake on the issue of homosexulaity. For example, God made us male and female, so Davidson asks whether are we truly representing the doctrine of God if we condone homosexual relationships? He believes the doctrine of creation is also at stake, because if God created through evolution, he did not literally create male and female.

Smiling uncomfortably, he spoke once more of his past, noting that one of the theology majors who was laughing along with his jokes was disguising the fact that he was a homosexual, and only later did he learn how much he had wounded him. He said it is hard to face such a past.

Davidson then continued in his paper, stating that at the fall Adam and Eve's natures were turned towards themselves and became depraved. Everyone has been affected by this, and therefore when a man lusts after another woman or man who is not his wife it is natural, but that does not make it right. He believes that the Old Testament condemns homosexual practice and the harboring of homosexual thoughts or lusts, but he sees no culpability for the person who has homosexual temptation.

Davidson then stated that he would only listen to those who believe homosexuals must change their orientation if they themselves could honestly say they no longer experience heterosexual temptation. He also believes that although homosexuality is one of the worst sins; pride, adultery, dishonest scales, and other sins that heterosexuals commonly practice are also called abominations.

Davidson also thinks that what is at stake is the doctrine of grace, that is, "Where sin abounded grace abounded all the more." He believes that only when homosexuality is taken seriously as a high level sin is it possible for homosexuals to respond to God's grace. But, he states, the other side is that God's grace is always there. He points to the 400 years God worked with the Canaanites to get them to repent. And according to Ez 18, Judah had done worse in regard to all the sins of Sodom, including homosexuality, but God offered bring them out of exile.

Davidson believes that we must respond to homosexuals in the context of our own sexual failing and need of grace, and acknowledge the heterosexual sin of hatred against homosexuals. He challenged the church to show the face of God as infinitely knowing, caring, and loving through a welcoming attitude and deeds such as ministering to AIDS patients. In this context, Davidson says that at stake also is the Great Controversy, in other words, our world view as opposed to the secular-humanist world view. At stake is how we will represent the character of God to homosexual, hurting people.

Davidson concluded with the rest of the story of his friend whom he didn't know was a homosexual. This friend had painted a picture in college with scantily clad women in an attempt to project a heterosexual identity. Davidson says the memory of how he wrote him a letter rebuking him for giving into his passions is painful.

Davidson had the opportunity to meet this friend and hear his testimony this summer, a testimony that was included in our conference materials. His friend wrote about how God had freed him from the Devil's counterfeit sexuality and how returning to God's plan had not been easy, but was worth it. Davidson concluded by stating that what's at stake in the current debate is guys like his friend.

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)

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