Summary - and a surprising conclusion?
I’d appreciate some sort of summary of the arguments put forward so far on this forum topic (Homosexuality and the new creation).
1. As I see it, Andrew began by advocating an acceptance of practising homosexuals in the church. The church is a ‘sign’ of the kingdom, but not its full expression, and as such will continue to contain some/much of the ‘fallenness’ of creation - homosexuality being a ‘fallen’ sexuality.
The forum thread has seen views develop which call this proposition strongly into question, not least by Andrew himself.
2. Elsewhere, Andrew has argued with ingenuity and insight for a traditional biblical stance towards homosexuality. The parallels between Romans 1:18-27 and Genesis 1-3 point to a much more broadly based argument by Paul than a merely anti-gentile Jewish polemic. The rolling out of the same theme (creation fruitfulness/barrenness in their widest sense) elsewhere in Romans suggests that the passage is a major plank in a theology which integrates not just O.T. but God’s creation purposes - in the old as well as the new creation.
3. The coining of the word ‘arsenokoitai’ in the 1 Corinthian and 1 Timothy passages as a compound of ‘arsenos’ and ‘koites’ found in the Leviticus passages (18:22 and 20:13) suggests something more than merely a contemporary culturally conditioned phenomenon. And I would appreciate if Andrew could perhaps spell out for the non-Greek linguists how the sentences look in Septuagint Greek Leviticus - to see how the words might be elided together to form the new compound.
4. The viewpoint as developed then also concurs with the strongest possible condemnations called down upon homosexual expression, especially in the Romans passage.
5. It is difficult then to see how any acceptance of homosexual practice would be possible in the church. Andrew argues that there are many ways in which we perhaps unwittingly condone sin or are even in collusion with it, (but not as free moral agents) and I can think of others. Eg by being part of the EU we collude with restrictive trade practices which affect the developing world.
I’m not sure that I agree with this point, however. Our relation to sin as moral agents changes drastically as soon as we become aware of sin. We have a responsibility to act in relation to unfair trade practices (or the plight of the poor, or injustice) in whatever ways it is within our ability to do so, eg by purchasing ‘fairtrade’ products in our supermarkets, or casting votes in European elections or referendums. In the same way, we have a reponsibility to act in relation to personal moral behaviour.
And herein lies the issue. The few gay people that I know did not, to the best of their knowledge, choose their disposition, nor was it a psychosis which arose from childhood experiences. Neither are they monsters who wish, by promiscuity and self-indulgence, to live a lifestyle of promiscuity and overthrowing the moral order. There is a gap between their experience and perception of who they are, and what the bible appears to say about them. If they take the bible seriously, and the explorations on this thread suggest it should be taken seriously, they will naturally want to explore alternative interpretations of the biblical passages. The essence of the revisionist position is that what the bible describes is not related to homosexuality as it is currently understood and experienced.
And herein lies my problem. The arguments on this site present some formidable obstacles to revisionist interpretations. There are formidable obstacles to Andrew’s proposals. So are we to revert to the old cliche, God ‘hates the sin, but loves the sinner’ - thus condemning the individual to a private prison of torment - in which the slightest sign of outward expression of what they are unable to avoid feeling inwardly draws down the strongest of God’s judgements? Are we to believe that Ivan is the true voice of the church’s moral conscience (and the voice of Jesus) after all?
Or is it just possible that at the (post?)eschatological parties thrown by Jesus, the guest-list would include amongst the notorious tax-collectors and prostitutes, some contemporary notable sinners - heterosexual and homosexual - paedophiles, even? Where would the line be drawn? And of those who came, many who thought they were sinners and weren’t, and those who thought they were righteous and weren’t? And am I here sketching a vision of a post-eschatological party which is Andrew’s vision of the church? And if so, how does it agree with the theological argument that has been developing so far? Would there have been any notorious sex offenders in Paul’s church? Maybe there were.
Maybe Paul’s whole argument in Romans 1:18ff is intended to say that this is indeed a scripturally based and understood perspective on the practices of the gentile world - in which Jews might well feel revulsion, personal superiority, and rightly identify with the righteous judgments which the argument leads to.
But maybe by the latter part of verse 29 they were becoming slightly uneasy. Maybe by the latter part of verse 31 they were distinctly uncomfortable : ‘unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful …’; maybe by the first verse of Chapter 2 they were on their knees crying for mercy for themselves, and forgiveness for the judgementalism they had shown towards their gentile neighbours and neighbouring culture.
Is it just possible, and especially if we take out the chapter break between Romans 1 and 2, and we let the argument flow to its natural conclusion - is it possible that Paul is leading us to a place which, whilst not denying the theology of his argument so far, is quite different from where we had expected it to go - and leads to very different conclusions from those commonly assumed?
(I am indebted to James Allison for this perspective on Romans 1:18ff, and also for the information on the interpretation of Romans 1:26 by the early church fathers, about which I think, I am somewhat less convinced)