25 Comments on “John Piper on Homosexuality

  1. I would disagree with something that Piper alludes to but then sort of back tracks on. He states that it isn't same sex attraction is the sin but rather acting upon it. One of his sins is that of anger, and he says that his anger is probably partially genetic. One can google anger and genetics to find a lot of references to the possible genetic link between the two. Jesus clearly condemns the inner feeling of anger and not only the outward expression of it, say with murder.

    Can a person with a fiery temper change inwardly or is it a "born that way" and "made in the image of God and God doesn't make mistakes" kind of thing and is unalterable. Would we condemn psychiatrists for trying to help a patient exorcise anger?

    A very good book for men struggling with lust is "Every Man's Battle". It's premise is that lustful feelings can be banished from a willful turning away from the many arrows that our sexualized society shoots at us. One needs to habitualize a turning away from the sexual images. If one comes across a scantily clad women in a magazine or billboard, then one needs to avert one's eye. After a while, one develops a mindset that resists the temptation to dwell on the image and have lustful thoughts. Have I been harmed by my attempts to control my lustful thoughts? Hardly. Do I still fail? You betcha. Are my thoughts sinful? Yes. Did God make a mistake in me because of my thoughts? No. I made the mistake.

    Peace and blessings, Peter+.

  2. Is a man's sexual desire when he sees a scantily clad woman sinful? A lot of sexual dysfunction arises from guilt that sexual desire is in itself shameful and wrong. In extreme cases it prevents some women – maybe some men – from ever "allowing" themselves to enjoy sex.
    A certain amount of anger is necessary and healthy. If we all ran away from our anger, would that be good for us? Surely the key is balance. When our anger or our lust causes us to act in ways that are destructive or harmful, that is not good. You can't "exorcise" anger, it is a part of being human, as is desire, not an evil spirit! Can you "banish" sexual feelings? Would it be right to do so?

    Morality is about what we do with our sexuality, not what it is.

  3. In some ways, "orientation" can be a fruitful metaphor. Like if we think of a boat in moving water. Our orientations and habits can put us in places that aren't good for us – like if I'm a boss who can't keep my hands off my young employees. Though people may loathe me for this – God calls upon Christians to love me and to help me. This would be the case no matter what my "orientation," no matter how socially unacceptable, or damaging it would be. And I will experience more "turbulence" in the moments that I try to keep my vivid imagination from mentally undressing my young employees – it will be quite an uphill battle. In fact, I may not be able to do this "all by myself," I may need help from others – and from God. Though it would be arrogant for anyone to tell me that this was simply my fate, and that I would always be feeling up my employees.

    Only after a period of time of successfully refraining from over-indulging lustful thoughts and practices would I truly feel "free" and not feel that daily compulsion. But in the meantime, in trying to turn the boat, I would feel awful – much more troubled than if I simply went on with my erotic imaginations of my coworkers and my occasional grope. I'd need to be assured by my friends during that period that it is "normal" to feel distressed, to feel unworthy, to feel incapable of handling things when trying to turn the vessel – that my feeling awful is also not itself a sin, nor an indication that I am doomed forever to be a horndog. That it's going against the current of my normal "orientation" which is so painful, and raises so many difficult things, but that change is coming.

    Of course, the above is all without reference to God's grace. Grace adds a new dimension to all of this, but I think … here … it's probably best to begin on a more secular plane.

  4. I'd say that the desire itself is not sinful – however, the man's reaction to that desire can be sinful.

    You make an exceedingly important point here. Going on guilt trips over things – including "temptations" ('evil thoughts', inappropriate anger, etc. etc..) can be very unhealthy – I think at many times it's one of the most powerful temptations itself to sin. We need to realize that we * will * be tempted. And not allow the fact that we are tempted mire us in guilt.

    In this case, the man's temptation is "horndogging" – getting another look, another look, imagining his hand on her, etc. etc.. It's quite a different thing when that man sees the woman, recognizes that she is beautiful and is tempting him to want to look more and imagine more – but drops it there – and doesn't mentally lash himself for having seen the woman or felt that he was tempted, nor go further gawking or imagining what he might be doing with her, or how she might look with even less on.

    There's that famous quote that's often attributed to Luther but may not actually be from him – something like, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your had; but you certainly can keep them from nesting in your hair."

    Morality is indeed not about our desires themselves, but how we act on them. However, how we act on our desires is, in its turn, determinitive of how we continue to experience desires. If I make a habit of acting out on lust, I will find it increasingly difficult to simply move on from a sight of an appealing woman; it will be much more difficult for me to deprive myself of mentally undressing her, getting another look, trying to get a look when she's in some position which I find even more appealing, etc. etc..

    Christ's words about anger and lust are quite different. He tells us to never let the sun set on our anger – i.e., it's good to work things out – there's even a rather generous temporal period of time given for working such out. Whereas with regard to lust, Christ tells us that if we commit adultery in our hearts, we are engaging in pornea. His words are short and pithy, and of course open to examination and interpretation. Most, however, find this phrase to be something which can happen in the course of less than a minute – perhaps less than fifteen seconds. A female friend of mine tells me it's a "five second rule" – i.e., if you aren't capable of moving your thoughts on within five seconds, you're probably feeding a habit of lust, and should look into your behavior on that count, for your own sexual and spiritual well-being (and for that of others).

    I don't think it's "balance" here as much as appropriateness. If I've been on a navy vessel for half a year and come home to port, I won't be helping out my balance of lack of women by heading to the brothel, or picking up a porn stash. On the other hand, if I'm married, and my wife is very interested in our erotic contacts, and I am as well – it's probably best for me to develop that to its fullest, and not deny it for the sake of "balance." This may seem "out of balance" or "engaging in lust" to some, but it is no longer lust – i.e., desire for carnal intimacy without the context of the greater relationship. It's simply acting in the way God created us and wants us to be.

  5. P&B, I don't think that Jesus ever "condemns the inner feeling of anger." Look what Paul says in Ephesians 4:26:

    "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger," Sorry – I quoted this above as what "Christ tells us" but it would be more accurate to say this is what "the Holy Spirit tells us through the apostle Paul."

  6. Sue says, "Is a man's sexual desire when he sees a scantily clad woman sinful?"

    anglicanecumenicalsociety says, "I don't think that Jesus ever "condemns the inner feeling of anger."

    Hello? Do we not read the Bible?

    Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brotherwill be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

    and: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

    So yes, thoughts do count. Jesus was completely correct in raising the bar (of course, he is the Messiah!) to include not actions but thoughts. An alcoholic cannot stay sober if he hangs around bars and craves alcohol. Pornography leads to adultery.

    Spare me the repressed sexual feelings Freudian nonsense.

  7. Hi folks,

    There's been some fantastic comments on this thread. Unfortunately I'm just too busy at the moment to respond to everyone, but I'll try and write something later tonight or tomorrow.

    This whole area of exactly what Jesus means about what we do in our heart is fascinating. When he talks about "lust" does he mean simply recognising something as attractive, or is it the entertaining of that thought and the fantasy of fulfilment of attraction that is the issue? How does that link in with us as Christians finding our fulfilment in sharing the victory of Christ?

    More later.

  8. P&B, we "moderns" tend to "internalize" things a lot and make distinctions between "inner" and "outer" in ways which don't really correspond with those of the 1st Century.

    What Paul and Jesus said would have been understood differently – I think Jesus is condemning a consuming state of anger, which overcomes and overwhelms us, even though it does not necessarily lead to violence or physical harm – it is much more than something which can be reduced to something "inner" in that it also effects one's entire disposition. Maybe this is also what you mean with "inner." I believe that Paul is speaking rather about a momentary flight of anger which – when not allowed to gain a foothold in our lives – does not fester and alter our entire disposition.

  9. Well, I'd say he means entertaining the thought and nuturing it, not just our unbidden thoughts.

    I also think the comment about adulterous thoughts is a rebuke to those of us who are quick to condemn others. After all, under Christ's terms we are ALL adulterers and fornicators, even the most "upright" among us. So, again, I see it as Christ warning against false piety and self righteous judgement of others.

    As to anger, Christ himself became angry many times, calling the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" and "whited sepulchres" or when he overturned the tables of the money lenders in the temples. So I think to say we are never justified in feeling anger would be to miss the exact way in which Christ is challenging us about how we need to be honest about our inner selves and "manage" ourselves inwardly, as well as in our outward actions.

  10. Hello all.

    am hoping this won't smother the conversation, as I fear I've sometimes done, but I think I'll post 2 separate comments here, partly cos things might be more digestible that way and partly because i'm wanting to comment on disparate things.

    So first, John Piper's video. Have to say what struck me most was that near the end (4m27 onwards) he turns to addressing those who "struggle with this", and proceeds to be really rather merciful about it. The way he speaks from his experience, speaks of "a brokenness which I share" (5m58) and mentions his own struggle with anger and self-pity, seems moving and genuine and is endearing – were this a face-to-face encounter it would open the way for honest and vulnerable conversation.

    Considered coldly as an argument what he says prior to that is, frankly, riddled with flaws, but given what I just said it seems inappropriate and uncharitable to pick over it. (Though at first sight it doesn't actually look that much like your main argument Peter – don't remember you saying homosexuality is caused by idolatry of oneself, as JP says; he doesn't mention Ephesians 5 either). Just wanted to foreground my sense that the manner in which he addresses the question, really seeks to put himself in the place of someone on the receiving end of his answer, speaks powerfully – more so than the actual content of his arguments.

    in friendship, Blair

  11. OK, back again – this time to pick up on something more central from the conversation so far. anglicanecumenicalsociety, I'll bet you're right when you say that "we "moderns" tend to "internalize" things a lot and make distinctions between "inner" and "outer" in ways which don't really correspond with those of the 1st Century". Don't know if this'll help, but wonder if it might underline that, or cast more light on things…

    Was very pleased a couple of months back when I happened upon a second-hand copy of Gareth Moore OP's The body in context . The second chapter is largely devoted to discussing Matthew 5:27-28. Moore acknowledges that there've been plenty of readings of that text, which say that Jesus is concerned here with our inner thoughts, "what takes place not in the public arena, but in the secret places of the heart" (p12), and that these readings are very influential for many of us. He proceeds to a close reading of the passage, pointing out that in fact it is about 'external behaviour' – looking at a woman lustfully ("to look at somebody lustfully is a perfectly public and observable piece of behaviour").

    Moore goes on to quote the Greek text, and says that the word used for 'woman', gune , can mean simply an adult woman, but also means 'wife' and so most likely means a married woman in this context – especially given that Jesus is, as he says, commenting on the commandment not to commit adultery. Building on this, he notes that the Greek text of Matthew 5:28 echoes very closely the Septuagint Greek of Exodus 20:17. Both texts use the verb epithumeo and Moore adds that Matthew 5:28 would be more literally rendered, 'anyone who looks at a woman to covet her'. He says that "the meaning of epithumeo has nothing to do with 'internal' thoughts as opposed to 'external' actions. It means seriously wanting something, setting desire on something and acting accordingly, if you can and if you have no stronger reason not to" (p14-15).

    Not sure if that's enough to make the point… but Moore continues by discussing desire and showing (from Biblical examples and modern usage) that it "always retains some link with action". He says "Jesus is not talking about inner thoughts divorced from action… but about really setting desire on somebody and if possible setting about getting them" (p16). There's more, but will just add that Moore ends his first section by emphasising that "None of this is to say that our fantasies or the thoughts that run through our heads are unimportant… their importance does not lie in their being inner rather than outer, mental rather than physical. On the contrary, they can be important precisely because they can influence the way we behave" (p18).

    Switching topics again – wondering if this passage from Rowan Williams' Silence and honey cakes might be helpful (it may link to one of the questions you raised Peter). "For Jesus to have suffered real human temptation, he must have gone through some of the same mental processes as we do; and if he could be tempted, yet not be held guilty, there must be some level in our minds and hearts where we can say that we are aware of the possibility, even the attractive possibility, of wrongdoing, yet not be involved in a conscious refusal of God. The technicalities of doctrine about Christ turn out to have a direct pastoral relevance for those who are tormented by guilt about what they cannot help. There comes a point where we deliberately welcome the image of wrongdoing and begin to put flesh on it in our imaginations, and that is when responsibility begins" (pp55-56).

    Nothing like quoting extensively in place of doing any thinking oneself :)

    in friendship, Blair

  12. Blair,
    Thanks for those excellent remarks. You've put things in a very nice, concrete way, with good scriptural reflection as well, much more than I did.

    I come from this with a background in philosophy and phenomenology – phenomenology is actually where "postmodernism" generally comes from, if one looks at the "real" reflections on it, and not the pop-culture "well I guess it all doesn't matter so much anyways" type of version. A very important part of this movement was in re-evaluating the ways we tend to think – as "enlightenment" thinkers – i.e., with a set of frameworks and habits of thought and action which come naturally to us, without even thinking about it.

    One of these tendencies – with both advantages and disadvantages – is to place a lot of weight on thinking about what it means to be human, what it means to be an individual, what it means to think autonomously. All very, very good things.

    A problem, however, is that we tend to keep doing this – the same way – over, and over, and over again. Lots of recurring patterns. Lots of ways it gets utterly, utterly boring. Because we are simply re-applying the same presumptions – which are sometimes productive, but sometimes aren't.

    To make a long story short, the "inner / outer" distinction becomes exceptionally important for us, and we tend to believe: that which is "inner" is "subjective," it "belongs to me and me alone," it doesn't belong to anyone else and isn't (or shouldn't be) influenced by anyone else. We end up radically cutting this "inner" part off from the "outer" world of concrete, "external" action.

    But phenomenology shows us how a lot of this is quite delusional. And this resonates profoundly, also, with what Christ tells us. If I could have wickedly angry thoughts about others, imagining them harmed in various ways, without this effecting my "real life," I would be completely free to engage in such thought without consequence. Likewise, If I really could imagine myself getting involved sexually with impunity and without any effect on the rest of my life – well, where is the harm, what's the problem?

    There's a place for talking about "the heart" and that which we think of "in secret" as we sometimes find in the New Testament, but we musn't divorce the "subjective" and the "objective" completely from one another, in a way foreign to both the authors of Scripture, and all other cultures besides our own late-Enlightenment Western culture. We must realize that a "private ethics" is … a very limited notion, as we as ethical agents inhabit a shared world. We must also realize that the very ways in which we speak with one another … the things that we imagine to ourselves … ultimately have an effect on those who share our ethical world.

    To look lustfully upon a woman is ONLY "internal" with reference to people around us – i.e., in a very blunt, unsophisticated way – only in the sense that they can not directly see what we are thinking. But we are thinking about something which is * outside * of us – it is not completely private, it is a part of our shared world. Even going back as far as Kant, we can see that our imagination is involved in every act of the will, and even every act of perception … so an imagination that is unhealthy won't only be limited to our "private" imaginings which no one else directly sees … it will also have its influence on our other acts which are publicly more visible.

    A problem with divvying up things into "inner" and "outer," "public" and "private" is it offers us possibilities of being even more blind and shortsighted than we would be otherwise. And all people tend to have issues with selective perception and shortsightedness. It allows evil to fester, for a time, unseen, until the leaven has so filled our thought lives that we begin speaking of these things, and acting on them, and can not do without them.

    In a way, we already acknowledge this. Our governments are very rightly concerned with our thought processes, in order to prevent such things as racism. Even a remark which is likely to foster no public following, but reveals racist "inner" thoughts, is subject to deep scorn, and in some cases, prosecution. Compared to what we are prepared to do in our crusade against racism, it is really rather odd that other things – such as anger – are given such free reign, and in some cases, even encouraged. And if we do believe that some sex acts are laudable, and others are harmful, it is rather odd that we encourage such wholescale sexual depredation through our billion-dollar pornography industry, even when we are aware of such problems as human trafficking and abuse of women and children, which arises when lust has become so uncontrollable that utterly loathesome exploitations are actually marketable.

    I like that last quote of our ABC. He's a very insightful man.

    • Hello again,

      thank you, and thanks for the above (most recent) comment. Again it seems to me that you're essentially right – though for myself, I must be careful not to just say that and carry on as before, as I need to hear what you're saying as a challenge too. For example being addicted to porn should become impossible to justify to myself…

      But also, another couple of things: are you at all acquainted with the thought of Rene Girard? It seems to me that it would cast another light on what we're discussing. His central insight is (if I'm understanding rightly) that human desire is mimetic, imitative: we desire according to the desire of another. (John Halton's blog has a lovely quote giving a little explanation of this, from one of Girard's followers, James Alison: seehttp://www.confessingevangelical.com/?p=2852 ). Well, one corollary of this is that our desire (this is desire in a very broad sense; not primarily sexual desire though it applies there too) is constituted by what's other than, 'outside' us. This again means that the inner / outer distinction we'd like to be so sharp, is subverted – as what is 'in here' is ultimately due to what's 'out there'. There's more to say on this but am running out of time to develop the point!

      The other thing is, was wondering if you think that the insights from phenomenology you mention, also sit well with elements of Christian contemplative teaching? May be overreaching myself somewhat here, but wondering if for instance some of Martin Laird's teaching in Into the silent land , might link the thing about dissolving the inner/outer distinction, with ways of coping with afflictive thoughts or fantasies. Laird says that "People who have travelled far along the contemplative path are often aware that the sense of separation from God is itself pasted up out of a mass of thoughts and feelings" (p10). He is also clear that the contemplative path is not individualistic: "Communion with God and communion with others are realizations of the same Center" (p12). Later in his book he gives insights into how to 'meet' distractions – with silent vigilance, watchfulness, without judging. Am at square one with all this which may be it's another point I'm not quite making…..

      in friendship, Blair

  13. I come to this from a man who has struggled with lustful thoughts. Jesus and the pre-moderns are much wiser than the post-moderns. Speaking from personal experience, if one does not control one's thoughts, you will not be successful in controlling one's actions. If a woman – other than my wife – leans over and shows a little too much cleavage, I try to avert my eyes. If one is struggling with same-sex attractions and you are crotch watching, you will not overcome your same-sex attractions.

    • Wisdom isn't really a virtue I'd ascribe to most of the post-modern thinkers. There is a lot of fruitful thought, much which turns us back to the pre-moderns when we realize the limits of the achievements of modern forms of thought, and the great emptiness that is left when we cast aside those things which modern thinking frequently invites us to disregard. But there are grains of truth which are certainly worth marvelling at. Not to say that they are any more profound or worth marvelling at than any other period of thought.

      What's tragic, though, is that even when we have such things at our disposal, we blindly cling to the most vapid shreds of postmodernism and hold them up as normative.

      I'm speaking now more as a "secular" person than as a Christian, of course we can't fruitfully compare the works of the postmoderns, the enlightenment, the renaissance etc. with the wisdom of men and women who are inspired by the Spirit when we are looking for wisdom. But when we are looking for tools to understand our age, or to dissect obstacles to the understanding and to faith, we must be vigilant in looking to all the tools that are available, and select the best for the purpose at hand. In a post-modern age, there certainly is room for the study of the postmoderns. But unfortunately most people seem little interested in reasoning things out any more, and prefer their slogans.

      The thoughts themselves can not be exorcised; once they are there, they are there. What can be exorcised (and this is not the right word here – what can be "controlled") is the "after-thoughts" – what do I do, after I've experienced lust? That is what I need to think about. I can and should be repentant if I have gone over the line, but I needn't go beating myself into a morass of guilt over it. I must be confident that when I confess, I am forgiven. But I must take these things seriously, and be resolved: when I * have * gone over the line – I stop, I turn around, I go do something else, and I do not continue ogling at the cleavage or crotch or whatever it is, and I do not let such things dance around in my imagination. I get up, stretch my legs – find something else to read – do something else, etc. etc..

      In the end we must have the peace of Christ, and this is not "continual exorcism," though it is vigilance in doing what's right and having a heart after Christ. I'm replying here to Sue, btw, not to you, P&B – sexual desire, I think, is best when it is something that is "awakened" at the right moment, in a relationship. I.e., not in the first stages of getting to know someone. There may be attraction, but it is an enjoyment of being with someone – even if it is that unique enjoyment of being with someone where there may be a possibility of marriage – but it's not "sexual" in the sense of, "thinking about having sex with her" etc. etc.. It needs to blossom and unfold in its own way. This is one of the central messages of the Song of Songs. So it's not "exorcising sexual desire," but at the same time, it's not really "having sexual desire" either – sex still isn't really "in the picture."

  14. I've no problem with being asked to control thoughts or emotions, especially when they might lead us to behave in damaging ways. I just think "exorcising" or "banishing" them is very stong language to use. If, for example, an unmarried person was to suceed in "exorcising" sexual desire, they would have no desire to marry – other than for celibate companionship.

    I think it is quite right for a married man not to go oogling another women's cleavage! I also think single men should show the same respect. I do support same sex relationships – as I have said before – that doesn't mean I support promiscuity or "crotch watching", I think the same standards of fidelity and respect should apply across the board.

    I have always held that those who choose to be, or feel it is right for them to be celibate, do not become sexless human beings. I do think it is wrong to assume this or expect this. Celibacy does require a different type of living with yourself as a sexual being.

  15. "If one is struggling with same-sex attractions and you are crotch watching, you will not overcome your same-sex attractions."

    You won't "overcome" them any way, any more than others will "overcome" their other-sex attractions.

  16. In bringing up Girard you are really hitting a central issue here. I still remember when Girard "came out" on his thoughts on the Gospel in FirstThings in 1996 – it was something of a shocker. Unfortunately they have that in their paid archive now. [ note: found a copy of it here:http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9604/girard.htm… ] Yes. Desire is mimetic. I want something, because I see someone else wanting something. It's clear enough also that sexual desire is mimetic – look how men in the eighteenth century lusted after the rather plump Botticellian women – look how men in Socrates's Athens were all running after teenage boys. By expressing our desire, we influence the social and political world around us.

    This is of course reducing things a great deal. A lot of perception of sexual desire comes from confusion, from wanting something beyond us, from thinking that sexual intimacy will bring us to that goal – deeper love, deeper acceptance, etc. etc.. As Zizek points out, Hollywood is a factory of dreams – it creates our dreams, our desires – we see the star-struck lovers walking hand-in-hand over the horizon, and we believe that if we get ourselves into a really really intimate relationship, we'll have that love and acceptance we crave. Or that we will be able to give such to someone who seems to need it. But this is not always what we need.

    I think phenomenology is more of a corrective for dodgy enlightenment tendencies than anything else. There is not much "wisdom" to it other than incisive deconstructions of our very ingrained modes of thought. And it has led many astray as well – Bultmann rather famously thought that Christians should all ditch the Gospel and turn to Heidegger's notion of the "ground of Being" – though the little I've read of Bultmann did not convince me that he had a particularly good handle on Heidegger, either. This is something that happens to some Heideggerians. Heidegger is just – well, he gets rather fluffy in his later period. And of course, he was a Nazi. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence as something to build upon. Tillich – I am no expert here, I love some of what he's written on the history of the church, and have read bits and pieces of his theology – also is, at times, problematic with his Heideggerian vagueness. I prefer to read Heidegger to half-baked Heideggerian echoes in Tillich – but I think that Tillich leads many astray in ways that Tillich himself would find very disturbing – ideas taken out of context, etc. etc..

    But we also have a great richness coming from Heidegger, handed down to us in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and his work on hermeneutics – which helps us clear up many of the enlightenment obstacles to clear thought when it comes to interpreting Scripture (romanticism being a variant of englightenment thinking) – the problems with Schleirmacher – which resonate very strongly with us with our own Victorian roots, as they appear in people like Matthew Arnold or Walter Pater.

    I'll have to look into Martin Laird. Unfortunately, the phenomenologists are difficult enough to read, and the postmoderns nearly make a mockery of language itself, and are hardly worth reading unless you want to spend days or weeks or months studying them and pulling out your hair. I wish I could refer you to a nice intro text, but don't know of any good ones. And most of what you read of the postmoderns will emphasize those aspects which are profoundly atheistic – and in reading secondary materials on phenomenology, you are also likely to shed tears for a few months before you find something which is truly spiritually stimulating. It's really the deconstruction that counts – but not merely the deconstruction of the "objective," but of the subject as well. The subject is also deconstructed, and radically de-centered. And we end up sometimes elevating this "subject" and the "subjective" as if we were all solipsists. But then we flip-flop and gloss eloquent about "science" in the most naive tones.

    Thanks for the stimulating thoughts!

  17. I was at my father in law's funeral today. A really wonderful service. They read the beatitudes and I don't think that I had heard it before, even though I have heard it many times:

    "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

    Jesus does want our hearts, our core being, to be pure.

    "I just think "exorcising" or "banishing" them is very stong [sic] language to use. "

    Sue and others don't seem to read the same Bible that I do. My Bible quotes Jesus as saying "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,"

    • "Blessed are the pure in heart." It depends what you mean by "pure in heart". I don't see sex as dirty or impure.

    • Umm… Jesus' point was actually that our eyes don't 'cause' us to sin. Our hearts cause us to sin.

      Just checking all this out.

      Speaking from my own experience, lust is simply a habit. You can get into the habit with practice, and you can get out of the habit with practice. Whether for good of bad, the more you do it the easier it gets. I think the 5sec rule someone mentioned above is a lovely piece of wisdom.

      Jesus is absolutely talking about whether we entertain thoughts and desires or not, and this is really about who we choose as our master. If we allow non-Godly desires to come to influence us and dominate our thoughts, then he is no longer our master and sin is.

  18. "I've no problem with being asked to control thoughts or emotions, especially when they might lead us to behave in damaging ways." It's interesting how we are inclined to tack conditions upon things – Sue, I do this all the time as well – "especially if," it's a sentence you most certainly could hear coming from my mouth. But we often aren't really knowledgeable about such conditions. For years, experts told us that pornography had nothing to do with sexual disorders or violent behavior. That is beginning to change, now that we have flooded our society with porn. I've engaged in lustful behavior, thinking that I was "ok" on the conditions – that it was stuff that "would do me nor anyone else harm" – and I was proven to be very wrong indeed. When I am tempted to lustful behavior, this one is at the top of my mind as an excuse to legitimate what I want to do: "it will do no one, including myself, any harm." We like to categorize, we like to encapsulate – but our categories and containers are frequently rather ridiculous compared to the things that we purport to contain.

  19. I most certainly don't either. Though I don't believe that groping or rape should be considered as "pure" either, just to provide some examples from the area of sexuality.

    Some kinds of sex, however, are indeed sinful. When Christ says this, he isn't encouraging us to go about looking at people as "dirty." I think that as Christians we are sometimes taken in a bit by the critics of Christianity – who sometimes qualify their words as a critique of "fundamentalist Christians" in order to make them more interesting to their listeners – but which seem to imply that Christians go about calling people "dirty." Indeed some people do, and in * any * culture, persons will take upon themselves the prevailing norms of the society, and go out and play "moral policeman" – for various reasons – either in a real act of ethical indignation, however misplaced, or for recognition by the community as "someone who speaks out for us," etc. etc.. We see this happening enough in our own society on both fronts, but at the moment, primarily by those who in the name of "tolerance and inclusiveness" promote such things as joblessness for Christians who do not reform their views to those which are deemed socially acceptable. I understand much of the criticism, but when it is out of context, and becomes contradictory and intolerant – I suspect such "moralism" – i.e., language which is unlikely to change the heart of the purported wrongdoer, but is more intended to "rally the troops" for the crusade. We have seen this happen in Christian circles too, though in the UK we don't see much of it.

    Anyways – we as Christians, realizing that we are sometimes "on the receiving end" of such criticism, are sometimes apt to step away from other Christians, and in our eagerness to do so, also insinuate that they go about seeing other persons as "dirty." Or see in Christ's language such implications.

    In previous times, it was permissible to use cleanliness and dirtiness as metaphors for good and evil. In many ways, these metaphors "work" rather nicely. They also connote how one can suffer a state of dirtiness while one hasn't really "done anything wrong" – something is wrong – but no specific act that we can point to made the person morally culpable. But when the metaphor is stretched – with such "dirty" persons being subject to malice – clearly our connotations of "dirty" and "clean" are no longer what Christ meant when he uses these metaphors.

    On the flip side though – it's also inappropriate to go pointing the finger at Christians when they quote Christ simply because we attach different connotations to such metaphors, and because our nieghbours are egging us on to imagine "most Christians" as being cheap moralists, or expanding the definition of "fundamentalist" to include all people who believe that Christ rose from the dead – something which is happening in The Episcopal Church, especially amongst those who are influenced by Bishop Spong – however ridiculous this is, however much Spong's scholarship slides under the academic standards of some of worst "fundamentalist" literature I have come across, however relatively uneducated or vitriolic his adherents tend to be.

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