The Old Testament and Modernity

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110 Responses

  1. Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

    Or we could just throw the whole thing out as we don’t actually have good evidence to believe that this god thing actually exists.

    Well we could keep it as interesting literature and insight into the culture of the time and those that followed it. Still there isn’t any reason to use it as moral guide. It is just another ‘holy’ book of which we have so very many.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Dude, *THANK YOU*.

    Now I will start digging.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Now, Mr. Cheeks, the meat.

      Here is my fundamental problem:
      I can (and have!) used the story of Peter’s dream as justification for why it’s cool to abandon food taboos… the problem is that it strikes me as perfectly reasonable to use the same to abandon the sexual taboo against when, ahem, “a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman”.

      When two dudes enter into a chaste (but not celibate) lifetime relationship with each other, it strikes me as something that would be fine and could even be (I’m using this word the way it was used in Genesis) Good.

      When I see two guys (or two gals, whatever) say that they want to engage in an “until death” kinda thing, that is a wonderful positive good in many of the same ways that it is a wonderful positive good when any two modular people do so.

      It strikes me as obvious that two people forging a family for themselves in this vale of tears is something we ought *CELEBRATE*.

      Indeed, sex outside of a life partnership situation is likely to result in alienation from oneself, one’s partner, and one’s relationship to Nature. If (in the rare case) not for one, then likely for the other.

      That’s why I support gay marriage and that’s why I see the Bible supporting gay marriage.

      Sure, the old parts kinda mentioned it poorly… but we know through our relationship with, for lack of a better word, God that it’s a positive good *TODAY*.

      What God has cleansed you must not call common.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, The missus is putting a response together; perhaps this weekend? If she remains silent, I have a comment or two but I want her to go first.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, in talking with my own beautiful bride, we put together a handful of arguments and I want to see how accurate they are.

          I’m guessing:

          Romans 1 will feature prominently.
          There will be a swing away from the focus on one’s personal knowledge of God (e.g., “adore and obey”) and back to the list of things that God told us in His Word and how, hey, it’s written Right Friggin’ There and we are either on board or are not.
          An greater emphasis on the Revelations given by God through Saul/Paul and less of an emphasis on the Revelations given by the Gospels.

          Anyway, in our discussion, those are the points that we found to be the best counter-arguments.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

        “When two dudes enter into a chaste (but not celibate) lifetime relationship with each other, it strikes me as something that would be fine and could even be (I’m using this word the way it was used in Genesis) Good.”

        I don’t know how deeply I’m going to wade into this, but there is at least one similarity between this and the various economic discussions we’ve had: just because the answers seem unattainable, due to repulsion or confusion or something else, doesn’t mean that they’re not there.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

          @Koz, it seems to me that if we can use the method on X, then we can use the exact same method on Y.

          We have used the method on X.

          Given that using the method on Y brings us to the conclusion that gay marriage is at least preferable to the alternative, I’m very interested in exploring the reasons behind why, seriously, we totally can’t use the method that we used on X.

          In a nutshell, the answer is right in front of our faces. I am not one of the folks saying that the answer is repulsive or confusing.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, I’ll take a stab at it while Mr./Mrs. Cheeks are waiting.

        Let’s work from Cheeks original assertion that we are to preserve those things which are required for us to live in community with God.

        Working from there, it’s pretty obvious from the New Testament that sex is something that God cares about, not as some arbitrary external sign, but as something deeply intrinsic to human nature and relationships. Sexuality was never entirely connected to cleanliness laws in the Old Testament and never receives the same sort of treatment as food does in the New. Rather, there are consistent discussions throughout the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation about the evil of sexual immorality.

        To bring in another ethical issue which may be illustrative, murder was wrong before the Mosaic covenant and remains wrong after it. Well, sexual ethics seems to be more like that, an ethical law which touches on metaphysics, than dietary laws, which even in the Old Testament are not portrayed as such.

        Thus far I would hope that we could be in agreement. You really don’t have to look very hard.

        The question then becomes, “What constitutes sexual immorality?” Most of the time in the New Testament, the term is just sort of thrown out there, and the Greek term most commonly used, “porneia,” isn’t terribly helpful. It seems to be rather circular, actually, i.e. sexual immorality is sex that is immoral. Awesome.

        So what do we do then? Well, for starters, homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament, and it isn’t mentioned positively. So there’s that. But the few times that specific sexual conduct is discussed, the mention is consistently negative unless the discussion is about sex between a married man and woman. So unless we’re to simply ignore those things, the testimony of Scripture seems to bear out the idea that marriage between a man and a woman (which is redundant, but necessary given the context) is the only context in which sexual conduct is permissible.

        Ergo, if we are to live in community with God, gay marriage is out of bounds.

        So what are we then to do with those who identify themselves as gay? Can they not engage in sexual relationships? Well… no. No, they can’t. And if the only argument one can make against this is that it isn’t fair, well… so? God, in both Old and New Testaments, has never really expressed any particular interest in human concepts of fairness. Quite the contrary, he consistently refuses to be bound by such strictures. On the other hand, there is a promise that those who lay down their lives to follow Christ will be rewarded. For some people that means going to Africa. For some people that means having a wife and kids. For some people that means joining the clergy. And for some people that means living a life of celibacy. We are all called to sacrifice ourselves in our own ways, but there is a promise that the grace of God is sufficient for our needs.

        The question then becomes whether that is going to be enough for you. Faith would seem to require that the answer be “Yes.”Report

        • @Ryan Davidson,

          > Well, for starters, homosexuality is mentioned
          > in the New Testament, and it isn’t mentioned
          > positively. So there’s that. But the few times
          > that specific sexual conduct is discussed, the
          > mention is consistently negative unless the
          > discussion is about sex between a married
          > man and woman.

          What you’ve sort of failed to note here, Ryan, is sort of relevant.

          (drawing from http://www.westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/homosexuality.html for reference).

          Homosexuality is not mentioned or referred to in any of the Gospels, Acts, Hebrews, Revelations, or the letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude. 10 of the 13 letters attributable to Paul don’t mention it either, and of the remaining three, the question is largely one of which translation you read or how you interpret the connotations of the original Greek.

          Many people might argue that this is a revisionist view, and that I’m attempting to retranslate the Bible into something that jibes with my premise. Okay, I’ll buy that.

          Now, of course, even presupposing that Paul does in fact mean the same thing that is regarded as the common interpretation of his epistles, there is the question of whether or not the entirety of Paul’s writing can be considered correct and truly inspired by God,or if it is possible that the body of work, itself, is inspired by God but that parts of it may be in error. Paul, after all, is human.

          This is the part where I lose most non-Catholics evangelicals, as they all whip out the, “nobody can be infallible” when talking about the Pope, but then argue that the Scriptures must be infallible as they’re inspired by the Holy Spirit. The cognitive dissonance on that one always grabs me. But I digress.

          Maybe Paul’s correct about marriage being the only morally correct method of sexual congress, but is wrong about who can be married. In which case, forbidding homosexuals from marriage is in fact driving them into sin. After all, Paul’s argument is that marriage is acceptable because it allows people to engage in sexual congress without moral consequences. Forbidding only a class of people the moral safety zone of marriage for the temptations of the flesh seems, on the face of it, odd.

          Now of course someone might say that Paul was demonstrably in error, as he expected the Second Coming to be soon, and he’s demonstrably incorrect on that score. Others have argued that Paul in fact did *not* have an ironclad expectation regarding the timing of the Second Coming (see http://www.tektonics.org/esch/paulend.html for examples), but those challenges to the common interpretation are themselves open to the same argument above: that the Biblical argument is a matter of re-translating the Scripture to meet the premise of the argument.

          > And if the only argument one can make
          > against this is that it isn’t fair, well… so?
          > God, in both Old and New Testaments,
          > has never really expressed any particular
          > interest in human concepts of fairness.

          That’s a fair point, from a Scripture standpoint…

          > Quite the contrary, he consistently refuses
          > to be bound by such strictures.

          I don’t know that this is completely true, however. Certainly God isn’t bound by *human* concepts of fairness, granted. Presumably, if you believe in God, you believe in God’s omniscience and in the limited understanding of human cognition. So, it’s absolutely true that God will perform in ways that humans perceive as unfair, but that are in fact *just*.

          So the actual real theological sticky widget is, do you believe that God is capable of being *unjust*? Do you believe that, if God is *capable* of being unjust, He forbids this to himself?

          If God is just, and it is possible for human beings to become closer to God, doesn’t it follow that as time passes and more of God’s Word becomes understood by humans, that our concept of *fairness* will more closely approximate God’s actual justice?

          Put another way, is it possible that St. Paul had an incomplete understanding of God’s Wisdom (even inspired by the Holy Spirit), and that this limited understanding is now being exposed?Report

          • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

            @Pat Cahalan, the only way you can get to your desired interpretation is to decide that Paul was wrong.

            That ends the argument right there. Orthodox Christians are not and should not be willing to countenance any argument with that as a premise.

            It’s one thing to argue that our understanding of Paul may be wrong. My own theological tradition, the Reformed faith, is currently in the midst of something of a crisis regarding the proper understanding of Paul’s doctrine of justification. But it is an article of faith for all Christians, quite literally, that content of the New Testament is exactly what God wanted it to be, and as far as I know, no one seriously argues that there is any reasonable reading of the New Testament which suggests the modern view of homosexuality.

            So I don’t really see any need to address your comment in detail, as it rests upon a premise that is categorically incompatible with orthodox Christian theology. Ergo, the result you want to reach, that homosexual marriage is consistent with Christian ethics, is also categorically incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.Report

            • Avatar Gene Callahan in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              @Ryan Davidson, so, Ryan, you missed that whole bit about the uncertainty of the translation then, did you?Report

            • @Ryan Davidson,

              > But it is an article of faith for all Christians,
              > quite literally, that content of the New
              > Testament is exactly what God wanted it
              > to be

              Wow, this is demonstrably not a true statement. You must not be up on your Catholic biblical scholarship.

              Reference (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14530a.htm)

              “No book of ancient times has come down to us exactly as it left the hands of its author–all have been in some way altered. The material conditions under which a book was spread before the invention of printing (1440), the little care of the copyists, correctors, and glossators for the text, so different from the desire of accuracy exhibited today, explain sufficiently the divergences we find between various manuscripts of the same work. To these causes may be added, in regard to the Scriptures, exegetical difficulties and dogmatical controversies. To exempt the scared writings from ordinary conditions a very special providence would have been necessary, and it has not been the will of God to exercise this providence. More than 150,000 different readings have been found in the older witnesses to the text of the New Testament–which in itself is a proof that Scriptures are not the only, nor the principal, means of revelation. In the concrete order of the present economy God had only to prevent any such alteration of the sacred texts as would put the Church in the moral necessity of announcing with certainty as the word of God what in reality was only a human utterance. Let us say, however, from the start, that the substantial tenor of the sacred text has not been altered, not withstanding the uncertainty which hangs over some more or less long and more or less important historical or dogmatical passages. Moreover–and this is very important–these alterations are not irremediable; we can at least very often, by studying the variants of the texts, eliminate the defective readings and thus re-establish the primitive text. This is the object of textual criticism.”Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              I’m aware of all of that. But two things.

              1) Textual criticism, though it has its place, is frequently a tool of liberal theologians who seek to revise traditional understandings of Scripture to fit their own political agendas. Just because there is a certain amount of uncertainty in our texts–though really, there’s remarkably little considering how old they are–does not mean that everything is up for grabs or that no certainty is possible.

              2) There is no credible thread of textual criticism of which I am aware which suggests that there is any substantial question about the treatment of sexual ethics in the New Testament.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

            @Pat Cahalan, or, in short, “No, it isn’t.” Or, at least, “Not under any orthodox understanding of Christianity.”

            You’re free to suggest that we need some radically new and different approach to Scripture. You wouldn’t be the first to do so, nor would this be the first issue which has provoked such a suggestion.

            But the orthodox approach to Scripture does not permit such a move.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

          @Ryan Davidson, Thanks for writing this, Ryan.

          I’ll try to tackle it…

          Working from there, it’s pretty obvious from the New Testament that sex is something that God cares about, not as some arbitrary external sign, but as something deeply intrinsic to human nature and relationships.

          Really? Because I’m thinking about Paul’s issues and the whole “better to marry than burn” dichotomy he set up.

          If it is, in fact, deeply intrinsic, Paul didn’t seem to be on board. Check out the entirety of 1 Corinthians 7 again. This is a guy who was not down with Genesis 2:18.

          Sexuality was never entirely connected to cleanliness laws in the Old Testament and never receives the same sort of treatment as food does in the New.

          Well, in the Septuagint, the word they use in Leviticus 20:13 is ????????. We translate that word into English as “abomination”.

          So let’s go to Leviticus 11:10. What word do *THEY* use? ????????. See the difference? It’s the accent. Doesn’t change anything, however… we still translate that as abomination.

          What about the original Hebrew?, I hear you ask.

          Well, you got me. They use two different words.

          However, translations that pride themselves on translating themselves from the original rather than translating themselves from the translations *ALSO* translate themselves into the same word: Abomination.

          So I think we’re in “Eskimos have 15 words for ‘snow'” territory… and, as such, I have to say that “Abomination” is a clear enough concept to say that there is more than a little overlap between the two concepts… and one of them is no longer abominable and one of them, for some reason, still is.

          Well, for starters, homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament, and it isn’t mentioned positively.

          Fair enough. Where, exactly *IS* it mentioned?

          In the first part of Romans. Let’s bust that out.

          Romans is written in the form of an argument.

          To focus on one or two verses in the beginning of the argument at the expense of the conclusion would be, at the very least, a bad faith reading of the argument, no?

          So let’s look at the argument:

          Paul says, and I’m paraphrasing here,

          “While it may certainly be true that these people over here are sinning by doing X, Y, and Z…”

          That’s the setup given by Romans 1.

          What does Romans 2, verse 1 say?

          It says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “It is *GOD’S* job to Judge! Not yours! By taking God’s work upon yourself, you condemn *YOURSELF*!!!”

          From where I’m standing, the use of Romans to explain that homosexuality is sinful is a misreading of Romans. Indeed, I’d be tempted to say a “willful” misreading, but I don’t know that many people who have actually read past the first chapter… I’m guessing that they just figure that Paul kept going like that until the end of the letter.

          Ergo, if we are to live in community with God, gay marriage is out of bounds. So what are we then to do with those who identify themselves as gay?

          Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 7, shall we?

          What if I were to argue that though I disapproved of homosexuality (and, indeed, wished that more folks could be like me), I shrugged and said “it’s better for homosexuals to marry than to burn”. Would that be okay?

          Or would the argument be “Dude, that’s completely different!”?

          The question then becomes whether that is going to be enough for you. Faith would seem to require that the answer be “Yes.”

          It seems to me that through a reading of the same works you’re using, I’ve come to a conclusion that gay marriage, while not ideal, is certainly better than the alternatives out there for most homosexuals and, on top of that, it’s not my place to say that they cannot.

          It seems to me that this reading is no more tortured than the arguments explaining how, seriously, these laws don’t apply to you but those laws totally apply to *THEM*.

          Is my interpretation obviously faulty?

          If so, how so?Report

          • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, yes, your interpretation is obviously faulty, though I don’t imagine you’ll like my reasoning much.

            Your argument involves three things doing an absolutely massive amount of work for you. The first is that at one point in Leviticus, the same Hebrew word appears to be used to describe both homosexuality and unclean food. The second is your interpretation of 1 Cor. 7. The third is your interpretation of Rom. 1. Your take on all three of these things is at odds with most understandings of Scripture.

            First of all, the idea that simply because the same word is used of both homosexual sex and certain unclean foods means that the two concepts are in the same ethical category is a misreading so egregious that it can only be deliberate. Your argument goes something like this:

            1) The same word is used (once!) of homosexual sex and an unclean animal.
            2) Ergo, the two offenses must be in the same ethical category.
            3) Ergo, since the dietary laws are abrogated in Acts, the prohibition against homosexual conduct has been abrogated too.

            But just look at Leviticus 11. Really look at it for what it’s trying to say, not for some way to twist the passage in to giving you the result that you want. The penalty for touching or eating a detestable thing? You’re ceremonially unclean until evening. But the penalty for most sexual violations is exile or death (Lev. 18:24-30; 20:10-21). That alone suggests that the two are in entirely different categories, of seriousness at the very minimum.

            Furthermore, the same word is used in Deuteronomy 7:25 to describe idolatry, clearly an act which is just as evil in the New Testament as the Old.

            So the second premise in your argument is obviously faulty, because it completely ignores the fact that, 1) despite the use of the same word to describe two violations, the two violations are treated quite differently by the law, and 2) the same word is also used to describe other offenses which are clearly still prohibited.

            Second, your reading of 1 Cor. 7 assumes that Paul doesn’t like marriage. You don’t have to read the passage that way, and since reading the passage that way makes it conflict rather harshly with discussions of marriage elsewhere in Scripture, especially Genesis 2, as you note, that reading must be disfavored. If you need to make one passage of Scripture contradict another to get what you want, You’re Doing It Wrong. This is not a hermeneutic which is consistent with a faithful understanding of Scripture or Christianity.

            What Paul is doing is introducing the idea that for the first time in covenantal history, singleness is a viable option for the faithful. Up until Jesus was born, having children was a covenantal duty, as the promise was to be attained through the getting of children. But now that Jesus is here, children, while still important, are no longer the essential duty that they once were. So all of a sudden, being single becomes a spiritual vocation on equal covenantal footing with being married. This was–and still is–a pretty radical concept, and it’s one the church still hasn’t managed to internalize. But nothing in this passage requires us to believe that Paul was “not down” with Genesis.

            Third, your interpretation of Romans is flawed. Paul is not saying that Christians are prohibited from identifying sin and labeling it as such. Jesus did this and encouraged believers to do it too (see Matt. 18:15-20). There is a difference between saying “This conduct is sinful,” and then concluding that because one does not engage in that particular sin that one is somehow better than the sinner. The former is an essential part of the Christian life. The latter contradicts it. But in no case does Romans 1-3 prevent Christians from identifying sin where they see it or from calling sinners to repentance.

            You are fixated on the idea that any solution which does not include the ability to form a committed sexual relationship with whomever you damn well please, regardless of their or your gender, is unacceptable. Scripture gives no reason to believe that this is the case, and furthermore gives some reason to believe that not everyone can or should have a sexual relationship. See Matt. 19.

            And your final barb, that there is a double standard going on, may be accurate, but it does not get you what you want. The true Christian position is that all people, married and single, are required to be chaste. If you aren’t married or want to have someone who, for whatever reason, you cannot marry, then you are called to celibacy. The fact that the modern church has absolutely no idea how to deal with that is a problem, but it does not justify the conclusion that sexual ethics may therefore be modified to suit your whim.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              @Ryan Davidson, first off, thank you for responding!

              I put a lot of work into that.

              Okey-doke. Now for the second off.

              First of all, the idea that simply because the same word is used of both homosexual sex and certain unclean foods means that the two concepts are in the same ethical category is a misreading so egregious that it can only be deliberate. Your argument goes something like this:

              1) The same word is used (once!) of homosexual sex and an unclean animal.
              2) Ergo, the two offenses must be in the same ethical category.
              3) Ergo, since the dietary laws are abrogated in Acts, the prohibition against homosexual conduct has been abrogated too.

              Actually, my argument is more of the form:

              The same word (abomination) is used for both homosexuality (once) and shellfish (three times!).

              Shellfish have been cleansed and, besides, I know in my heart that we live under a new covenant now, anyways, they were a desert people so the prohibition made sense for them but it doesn’t make sense today. We know how to prepare shellfish and make them okay to eat (de-veining and such) and since we know that they were “abominations” for a set of reasons that no longer apply, we now know that they are no longer abominations.

              It seems to me that these (quite reasonable!) mental acrobatics could easily be applied to life-partnered homosexuality. We changed the status of one! Therefore we *KNOW* that statuses of abominable things can change over time and perhaps even become unabominable! THIS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED!!!

              Hey, the problem isn’t two guys living in the same house as partners, the problem is the stuff that that senator dude was doing in the bathroom at the airport or that pastor dude was doing in that hotel. The problem isn’t the gay, it’s the manifestation.

              Much like de-veining a shrimp before cooking makes it edible, chastity (but not celibacy!) makes homosexuality similarly not an abomination.

              But just look at Leviticus 11. Really look at it for what it’s trying to say, not for some way to twist the passage in to giving you the result that you want. The penalty for touching or eating a detestable thing? You’re ceremonially unclean until evening. But the penalty for most sexual violations is exile or death (Lev. 18:24-30; 20:10-21). That alone suggests that the two are in entirely different categories, of seriousness at the very minimum.

              Furthermore, the same word is used in Deuteronomy 7:25 to describe idolatry, clearly an act which is just as evil in the New Testament as the Old.

              So the second premise in your argument is obviously faulty, because it completely ignores the fact that, 1) despite the use of the same word to describe two violations, the two violations are treated quite differently by the law, and 2) the same word is also used to describe other offenses which are clearly still prohibited.

              Hrm. Out of curiosity, is it your opinion that we ought to kill homosexuals?

              Is that an unfair question?

              How’s this: How do you know that God has changed his mind when it comes to your responsibility to kill men who lie with other men as men lie with women?

              Is that an unfair question?

              Let’s assume that it is. Let’s assume that I ought to know that you, as a good Christian, know in your heart that it is no longer good and proper for you to kill homosexuals. Let’s instead assume that I know that you, as a good Christian, know in your heart that it would be morally wrong for you to kill a homosexual. Indeed, it would be murder.

              Can we agree on that?

              If we can agree that God has changed his mind when it comes to the law, how in the heck do you know that he’s only changed it to this point AND NO FURTHER and not to the point where I see that homosexuality in a chaste (but not celibate!) relationship is the equivalent of eating, say, lobster?

              Is it something that you know in your heart?

              Second, your reading of 1 Cor. 7 assumes that Paul doesn’t like marriage. You don’t have to read the passage that way, and since reading the passage that way makes it conflict rather harshly with discussions of marriage elsewhere in Scripture, especially Genesis 2, as you note, that reading must be disfavored. If you need to make one passage of Scripture contradict another to get what you want, You’re Doing It Wrong. This is not a hermeneutic which is consistent with a faithful understanding of Scripture or Christianity.

              I’m not a member of the “inerrant” school and, moreover, I’m not someone who believes that God is unlikely to ever change His attitudes toward the covenants He establishes with Us.

              Are you a member of the inerrant school?

              Because, honestly, I think that it’s possible to have a “good faith” (no pun intended) reading of the Bible without that particular inclination.

              Heck, I think it’s possible for Paul to be particularly neurotic and have his letters be stuff like a letter that a friend writes to a friend (or a community of friends) without it being The Inspired Word Of God Himself.

              What Paul is doing is introducing the idea that for the first time in covenantal history, singleness is a viable option for the faithful. Up until Jesus was born, having children was a covenantal duty, as the promise was to be attained through the getting of children. But now that Jesus is here, children, while still important, are no longer the essential duty that they once were. So all of a sudden, being single becomes a spiritual vocation on equal covenantal footing with being married. This was–and still is–a pretty radical concept, and it’s one the church still hasn’t managed to internalize. But nothing in this passage requires us to believe that Paul was “not down” with Genesis.

              Bullshit.

              Let’s read what The Man Himself said:

              Verse 7: I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

              Don’t like the NIV? Neither do I. I hate it. Let’s use the American Standard Version.

              Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.

              Don’t like the ASV? Okay, fine. NKJV? It’s good enough for the Christian Businessmen Of America or whatever that group is called.

              “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”

              I know that you will immediately go to verse 6 and wave that around as if it were some moral victory… but that’s not the point I’m refuting here.

              Paul has a significantly different relationship toward marriage than that found in Genesis 2.

              Indeed, he wishes that everybody were like him.

              Reading what he said seems to me like the most honest reading of what he said, no?

              I certainly shouldn’t have to compare his letter to the Corinthians to some obscure verses in Daniel or Hosea to make sure that I’m reading “I wish that all y’all were more like me but, hey, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum” the way he *REALLY* meant it.

              Third, your interpretation of Romans is flawed.

              No, your interpretation of Romans is flawed.

              Paul is not saying that Christians are prohibited from identifying sin and labeling it as such. Jesus did this and encouraged believers to do it too (see Matt. 18:15-20). There is a difference between saying “This conduct is sinful,” and then concluding that because one does not engage in that particular sin that one is somehow better than the sinner. The former is an essential part of the Christian life. The latter contradicts it. But in no case does Romans 1-3 prevent Christians from identifying sin where they see it or from calling sinners to repentance.

              Should they be calling sinners to kill homosexuals or do we live under a new covenant now?

              In my view, the homosexuals should be badgered to put a ring on it and settle down, maybe get a house, put down roots in the community and show up regular on Sunday instead of this Christmas/Easter thing. Of course, I *WOULD* think that…

              Why? Because we live under a New Covenant now.

              You are fixated on the idea that any solution which does not include the ability to form a committed sexual relationship with whomever you damn well please, regardless of their or your gender, is unacceptable. Scripture gives no reason to believe that this is the case, and furthermore gives some reason to believe that not everyone can or should have a sexual relationship. See Matt. 19.

              I’m fixated on the idea that you seem to have set things up in your head that the indulgences in which you wish to indulge are, of course, acceptable to God under His New Covenant… while the indulgences in which others wish to indulge are Abominations before God.

              I’m also noting that it’s funny how that is always the way it seems to work out.

              It seems devoid of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, nor self-control.

              Not that those things are particularly relevant to how we ought manifest God in our lives, of course.

              And your final barb, that there is a double standard going on, may be accurate, but it does not get you what you want. The true Christian position is that all people, married and single, are required to be chaste. If you aren’t married or want to have someone who, for whatever reason, you cannot marry, then you are called to celibacy. The fact that the modern church has absolutely no idea how to deal with that is a problem, but it does not justify the conclusion that sexual ethics may therefore be modified to suit your whim.

              My whim? My whims are quite well suited by my wife. My problem is that the whims of others seem to include “HEY WE FOUND US AN ADULTERESS!” and they all run off for a good old-fashioned stoning and if someone happens to point out the story in the Bible that involved Jesus in a similar situation, they point out that the point of the story is that JESUS TOLD HER TO GO AND SIN NO MORE!!! SIN NO MORE!!! SIN NO MORE!!!!!

              And the reading of Romans ends with Romans 1 and doesn’t get into Romans 2, or 3, or 14:14-23.

              Lemme tell ya, as an atheist, I’m stuck here thinking that you theists are using God and the Bible as a cudgel rather than as a balm.

              I don’t see why anyone would willingly choose to associate themselves with you spiteful people. You have no fruits. Just Law.

              Ah, well. Whatever gets you through the night.Report

            • @Ryan Davidson,

              > Second, your reading of 1 Cor. 7 assumes
              > that Paul doesn’t like marriage.

              Paul doesn’t like marriage, Ryan. You can’t seriously argue otherwise. Well, I suppose you can, but I’m very unlikely to be convinced.

              > You don’t have to read the passage that
              > way, and since reading the passage that
              > way makes it conflict rather harshly with
              > discussions of marriage elsewhere in
              > Scripture, especially Genesis 2, as you
              > note, that reading must be disfavored.

              Because Paul says something that conflicts with other Scripture, we must interpret what he says in a way that doesn’t conflict with other Scripture?

              How about instead we take that just on the face of the non-tortured reading, and thus as likely evidence that Paul may have, yanno, some beliefs that are incorrect?

              Paul has much more negative verbiage dedicated to marriage than the passages attributed to homosexuality. It’s quite obvious, even on the most generous reading, that Paul believes that Jesus is coming, and takes quite seriously the duty to abandon all things and follow The Christ; abandoning all things including sexual congress.

              The dude was a zealot prior to his conversion, after all. He has absolutely zero personal history of moderate commitment to anything. Paul gives himself wholly to everything he does.

              > What Paul is doing is introducing the
              > idea that for the first time in covenantal
              > history, singleness is a viable option
              > for the faithful.

              No, it’s the *preferred* option, in Paul’s mind. By a very large, overwhelming margin. It’s quite clear that, to Paul, sex is a huge distraction and marriage is *only* there to provide a non-sinful way for people to engage in the activity.

              Elsewhere on this thread you point out that textual criticism of the Bible may be influenced by a liberal theologian’s desire to conform the meaning to a preference. I’m not certain that all unorthodox translation is motivated by this, but I’ll accept that this is a fair charge to levy. The flip side to that is that orthodox translations and interpretations aren’t automatically correct because “that’s what most people think” or because that’s what someone else thought.

              Saying that Paul doesn’t have a serious issue with non-celibate life just does not match the man’s writing. Theologians who argue that point are clearly trying to have cake and eat it too.

              Put another way, I’ll accept that my reading of Scripture may indeed by colored by my secular intellectual preferences. However, if you cannot accept that some of your orthodox beliefs may in fact be wrong, then you are by extension claiming that you have perfect understanding of the revealed Word.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              Jaybird, my pleasure. I’d have responded sooner, but I put a good deal of work into my response as well.

              For starters, you’re making assumptions about what I believe that are not accurate. I make a distinction between homosexuality as a state of being and homosexual conduct as a volitional moral action just the same way as I make that distinction between alcoholism and drunkenness or between men’s general desire to sleep with anything with two legs. The former are the results of the breaking of creation by the fall, i.e. things are not the way they are supposed to be. No one is to be punished for those things. Instead, support is to be given.

              But the fact that those conditions may have some biological basis does not mean that acting on those impulses is okay. Scripture doesn’t actually treat the concept of homosexual desire at all–or if it does, it simply lumps it in with any and all other desires for prohibited sexual activity–and it doesn’t treat homosexual conduct as being any different that most other forms of egregious adultery. Having sex with another man’s wife, having sex with another man, and murdering someone are all covenant capital offenses in the Old Testament. There’s really no difference.

              So don’t think I’m singling out homosexual conduct as somehow special or especially bad. I don’t think that at all. But you’re arguing quite strenuously that what Christianity has always considered to be sinful conduct is, in fact, not sinful. So I’m pushing back against that.

              As to how we know that actual execution is no longer the appropriate punishment for a covenant capital offense, those sorts of judicial things fell away when God’s people stopped being an earthly nation. With the exception of the Renaissance and early modern period, the church has never executed people. The punishment for a covenant capital offense is now excommunication, not execution.

              But that aside, you’re again taking a reading of the law which is not consistent with the orthodox understanding of the law. Shellfish, pigs, rabbits, etc. were not unclean because they were unhealthy or unsanitary, but because God had chosen to set his people apart in certain ways which seemed insane to the people around them. So the fact that we know how to eat shellfish more safely now is completely irrelevant and has nothing whatsoever with why the dietary laws were abrogated in the first century.

              If you read the Pentateuch as somehow based on scientific, hygenic, or evolutionary principles, you’ve missed the point. The “reasons which no longer apply” are the fact that God’s people are no longer set aside in the same outward ways that they were before Christ.

              But you’ve also ignored my point that dietary laws are treated differently from sexual laws. Christians have always thought that this means that God thinks the two are different. The Ten Commandments have always been regarded as the core of the theistic moral code by both Christians and Jews and, wouldn’t you know it, sexual purity is on there.

              As far as your rant on Paul’s view of marriage, a couple of points.

              First, I don’t have to go to verse six. All I need is right there in verse seven, i.e. some have one gift, some another.

              Second, you’re acting as if 1 Cor. 7 is the only thing Paul has to say about Christian marriage. It isn’t. There’s 1 Tim. 4, Eph. 5, Col. 3, etc. If you ignore all of these passages, where Paul seems to think very highly of marriage–it’s a picture of Christ and the church, after all–you can maybe get 1 Cor. 7 to say what you want it to, but that read is not only contrary to Gen. 2 but to the rest of Paul’s own writing.

              Third, it’s interesting that the only people who think that Paul disagrees with the standard Christian–and Orthodox Jewish, as far as I know–concept of marriage discussed in Genesis are… people who think that Paul is wrong about a bunch of other stuff too. As I’m discounting that as a basis for doing theology, I don’t see any real reason to engage it here. If your argument is predicated on a hermeneutic which is inconsistent with a faithful version of Christianity, I don’t need to refute it. To argue that Christian sexual ethics ought to approve of homosexual conduct, you’re going to have to start from Christian assumptions, and not simply granting for the purposes of argument that God exists. You’ve indicated elsewhere in the thread that you want to do this, but it seems that you’re only willing to do it to the point that you can still get what you want.

              As far as Romans goes, you’re still taking the position that “not passing judgment” means that we are prohibited from declaring anything to be sinful. You’ve ignored my argument on this point. If you actually look at Romans 14, Paul seems to be talking about things which the apostles did not consider to be moral issues any longer–mostly with eating and observance of certain days–not about whether or not sexual ethics are entirely personal matters. So on the issue of eating meat or certain holidays, each one should be convinced in his own mind, because those things don’t matter. But there is no suggestion anywhere in Scripture that sexual ethics doesn’t matter.

              But since you seem to like the rest of Romans so much… what about Romans 7? Your entire argument seems to be of the form that because grace has come, the law is obsolete, and we may do as we like. Paul’s response? “By no means!” The law cannot save, but it remains to declare to us what is righteous. We are not under it, but we cannot forget its teachings.

              As far as whether I’m “in the inerrant camp,” I’m more in the infalliable camp, i.e. I believe that everything necessary for faith and life is contained in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence discoverable therefrom, but that specific technical details (geography, weights and measures, etc.) need not be strictly accurate where they aren’t actually poetic. But yes, I do believe that the Spirit guided the authors of Scripture such that what is in there is what God wanted to be there, that the copies we have are reasonably accurate representations of the authors’ original writings, that the entire work constitutes a consistent and coherent whole, and that no part is materially inconsistent with any other. This is the Christian doctrine of Scripture.

              If you can’t disagree with me using those assumptions than our differences are axiomatic, and there is no possible argument either of us can make which will convince the other. But mine is the orthodox position and is in keeping with historic Christianity, while the positions and you have outlined here are neither. You may not care–I don’t particularly–but nothing you have said here suggests that historic Christianity should embrace gay marriage as compatible with its teachings on sexual ethics. Quite the contrary, you need to rely on radically liberal hermeneutical moves to get there. You’re more than welcome to do that–you won’t be the first or the last–but anyone who does leaves the historic church for one of their own imagining.

              As far as the rather personal suggestion that anyone who believes that homosexual conduct is wrong is just a hypocritical Pharisee, in addition to being an unseemly ad hominem, it’s also just wrong. If one is truly convinced that particular actions are sinful, i.e. that they rupture the sinner’s relationship with God, then the loving thing to do is to say so. It is not loving to permit someone who is on a course of self destruction to remain there. It is not loving to paper over sin. The loving thing to do is to issue a call to repentance. Which is what Jesus does in the Gospels, what Peter and Paul do in Acts, and what both do in their respective epistles. Not about homosexual conduct in particular, I grant you, but certainly about sexual immorality. So this idea that Christians never, ever tell someone that what they are doing is wrong is just wrongheaded. What Christians never do is seek to make themselves better than others by pointing out others’ sins. But the fact that many in the modern church do precisely this does not actually justify the sinful acts.

              Being assholes doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them assholes.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              <i.I’ll accept that my reading of Scripture may indeed by colored by my secular intellectual preferences. However, if you cannot accept that some of your orthodox beliefs may in fact be wrong, then you are by extension claiming that you have perfect understanding of the revealed Word.

              Paul B., I dealt with much of what you said in my previous response to Jaybird, but I’ll answer this last one directly.

              I’m claiming nothing of the sort. I am entirely willing to consider modifying my commitment to orthodoxy if you can show that I am wrong from arguments that are internal to orthodoxy. You haven’t even really tried to do this thus far, so I haven’t even really tried to respond.Report

            • Avatar Paul B in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              @Ryan Davidson at 11:45am (can’t nest any more)

              For the record, the quote you’re responding to (“I’ll accept that my reading of Scripture…”) is not from me but Pat Calahan.

              I mention it only because there seems to be a strong emphasis on careful readings of texts ’round here today 😉Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

              For the record, the quote you’re responding to (“I’ll accept that my reading of Scripture…”) is not from me but Pat Calahan.

              Whoops. My bad.Report

            • @Ryan Davidson,

              “I’m claiming nothing of the sort. I am entirely willing to consider modifying my commitment to orthodoxy if you can show that I am wrong from arguments that are internal to orthodoxy.”

              Paul, you can’t prove that a system is correct using the rules of the system. That’s basic logic.

              (note: I’m not really clear what you’re defining “Christian Orthodoxy” as, but letting that go for the moment)

              If you’ll only accept arguments against a set of canonical beliefs using the axioms of the canonical belief, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of tautologies and not very many actual substantive arguments.

              Case in point, Paul on Marriage. Paul obviously doesn’t think marriage is a good way to follow Christ, it’s just a necessary thing to prevent the flock from falling into sin. However, if a theologian who supports Christian orthodoxy (whatever that is) waves his hands and explains that away because, well, the letters of Paul are scripture, and scripture is inerrant, and thus it can’t contradict itself, well, *I have nowhere to go from that*.

              Any example I can pull from Paul’s writing can be cheerfully met with a, “Well, one could interpret that passage that way, but that goes against orthodoxy, so that clearly can’t be the correct interpretation because orthodoxy is always correct. You have to prove to me that orthodoxy isn’t correct using the premises of orthodoxy… one of which is that orthodoxy is always correct.”Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird,

        Jaybird here’s my wife’s reply:

        Jaybird,

        For me, a Christian, the Word of God (the Bible) is sacred. It is THE TRUTH of God given to man. Along with prayer, the Word is my primary means of communication with God. It is also the instrument God uses to teach, encourage, and convict me. Combined with the activity of the Holy Spirit to cleanse and heal and fill the believer, it is wonderfully alive and powerful.

        There is ONE lawgiver and ONE judge (James 4:12). I cannot use that WORD to sit in judgment of another or another’s opinions. I can simply say my most often used prayer is …”Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

        Finally, I would ask you to read the gospels simply-with a desire to know the truth.

        In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “It is not that man has tried Christianity and found it difficult, but that he has found it difficult and left it untried.”

        My hope is that you will search for the TRUTH with your whole heart and find it.

        Martha CheeksReport

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Following Voegelin, I see you as a gentleman born to ‘Christianity’ (of one sect or another) and refuse to embrace the act of the believer e.g. to be at ‘rest’ in this state of faith. For whatever reason you have turned to a condition, a philosophical condition, where man is the questioner.

          Voegelin points out that the gospel “held out its promise” to the poor in spirit, a condition that he defines as “minds inquiring.” And, this inquiry, a natural condition, explicates a conflict between the gospel and “the uniquiring possession of doctrine.”

          Incorporating the classical Greeks Voegelin argues that the tension toward the Divine Ground is revealed as the word of inquiry, “as a prayer for the Word of the answer.” He remarks, “This luminous search in which the finding of the true answer depends on asking the true question, and asking the true question on the spiritual apprehension of the true answer, is the life of reason.” And, while faith IS accountable to make the answers to the questions about “the meaning of existence.”

          Ryan Davidson seems to be implying that he interprets your comments in terms of you loading the question with so many premises that it cannot be truthfully answered. I don’t think you’d do that because that would imply that you already have a preordained answer you want to hear. If that’s the case my analysis is entirely wrong.
          In John 12:23 Jesus meets the Greeks and remarks, the “hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

          Voegelin argues at this point “mankind is ready to be represented by the divine sacrifice.”
          And in addressing these sons of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, these representative of the world, Christ says:
          “Most solemnly I tell you,
          unless a wheat grain fall into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain,
          but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
          Who loves his life (psychen) will lose it,
          but who hates his life in this world (kosmos), keeps it for life eternal.
          If anyone serves me, he must follow me,
          and wherever I am, my servant will be too.
          If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.

          Voegelin describes/defines the Gospel this way:

          “For a gospel is neither a poet’s work of dramatic art, nor an historian’s biography of Jesus, but the symbolization of a divine movement that went through the person of Jesus into society and history.”

          And, finally this from John 17:3:

          “And this is life eternal:
          To know you, the only true God,
          and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            @Robert Cheeks, I was raised Southern Baptist, then Presbyterian, then Southern Baptist again until my conversion to atheism at age 20.

            After a period of being absolutely insufferable, I think I’ve settled down to a comfortable truce with my former selves and we’ve more or less integrated.

            The main thing that bugs me about Christianity as it is practiced is that the most visible Christians are far more like the Pharisees and Sadducees who set themselves in opposition to Jesus rather than taking Jesus as role-model.

            The Law is held up when it is convenient to hold up The Law and the New Covenant is held up when it is convenient to hold up the New Covenant and there are far, far too many attempts to impose the Kingdom of Heaven upon the heretics and infidels.

            I know that I don’t believe… but it seems to me, after reading much of this stuff, that people who did believe would act, I don’t know… differently.

            Instead they act like non-believers who just want to impose their will and cultural values on friggin’ everybody.

            I can’t tell the difference.

            And I can’t help but wonder that, if there were a God, I’d be able to.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Hello, ma’am.

          There is a very old joke told to me involving Hindus, but it seems like it could be easily swapped around to make it be Saint Peter rather than Brahma.

          An atheist dies and finds himself at the gates of Heaven. After a few moments of say “holy crap, did I get *THAT* one wrong…” he turns to Brahma and says “What am *I* doing here? I was an atheist!”

          Brahma said “Dude, you never stopped thinking about Me. Every waking moment was devoted to Me, your thoughts rarely strayed, your conversation topics rarely strayed, and you were constantly in a state where I was foremost for you. I have priests who weren’t able to do that! Welcome in.”

          In my daily life, as an atheist, I think about God a lot (despite the fact that I don’t think that He exists in any meaningful sense of the word).

          The main things I try to achieve are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

          I fail a lot. But Maribou helps me out and, generally, helps me be better. If I am mistaken and there is a God, she’s a manifestation of one of His facets. If I’m wrong and I figure that out, it’ll be 100% because of her.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Hey, I’ve got a question. I observe Christians routinely doing things that they clearly should not do. Why do they do these things?

    And by these things I don’t mean “make war.” Although I certainly could. Nor do I mean “steal,” “rape,” or any of the other notoriously hard-to-eradicate crimes. Christians shouldn’t do these things, but not doing them is really, really hard at the population level.

    Instead, I mean simple, almost ritual stuff. Stuff you’ve got little excuse not to do. Stuff Christians do all the time, and with no discernible guilt.

    For example, Jesus said “do not swear at all.” Yet most Christians, so called, swear oaths. This should be an easy call. Why do most Christians swear?

    Paul demanded that we not eat meat with the blood in it, but Christians seem notably fond of “juicy” (sc. bloody) steaks. I’m not aware of any significant sect of Christians that cares much about this question.

    Christians are commanded to keep the Sabbath, and they mostly do, but only a few of them observe the day that the Sabbath is actually supposed to happen — Saturday. There is no warrant in the Bible for Sunday, not any more than there is for Tuesday.

    I could go on, but I’ll just make my point. Much of what is rhetorically pitched as unvarnished, biblical Christianity is mere tradition and interpretive hand-waving. A Bible-based Christianity is no more a reality than a perfectly free market.

    All of which makes this non-Christian very puzzled about what Christianity is and what it isn’t.Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki,
      “A Bible-based Christianity is no more a reality than a perfectly free market.”

      Or a perfect anything, right?Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki:

      “Much of what is rhetorically pitched as unvarnished, biblical Christianity is mere tradition and interpretive hand-waving.”

      Why do you say “mere” tradition? And why do tradition and interpretation preclude a Biblical basis? There are plenty of Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative but not self-interpreting.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, ThatPirateGuy and Jason, exist in a theophanic revolt. They’re not happy with God, and they’re wrestling with their own demons. Not much anyone’s going to do about that. I do wish them both well, but I really don’t think heaven’s going to suffer from over crowding. It’s difficult in this era when people sacrifice their soul in “this climate of opinion” as easily as they buy a new cell phone, that so few seek the metalepsis with the Divine. Perhaps, this is not the age of the philosopher?
      But, I do have a clue for my recalcitrant friends: the classical Greeks were smart enough to figure out that in their existence they were engaged in the “practice of dying,” and in their dying they sought to immortaize, to seek the truth of the horizon of reality….man, my friends, is constantly engaged in the movement of immortality.
      I wish you well.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, these are not terribly useful examples.

      First, you are misconstruing the issue of blood. Jews did not and do not eat food with blood in it, but they did eat meat in ancient times. Unless you completely desiccate your meat, something which was not really possible until recently, there will always be blood in it. That wasn’t the point, and there’s no evidence that Jews have ever done this.

      The point is that There are two main ways of slaughtering an animal. One is to use a knife, slitting the animal’s throat and hanging it up so it can drain. The vast majority of the blood will flow out in a few hours.

      The other way is to strangle the animal and not drain the blood. The vast majority of the blood will remain in the animal as it is butchered. This is done deliberately, so that the blood will remain.

      So prohibitions against eating meat which has been strangled are actually referencing this practice, i.e. eating meat with blood. What is in view is making a good-faith effort to remove most of the blood before eating, because “the life is in the blood.”

      In any case, all meat that we currently buy from grocery stores is slaughtered by the former process and does not have much blood in it, i.e. no more than represents the fact that the meat is still fresh.

      As far as swearing, again, you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about. “Swearing” is not cussing. Read the passage; it’s right there. Jesus is talking about using various levels of oaths in an attempt to defeat justice, i.e. “I know I swore by the temple, but for you to enforce this oath I would have had to swear by the gold in the temple. So sorry.” So, you know, don’t do that.

      Now there are Christian traditions which refuse to take any form of oath: Quakers and Mennonites, mostly. But these are rather fringe groups. The majority Christian position seems to be that it is acceptable to make a binding declaration that what one says is true, i.e. take an oath. This is important, because there are certain times when we care whether or not people are telling the truth, and other times that we don’t. But the point is that the form of this declaration is immaterial: one is as good as another. So there’s no way of avoiding your commitments by invoking some procedural loophole. This would seem to be in keeping with the substance of Jesus’ instruction, would it not?

      Of course, I suspect that your objections here are rather disingenuous. You do not appear to be interested in finding a reasonable way of interpreting those passages. Rather, you appear to be interested in finding any reason you can to resist the idea that God might not like your policy preferences. This does not strike me as a terribly productive foundation for discussion.Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    This is very charmingly written, Bob, my compliments. You and the missus can turn some beautiful phrases.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    If anyone needs it, here’s a glossary that might be of help:
    http://watershade.net/ev/ev-glossary.htmlReport

  6. This is off-topic, but what if an atheist lived a full life as a good person, who, although he didn’t think in terms of “sin”, didn’t do anything Christians think of as “sin” — let’s say his actions were as a pure as a Saint’s — would he have problems at judgement day? If so, what kind of God would punish a person who’s lived by such virtuous behavior and thought? These are the kinds of questions which have always made me question the certainty of Christians. What if Judgement Day comes and God tells all the believers they misunderstood the requirements? Is it not a more grand achievement to live a good life, being kind to others, and helpful when possible, with no expectations of going to heaven, or being punished in hell if he doesn’t behave well? To live a virtuous life believing in the end you will rot with the worms is something good, yes? I mean, God would have to be impressed.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Mike Farmer says:

      @Mike Farmer,
      First, I think we’ve got to recognize that not everyone is seeking God, attuned to the great questions of the cosmos, or desires to move both existentially and in the tension of existence toward aphtharsia (imperishing). A whole lot of folks would rather take a short cut to a perceived perfection attainable in this life, and we’re all aware of the myriad of problems that have resulted from this act of self or individuation, the great and magnificent “I.” However, Voegelin points out that the “practice of dying,” this aphtharsia, adds to our understanding of our own nature in that it presents an eschatological “expectation’ that itself functions as an ‘ordering factor’ in existence. Of course we’re examining the question in philosophical terms, and specifically in terms related to a Classical examination of the problem. And, the reason we do that is to interject the Nous, (reason grounded on the transcendent) into this discussion of Mike’s inquiries.
      The Chirstian declares he/she has discovered the ordering forces of existence where he has differentiated the immortalizing force of the psyche (soul/spirit; see Edith Stein) and “the mortalizing forces of apeirontic (the Metaxical pole opposite the One) lust of being in time.” And, here Voegelin argues, “… Christianity is not a alternative to philosophy, it is philosophy itself in its state of perfection; the history of the Logos comes to its fulfillment through the incarnation of the Word of Christ.” To put it simply “God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.”

      The key here is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
      That sacrifice of the Son was the price required in order for God to proffer salvation to mankind and that offering was given in absolute love.
      This truth of reality is revealed in the Word, and it is revealed by pneumatic insights initiated by the Holy Spirit.

      Man, as being, has no hand in any of this. He is given the opportunity to accept or reject God’s grace via free will (see Schelling), freely proffered, but man can not ‘earn’ salvation/redemption through his ‘good’ works. To attain salvation one is required to accept the divinity and the sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ. To chose to exist in the divine/human metalepsis, to surrender self/the will (to return to God the “I”) and exist in a condition of Divine love. And, this divine/human condition, this freely given love of God for man; and man for God is the great desire of the Divine. But, consider this: a freely constituted cogent being has chosen, of his own will, to love you? What greater existence is there?

      Re: Mike Farmer’s inquiries: God is not punishing the ‘good’ atheist/agnostic. The atheist has chosen, freely, to turn away from or reject the Christ or has not heard of the Gospel, in which case, I believe, God addresses each individual uniquely and perfectly. In our age of ‘deculturation’ it can be difficult to turn toward the Logos and I think Dylan underscores this phenomenon in his classic “Deadman.” But, we have to take responsibility for our existence, even in these blasphemous and secular times. Voegelin’s comment is insightful, “..the grotesque rubble into which the image of God is broken today is not somebody’s wrong opinion about the nature of man but the result of a secular process of destruction.”Report

    • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Mike Farmer says:

      @Mike Farmer, the demands of righteousness are such that what you describe is impossible. In Christian terms, it is impossible to live a spiritually virtuous life without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

      The reason is that even if one does what seems to be a “good work,” whether it be feeding the hungry, loving one’s children, whatever, unless one is motivated out of love for God, it does not constitute a righteous act. This is the doctrine of original sin, which says not that humans are as bad as they can be, but that every human act is tainted by sin such that none of our acts are righteous before God.Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

        @Ryan Davidson, By the version of christianity you profess this is the case. There is an old Hetrodox tradition called christian universalism, that would teach the opposite, that ultimatly all are saved. The luck of (or divine inspiration of) the roman emporors from 314 to the fall of the west determined which version won. Both versions can be gotten by reading the scripture, it just depends on where you put your emphasis. One way to read God is Love is that God saves All.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Lyle says:

          @Lyle, yes, but as you’ve said that’s a heretical position. That is indeed a reading of Scripture, but it isn’t one you can use to critique Christianity, as Christianity has already rejected it as false.Report

          • @Ryan Davidson,
            I’ve always wondered what gives some interpreters more authority than others. It’s all mysterious.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              @Mike Farmer, like all traditions, Christianity has ways of verifying and policing its own position. So when the whole church gets together and says “We believe this,” not believing that means you are a heretic.

              This, at a minimum, defines Christian orthodoxy in a way that all traditions recognize. There’s some question about which councils count and the mechanics thereof, but getting kicked out by a truly ecumenical council is pretty unequivocal.

              Admittedly, universalism has never been as roundly condemned as, say, Arianism or monophysitism. It’s a sort of perennial problem, but one which has been recognized as, at best, a minority position. Today, most of the orthodox church recognizes it as heretical, as the teachings in Scripture about condemnation for at least some seem to frequent and urgent to ignore.Report

  7. Avatar Gian says:

    Jason.
    You have given us these examples before. But have you tried to find what the Tradition in the voice of orthodox commentators have said regarding eating of blood and swearing?
    Or do you think nobody else has noticed this anomaly ?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Gian says:

      @Gian,

      I have looked into it, yes. I guess I find what tradition says here to be unconvincing. Worse, I find it to be so unconvincing that I can’t see how others find it convincing, even for the sake of argument.

      I don’t recall ever seeing Bob weigh in on these questions, and now that I have, I’m even less persuaded. But anyway, I’ll just drop ’em.Report

  8. Avatar Gian says:

    Farmer,
    Is your virtuous life same as respectable life?Report

  9. Avatar Paul B says:

    Bob, are you willing to give up your Maker’s Mark based on my reading of the Book of Mormon? If not, perhaps you should reconsider resolving the difficulties of the Old Testament through an appeal to the New Testament.

    Which is just to say that it might be fruitful to consider the Jewish tradition directly. There’s plenty of thought on whether and how to keep the commandments, from the Babylonian captivity right on through to the Pittsburgh Declaration.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Paul B says:

      @Paul B, that isn’t a fruitful objection, and you ought to know it. Jewish tradition and Christian tradition forked in the first century, and what the Jews may or may not have come to believe about their Scriptures, while of some academic interest to Christians, is no longer terribly relevant. Even a Jew would tell you that their tradition has evolved over the last two thousand years.

      Either way, nineteenth-century Judaism seems to have experienced what nineteenth-century Christianity did, i.e. an unhealthy influx of liberal modernism. Quoting the Pittsburgh Declaration at an Orthodox Jew would be like quoting the Principles and Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association at a Roman Catholic.Report

      • Avatar Paul B in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

        @Ryan Davidson,

        “Quoting the Pittsburgh Declaration at an Orthodox Jew would be like quoting the Principles and Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association at a Roman Catholic.”

        Exactly, and how is quoting the NT to an atheist (which, last I checked, Jaybird was) any different?

        My point was that you don’t get fruitful debate unless people proceed from the same premises, and since the Hebrew scriptures are under discussion then it seems like they’re the place to start. And there’s plenty of Jewish discussion on this issue before Christianity arrives on the scene, especially in the later prophets and the Apocrypha (which are not scriptural for Jews, of course).

        But perhaps there’s no room for common premises at all, given that I prefer Buffalo Trace to Maker’s Mark.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Paul B says:

          @Paul B, the instant discussion is whether homosexuality is compatible with Christianity. You can be an atheist and have that discussion, but if you aren’t willing to do it in terms of Christianity, don’t bother. I won’t.Report

          • Avatar Paul B in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

            @Ryan Davidson,

            I imagine that Jaybird’s inquiry arose from such a discussion, but the big bold header at the top of this particular post indicates that it is concerned with “the applicability of certain aspects of the Old Testament in modernity.”Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Paul B says:

              @Paul B, yes, and the actual article is riddled with references to the New Testament. Let’s not be pedantic.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Paul B says:

              @Paul B, If it’s possible, Paul, I’d really like to read your thoughts on the question or any question. There’s a dearth of classic Hebrew thinking here at the League that needs addressed.
              Also, I just bought a bottle of Buffalo Trace, which I’ll open Sat. night…cheers!Report

            • Avatar Paul B in reply to Paul B says:

              @Robert Cheeks,

              Looks like Rufus just posted on Genesis, so I’m sure we’ll have opportunities for discussion as he moves through the OT — although as always I can’t promise anything more than moderately-informed dilettantism on my part.

              And I think you’ll enjoy the BT, but to be honest I pictured you as a white lightning kind of guy!Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Paul B says:

              @Paul B, “White Lightn'”, dude…! No, I favor the bourbon family, not crazy about Scotch, and avoid all other hard liquors.
              Sadly, I am given to sins of the flesh and consequently I prefer to practice restraint. I gave up smoking the Honduran/Dom. Republic gift from God, but took up drink. I’m figurin’ that I can quit alcohol just before my liver gives out, which should be when I’m in my eighties, where upon I can either take up the cigar or do doobies in rememberance of the hazy sixties.
              The wife and I discovered BT about two years ago at the Pittsburgh airport in conversation with a retired army dude…it’s rather potable, and good for what ails you.
              BTW, I spent the summer of ’57 in Harrison, NY, does that ring a bell?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Paul B says:

          @Paul B, Paul, the original question that brought about the guest post was a question regarding Christianity and their approach to their centures of doctrines. Ya can’t really take the Christianity out of the conversation when it’s the subject otherwise you end up talking about nothing.

          As to whether any of this would be remotely compelling to an athiest or an agnostic? Probably not, but the point was a discussion on Christianity so the assumption of belief is a given.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Paul B says:

          @Paul B, Exactly, and how is quoting the NT to an atheist (which, last I checked, Jaybird was) any different?

          Because I’m interested in having this debate on his terms.

          I mean, as an atheist, it’d be easy for me to say “but this isn’t representative of reality!”

          That’s not interesting to me. What’s interesting to me is this stuff on its own terms.Report

          • Avatar John Henry in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, I think what Jaybird’s saying is that it’s easy to dispute premises and disagree with someone. What’s harder – and more challenging intellectually – is to accept the premises someone else offers, live in their world for a little while, and explore the tensions and/or inconsistencies in their world view on its own terms. In my experience, you learn a lot more that way, and you have more interesting conversations.Report

          • Avatar Paul B in reply to Jaybird says:

            Fair enough, but Bob didn’t give any context for your initial question and didn’t actually address homosexuality in his post, so I took the terms of the debate to be a little broader than they turned out to be.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Hey Ryan, down here.

    For starters, you’re making assumptions about what I believe that are not accurate. I make a distinction between homosexuality as a state of being and homosexual conduct as a volitional moral action just the same way as I make that distinction between alcoholism and drunkenness or between men’s general desire to sleep with anything with two legs. The former are the results of the breaking of creation by the fall, i.e. things are not the way they are supposed to be. No one is to be punished for those things. Instead, support is to be given.

    My problem with that is that I make distinctions between many different types of homosexuality.

    When Larry Craig is in a bathroom stall in an airport bathroom giving back to his constituents, I’d say that such is a violation of the natural order and qualifies as being akin to alcoholic drunkenness.

    When Ted Haggard is stealing away from his wife to go up to Denver to smoke meth and engage in acts with a male prostitute, that’s akin to alcoholic drunkenness.

    Here’s my point:

    When two guys decide that they want to spend a lifetime together, in good times and in bad, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do they part… well, my comparison to that would be to having a glass of wine with dinner.

    You know. A thing that is a good thing.

    Alcoholic drunkenness is bad. It’s not the way we ought to live.

    A glass of wine with dinner? That’s a good thing. It’s good for the blood, it’s good for the stomach, it’s good for the digestion, it’s good for the mood, and it’s good to eat with someone you love.

    The fact that it is possible for someone to pound a liter of wine and puke all over the porch does not make a glass of wine with dinner something bad in and of itself.

    But the fact that those conditions may have some biological basis does not mean that acting on those impulses is okay. Scripture doesn’t actually treat the concept of homosexual desire at all–or if it does, it simply lumps it in with any and all other desires for prohibited sexual activity–and it doesn’t treat homosexual conduct as being any different that most other forms of egregious adultery. Having sex with another man’s wife, having sex with another man, and murdering someone are all covenant capital offenses in the Old Testament. There’s really no difference.

    But we live under a new covenant now, do we not?

    So don’t think I’m singling out homosexual conduct as somehow special or especially bad. I don’t think that at all. But you’re arguing quite strenuously that what Christianity has always considered to be sinful conduct is, in fact, not sinful. So I’m pushing back against that.

    I’m arguing quite strenuously that there are a great many things, over the years, that have been considered to be sinful conduct that have fallen through a phase of “well, it’s certainly not a good thing!” on their way to “well, nobody’s perfect”.

    Divorce in the 70’s was treated *COMPLETELY* differently than it is today. It was treated differently *FROM THE PULPIT*.

    Today? Well, peeps get ‘vorced. What can you do?

    As to how we know that actual execution is no longer the appropriate punishment for a covenant capital offense, those sorts of judicial things fell away when God’s people stopped being an earthly nation. With the exception of the Renaissance and early modern period, the church has never executed people. The punishment for a covenant capital offense is now excommunication, not execution.

    So did God change his mind on whether such acts deserve the death penalty?

    I mean, I’m sure that God is down with saying “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” and everything but did God change his mind on what punishments ought to be given? Was there a “if it’s generally acceptable to your society, if you know what I mean” thing going on?

    Because I missed that part.

    But that aside, you’re again taking a reading of the law which is not consistent with the orthodox understanding of the law. Shellfish, pigs, rabbits, etc. were not unclean because they were unhealthy or unsanitary, but because God had chosen to set his people apart in certain ways which seemed insane to the people around them. So the fact that we know how to eat shellfish more safely now is completely irrelevant and has nothing whatsoever with why the dietary laws were abrogated in the first century.

    We’re in the 21st Century now. Is that enough time for us to be able to abrogate the most egregious of the sexual laws?

    Or do you know in your heart that, seriously, God still wants us to keep those (though He has since softened his stance on the death penalty with regards to homosexuality as well He ought to have done).

    If you read the Pentateuch as somehow based on scientific, hygenic, or evolutionary principles, you’ve missed the point. The “reasons which no longer apply” are the fact that God’s people are no longer set aside in the same outward ways that they were before Christ.

    Except, of course, you know that we have to keep *THESE* laws that used similar terminology (abomination) for bad things while, at the same time, other things that were once abominable are, we now know, “clean”.

    But you’ve also ignored my point that dietary laws are treated differently from sexual laws. Christians have always thought that this means that God thinks the two are different. The Ten Commandments have always been regarded as the core of the theistic moral code by both Christians and Jews and, wouldn’t you know it, sexual purity is on there.

    And what’s the point of the sexual purity?

    Don’t cheat. Don’t commit adultery. Drink from your own cistern, if you know what I mean.

    One would think that reading a lifetime commitment as compatible with the Bible is less tortured than one’s justifications for why everybody else needs to get the planks out of their eyes. (“What about the speck in your own?” “We’re all sinners.”)

    As far as your rant on Paul’s view of marriage, a couple of points.

    First, I don’t have to go to verse six. All I need is right there in verse seven, i.e. some have one gift, some another.

    What about homosexuals who have the gift of “being married to each other”?

    Second, you’re acting as if 1 Cor. 7 is the only thing Paul has to say about Christian marriage. It isn’t. There’s 1 Tim. 4, Eph. 5, Col. 3, etc. If you ignore all of these passages, where Paul seems to think very highly of marriage–it’s a picture of Christ and the church, after all–you can maybe get 1 Cor. 7 to say what you want it to, but that read is not only contrary to Gen. 2 but to the rest of Paul’s own writing.

    Anyway, since you bring them up in a document dump, let’s break each of these down.

    1st Timothy 4!
    American Standard Version!

    1 But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,

    2 through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron;

    3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth.

    4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving:

    5 for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.

    Heh. You probably didn’t mean verse 3.

    Anyway, let’s read the part you probably *DID* mean… mmm mmm… huh. The rest of the chapter doesn’t really talk about marriage.

    Hey! 5:23 talks about the importance of drinking wine! I presume he doesn’t mean to drunkenness, but a glass with dinner.

    You know, because it’s a good thing in its own right.

    Let’s go to Ephesus.

    Yeah, yeah, husbands, wives, the church…
    I’m not seeing how this precludes gay marriage, dude. I mean, yeah, leave the parents and cleave to the wife… but we live under a New Covenant now. Surely we can allow for two dudes.

    Colossians. (Golly, dude got around.)

    12 Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering;

    13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye:

    14 and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.

    15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful.

    Seems like this is a recipe for allowing gay marriage.

    The stuff about husbands and wives seems like decent advice, but hardly “and that’s why we can’t allow gay marriage” kinda stuff.

    Woo! Colossians 3:18!!! Yeah, I’ll read that to Maribou later.

    Gotta say, weak sauce… certainly when compared to two dudes who encompass 1st Corinthians 13.

    Third, it’s interesting that the only people who think that Paul disagrees with the standard Christian–and Orthodox Jewish, as far as I know–concept of marriage discussed in Genesis are… people who think that Paul is wrong about a bunch of other stuff too. As I’m discounting that as a basis for doing theology, I don’t see any real reason to engage it here. If your argument is predicated on a hermeneutic which is inconsistent with a faithful version of Christianity, I don’t need to refute it. To argue that Christian sexual ethics ought to approve of homosexual conduct, you’re going to have to start from Christian assumptions, and not simply granting for the purposes of argument that God exists. You’ve indicated elsewhere in the thread that you want to do this, but it seems that you’re only willing to do it to the point that you can still get what you want.

    I don’t know that allowing two dudes to get married is automatically inconsisten with a faithful version of Christianity.

    All it takes is a belief that what God is looking for is a lifetime commitment, monogamy, trust, love, all that crap.

    As far as Romans goes, you’re still taking the position that “not passing judgment” means that we are prohibited from declaring anything to be sinful. You’ve ignored my argument on this point. If you actually look at Romans 14, Paul seems to be talking about things which the apostles did not consider to be moral issues any longer–mostly with eating and observance of certain days–not about whether or not sexual ethics are entirely personal matters. So on the issue of eating meat or certain holidays, each one should be convinced in his own mind, because those things don’t matter. But there is no suggestion anywhere in Scripture that sexual ethics doesn’t matter.

    Well, when it comes to “sin”, it makes sense to try to figure out the mind of God, right?

    We know why there were food taboos… and we know why the food taboos were abandoned.

    When it comes to the sexual taboos, I have to ask how we know that the sexual taboos have *NOT* been abandoned. Not just the homosexuality one, but they had all sorts of sexual taboos. Did you know that a couple of modular people can be exiled for making the beast when she is being visited by the muse? It’s true!

    Do you think that a couple of married folks ought to be exiled if they go for it whilst she is riding the cotton pony?

    Do you think that God cares and will address these couples on Judgment Day and ask them why they broke His commandments?

    Because, lemme tell ya, when I was in my 20’s… well, this probably isn’t the place for that story.

    But since you seem to like the rest of Romans so much… what about Romans 7? Your entire argument seems to be of the form that because grace has come, the law is obsolete, and we may do as we like. Paul’s response? “By no means!” The law cannot save, but it remains to declare to us what is righteous. We are not under it, but we cannot forget its teachings.

    It’s not that because grace has come that the law is obsolete… it’s that, since grace has come, WE NOW LIVE UNDER A NEW COVENANT. “Love” has a lot to do with it.

    This will allow for stuff like two dudes who love each other to be in a marriage together.

    I’m not arguing for websites dedicated to no eye-contact trysts next to the dumpster behind Shoney’s. I’m not arguing for the stuff that Larry Craig or Ted Haggard did. I’m arguing for two people entering into a covenant together, in God, for a life duration and I don’t see how allowing for such a thing is any more out there than an interpretation of scripture that allows for going to Red Lobster on Sunday after church.

    As far as whether I’m “in the inerrant camp,” I’m more in the infalliable camp, i.e. I believe that everything necessary for faith and life is contained in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence discoverable therefrom, but that specific technical details (geography, weights and measures, etc.) need not be strictly accurate where they aren’t actually poetic. But yes, I do believe that the Spirit guided the authors of Scripture such that what is in there is what God wanted to be there, that the copies we have are reasonably accurate representations of the authors’ original writings, that the entire work constitutes a consistent and coherent whole, and that no part is materially inconsistent with any other. This is the Christian doctrine of Scripture.

    Fair enough.

    But this leads me to the conclusion that you know that things once abominable can become clean through God.

    It seems to me that an honest reading of scripture would allow for such an interpretation.

    If you can’t disagree with me using those assumptions than our differences are axiomatic, and there is no possible argument either of us can make which will convince the other. But mine is the orthodox position and is in keeping with historic Christianity, while the positions and you have outlined here are neither. You may not care–I don’t particularly–but nothing you have said here suggests that historic Christianity should embrace gay marriage as compatible with its teachings on sexual ethics. Quite the contrary, you need to rely on radically liberal hermeneutical moves to get there. You’re more than welcome to do that–you won’t be the first or the last–but anyone who does leaves the historic church for one of their own imagining.

    Historic Christianity burned witches. Historic Christianity chased Jews out of town. Historic Christianity did a lot of stuff. “Oh, that’s not the *AUTHENTIC* Christianity”, I hear you say.

    If I went to those who engaged in such and challenged them, they would have disagreed about as stridently as you would if I questioned your Christianity, I reckon.

    Thanks for not killing me in order to save my soul as they might have done. Mighty “liberal” of ya.

    As far as the rather personal suggestion that anyone who believes that homosexual conduct is wrong is just a hypocritical Pharisee, in addition to being an unseemly ad hominem, it’s also just wrong. If one is truly convinced that particular actions are sinful, i.e. that they rupture the sinner’s relationship with God, then the loving thing to do is to say so. It is not loving to permit someone who is on a course of self destruction to remain there. It is not loving to paper over sin. The loving thing to do is to issue a call to repentance. Which is what Jesus does in the Gospels, what Peter and Paul do in Acts, and what both do in their respective epistles. Not about homosexual conduct in particular, I grant you, but certainly about sexual immorality. So this idea that Christians never, ever tell someone that what they are doing is wrong is just wrongheaded. What Christians never do is seek to make themselves better than others by pointing out others’ sins. But the fact that many in the modern church do precisely this does not actually justify the sinful acts.

    It’s not that the belief that homosexual conduct is wrong is necessarily wrong.

    I can come up with examples that I find worth condemning. Indeed, I’ve listed names IN THIS VERY ESSAY.

    My problem is the whole “oh, two guys, life partnership? That’s just not kosher” attitude coming from someone who has no problem with mixed fabrics, pork products, or Red Lobster.

    It strikes me as obviously legalistic to the detriment of the well-being of others and demonstrative of none of the fruits of the spirit. Sure, in theory there might be a good way to rail against this particular sexual sin in such a way that shows love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… but I haven’t seen it.

    I’ve seen snide jokes, rude comments, questionable assertions coming from folks who know that the law no longer applies to them because, hey, they live under a New Covenant.

    If you want to know what this looks like from the outside, that’s what it looks like.

    Being assholes doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them assholes.

    Let’s stop talking about Paul for a second and talk about that other guy.

    Matthew 7:15-23 is exceptionally relevant here. The debate over gay marriage has produced much by the established church (and Historic Christianity has produced even more).

    It ain’t grapes.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, I think I’m about done here. We’re operating from different axioms. I’ve tried, as best as I can, to point out how yours are inconsistent with orthodox Christianity. You don’t seem to be getting that point, and after re-reading my posts a number of times, I really don’t think the fault is mine. I’ll pick at a few points, but consider this my last contribution.

      Your parsing of Paul’s other epistles misses my point and doesn’t generate any interesting ones for me, so I’m going to skip that.

      Here’s my point:

      When two guys decide that they want to spend a lifetime together, in good times and in bad, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do they part… well, my comparison to that would be to having a glass of wine with dinner.

      Sorry. The Bible just doesn’t treat it that way, in either Testament. As I’ve said ad nauseum thus far, and as you have entirely failed to notice, the only way of generating such a reading is to start with hermeneutical premises which violate various doctrines of Scripture.

      Divorce in the 70?s was treated *COMPLETELY* differently than it is today. It was treated differently *FROM THE PULPIT*.

      Today? Well, peeps get ‘vorced. What can you do?

      I think this is a problem. The Christian traditions that still maintain some connection with their history still think divorce is an evil, but most American denominations are basically making it up as they go along, so it’s not all that surprising that things have eroded a bit.
      So did God change his mind on whether such acts deserve the death penalty?

      No. The administration of the covenant has changed, but the magnitude of sin and its deserved punishment have not. The traditional view on Old Testament punishments is that they are useful commentaries on how God views the severity of sin–so a capital offense in the Old Testament merits excommunication in the new–but that just as we no longer sacrifice rams, we no longer stone adulterers. But we do excommunicate them if they do not repent. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. The church isn’t very big on sin these days. Except on homosexual conduct. That, in inexplicably to me, gets more than its fair share of attention.

      I don’t know that allowing two dudes to get married is automatically inconsistent with a faithful version of Christianity.

      All it takes is a belief that what God is looking for is a lifetime commitment, monogamy, trust, love, all that crap.

      Sure, and a belief that we are entirely free to choose who that person will be. Which is a very modern thing to believe, but not one which finds a ton of support in Scripture. You’re starting with the wrong axiom and thus getting the wrong answer.

      We know why there were food taboos… and we know why the food taboos were abandoned.

      This right here is your biggest problem. Because I completely disagree with your take here, and you’ve completely failed to deal with my objections over the course of at least two exchanges. That’s one of the primary reasons that I’m done here, because you continue to fail to take up the most serious parts of my critique while advancing the same ones over and over again.

      Like this one:

      My problem is the whole “oh, two guys, life partnership? That’s just not kosher” attitude coming from someone who has no problem with mixed fabrics, pork products, or Red Lobster.

      Your understanding of the way Christian theology treats the law in both Old and New Testaments is completely inadequate. As a result, your understanding of the transition from old to new covenants is also inadequate. I haven’t the time or even probably the ability to bring you up to speed there, but you are basing your beliefs about the biblical characterization of homosexual conduct on some pretty seriously secular readings of the Bible. Which is entirely unpersuasive for any person of faith.

      We’re in the 21st Century now. Is that enough time for us to be able to abrogate the most egregious of the sexual laws?

      No, I don’t. I don’t think the passage of time has anything to do with it.

      Or do you know in your heart that, seriously, God still wants us to keep those

      Yes, I do.

      (though He has since softened his stance on the death penalty with regards to homosexuality as well He ought to have done).

      And that right there is the problem with your entire argument here. You presume to know what is just rather than letting God tell you. You’ve been doing it the whole time. “Well, your reading of Scripture yields what I consider to be an unjust outcome, so obviously that can’t be right. I’ll find one that gives me the outcome that I consider to be just, having assumed that homosexual marriage is the only just outcome.”

      I’ve got no interest in conversation along those lines. I’m out.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

        @Ryan Davidson, we are operating from different axioms.

        For example, I believe that if a Christian believes that “we live under a New Covenant now” for his junk, he ought be a little more willing to explore the possibilities that “we live under a New Covenant now” for the junk of others.

        I’ve tried, as best as I can, to point out how yours are inconsistent with orthodox Christianity.

        I’ve no doubt that my views are inconsistent with orthodox Christianity as it is currently practiced… but I don’t think that it is inconsistent with orthodox Christianity as Christ taught it.

        For example, you say: “No. The administration of the covenant has changed, but the magnitude of sin and its deserved punishment have not.”

        That’s a direct quotation. From you.

        You, right here, have said that it is your belief that God thinks that homosexuals who have practiced the act of homosexuality ought to be put to death.

        Ipse Dixit.

        If it is not possible for us to have a conversation, it’s because of such things.

        I am an atheist and cannot claim to know the mind of God… but from my readings of the various testaments I have come to the conclusion that orthodox Christianity has abandoned the whole “yeah, people ought to be stoned for committing adultery” attitude.

        One piece of evidence I’d use for that is the whole so-called member of the Trinity actually encountering, for reals, a chick caught in the act of adultery.

        He did not, in fact, believe that the death penalty ought to have been administered.

        This *RIGHT FUCKING HERE* tells me that your knowledge of the Mind of God is pretty fucked up.

        You do not remind me of the guy in the Gospels.
        You remind me of the people who showed up in the crowd discussing how The Law says that this woman ought be put to death.

        That right there ought give you pause and make you wonder whether you aren’t the guy that your so-called Christ was screaming at.

        No. Instead you are certain that it’s all of us sodomites who deserve to be stoned.

        And you don’t even fucking see it.

        That’s why we can’t have a conversation, my man.

        It ain’t because of me.Report

        • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, dude, that’s grace. Non-administration of a deserved punishment. You don’t have to subscribe to the concept, but it’s pretty central to Christianity.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to lukas says:

            @lukas, don’t tell *ME* that!Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, grace makes all the difference between saying that you deserve death and stoning you. Everyone deserves death, according to Christianity.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @lukas, there is a huge difference between the acknowledgement that should we treat everyone according to his dessert, who should ‘scape whipping and actually, you know, endorsing capital punishment for homosexuals.

              See, for example, countries where they have capital punishment for homosexuals.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, no one here has endorsed capital punishment for homosexuals. You can put that straw man right back where it came from.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @lukas, here’s a quotation:

              “No. The administration of the covenant has changed, but the magnitude of sin and its deserved punishment have not. ”

              The deserved punishment for homosexuality has not changed, Lukas.

              I am not making this shit up or taking quotations out of context.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, yes you are.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Ryan Davidson, then please, I beg you, explain what you meant when you said “the magnitude of sin and its deserved punishment have not (changed)”.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, you’re being willfully obtuse here. The punishment, though deserved, is abrogated through grace. That’s exactly what Christ did with the adulteress.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @lukas, the punishment, though deserved, is abrogated through grace.

              This is where you and I differ.

              I do not believe that a homosexual who consummates his relationship with another man deserves the death penalty.

              Grace abrogation or no.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, I don’t believe this, actually. But if you’re going to engage Christians on their own terms, you’ll have to understand what they believe and why. Since God has been fairly explicit about the punishment he deems appropriate for hot man-on-man action, you’ll go nowhere arguing that point with an orthodox Christian.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @lukas, my problem is that engaging Christians on their own terms involves reading their texts and then having them explain to you, at length, why the text does not mean what it says, except where it does.

              The food taboos?
              We live under a new covenant now.
              The sex taboos?
              God totally still means those and, as a matter of fact, the administration of the covenant has changed, but the magnitude of sin and its deserved punishment have not.

              I have had conversations with devout (perhaps even orthodox!) Christians who have explained to me that Jesus did not, in fact, turn water into wine. Some argued that the point of the story is allegory. Some argued that Jesus turned the water into really good grape juice. How did they know these things despite what scripture said?

              Well, it comes down to what they know in their heart… which is how they know it’s okay to eat bacon and wear polyester and date the wife whilst Aunt Flo is in town but homosexuality?

              Oh, God totally still feels the exact same way about that that he felt in 4000BC. They know this in their heart.Report

            • Avatar lukas in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, well, yes. It’s an old text with 2000 years’ worth of interpretive tradition attached to it that defines orthodoxy. You don’t have to like it, but there it is.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, I don’t really think you get to explicitly adopt a radical revision of Christianity and the lecture me about not being true to the spirit of Christianity.

          I’m just sayin’.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

            @Ryan Davidson, see, here’s the wacky thing, I think that saying “it’s not my place to judge others, certainly not when I have work to do on myself” is *THAT* radical. One might even argue that it’s the point of Romans.

            I don’t think that arguing that legalism is secondary to Love In Action is particularly radical either.

            Now, compared to Christianity-As-Practiced, yeah.

            It’s probably pretty out there.

            You people would crucify Jesus twice as fast this time around.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, now you’re just getting nasty.

              If you chose to interpret my words in the least charitable manner possible, twisting them into the worst possible interpretation, which you have done throughout, there’s no benefit here for anyone.

              I’m done.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Ryan Davidson, another difference between us is the whole “there’s a charitable reading to ‘homosexuals deserve the death penalty prescribed in Leviticus'” thing.

              If you remind folks more of pharisees and sadducees than of Jesus?

              You’re doing it wrong.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I mean, lemme tell ya, I thought the whole “surely you don’t believe that homosexuals deserve the death penalty” was an incendiary question.

    The fact that it got anything but a “of course they don’t!” is fairly shocking to me.

    I was hoping to use a “well, if you don’t believe that they deserve the death penalty, then we agree that God can change His mind about abominations the way that He changed it about those other abominations” kinda argument.

    Instead I’m stuck here flabbergasted.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, really? Really? You’re completely incapable of coming up with an interpretation of that sentence that leads to a different result?

      I think there’s some confusion which arises out of your use of the term “death penalty.” It seems that you’re probably getting at civil punishment, which I don’t actually care much about. But the church isn’t to go around killing people. It isn’t an earthly government the way the kingdom of Israel was. Again, the administration has changed, but the magnitude and nature of the offense has not. In fact, I’ve already said that the covenant “death penalty” is excommunication. As far as that goes, I absolutely believe that unrepentant homosexual conduct is grounds for excommunication. So, for that matter, is any sin to which a person clings and will not repent, be it old-fashioned promiscuity, unwarranted no-fault divorce, or when it comes down to it, any sinful behavior a person will not acknowledge is sinful.

      I don’t think that God has actually “changed his mind” about “abominations” at all. The abrogation of the dietary laws has nothing to do with advances in technology or changes in culture, and God never seems to have viewed them with the same degree of seriousness as sexual ethics. Again, you eat oysters, you’re unclean until evening–you don’t even need to do anything to be clean again, it seems–but you sleep with anyone but your wife, and you’re either exiled or executed.

      The two are simply not on equal footing. The Mosaic law, as Christians understand it anyways, contains two sorts of regulations. One kind are implementations of basic and fundamental moral principles, embodied in the Ten Commandments and commented upon in the rest of the law. These were the law before Sinai and are the law after Pentecost. The other are regulations specific to Israel as a historical people. So the temple, the sacrifices, the ceremonial cleanliness, etc., all of which were intended to teach them about Jesus, aren’t necessary anymore, because Jesus has come. They were declared to be abominations, not because there is anything inherently wrong with them, but because God’s people were to be different. There was some confusion about that in Acts, as the apostles were slow to realize that the ceremonial aspects of the law were no longer necessary, and it took a vision given to Peter for them to get it through their heads.

      But nowhere in the New Testament is there even the slightest suggestion that anything about sexual ethics has been modified even a little bit. Those, the church has always believed, are on the same level with the prohibitions against murder and idolatry. In that sense the church’s position is no different from the Orthodox Jewish one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

        @Ryan Davidson, But nowhere in the New Testament is there even the slightest suggestion that anything about sexual ethics has been modified even a little bit. Those, the church has always believed, are on the same level with the prohibitions against murder and idolatry.

        Which brings us back to Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery.

        Who do you think Jesus had the most ire for in that situation?

        Jesus, throughout his recorded life, spent years railing against pharisees and sadducees who spent their time railing on the law. Whenever we see him showing exquisite compassion, it’s to tax collectors, prostitutes, and folks that otherwise drove the pharisees and sadducees up the wall.

        His focus was always on the people who knew they were sinners and he railed against whited sepulchres.

        When I look at the debate over gay marriage, I look at the two different sides and ask “Which side would Jesus be arguing on?”

        Which side do you think he’d be arguing on, Ryan?

        The side that keeps hammering the law and talking about how gay people need to be excommunicated?Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, (Said in love) Jesus would argue agaisnt the ‘sin.’ Because ‘sin’ separates man from God.
          And, he might embrace the man who pointed out the ‘sin’ in love and compassion, the man who prayed that the ‘sin’ stop, that the heart of the ‘sinner’ would be changed to the obedient heart of the lover of God.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yes.

          Jesus never, ever makes light of sin. The point of Jesus actions with the woman caught in adultery–ironic that you keep coming back to it as it’s one of two points in John’s gospel with serious textual problems–is not that adultery is okay. It’s that the attempt to enforce the old punishment for her sin was no longer appropriate.

          More to the point, how exactly was she caught in adultery by a crowd? Adultery isn’t generally the sort of thing that you do even today, much less two thousand years ago. Jesus seems to be implicating them not of sin in general, but of somehow being involved in the very same sin for which they wish to stone her. Were they watching? Lying in wait? The implication is not mostly that because they have done wrong at some point that they should not condemn her, but that because they are somehow involved in the very sin at issue that their condemnation covers them as well. This reading is not required by the text, but it’s plausible enough, and yours isn’t required either.

          But more generally, Jesus was compassionate towards prostitutes/tax collectors/what-have-you because they were repentant–and the text says exactly that–not just because they were prostitutes/tax collectors/what-have-you. And Jesus has no problem with Nicodemus or any of the other Pharisees who came to him. It is people who know they are broken and desire healing and forgiveness, regardless of their status or position, that are dear to him.

          If you think that I want to excommunicate anyone who says they have homosexual desires, you just aren’t paying attention, continuing your campaign to ignore those parts of my comments you can’t use to make me out to be a terrible person. Anyone who has sexual desires–or while we’re at it any desires–which they recognize violate God’s law, regardless of who or what those desires are for, and wants help with their brokenness is more than welcome in the church. Romans 7 again.

          It’s only the people who say that they have no sin for whom there is no help or compassion. And the gay person who insists that their desires be recognized as legitimate by the church even to the point of participating in marriage falls into that category just as much as the Pharisees you don’t like.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

            @Ryan Davidson, there’s only one person kicking people out of the church in this conversation, Ryan.

            It’s you.

            Are you so secure in your readings of scripture that you are confident enough to throw the first ex-communicative stone?

            ordinary-gentlemen.com/2009/12/the-manhattan-declaration/

            This link has my take on the whole parable. 11:55 AM.

            My take is that one of the people holding rocks was the man engaged in adultery with the woman. He was able to provide eyewitness proof that the woman was engaged in adultery. All sorts of bodypart witness.

            And Jesus saw the dynamic for what it was.

            People were using the Law as a cudgel and the very sinners were holding rocks while waiting for him to stop drawing in the dirt.

            I can’t help but notice in your discussion of the importance of excommunication (but not capital punishment!) of homosexuals the power dynamic.

            Do you think that Jesus might have noticed it?Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, whatever you think people opposing gay marriage “reminds you of” doesn’t even register as being potentially relevant, as you have not evidenced yourself as being anything like a reliable or orthodox interpreter of Scripture. But more relevant for our discussion, you have failed to engage even a single one of my proffered interpretations.

              Which means our conversations go something like this:
              Me: “Gay marriage is incompatible with an orthodox understanding of Christianity.”
              You: “But if I introduce this deeply unorthodox reading of a few passages, I can get a different result!”
              Me: “Yes, but your readings are deeply unorthodox. This is how that passage is traditionally understood.”
              You: “You’re a bigoted Pharisee!”

              This is beginning to grow tiresome.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Ryan Davidson, you fail to grasp my argument, Ryan.

              I am saying that your “reliable” and “orthodox” reading of scripture is transparently self-serving and you are very much not letting your yes be yes nor your no be no.

              When it comes to Levitical Laws that might have an effect upon your life, you explain how trivial those laws are and how we live under a new covenant… and when it comes to Paul’s teachings about judging the sins of others, you explain, once again, how scripture doesn’t apply to you (at least not like that).

              In every reading of scripture, your own, personal, circumstances are extraordinary while, when it comes to reading scripture that applies to others, you suddenly transubstantiate into a strict textualist.

              You focus on the words of the Law and Paul to the exclusion of your so-called Messiah and dance to the importance of your new covenant when it is convenient for you to do so and to the importance of pointing out the sins of others and kicking them out of this new covenant when your mood changes.

              I have no doubt that your reading of scripture is “reliable”, “orthodox”, and “traditional”.

              You have millions of friends on the road you trod.

              Have you noticed how wide the road you trod happens to be?Report

            • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, to reiterate:

              Me: “This is how this passage is understood.”
              You: “You’re a bigoted Pharisee! You hate Jesus, and Jesus hates you! You’re going to hell!”

              Now, see, if we wanted to have an actual discussion, you’d attempt to actually deal with my interpretations on a textual level. Maybe bring other portions of Scripture to bear. Somehow show, using ideas that I haven’t called into question, that your interpretation is correct. As I’ve said before, your entire argument rests on unorthodox readings of three key passages: Leviticus 11, John 8, and Romans 1-3. I’ve rejected your reading of those passages multiple times, but you respond that your reading of those passages makes me a bad person. You’ve managed the somewhat unusual move of begging the ad hominem question.

              This, I’ve finally concluded, is either evidence of being slow on the uptake or evidence of bad faith. I don’t really care which at this point. Mr. Cheeks was far too charitable, though it is to his credit for being so. It’s also to his credit for abandoning this line of discussion before I did.

              I really am done this time.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Ryan Davidson, I do not necessarily accept your “orthodox” reading as authoritative.

              For example, Paul’s take on marriage where he said “you know, I wish all you people could be like me but if you have to get married, you have to get married” was deliberately twisted by you in an effort to get that sentence to be read in accordance with Genesis. You came out and said as much.

              Having demonstrated that, it’s no stretch to wonder if you aren’t twisting more scripture to fit your preconceptions of what is “orthodox”.

              “Orthodoxy”, in this case, seems to mean “tradition”… which is exceptionally odd because it is, at its base, a discussion about why tradition only applies to other people.

              When it comes to Levitical Law, you’ve established that the food laws don’t apply to you. You’ve established that the clothing laws don’t apply to you.

              This strikes me as fairly interesting, given your adherence to “orthodoxy”.

              My problem is not your “orthodoxy”, it’s your cafeteria-style adherence to it.

              You know exactly which laws don’t apply to you.
              You know exactly which laws apply to others.

              For what it’s worth, there is a long tradition of this kind of “orthodoxy”.

              On this we agree.

              Where we differ is whether or not our “new” Covenant has evolved to the point where homosexuals ought to be allowed chaste (but not celibate) relationships.

              You’ve yet to successfully explain the true reasons behind your knowledge of what laws don’t apply to you beyond how “trivial” they are and how even the people who had the Law apply to them didn’t really see such as a big deal.

              I’m an atheist. I know that the Law doesn’t apply to you.

              It’s cool.

              What infuriates me is your assertions that the Law applies to others even as you explain, hem, and haw about how it doesn’t apply to you.

              As an atheist, my reading of the Gospels focus on how Jesus took the side of the downtrodden *EVERY TIME* over the side of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When he told parables about “sinners”, he focused on how the father of the prodigal ran down the road to meet him and *NOT* asking whether the prodigal was still gay. When he told the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin, it was always one of joy and not one of making certain that everything was “kosher”. When it came to tax collectors, and prostitutes, he spent more time being the example than explaining to them how wrong they were.

              And you explain how it’s your job to excommunicate people from the church.

              You’re doing it wrong, dude.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

        @Ryan Davidson,

        I think there’s some confusion which arises out of your use of the term “death penalty.” It seems that you’re probably getting at civil punishment, which I don’t actually care much about.

        But you do care about civil marriage? If you don’t, well, no harm no foul. You can believe whatever makes you happy, and no one has anything to say about it. If, on the other hand, you want your definition of marriage to apply to people who don’t share your beliefs, then we have issues. You need to explain why your beliefs should be specially privileged, and arguments internal to orthodoxy are ipso facto irrelevant.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          @Mike Schilling, no, I don’t. The question is not whether legalizing gay marriage is appropriate. The question is whether gay marriage is compatible with an orthodox understanding of Christianity.

          Personally, I think legalizing gay marriage is the wrong thing to do, but I’m not losing much sleep over it either way. Babylon will do what Babylon will do.Report

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