Inclusive Jesus or Transforming Jesus

Here’s a though that just struck me. Can anybody give me an example of an encounter of a sinner with Jesus in the New Testament which doesn’t result in the one of the following:

  1. The person being challenged to turn from sin
  2. The person repenting of sin
  3. The person being healed of brokenness, whether physical, emotional or spiritual

Update : Have added the words “a sinner” to clarify the point

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64 Comments on “Inclusive Jesus or Transforming Jesus

  1. Here’s a thought that just struck me. Can anybody give me an example of an encounter that Jesus has with a gay or lesbian person in the New Testament when he calls them to repent?
    Jesus is absolutely silent on the matter of gay and lesbian people. But he does choose to say things about our use of money, our hypocrisy, our lack of charity, our racism and quite a few other sisn as well. And yes Peter, he does do those three things you indicate in your blog here. But why the complete silence from Jesus about your favourite subject?

    • I thought you’d shaken the dust of this place off your feet?

      Tell you what sound, first give me an example of an encounter that Jesus has with an active paedophile in the New Testament when he calls them to repent, and I’ll accept the logicality of your argument.

      • Peter: “first give me an example of an encounter that Jesus has with an active paedophile in the New Testament when he calls them to repent, and I’ll accept the logicality of your argument”

        The logic of the argument tells me that there are several good perfectly good reasons why I should not accept your inference that homosexuality and paedophilia are morally similar here. The latter is always abusive and non-consensual, and therefore sinful, whereas homosexual relationships may at least sometimes be mutually loving and mutually fulfilling.

        In the absence of something clear from Jesus (or indeed from the rest of scripture) I’d expect rational arguments why homosexual relationships are always wrong – and I’ve yet to hear any.

        • Not at all – I’m simply demonstrating that sound’s argument (that since Jesus doesn’t address something he has no problem with it) is logically fallacious.

          But for the record, perhaps you can demonstrate the Scriptural argument against loving, committed and faithful pederastic or paedophilic relationships? And before you reply that such a thing doesn’t exist, let me inform you that I have met people who were involved in such relationships (as the junior partner) and had no problems with them.

          • Peter,

            You are correct that Jesus failing to address something doesn’t automatically mean he has no problem with it.

            However, conservative evangelicals give HUGE weight to the issue of homosexuality, and spend much time and energy fighting agains the inclusion/acceptance of gays and lesbians in the same kinds of committed relationships that heterosexuals have.

            Why is this such a huge issue for you, given that Jesus spends no time on it?

            Jesus does, however, spend lots of time on telling us to love others, not to harm others, calling people on their hypocrisy & self-righteousness, calling us to serve others, to care for those on the margins of our society, etc.

            Why not focus on the issues Jesus speaks to us directly about – as presumably these issues were more important to Jesus? Particularly given the fact that loving, committed same-sex partnerships hurt no one?

            As for having met people (junior partner) in pederastic relationships who have ‘no problem’ with them – I’ve also met women in physically abusive relationships with their husbands (broken bones, the lot) who claim to have ‘no problem’ with their abusive partners’ behaviour.

            Very, very often, people in clearly abusive relationships acquiese to the abusive/dominant partner, and there are many psychological explanations for this.

            But this type of thing is completely different from a relationship between equals, who treat each other with self-sacrificial love.

            • I am going to support Carolyn’s point here on the idea of junior partners who have “no problem” with paedophillia. Having been involved in the area of child protection and abuse counselling, you will ( very occasionally) meet someone who says they were abused in early childhood who had no problem with it. The one person I met who said this was themselves ( unsurprisingly) abusing children in their adult life. So, there we see a complex but damaging response. The vast majority of people abused as children report devastating consequences such as depression, low self esteem and destructive relationship patterns.
              I’ve met a few people who were involved in a relationship with a major during LATE adolescence who had no problem with this. Child abuse and paedophillia has its own dificult areas – but I don’t think it can be compared to a same sex adult relationship.
              As for scripture not condemning paedophillia, what about Matthew 18 :”if anyone causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea”

              I guess “causing a child to sin” would be how it was seen back then – and the condemnation is pretty strong?

              • How can being the abuser be “causing a child to sin”? I know I’m being pedantic, but I want to really get to grips with this argument that since Jesus doesn’t explicitly condemn homosexual activity he is de facto in favour of it.

                How about I made an argument that said that homosexual behaviour in all forms was absuive per se, and just because others who had engaged in it as a “junior partner” went on to engage as a “senior partner”, that still didn’t support it? You wouldn’t let me get away with that for a moment.

                Why is it OK for one kind of sexual relationship to be based upon clear consent, but the other isn’t?

                • I find this whole line of argument, to be frank, ludicrous. Jesus did not explicitly talk about lots of things but we still know as Christians what we should think about them.

                  I’d like to ask Carolyn and Sue two questions. Would you be open to be persuaded that the bible prohibits homosexual relationships? If you were to be persuaded about that, would you then change your opinion about their validity?

                  • MattS,

                    If you look back over my postings, you’ll see that I’ve said on several occasions that we all need to be open to the leading of God on this issue, and that – difficult as it is! – we all need to be open to the idea that we might have gotten things wrong.

                    So yes, I believe my statements to everyone include me – I need to be open to the idea that I might have gotten it wrong with respect to homosexuality.

                    How about you – can you answer the same question for me? Are you genuinely open to considering the idea that your belief that the Bible condemns all homosexuality is wrong?

                    As an aside – if you go back up and look at my first post on this topic, I am not arguing that because Jesus didn’t address homosexuality, that means he definitely approved of it.

                    I don’t think anyone is making that argument, actually – instead, it feels as if that is the red herring that Peter is setting up so that he can knock it down (along with tangential references to paedophilia). :-(

                    Instead, what I would say is this: Jesus talked about lots and lots of issues, and said nothing about homosexuality.

                    Yet conservatives fixate on homosexuality, much more (often times) than they worry about any of the issues Jesus did actually address.

                    But surely Jesus addressed the issues that were the most important ones to him? So surely those should be our focus?

                    Particularly when the conservative condemnation of homosexuality rests on extrapolations from a very few verses? And when we can see the clear harm caused throughout the centuries to gay and lesbian individuals by that same conservative position?

                    Once again – I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here – Jesus is always concerned about the effects of our actions on other people.

                    • Carolyn,

                      I think in the discussion of the pharisees I pointed out that Jesus was in the technical sense, a legalist. This means that he affirmed the entire law of Moses, but even went further in that he deepened and and internalised in, in order than the law should be written on our hearts. I don’t know of any Christian ethicist who argues that Christian ethics are primarily utilitarian in nature.

                      In order to persuade me that my position is wrong, you would need to adopt a conservative hermeneutic in order to persuade me. I fear that other arguments, like for example “harm” that the standard Christian position supposedly causes people, start from a position of autonomy.

                      What I mean is when I, as an autonomous agent, decide what is the good and right, then try and fit the bible in around this framework. This is a common pattern in all forms of liberal theology. My problem with this is that it is basically presumptious, in that it assumes that we know what harms people better than God does.

                      The fact is, it seems to me the jury is out even from a secular perspective on how harmful homosexual lifestyles are. I would, though, not base any moral apologetic on these figures but rather on what I believe the bible teaches.

                    • Matt –

                      It’s not letting me reply to you, so I’m replying to myself, so this answer stays close to yours!

                      I don’t have a huge amount of time, but will just comment on your pharisees statement.

                      Yes, you stated that Jesus was a legalist, and that he affirmed the entire law of Moses, deepening it.

                      However, stating something is not proving it.

                      I asked for an explanation of how Jesus’ allowing picking corn on the Sabbath and healing a man on the Sabbath (both of which did not have to be done at that time, and both of which clearly constitute ‘work’) ‘affirmed’ the law of Moses.

                      You never replied. I would need to hear a coherent explanation for how Jesus breaking the Sabbath law ‘deepened the Mosaic law’ before I accept your interpretation – which appears to blatantly contradict what Scripture says.

                      And I’m arguing from a conservative hermeunetic, just as much as you are. We are both prioritising Scripture and according it authority in our lives.

                      We just prioritise different verses.

                      You say that ‘liberal theology’ presumes that we know what harms people better than God does.

                      But what does conservative theology do but assume their interpretation of Scripture is correct, and therefore whatever they believe God to be saying (whether or not their belief is true) cannot possibly be harmful? That is the position you take – despite all evidence to the contrary.

                      And again I’ll go back to the example of Jesus – he did not separate Scriptural interpretation from its effects on people – which conservative theology does.

                      And remember – the Bible never addresses equal, committed same-sex relationships. You have to extrapolate from 2 passages to get to this condemnation.

                      And again my question back to you, which you haven’t answered:

                      Are you open to the possibility that your interpretation of Scripture is wrong?

                  • Hi Carolyn,

                    I also don’t have much time (my wife gets very annoyed when I spend too much time on these things!)

                    I guess I would say in theory, yes, I am open to be persuaded that my interpretation is wrong. (Or I shouldn’t say “I” but the church as a whole, I don’t see my belief in sola scriptura as giving me the right to just believe what I like as a private person!) However, I find it very difficult to believe that such a thing could be demonstrated in practice.

                    You are right that the modern form of understanding of being “gay” is not in the scripture. But again lots of other things are not. Biblical ethicists therefore tend to use moral syllogisms to judge on these cases e.g murder is wrong, abortion is murder, therefore abortion is wrong. This is not an unusual practice when speaking of biblical ethics and I don’t think it is an irresponisble one.

                    I do need to come back on the pharisees again. I think my interpretation is the correct one and is dominant at least in the reformed tradition. Lutherans take a different approach but it leads them into arguing that Jesus was basically being faecitious in the sermon on the mount in order to drive you to repentance, which I find very unsatisfying.

                    I need to come back on the supposed counter examples you give when I have more time. Probably tomorrow.

                    • Quickly to come back on Jesus and the law. In the two counter examples you give on Jesus on the law (matt 12 and Mk 2 & 3), I think we need to notice that, Jesus does not go anywhere near abrogating the sabbath. He simply explains what is permitted on the sabbath (i.e works of necessity and mercy). He also says that he is lord of the sabbath and above the temple-one of his claims to deity.

                    • MattS,

                      I’m replying to your statement that Jesus didn’t abrogate the Sabbath, but instead explains what is permitted on the Sabbath.

                      But of course that’s what he does – but this is exactly the point I’m making.

                      Jesus challenges the traditional interpretation of the Sabbath, and offers instead a different interpretation.

                      And Jesus’ interpretation, it must be admitted, is quite lenient. I mean – it was standard practice for food to be gathered/prepared prior to the start of the Sabbath. It was only bad planning that caught Jesus and his disciples out, yes? And to not eat (because they hadn’t planned ahead) for the Sabbath wouldn’t have hurt anyone really.

                      So – Jesus is hardly the strict legalist, is he?

                      And again – one has to look at the basis on which Jesus challenged the traditional interpretation of Sabbath law.

                      That is: how did the traditional interpretation of the law impact on people? Was the impact for good? Or was it for evil?

                      It is Jesus’ standard that I’m asking us to adhere to when we consider same-sex relationships and our interpretation of Scripture with respect to them.

                      Is our interpretation for good? Or is it for evil? That will give us a good idea about whether our interpretation is correct or not.

                    • Hi Carolyn,
                      I think we agree with the fact that God’s law needs to be interpreted and applied with compassion. We probably also agree that God’s law properly applied and interpreted would not be harmful to society. I think where we probably disagree at the moment is what constitutes reasonable interpretation and application of the law and what effectively constitutes law breaking. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the conversations you are having on here but I’m now dropping out for a while.

                      Best Wishes
                      Matt

                • “How can an abuser be causing a child to sin?”

                  I’ve explained below how it might have been seen this way. You could say how can any adult cause a child to sin, as,if there has been coercion by the adult ( say to steal for them), that is where the sin lies – so, what else was Jesus talking about?

                  As for you second two questions, I’m not sure I understand them? Are you saying “we accept homosexual adult relationships because they are consensual, so why don’t the same rules apply to relationships between adults and children, when the children report these as consensual in later life?”

                  My answer would be that , as there is well documented evidence of how damaging child abuse is, in the interests of child protection, there have to be laws and cut off points. so, in this country, the age of consent is sixteen. Some fifteen year olds might enter into a sexual relationship with an adult and NOT feel “abused” – it could be consensual. On the other hand a sixteen year old might enter into a relationship and feel abused – coercive and abusive relationships can happen at any age. So – laws are not perfect, but there has to be some way of protecting children, because they are such a vulnerable group.

                  • “How can an abuser be causing a child to sin?”

                    I’ve explained below how it might have been seen this way.

                    I don’t think you have. You’ve “supposed” an answer but you’ve provided no documentation to support your suggestion that that’s how they “might” have viewed it.

                    • Documention!!!

                      Well, what do you think Jesus was saying here based on documentation from the time!

                      (Surely you don’t have a problem with the suggestion that Jesus might have warned adults that “leading children astray” is wrong, either sexually or in other ways?)

                      What else could he be saying here!

                    • I think Jesus is saying that if you cause a child to sin, your fate (without repentance obviously) ain’t great.

                      Can’t see any reference to child abuse there.

            • However, conservative evangelicals give HUGE weight to the issue of homosexuality, and spend much time and energy fighting agains the inclusion/acceptance of gays and lesbians in the same kinds of committed relationships that heterosexuals have.

              Why is this such a huge issue for you, given that Jesus spends no time on it?
              ————————————-

              This argument is so bold-faced that I have vowed never to let it fly as long as I see it any where and can respond!

              That is, the idea that all of a sudden conservative Christians seized on homosexuality at random and decided to make a fuss about all those people who were in loving, committed relationships in the church all along up till then.

              Talk about a flanking maneuver on history!

              Nobody cared about this topic until something that had never occurred before in the history of Judaeo-Christianity occurred: somebody argued that homosexual behaviour was permitted by the Bible!

              Then is when Christians got up in arms!

              That is the correct order of things.

              And so the real way to make all this “unusual”, “sudden” and “peculiar” attention go away is to simply drop the idea that Christianity is compatible with a homosexual relationship.

              I am all for saying that the old status quo was bad since people with a homosexual orientation felt ignored and unsupported (and still do) but that coup on history must be thwarted.

              It didn’t happen that way at all!

              • >>>This argument is so bold-faced that I have vowed never to let it fly as long as I see it any where and can respond!

                >>>That is, the idea that all of a sudden conservative Christians seized on homosexuality at random and decided to make a fuss about all those people who were in loving, committed relationships in the church all along up till then.

                >>>Talk about a flanking maneuver on history!

                >>>.Nobody cared about this topic until something that had never occurred before in the history of Judaeo-Christianity occurred: somebody argued that homosexual behaviour was permitted by the Bible!

                >>>>Then is when Christians got up in arms!
                ———————————

                But many involved in FOCA (certainly to judge from today’s tweets)do say that the sexuality debate is merely the focal point for what are essentially two different religions. This is not, in my experience, true. For example, I know no liberal who believes Jesus to just be a good man, or who rejects scriptural authority. I’m obviously not in favour in the buddhist bishops excesses of TEC. But liberals are (generally) hardly engaging in a radical deconstructionist approach to scripture; instead, they are (as Protestants are meant to do) looking at words like aresonokoitai and seeing whether they most logically refer to monogomous same sex relationships. And I’m not sure it’s a good thing that evangelicals are only Catholic when it suits their arguments (I know Boswell claimed that there were once Christians liturgies that could be used for same-sex blessings, but nobody’s disputing that the church has historically been against homosexual practise). I have encountered evangelicals who believe that Sodom and Gommorah is “obviously” about “gay men” (who tend to be all about gang-raping angels, of course, when not having dangerous sex with hundreds of people or taking drugs) Said readings, looked at dispassionately, owe far more to (Christian) cultural assumptions than they do to accepting the “plain meaning” of Scripture.

      • I don’t recall saying I’d shaken off the dust… I recall you saying you could spam everything until I answered a question, which I answered quite clearly.

        Conservatives always bring up the paedophilia thing when they cant answer a question about homosexuality. (And of course there is no link at all). I actually asked you first. But as you have asked me where, I think you can be pretty clear that Matthew 18.6 and parallels is what you are looking for.

        I am about to read ‘Exchanging the truth of God for a lie’ by Jeremy Marks which looks as if it will be excellent.

          • I think it’s pretty clear that those who are abused ‘stumble’ in later life. It’s well recognised. I stand by my comment.
            Perhaps you would now have the courtesy to answer my question. Let me remind you what it is.
            Please give me an example of an encounter that Jesus has with a gay or lesbian person in the New Testament when he calls them to repent? And why would he choose to say things about our use of money, our hypocrisy, our lack of charity, our racism and quite a few other sins as well but be completely silent about same sex relationships?

            • I think it’s pretty clear that those who are abused ’stumble’ in later life.

              Is it? Are you now suggesting that all those who are sexually abused will automatically abuse themselves as adults? What kind of pastoral approach is that?

              Try again.

                • I’ll answer your question once you’ve addressed the logical fallacy at the heart of it.

                  And when you’ve explained how being raped makes you a sinner.

                  And when you’ve explained your remarks that anybody who has been abused automatically becomes an abuser.

                  Let’s do that discussion. If you want to talk about something else, start your own blog.

                  • To be fair, Sound didn’t say that those who have been abused automatically become abusers ( we don’t by the way, although this CAN happen.)Children who have been sexually abused can also become promiscuous in later life, more likely to become involved in prostituion or sex work and are more likely to develop drink/ drug habits. Survivors of abuse are over represented in prisons and mental hospitals. The ways it can cause someone to “stumble” are not confined to becoming an abuser.Abuse often leads people into chaotic and difficult (“sinful”) lives in adulthood, so it is perfectly legitimate to see Matthew 18:6 in this light. Also “causing a child to sin” is how Christ’s audience might have understood the issue, since terms such as “abuse” or “grooming” didn’t exist. We still talk about “corrupting the innocent”, don’t we?
                    However, most survivors of abuse do NOT go on to abuse – and it is important that this is understood!

                    • Nope sorry, don’t buy it. I know a man who was engaged in a sexual relationship as an early teen and he doesn’t demonstrate any of the criteria you claim. At the same time, there is a body of evidence to show that those who engage in same-sex activity display higher levels of promiscuity than others, higher likelihood to develop drink/drug problems etc. Does that mean that by definition all same-sex activity is abusive?

                      And it’s interesting isn’t it how we’ve mixed up the words “stumble” and “sin”? Matthew 18:6 uses the language of sin. We’re stuck again with the problem that you need to impose something on the text (the assertion that every child who engages in sex with an older person exhibits some form of dysfunction) to avoid the obvious reading if Matt 18:6 is about sexual abuse (that being abused is itself sinful).

                      You can’t have it both ways.

                  • Peter,

                    Do you see what you are doing here? In this response to Sound, you equate pederasty with ‘rape’.

                    Yet you earlier in this very thread, appear to equate same-sex relationships with pederasty, and appear to argue that pederasty is not necessarily abusive.

                    Your stance of pederesty/paedophilia seems to change, depending on which argument you wish to make.

                    Which is just a little bit convenient, isn’t it?

                    • Let’s be very clear about what I’m arguing.

                      Firstly, I’m applying the same arguments made in favour of homosexuality (“given Jesus’ explicit lack of reference to it…”) to pederasty / paedophilia to show how logically fallacious the argument is. Secondly, I’m working through the consequences of arguing that Matt 18:6 refers to child abuse. They are two separate arguments.

                    • Can’t reply to your post, Peter, so am replying to mine (hope it isn’t too confusing).

                      Your arguments are not as separate as you’d like them to be.

                      As Andrew and I have both pointed out – you are misrepresenting our arguments in order to knock down the misrepresentation (classic ‘strawman’).

                      However:

                      in knocking down your strawman argument by ‘applying the same arguments made in favour of homosexuality to pederasty’ you depend on your contention that pederasty is equivalent to homosexuality (in other words, your attempts to claim that some ‘junior members’ of pederastic relationships have ‘no problem’ with those relationships).

                      Without this equivalency (i.e., pederasty is just like homosexuality because sometimes both partners say they are ‘consenting’), your ‘refutation of the logical fallacy’ falls apart.

                      In other words, you need pederasty to be OK in order for your argument to work.

                      Yet, in dealing with Matt 18:6, you need pederasty to be ‘like rape’ in order for your argument to work.

                      You can’t have it both ways. You can’t rely on diametrically opposing positions in two different arguments, and then say that both of the conclusions you reach are logically valid and consistent with each other.

  2. Hi Peter,

    What about his encounters with children ( Mark 9 v 36,37)? He commends a child to his disciples as an example of the attitude we need to enter the Kingdom of heaven. The child is not challenged to turn from sin, does not repent and is not healed of brokenness. What about when Christ is baptised by John, John is not rebuked, repentant, healed etc.

    Also, I suppose you could say that encounters like the Sermon on the Mount, the visit of Nichodemus, the parables and the feeding of the five thousand and maybe some meals with tax gatherers are not specifically about challenging over sin / repenting / healing but more about teaching and “feeding” (physically and spiritually.)I suppose it depends how widely you interpret “healing”. It could be argued that an encounter with love always brings “healing” in some form.

    Of course we do see a lot of the three things above – as you would expect. The commonest incident of point one occuring without being followed by points two or three is in encounters with the Pharisees.

  3. Hi Peter,
    Responding to your post at 4.56 July 6th.If you look at my post above, I do not say that every child who engages in sex with an older person exhibits dysfunction. I use words like “might”, “can”, “is more likely to”.If you read my post of 5.11, I explain why laws, however imperfect, have to have a “blanket effect” to protect a very vulnerable group ( I surely think you can’t have a problem with this?)

    Much of the sexual behaviour in “the gay scene” is highly destructive and I have never argued differently. No, it doesn’t mean all same sex relationships are abusive or damaging. I don’t actually think all under age sex relationships are abusive or damaging – but they are illegal in the interests of protecting children who are too young to properly give consent or even understand what they are consenting to.

  4. @Peter “I want to really get to grips with this argument that since Jesus doesn’t explicitly condemn homosexual activity he is de facto in favour of it.”

    Exactly whose argument is that? The fact that Jesus gives no direction about homosexual activity simply means that we have to decide whether it is right or wrong on other grounds – like asking questions such as , “Is it loving, fulfilling, selfish, harmful or abusive?” IMO the answers to these questions are enough to label paedophilia and pederasty as always sinful but not necessarily all homosexual reltionships – any more than all heterosexual relationships (even within the hallowed institution of marriage) are automatically holy!

    If married heterosexuals may be sinners then perhaps loving and faithful homosexuals can be saints!

    • Implicit in your comment is the idea that pederasty cannot be loving or fulfilling. I challenge that notion, not because I in any way support pederasty, but because it is an assumption that runs contrary to the reported experience of some who have been in such relationships.

      Once again, we need to apply the same standards of argument to both homosexuality and pederasty. If someone argues that a homosexual relationship is moral because it is experienced as being loving and fulfilling, then on what basis do they reject a pederastic relationships where the two involved report exactly the same thing?

      • Peter,
        Very few children who have been involved in sexual “relationships” with adults report this being loving or fulfilling ( and if they do, there are often other factors at play, as has been pointed out.)

        Even if such a relationships were loving, we would surely have to look at whether it could survive a lifetime, offer support and a medium to bring up children, in short be similar to the union of two heterosexual lifelong monogamous partners. You know it is not the same thing! In contrast, countless homosexual unions involve consent, parity and are a source of grace and benefit to the two people in them. Of course, there are homosexual and heterosexual acts and relationships that are exploitative and degrading and I don’t uphold those as moral, but I wouldn’t want them to be illegal in the way that sex with children rightly is. Children, certainly pre-pubscent children, are not in any way emotionally equipped for a sexual relationship. I can’t believe you are arguing for the two being the same thing.

        • If it is abusive it can’t be loving or fulfilling.

          Exactly what makes something sinful? An arbitrary Bible passage or a lack of love?

          • Exactly what makes something sinful?
            —————————
            The law of God does.
            Sin is the transgression of the law.

            My question to Sue is:
            Is there anything wrong with the following statement?

            “…countless premarital unions involve consent, parity and are a source of grace and benefit to the two people in them.

            • There is nothing wrong with that statement, TAG. I do support marriage as a sacrament and important for Christians, however I have two colleagues who have co-habited for some fifteen years and have no intention of marrying. I consider them to be “married” just as much as myself or anyone else. I also have Christian friends who are “married” but ( unlike my cohabiting friends) have left behind former marriages for reasons other than adultery of their spouse. I hope I have the grace to consider them ” married” as well, despite the fact that the bible tells me otherwise.

        • Sue,

          I’m not arguing for the two being the same. All I’m doing is saying that if we apply the same criteria for validation to both situations, we might have to come to a different conclusion.

          TAG raises the essential issues above – exactly how do we define sin. Do we define it in terms of what God has shown us clearly in Scripture to be sin, or do we define it within a human frame of reference (“is it loving, fulfilling, selfish, harmful or abusive”)?

          • Sure you’re not, but I don’t see you can apply the same criteria to different situations.

            I think when we define “sin” we should refer both to Scripture and to our human reason, knowledge and humanity.

              • We’ve been through this and I’ve explained that, when I look at Scripture in context, to me, it does NOT conflict.

                No, I’m not going through all those arguments again!

              • Peter

                ‘And when Scripture and your reason and experience conflict?’ I am catching up with comments here and I completely agree with your observation.

                Scriptural liberals give higher priority to reason and experience when they appear to conflict. This means that their theology inevitably becomes contextual as reason and experience are both firmly set in, and determined by, the dominant culture.

                Scriptural conservatives simply dig deeper into scripture as a whole when it appears to conflict with reason and experience, as scripture being divinely inspired, cannot conflict with Truth. If the scripture is there, God placed it there for a divine purpose and it is our task to wrestle with scripture, in humble submission to God, until that purpose is revealed.

    • “Is it loving, fulfilling, selfish, harmful or abusive?”
      ———————————-

      I wonder how this would apply to two people who live together without being married to one another?

      Where do we get the criteria for “loving”, “fulfilling”, “selfish”, “harmful” or “abusive”?
      I’d be particularly interested in “fulfilling”. Are psychological tests needed? Personal testimonies?

      Some people look at the entire Bible and see maleness and femaleness as complementary by design, and homosexuality as clearly against God’s created order. They also see a consistent negative tone towards homosexuality throughout the book.

      What Biblical framework do you see that validates homosexuality as closely as heterosexuality is validated by the Bible?

      Two more things:
      This conversation should never have been about the meaning of “arsenokotai” (or whatever it is). That is not what the Biblical position hinges on. Why do we keep returning to it?

      Also, I wonder where in the Bible did Jesus ever specifically reach out to a Gentile. (Not where one came to him–but where he went to one.) Jesus’ earthly ministry seems to have been very focused on the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” and less so on the Gentiles. Did He ever say “thy sins be forgiven thee” to a Gentile? And in that sense I think that even if the “pais” was a “lover” of the centurion’s Jesus might simply not have said anything to him about it because he was a Gentile (and thus his time to hear the Gospel was not yet).

      The centurion simply might not have known better and God would judge him by what he knew.

      (Certainly if someone who was a non-believer came to me and asked me to help his boyfriend I wouldn’t give him a lecture about the wrongs of homosexuality! I would pray that he came to know better. If it were a believer I would try later to bring it up.)

      • TAG, sorry if I sound a little sharp, but "Also, I wonder where in the Bible did Jesus ever specifically reach out to a Gentile". The Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5) for a start? The Syro-Phoenician woman?

        in friendship, Blair

  5. Peter,

    Can you give me a concrete example of what “causing a child to sin” could actually be? After all, a biblical text is of no use if we can’t actually apply it in our own lives.

    Whatever it is, it must be something of some gravity. After all, millstones and the deepest sea are pretty strong warnings.

  6. “Exactly what makes something sinful?

    The law of God does.”

    Yes, but, unless God has his reasons (which we can enquire into and understand with our God given reason) then he’s merely an arbitrary despot – and he could change his mind.

    Sin is a falling short – a failing to display the divine image and reflect the holy nature of God. I see no reason why homosexuals cannot do this as well (ie we all do so imperfectly) as heterosexuals.

    • “Yes, but, unless God has his reasons (which we can enquire into and understand with our God given reason) then he’s merely an arbitrary despot – and he could change his mind.”

      No. God does not change. His righteousness and goodness do not change. His purpose for mankind does not change. His covenant does not change. Christian ethics, which derive from God’s righteousness, his purpose for mankind and His covenant therefore does not change. The testimony of scripture on all these points is clear. Certainly you can argue that circumstance can affect things, and that what is beneficial in one situation may be harmful in another, but that is not applicable here, unless you are arguing that the desire (not the knowledge of, the desire) for long lasting, faithful, stable, loving,selfless etc. homosexual relationships was not present in the time of Moses and Paul, and has been created since then; and even then you would have to find some way of showing that it is part of God’s purpose and not a deviation from it.

      Malachi 3:6-7: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’

      Hebrews 13:8-9: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings,

      Psalm 90:2-4: Before the mountains were brought forth,
      or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
      from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,
      or as a watch in the night.

      Psalm 105:10: He remembers his covenant forever,
      the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
      to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

      Psalm 145:13: Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
      and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
      The LORD is faithful in all his words
      and kind in all his works.

      And I could go on.

      Or if scripture is not good enough for you, and you want Philosophy, how about
      “From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether immutable.” Aquinas Summa I.9 (and, of course the proceeding passages) (sorry, not able at the moment to look up the equivalent passage in Aristotle etc.) God’s immutability is standard part, indeed a central tenet, of Christian theology.

      Certainly we can reason why God has set forth His laws as He has, and we should. But our reason is limited, and very much capable of error. God’s is not (Isaiah 55:12 etc). If we come to a conclusion which differs from what is laid down in scripture, as consistently understood since the earliest days of the Church; then we must review our thinking and find our mistake. Unless, of course, you think that God made a mistake and want to try to renegotiate the terms of the covenant. I would rather not; I think that we got a pretty good deal as it is.

      With respect to the relationship between sin and the law, also discussed above, I would like to put forward 1 John 3:4 `Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.’

      • Nigel: God does not change. His righteousness and goodness do not change.

        I agree – but the point I was making was the old Euthyphro one that unless God is telling us to do something because it is inherently good in and of itself then he is just making it up in an arbitrary fashion which could logically be changed – after all if it is only good because God says it is then he could decree otherwise tomorrow.

        So ‘if’ God says that homosexual activity is wrong (which I don’t conceed) then it must be for a fathomable reason that we can understand.

        Why do you think that you should do what God says? Is it just because he is God or because he is good? Why do you think he is good? What reasoning is behind that conclusion?

        • How is it not fathomable that He says sexual relations are for marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman?

          • Because, in the absence of any reasons for this, and given the fact that for some people marrying a person of the opposite sex is definitely not appropriate, it looks completely arbitrary.

            Heterosexuals should engage in sexual activity only in committed loving relationships with those of the opposite sex (traditionally called marriage). It is nonsensical to claim that the same must be true for homosexuals but perfectly logical that they should have the same opportunities to form appropriate committed and loving relationships of their own.

            You don't have to call it marriage!

  7. “I wonder how this would apply to two people who live together without being married to one another?”

    Their not being married doesn’t morally validate or invalidate everything about them. Aspects of their behaviour must be judged on other moral criteria.

    Anyway, homosexuals can’t get married – and most don’t want to. Many do want to enter into a loving and committed relationship akin to marriage in many repects. They have to live as best they can as they are – that will involve ‘repentance and change’ about sinful attitudes and behaviour but that begs the question of their homosexuality. Again I see no reliable evidence it can be changed and no reasons why it should be.

  8. I agree – but the point I was making was the old Euthyphro one that unless God is telling us to do something because it is inherently good in and of itself then he is just making it up in an arbitrary fashion which could logically be changed – after all if it is only good because God says it is then he could decree otherwise tomorrow.

    No. The Euthyphro dilemma is, as I recall, whether something is good because God wills it or God wills it because it is good. The second point seems to suggest some arbitrariness in the vision; the first seems to make God subject to something external to Himself. The answer is to this dilemma is, of course, like most of the apparent paradoxes of theism in the immutability and timelessness of God. They are not two different options, but two different aspects of the same thing, which logically must come together, neither one prior to the other.


    So ‘if’ God says that homosexual activity is wrong (which I don’t conceed) then it must be for a fathomable reason that we can understand.

    Yes. I fully agree. We can by reason investigate why the prohibition is beneficial for us. I think that we should do so. It has been done, and several possible answers have been suggested (not all of them which exclusively apply to homosexual activity, though it contributes to all of them): for example the complementarity of men and women; the physical damage done to the people concerned; the harm done to society by the undermining of the institution of marriage (by discouraging its practice by presenting non-divinely instituted possibilities as alternatives, and also by encouraging a view of relationship that undermines the first two of Cramner’s three purposes for marriage); and that is is a corruption of God’s purposes for our race as He created it. I do not know, of course, if any of these are in fact the correct reason: I operate under the principle of falsification, that we can never prove anything certainly correct, although we can prove things to certainly be wrong if they are not self consistent or inconsistent with the empirical evidence – in this case scripture. (My other chief principle is that, when uncertain, we should take the action which, if we are wrong causes the least harm – at least balance the probability of the theory being correct with the risks and benefits of each action. That is also, in view of the consequences outlined in 1 Corinthians 6, applicable in this case) My knowledge, like everyone else’s except God, is limited, and possibly the answer of why homosexual activity within long lasting, faithful etc. relationships are harmful is not revealed in scripture with complete clarity (although I personally believe that scripture is clear enough in support for what I stated). However, all of those possibilities are certainly consistent with scripture; and some (at worst) strongly implied by it. But I do know, speaking as an evangelical Christian, that if any conclusion is which contradicts what God has revealed, including in scripture, then there must be a mistake either in the premises, the methodology or the chain of reasoning which led to the conclusion; and it is the task of the reasoner to try to track down the error. If somebody were to argue that covetousness was good, or dishonouring ones parents for example, then we would have to take account of their arguments, but only to track down the mistake so that we don’t repeat it and (if necessary) purge it from our own thoughts.


    Why do you think that you should do what God says? Is it just because he is God or because he is good?

    Both, though I would add more, in particular God’s love for us. As God he is Lord and we owe him our obedience. He is also both good, inerrant, and loving (desiring of our own good). To obey Him is our both duty (and joy) to God and our neighbour and also in our own self-interest.


    Why do you think he is good? What reasoning is behind that conclusion?

    Firstly, a definition: to be good is to be what is desired, or (alternatively) to be perfect with respect to some end. It can be good in two senses, firstly in relation to its creator’s desire for it, or secondly some other agent. For example a good web browser is one that meets either the users or programmer’s desire (or both). A good man is therefore one that acts or thinks (or both) in accordance with the desires of whoever describes him as good; however the first sense is most applicable to the study of Christian (and other) ethics, and the only sense applicable to ethics (certainly `everyone doing what is good in their own eyes’ does not lead to a stable society). Since God is the first cause, something can be said to be good in an absolute sense if it’s thoughts, actions and motion are in accordance with God’s desires for it. (As an aside, this view of ethics can also be applied to atheism. For atheists, we are created by evolution by natural selection, whose `desire’ is that reproduce and act in such a way that best increases the chance that our offspring reproduce, and their offspring, and so on. I always wonder why atheists are usually the first to support abortion, homosexual activity etc..) So God is good to the extent that he is in line with His own desires for Himself. Now, only that which is possible or conceivably possible can be desired. But, as God’s essence is immutable and unchangeable, it is impossible that He can be anything but what He is. Therefore God is perfectly in accordance with His own desires for Himself; and therefore perfectly good. Since He is the only thing which is immutable, and thus incapable of changing from a state of goodness, He is the only thing that is good essentially, although other things may be good accidentally (as was, for example, creation before the fall).

  9. Peter: "exactly how do we define sin. Do we define it in terms of what God has shown us clearly in Scripture to be sin, or do we define it within a human frame of reference ("is it loving, fulfilling, selfish, harmful or abusive")?"

    I know this is obviously a point of disagreement but I don't accept that Scripture shows us 'clearly' that committed, loving same-sex relationships are necessarily sinful. Second, like CS Lewis, I expect that as I find out more about God he doesn't conflict with what my reason and conscience tell me. It seems to me that it is unreasonable that such relationships are sinful because they clearly can be loving, fulfilling and selfless and not be abusive or harmful (and personally I don't think that pederastic relationships are like this). I don't understand a God who would arbitrarily forbid such relationships.

    Certainly I expect Scripture to challenge me – but I don't expect it to turn my understanding of right and wrong, fairness and justice, completely upside down. Black cannot become white or white black – or we are back to a God who is merely a moral despot.

    So, if homosexual activity is wrong, I expect that it can be shown to be wrong from first principles not merely because someone claims that God has said it is so in the Bible.

  10. Is there a reason why I can't get the comments on your blog at the moment – with either Firefox or IE?

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