Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dan and Matt Debate

In response to the previous post, Matt Kennedy, who some of you will recognize as the author of some of the articles over on Stand Firm, dropped in to point out that we were not differentiating between orientation and practicing in regards to gay bishops in the C of E.

Dan (toujoursdan) responded to Matt. The result was a fascinating debate.

To give you a taste, here is part of it regarding celibacy:

Matt: The standard for all is no sex outside the limits of heterosexual marriage. That applies to single heterosexual people be they "called to celibacy" or not as well as to homosexual people.

No one says that celibacy is easy, even for those called to it. It is in fact impossible for sinners to follow the law with perfection. The sermon on the mount poses moral challenges that none can meet. We are fallen. But, as believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ, we must at least admit that the law is good. Do our best with God's help to follow it and repent when we fall.

Dan: The standard for all is no sex outside the limits of heterosexual marriage. That applies to single heterosexual people be they "called to celibacy" or not as well as to homosexual people.

You can't compare the two.

Heterosexual people have the option to end their celibacy at any time by getting married. Gay people are in a completely different reality. We aren't allowed to get married in the church so celibacy is a permanent imposition, not a temporary one.

It's a very convenient catch-22.

No one says that celibacy is easy, even for those called to it. It is in fact impossible for sinners to follow the law with perfection. The sermon on the mount poses moral challenges that none can meet. We are fallen. But, as believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ, we must at least admit that the law is good. Do our best with God's help to follow it and repent when we fall.

And this sets up a duplicitous and guilt ridden mode for human intimacy. Having anonymous sex or slip ups (Tim Haggard style) becomes preferable to having a healthy relationship which may include sex as part of something bigger and ongoing.

That isn't what God wants for any of us.

Doesn't it just make more sense to assume that the Bible really is talking about pagan cult prostitution, like Paul makes pretty clear in Romans 1?
Which led to a very lengthy debate regarding Romans. Here's part of it:

Matt: You are missing the point of the text. Men and Women (in the true sense of the word are intended, not transgendered men)

"26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."

Dan: In context he was writing to the church in Rome whose biggest rival was the Cybele cult, one of Rome's biggest religion. The readers of this letter would see the juxtaposition of worshiping images of mortal man and animals [v.23, v.25] with orgies going on and associated it with what was going on around them. Considering that the castrated priests were called women and she, it's not clear.

Dan: 21-22: They claimed to be wise but were foolish:
The Cybele priests [called galli] claimed to tell people's fortunes, but everybody thought were mad due to their frenzied dancing and self-mutilation. The Greek texts describe the "mania" of their rituals.

23: They made images of man and animals to worship:
The Cybele/Attis temple statues were primarily of Attis and/or Cybele, who were typically surrounded by images of other animals, particularly lions, birds and snakes. In addition, these temples were often filled with birds, because the priests believed they were too holy to touch, to chase them away.

26-27: They exchanged natural relations, etc:
One of the primary goals of the galli was to remove gender differences. This occurred through transvestism, physically cutting off one's genitals and the exchange of sexual roles. The male galli would serve sexually "as women" to male worshippers in the temple. Women had sex with men (and possibly with other women), but in order to avoid pregnancy, they would have anal sex, not vaginal, as indicated by early church writers such as Anastasius, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and apocalyptic texts.

Matt: This is a creative reading but wholly unsupported in the text itself. In fact, contextually, Paul is repeating a generally asserted charge that Jews often leveled against gentiles. As a result of their turn away from God and toward idols God's wrath has been to give them over to depraved lusts and behaviors, behaviors and lusts Paul goes on to demonstrate in Romans 2 and 3 afflict not only gentiles but Jews as well, because all have fallen short of the glory of God. All have turned from the Creator to created things and so God has given us all over to depraved minds.

There salvation is found only in turning from these things to Christ.

Dan: This is a creative reading but wholly unsupported in the text itself.

It's no more or less supported than yours.

In fact, contextually, Paul is repeating a generally asserted charge that Jews often leveled against gentiles. As a result of their turn away from God and toward idols God's wrath has been to give them over to depraved lusts and behaviors, behaviors and lusts Paul goes on to demonstrate in Romans 2 and 3 afflict not only gentiles but Jews as well, because all have fallen short of the glory of God. All have turned from the Creator to created things and so God has given us all over to depraved minds.

Right and the example he's giving is of the pagan worship they would be familiar with. It doesn't change my point at all.

There salvation is found only in turning from these things to Christ.

Right. Given that Cybele worship was a rival and that people in the church may have also frequented the temples, he's telling them to turn away from paganism before its too late.

Matt: It is unsupported by the text because Paul says nothing about the Temple of Cybele. You are reading that context into his words so as to narrow the focus of his very general condemnation of homosexual behavior as a particularly terrible result of our fallen natures.

Dan: Then why would St Paul go to the trouble of actually describing what the idols look like if he was just a general condemnation? It would have obfuscated his point - particularly to a community that saw these in daily life?

Why would he make a direct connection between these specifically mentioned idol and being punished with orgies TWICE if it is just a general condemnation.

He could have saved a lot of space and confusion amongst his audience and today if he just said all forms of homosexuality are wrong and leave v. 23 and v. 25 out of the text altogether?

Matt: Read Mark 7 and note Jesus use of the word Pornia (referring to the sexual code of lev 18) and repeated in Acts 15. Then add in Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, and you will see that clearly Jesus and the apostles did not consider the condemnation of homosexual behavior found in lev. 18 to be a part of the civil and ceremonial law.

Dan: Read Mark 7 and note Jesus use of the word Pornia (referring to the sexual code of lev 18) and repeated in Acts 15.

Pornea doesn't refer to the Leviticus 18 specifically. It just means forbidden sex. Leviticus as shown by nearly every Jewish translation specifically prohibits one sexual act - male anal sex.

Then add in Romans 1,

This talks about pagan orgies.

1 Cor 6

And this, if you accept St Jerome, Luther and others talks about prostitution - probably of the man boy type.

and you will see that clearly Jesus and the apostles did not consider the condemnation of homosexual behavior found in lev. 18 to be a part of the civil and ceremonial law.

No. This is the kind of fundamentalist argument by stitching together out of context proof texts that can be used to prove anything.

Matt: Yes Romans 1 includes Roman orgies, but the text goes far far beyond just Roman orgies to include any homosexual act, the very lust comes as a result of our fallen natures. If Paul were specifically pointing to the Cybele cult, then he would have specifically pointed to them. He did not. Certainly the Cybele cult would have been in the minds of his readers, but the condemnation, again, is quite general and echoes a very common Jewish understanding of Gentiles

Dan: No. That is pure projection on your part. The text doesn't support your claim:

22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.

The text doesn't allow a general condemnation on homosexuality. The cause and effect relationship is too high with the words "Therefore" and "Because of this" used.

If Paul were specifically pointing to the Cybele cult, then he would have specifically pointed to them. He did not.

Yes he did by describing their temples.

Certainly the Cybele cult would have been in the minds of his readers, but the condemnation, again, is quite general and echoes a very common Jewish understanding of Gentiles.

I believe that it exhibits a Jewish understanding of the Gentile but because they did all kinds of bizarre things to please their gods.

Again, he could have built his argument by leaving these references out and saved himself confusion.

Matt: To argue that Paul is only speaking about the behavior of one gentile cult is necessarily something that you must read into the text. It is not there.

Again, I am not saying that his readers would not have heard in his words a condemnation of that cult nor am I suggesting that he would not have wanted them to hear that, but as you know, for first century Jews, homosexual behavior was something almost exclusively associated with morally depraved gentiles.

Paul's words are, grammatically speaking, general in scope. When men and women turned away from God, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Homosexual lust is here a shameful lust in general. Whether it is implicitly being applied to the Cybele cult is irrelevant.. The lust itself is generally shameful.

This reading requires nothing to be imported into the text. Yours does

Dan: To argue that Paul is only speaking about the behavior of one gentile cult is necessarily something that you must read into the text. It is not there.

It is in verse 23 which you keep avoiding.

Again, I am not saying that his readers would not have heard in his words a condemnation of that cult nor am I suggesting that he would not have wanted them to hear that, but as you know, for first century Jews, homosexual behavior was something almost exclusively associated with morally depraved gentiles.

Then again, why the cause and effect relationship?

Paul's words are, grammatically speaking, general in scope. When men and women turned away from God, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Homosexual lust is here a shameful lust in general. Whether it is implicitly being applied to the Cybele cult is irrelevant.. The lust itself is generally shameful.

Yes they are shameful because they grow out of obedience to another God. Throughout the OT anything done in their service was described this way.

This reading requires nothing to be imported into the text. Yours does.

Yours ignores a few inconvenient verses and the same question I have asked multiple times.
There is much more. Last time I checked, Dan and Matt had taken a break for dinner and returned to resume their debate. Make sure you check it out.

There are also a number of other comments made that are worth noting, especially Christopher's. I want to thank you all for your contributions. And thanks to Matt for staying with this, even when having to sometimes field five questions at once!

And a special thanks to Dan for his willingness to engage in this debate.

Since that thread is getting a bit long, please feel free to transfer the conversation over to this fresh one.

J.

NOTE: Unfortunately, deep hurt is now being caused by some of the words in this thread. I cannot in good conscience allow that to continue.

I found the scripture debate of interest, but the pastoral care direction we have now taken is simply causing new wounds.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. Let's now allow this discussion to end.

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