|Index of Articles|
Sexuality and its
Expression: With Special reference to Homosexuality
|For the purposes of this paper, sexuality is defined as that complexity of thoughts, feelings, bodily changes and behaviours that surround the human capacity for one flesh union and which is grounded in human biology.1 So defined, sexuality is a subset of human interpersonal relations and is to be distinguished conceptually from gender relations. Gender is grounded in social learning.2 Gender relations refract therefore one's socialisation in a given culture (for example, whether men and women may sit together in church or synagogue, or whether it is socially acceptable for a man to be a house-husband). This is a common distinction in social science literature, which is important to recognise, even if difficult to apply.3 The distinction is important with respect to the present discussion, since more specifically gender related issues will not be canvassed (for example, sexism).||The Rev Dr Graham Cole is Principal of Ridley College of file University of Melbourne. He lectures in theology and ethics and has taught also at Moore College and the University of Sydney. He enjoys films, fishing and family. He is married to Julie and they have three children: Jonathan, Jerome and Hannah.|
|The phenomenon of human sexuality may be viewed from a multitude of perspectives. Sexuality may be explored, for example: biologically (as has Derek Llewelyn-Jones) psychologically (as has Leonore Tiefer), sociologically (as Scarpitti and Anderson), philosophically (as has Roger Scruton) and historically (as has G. L. Simons - albeit at a popular level) .4This paper, however, looks at human sexuality from an unashamedly theological perspective.|
|Approaching any question from a theological perspective involves thinking theologically, which in turn means recourse to the Word of Revelation (the Scriptures) and the Witness of Christian Thought down the ages (what, for example, Augustine taught about sexuality). It is thinking that takes place in the context of the World of Human Predicament (the world outside of Eden and this side of Christ's return). When the task of thinking theologically is combined with an evangelical commitment to the formal principle of Scripture as the Word of God (the source of our knowledge) and the material principle of the gospel of grace (the burden of that knowledge), then Scripture in this formal role becomes the touchstone in all matters of faith and controversy. The Witness of Christian Thought, therefore, is always under the discipline of Scripture, as is Christian experience and Christian reasoning. Thinking theologically is also a Work of Wisdom in that it has as its starting point the fear of the Lord. It is Anselmian in its mood. That is to say, that thinking theologically is an exercise in faith seeking understanding. It is a believing practice.5|
|The paper will endeavour to achieve three aims tackled in two parts. In the first part of the discussion it will attempt a biblical and theological outline of human sexuality as presented in the Scriptures. In the second, it will seek to address the problems facing the homosexual Christian with sympathy and criticism and in so doing it will try to delineate the brief of the Christian moralist in a pluralist post-Constantinian setting.|
|A broad question underlies each part. In the first part, what do the Scriptures say about human sexual relations? In the second part, how may the scriptural teaching be communicated by the Christian moralist in a pluralist society, with homosexual practice serving as a case in point?|
|An excursus offers a typology of five approaches to the question of the moral propriety of homosexual practice.|
|Part One: The Scriptural Presentation|
1. The Foundations Of Sexuality (the Doctrine of God as Trinity)
|A theological approach starts logically with first principles: namely, who is God? The living God Tendered in the Scriptures as the chief actor in the drama of salvation is triune. The one God without rival in Old Testament revelation is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament (Dt.6:4-5 and Matt. 28:18-20). The oneness remains, but a complexity is now revealed. God's own ontology (or being) is not that of an undifferentiated substance prior to relationships of some kind, but is constituted by those very relationships that are eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God's being is in communion.6 God is therefore relational intradeically (ad intra) as triune and not simply extradeically (ad extra) as Creator. The God of Scripture then is relational with or without a creation. He needs no consort outside of the Godhead. Put another way, the-will-to-relate/to covenant/to commune is in the Godhead in an essential, rather than an accidental way. This is the revolutionary concept of God that is Christianity's treasure.|
|2. Sexuality Created (the Doctrine of Creation)|
|The complexity of God is refracted in the image of himself that he has made. Humankind are image bearers in varied ways: as exercisers of dominion over the created order, as social beings and in their sexual differentiation (Gen. 1-2).7 Indeed in the Genesis stories Adam is unable to find all his significance in God. We read it was not good for Adam to be alone (Gen.2:18). He had God and he had the rest of the animal order, but it was not enough to assuage his loneliness. Hence God made Eve from Adam's own being. In the leaving and the marital cleaving of man and woman described in Genesis 2 the one creature is restored (one flesh). Put another way, the-will-to-relate is not adequately satisfied in a Godward relationship alone, nor in a relationship directed towards the animal kingdom alone. Another human being is needed. This is good in God's eyes. The-will-to-relate in its sexual expression finds its proper moral context in the one flesh union of male and female. It is a creational good.|
|3. Sexuality Distorted (the Doctrine of Sin) Sin warps relationships. The-will-to-relate becomes the-will-to-dominate or the-willto-withdraw. Again, the Genesis narrative is fecund in its suggestiveness. Having sinned, Adam and Eve withdraw from God (Gen.3). Having sinned, Adam and Eve will experience the asymmetry of the dominator and dominated within their own relationship (Gen. 3). Sin, therefore, warps sexuality both as an expression of power (domination) and as an experience of shame (human nakedness becomes problematical). In the flow of the biblical narrative, canonically considered, the warping effects of the fall are also seen in idolatrous sex (for example, male and female temple prostitution), violent sex (for example, homosexual rape, heterosexual rape and incest), male homosexual practice, lesbian practice, adultery and divorce.8 Historically considered, the after-shocks of the fall are seen in the anti-sex tradition, that has grown up within Christianity itself, with its denigration of our embodiment as creatures (Augustine in particular has been a sad influence here) and in the idolatry of the couple or the nuclear family, either of which implicitly questions the integrity of singleness.9 Pornography adds to the list of after-shocks.10 4. Sexuality Celebrated (the Doctrine of Continued Creation)|
|In the biblical writings human sexuality though it may be warped remains a creational good. The Song of Songs is a marvellous depiction of the joys of embodiment as expressed in sexual arousal, desire and consummation (Song 7:1-8:4).11 Sex is indeed the poor person's opera as one wag has put it. There is none of the ancient Greek view of the body as the tomb of the soul nor of the later Manichaean flight from the physical. Likewise in the New Testament, Paul attacks the proto-Gnostic teaching that forbade marriage. For Paul, God's creation remains good and can be properly appropriated for human enjoyment in the context of the word and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5). Paul's own teaching on the created order is a dialectic then between the good creation continued (as in 1 Tim. 4:1-5) and a creation which itself longs for redemption from futility (as in Rom. 8:18-25).|
|There is, therefore, no room in a robustly biblical Christianity for the denigration of sexual union or more generally put, life in the body. The doctrine of continued creation is against it.|
|5. Sexuality Delimited (the Doctrine of the Good)|
|The biblical witness is clear and consistent. The relationally and morally proper context for sexual union is the marriage of male and female. The rationale for such a marriage, as presented in the Genesis story, is companionship and procreation (Gen.1-2). Elsewhere in the Old Testament the marital relationship is further described in covenant terms (Mal. 2:14). Indeed, again and again in the Old Testament the marital relationship becomes the metaphor for describing God's own covenantal relationship with his people (for example, Hosea and Ezekiel).|
|The New Testament evidence is of a piece with the older covenant. Jesus understands marriage in one flesh terms (Matt.19) as does Paul (1 Cor.6). Hence for Jesus, divorce is a very serious moral concern and for Paul, sexual union with a prostitute can never be a casual matter.|
|In a biblical doctrine of the good, relationship brings responsibility. Covenants assume commitments and bring moral obligations. The proper context for the celebration of sexuality in one flesh union is marriage, which involves - in biblical summary - a leaving and cleaving, a commitment to companionship and procreation, and a public covenant of some kind. Hence the biblical obligations are clear though unpopular in today's permissive world: namely, fidelity within marriage, chastity outside of marriage. The-will-to-relate in sexual union is, therefore, delimited by God's design.|
|6. Sexuality Redeemed (the Doctrine of Redemption)|
|Grace does not destroy eros but redeems and disciplines it. The New Testament evangel brought with it an ethic that flowed out of a new relationship to Christ. The Thessalonians, for example, not only heard Paul's call to turn away from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his son for heaven whom God raised from the dead and who would deliver them from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10). They also heard his call to sanctification: namely, to abstain from fornication (1 Thess.4:l-8). In Paul's short three weeks with them (Acts 17:1-9), he preached an evangel and taught an ethic. The ethic he describes as a lifestyle learned from him. Its content was concerned with pleasing God. Its source was the Lord Jesus. The apostle, Silvanus and Timothy provided the conduit between Christ and his people.|
|Even in Corinth, notorious for its sexual libertinism, the evangel had likewise done its transforming work. True the congregation was not without its problems: division (1Cor.1), scandalous sexual immorality (1Cor.5) and lawsuits amongst Christians (1Cor.6). Yet Paul could sum up what had happened to the Corinthians in these terms: Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers - none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor.9-11, my emphasis)|
|In the presentation of the New Testament, the-will-to-relate Christianly is now working itself out in human experience and in so doing transforms and revalues even household relations; whether between husbands and wives, or parents and children, or masters and slaves (see the household codes in Ephesians and Colossians). Indeed in the case of a Christian union, marriage has a Christological narrative to draw on in order to inform the roles of husband and wife (Eph. 5:22ff.) Husbands, for example, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church to the point of dying on a cross. As the Epistle to Diognetus so eloquently put it in the very next century: "Like other men, they [Christians] marry and beget children, though they do not expose their infants. Any Christian is free to share his neighbour's table, but never his marriage-bed."12|
|7. Sexuality Transposed (the Doctrine of the Eschaton)|
|The biblical drama of salvation has a plot: God is bringing many sons and daughters to glory (Heb.2). The movement is from old creation to new; from garden to city; from tragedy to comedy. In the world to come there is no suggestion of endless unembodiment. The Christian does not believe in the Greek notion of the immortality of the soul, but rather in the resurrection of the body as presented in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15) and rehearsed in the creeds (Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian).|
|The question is whether human sexuality and expression continues in the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus cryptically said that in the new world disciples would not marry. They would be like the angels (Matt. 22:30). The seer writes that in the world to come there will be marriage, but a marriage between the Lamb and his bride, the church (Rev. 19:1-10 and 21-22). It seems that human sexual expression in one flesh union is now transposed to another plane. Human eros now has a Christological focus. Grace has both redeemed eros and transposed it.|
|Part Two: The Christian Moralist|
|8. Sexuality and Its Expression Critiqued|
|Sexuality, defined as that complexity of thoughts, feelings, bodily changes and behaviours that surround the human capacity for one flesh union, is open to critique outside of Eden. Indeed, the idea that sexuality and its expression might be critiqued presupposes that sexuality and its expression can be distorted. The Christian doctrine of the Fall then is vital to any prophetic response to life in our society in general and to sexual relations in particular. One's view of the historic time-space fall will be a key indicator of whether one stands in the mainstream of conservative Christianity or in its liberal parallel.|
|In a world of moral pluralism with its attendant relativism and where anything seems to go except violence and lack of consent in sex, secular psychologist Leonore Tiefer comments: "How to choose personal sexual standards becomes a great problem in societies with unclear rules."13 As conservative Christians we ought not to become smug about the clarity of the biblical teachings on sexuality or our own moral posture based on it. For our problem is how to communicate the biblical vision for the flourishing of human relations (including the sexual) in a context in which large numbers of our fellows see Christianity as passe at best, or inimical to human life at worst.14|
|Three areas of controversy are particularly sensitive ones: the question of cohabitation, the question of divorce and remarriage, and the question of homosexual practice. It is beyond the scope of the present paper to address all three issues. For the purposes of this paper, however, the question of homosexual practice will be tackled in the light of the biblical picture sketched in the foregoing.|
|It is one thing to derive a normative theological vision from the Scriptures (the work of theology proper), but it is another thing to apply it with sensitivity (the work of theological ethics). In the case of homosexual practice, the Christian must not lose sight of the fact that the homosexual is our neighbour and if militantly, even violently opposed to Christian morality - as some gays appear to be - then the militant gay is our enemy in the special biblical sense of the word. For both neighbours and enemies are to beloved in conformatio Christi (Lk. 10:2537 and 6:32-36,. respectively). The Christian track record is not impressive here.15|
|Sadly too the Christian track record is often unimpressive when the homosexual is not only neighbour but Christian brother or sister. Mary Stewart van Leeuwen writes of a Christian friend who has been a celibate lesbian since her conversion to Christ in the 1950s. Her friend was struggling at work wrestling with an alcohol problem. Another Christian in the office put herself out to help her get through the work requirements each day, that is until she found out about her work associate's lesbian orientation. All help ceased. Alcoholism invited compassion, but sexual struggle did not.16 Homophobia is a sin, whether personal, interpersonal, institutional or cultural.17 Hatred of the homosexual has no place in a Christian moral universe. We all bear God's image, Christ bore our sins whether we are heterosexual in orientation or homosexual in orientation.|
|9. The Task Of The Christian Moralist|
|How then can criticism be caring? How can the Christian moralist (that is, any Christian person who takes public responsibility to do applied Christian ethics) be compassionate, yet critical? For a start, let us be wise. A distinction, already implied above, needs to be drawn between homosexual orientation and practice'18 The Bible writers arguably were innocent of such a distinction. Yet from a moral point of view to experience sexual attraction to and arousal in the presence of a member of the same sex is not to be confused with sexual union. No moral blame attaches to such attraction or arousal.|
|Moreover a further distinction needs to be drawn between matters of taste and matters of morality. The thought of anal sex is distasteful to many, whether under consideration is anal sex between heterosexuals (for example, as a method of birth control) or between homosexuals. The issue is not one of aesthetics though, but one of morality: namely, are such practices wrong? I suspect that aesthetic distaste fuels Christian rhetoric against homosexual practice as much as moral concern does.|
|Caring criticism would also work with a large canvas. It would point to the biblical macro-picture of human relationships, of which sexual relations are a subset. It would argue that the-will-to-relate sexually finds its proper relational and moral context in heterosexual marriage.19 In the light of this biblical ideal, homosexual practice - even if the context is a "monogamous" relationship - falls short (one of the biblical definitions of sin), yet caring criticism would maintain that homosexual unions are not all of the same moral quality.20 Homosexual rape in prison, the idolatrous homosexual practices of ancient Mesopotamia, casual homosexual sex and homosexual sex in a committed do not all stand on the same moral plane.21 In other words, the rejection of relationship homosexual practice as sinful would be qualified by discriminating moral judgements and variegated pastoral moral guidance, depending upon the exact nature of the particular homosexual practice under consideration.22 With regard to homosexual union in a "monogamous" relationship, caring criticism would recognise that genuine human needs may be fuelling the desires, thoughts, feelings and practices, but are being met in ways other than God's design for life.23 The testimony of a homosexual Christian dying of AIDS and newly converted makes the point in a tellingly poignant way: "My homosexuality was not about sex. It was about love. I never felt anybody loved me, and so I sought love in the wrong place."24|
|We also need to acknowledge that genuine moral values may be generated in a relationship that is other than God's revealed design. It is these generated values, many of which are either Christian (for example, other person-centredness) or comport with Christianity (for example, loyalty), that the watching world sees. As was put to me in a meeting recently, too many conservative Christians seem fixated on genital relations. Rather the emphasis, he maintained, should fall on the generation and maintenance of loving, committed and forgiving relationships, arising from which genital relations may or may not follow. From this perspective, conservative Christianity appears opposed to some of its own values, or even basic human ones, for the sake of doctrinaire correctness.|
|At this point in the discussion, in the light of the above, it is worth raising the question of whether Christians have, in whole or in part, created the present difficulties in communicating a Christian moral position to those on the outside. We have preached a God of effectively one moral attribute for decades: namely, love. We have presented the mature Christian person as having the one defining characteristic, that of love. But the God of Scripture is not only love, but light. In other words we have not preached, as a broad generalisation, the holy God who is the God of holy love, as P. T. Forsyth lamented near the turn of this century.25 Thus our social attitudes seem to many an outsider to pitch love against lesser values like doctrinal orthodoxy. The fact is that we value both love and holiness (that is to say, walking in love as well as walking in the light). Christian values are not at war with each other. The Christian person is to be both holy and loving. In other words, the Christian person is to be like God.|
|10. Recognising Moral Complexity|
|Returning to the present issue, one way of responding to genuine questions about the moral status of "monogamous" homosexual relationships is to realise and acknowledge that analysing a moral situation is a complex business. Appeal to moral rules is not enough, for not only is the action to be considered (Is it right or wrong?), the agent needs to be considered (Is the motivation good or bad?) and the aftermath too (did it work out as life enhancing or life diminishing?). On this approach we may affirm the agent, but deplore the action. There is a way, then, of being morally critical of the action, but personally tolerant of the agent. But such a way requires that we examine moral dilemmas with more subtlety. The triple A analysis (agent, action and aftermath) mentioned above is one tool to this end for it allows us to qualify our moral approval or disapproval in a graduated way.|
|With regard to the case mentioned above of a "monogamous" committed caring homosexual relationship, we can affirm that certain goods are generated in such a relationship. Other person-centredness is good and the devotion amongst homosexuals to meeting the needs of lovers dying of AIDS is morally impressive. However, the moral question of right or wrong actions remains, even if the attitudes are exemplary and the aftermath is full of good moral features. In practical terms, the evangelical moralist needs to display the proper personal tolerance of homosexual people in a way that does not give moral permission to homosexual practice.|
|So then we need to communicate that as Christians we are not simply appealing to rules, but to genuine human values with an appreciation of the worth of human agents as image bearers of God and with a view to human flourishing. We also need to do so with humility as we are simul justus et peccator (at the same time forgiven people and sinning people) as Luther has taught us. But further our enunciation of the biblical vision requires some degree of embodiment in our own personal and corporate relation. The latter point is important, because in our society the church (broadly defined) is seen in the many guises of educator, of care giver, of corporate citizen and of employer. Our moral practices, as God's people, in each of these roles are increasingly under public scrutiny. One of the most awful words of judgement on Jesus' lips is "hypocrite". It was addressed again and again by him to the religious (Matt. 23, for example).|
|11. Recognising the Cultural Context|
|The cultural uncertainties and dangers of our time are wonderfully captured in W. B. Yeats' poem The Second Coming where he writes:|
and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.26
|In this magnificent poem, Yeats symbolically expresses his belief that Christian civilization is at an end and that a new brutal Anti-Christ era is at hand. The second coming will not be that of Christ, but that of the beast.27|
|In such an era, we need to remind ourselves afresh that Constantinian Christianity is dying, if not dead. Our society is pluralist and relativist. Unlike an Augustine, we cannot argue that the unwilling should be compelled by the empire into Christian obedience.28 As the old adage has it: "He who is compelled against his will is of the same opinion still." The setting for our moral criticism and moral apologetic is becoming less and less like that of Augustine's Constantinian world and more and more like that of pre-Nicean Christianity: a world of religious mix, cultural mix and moral mix. Legislation is not the main key on the key ring (although it is one of the keys in a democratic society); being counter-cultural in word and deed is. And let us make no mistake: in such a world to be Christian will mean being counter-cultural. It will mean in the words of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre that Christians be "a community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us."29 Or to take up the words of Yeats' poem, it will mean being a people with a centre that holds. Jesus called it being both salt and light.|
|The foundations of sexuality are theological. They are found in the God who is relationally triune. The will-to-relate is in the Godhead. Human sexuality is a created good and is expressive of, but does not exhaust, the imago dei. Sexuality and its expression are under tension outside of Eden. The creational good continues, but so do the distorting effects of the historic fall. Sexuality is to be celebrated still, but is also to find its one flesh expression within the delimitations of marriage. The drives of fallen human sexuality are redeemable in Christ and in the world to come will find their consummate expression in relationship to Christ.|
|In a world of easy sex, the Christian moralist adopts a counter-cultural stance that blends criticism with caring and nowhere more so than in the sensitive area of homosexual attraction and practice. The Christian moralist needs to make careful distinctions between homosexual orientation and homosexual practice, and between moral concerns and aesthetic matters. Further the Christian moralist needs to deploy a more subtle tool of ethical analysis than the simple appeal to moral rules and their infringement. The moral agent, the morality of the action on view and the moral value of the aftermath of the action all need to be factored into the subsequent equation of moral judgement.|
|Above all, the Christian moralist not only enunciates ideals and argues for them, but also seeks to embody the-will-to-relate Christianly. There is a corporate dimension to the embodiment of that will-to-relate, which is relevant to the church, when viewed as educator, care giver, citizen and employer.|
|Lastly, our own culture appears on the one hand to be increasingly and paradoxically both more and more religious (for example, New Age, the occult and Eastern religions) and secular (for example, humanism and hedonism). On the other hand, it seems to be increasingly less and less Christian. In such a cultural context, there has never been a greater need for Christians to be counter cultural in their moral practices as individuals and as a people.|
|Excursus: Responses to Homosexual Practice. Five Approaches: Adapted from R.K. Johnston's Evangelicals at an Impasse (Atlanta, John Knox, 1979) pp113-145.|
|1 = Homosexual activity is criminal and is, therefore, to be punished with capital punishment.|
|2 = Homosexual activity is to be condemned without qualification, but not criminalised in law.|
|3= Homosexual activity of any kind is to be rejected as sinful, but not all such activity has the same moral quality. The Scripture itself recognises differences between sins (for example, the eternal sin of Mark 3:28-30 & the mortal sin of 1 John 5:16-17). The pastoral response to the homosexual recognises this reality. In some cases the pastoral guidance offered and the objective moral theology held by the pastor may be under tension outside of Eden. For example, a pastor might advise a homosexual couple to practise safe sex in the era of AIDS, even having just criticised the relationship. This is my category addition to Johnston's typology. I am using the term "qualified" to mean "to attribute some quality to" (The Oxford Paperback Dictionary).|
|4 = Outside of Eden sometimes we are faced with choice between the lesser of two evils. Consequently, in some circumstances, we may need to accept a monogamous homosexual relationship as better than promiscuous ones, especially in the AIDS era. For some gays, a stable monogamous homosexual relationship might be counselled as "the optimal ethical possibility". Johnston describes this view as "Qualified Acceptance", but I think his own argument suggests that "Partial Acceptance" would be more accurate.|
|5 = This is the view that there is no moral or theological impediment to monogamous homosexual relationship.|
|HOME||Index of Articles|
2 See F.L. Scarpitti and M.L. Anderson, Social Problems (NY: Harper and Rowe, 1989), pp. 251-255.
3 On the distinction between sex and gender understood from a Christian perspective, see Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, Gender And Grace (Leicester: IVP, 1990), p.19. On the difficulty in application see the article on gender by G. LLoyd in J. O Urmson and J. Ree (eds.), The Concise Encyclopedia Of Western Philosophy And Philosophers (London: Unwin Hyman, 1991), New edition, completely revised. The gender issue is a huge one and beyond the scope of this paper. Hugh Mackay in his ReinventingAustralia (Pymble: Angus & Robertson, 1993) regards changes in gender roles as the biggest area in redefinition of Australian society over the last 20 years, p. 24.
4 See Derek Llewelyn-Jones, Every Man (Oxford: OUP, 1982) and Everywoman (RingwoodPenguin, 1993) 6th edn; Leonore Tiefer, Human Sexuality (Melbourne,1979); Scarpitti and Anderson, Problems; Roger Scruton, Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic (NY: Free Press, 1986) and G.L.Simons A Short History of Sex (London: NEL, 1970).
5 For an elaboration of this understanding of doing theology see my Thinking Theologically' in Reformed Theological Review, Vol. XVIII, May/August, 1989, No. 2, pp. 51-62.
6 For a modern concise, yet incisive study of the doctrine of the triune God, see the three studies published by the British Council of Churches, The Forgotten Trinity 1-3 (London: BCC. 1989-1991
7 On sexuality and Godhead see R. C. Doyle, 'Sexuality, Personhood, and the Image of God' in B. G. Webb (ed.), Explorations I (Sydney, 1986), p 45-58. For a different view see C. Sherlock, God on the inside (Canberra: Acorn, 1991), esp chs 6-9.
8 8 On idolatrous sex see Dt. 23:17-18; on violent sex see Gen. 19 and Judg. 19, 2 Sam. 13; on homosexual and lesbian practice see Rom. 1: 26-27; on adultery see 2 Sam. 11-12, and on divorce see Matt.19:1-9. For differing treatments of the biblical evidence see J. Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (Basingstoke: Marshalls, 1984) Part IV, the whole issue on sexuality in St. Mark's Review, June 1981, No. 106 and J. Gaden; A Christian Discussion on Sexuality: A Position Paper (The Anglican Church of Australia, General Synod Paper No. 3,1989). On the homosexual question in particular, see in addition D. Field, The Homosexual Way-A Christian Option? (Bramcote; Grove, 1980), New edn. Also see Lance Pierson, No-Gay Areas (Bramcote: Grove,'92), p12, where he points out that the language of abomination is used mostly in the OT of pagan idolatry (75 out of 99 times) and that references to homosexuality as a detestable practice need to be read in this light.
9 On Augustine see Lewis B. Smedes, Sex For Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1984), .17. Augustine argued that Adam before the fall felt no sexual arousal. Indeed he maintained that outside of Eden, original sin was passed on through sexual desire. See also David R. Mace, The Christian Response to the Sexual Revolution (London:Lutterworth, 1972), p.46. On the idolatry of the nuclear family and the difficulties that it creates for singles see J.A. Walters, A Long Way from Home (Exeter: Paternoster, 1979), ch.3, and especially see van Leeuwen, Gender, p. 176. My own suggestion is that we need to recover the biblical image of the people of God as household, which is much more inclusivist than speaking of the church as family and does not create the same overblown expectations of intimacy.
10 A distinction needs to be made between the pornographic (that is the exploitive depiction of the sexual), the bawdy (that is a certain kind of humorous approach to the sexual) and the erotic (that is an aesthetic approach to the sexual). Further, I have not added sexism to this list as I see it as a gender issue rather than a sexuality one.
11 11 See the excellent article by B. G. Webb, The Song of Songs: A Love Poem As Holy Scripture, in Reformed Theological Review, Vol. XLIX, SeptDec, 1990, No. 3, pp. 91-99. Significantly Webb points out that in the LXX version agapaw is regularly used of the love between the lovers (E.g. 1:3,4 & 7). This is the word used in the NT of God's love for the world (Jn. 3:16). Agape and eros are not necessarily antithetical.
12 See Maxwell Staniforth (trans.), Early Christian Writings (Harmondsworth: Penguin, '72), p 177.
13 Tiefer, Sexuality, p. 56.
14 The media has drawn attention in recent days to the Roman Catholic church in particular on matters of sexual misconduct on the part of priests both in Australia and the USA. Indeed on July 3, 1993 in the Weekend Australian an ad appeared offering an apology for the misconduct in the past of some of the Christian Brothers at child care institutions, p. 10. Sociologist Andrew Greeley estimates that 1 in 10 of the 53,000 priests in the USA may have been involved in sexual misconduct. See the report in Sunday Herald Sun July 11, 1993, p. 20. Damages have cost the church over $A700 million to date. These revelations and admissions, together with the Roman view on birth control in an overpopulated world, and stories of Protestant pastors falling into sexual sin make many in the watching world think that the church's own house is in disorder and has little moral authority to pronounce on sexual matters.
15 Nor is the track record of more general society impressive. In British law, for example, an act was passed in 1290 to the effect that convicted sodomites were to be buried alive. Henry VIII changed the method of execution in 1533. In 1861 the death penalty was replaced with life imprisonment, which sentence was only taken off the statute books in 1967. See Field, Homosexual, p.6.
16 Leeuwen, Gender, pp. 217-218.
17 On homophobia as sin see Lance Pierson, No Gay Areas: Pastoral Care Of Homosexuals (Brain core: Grove, 1992), p.7. On the various forms of homophobia see Neil Rodgers, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Students: The Hidden Minority In Colleges And Halls of Residence (Melbourne, 1993, a paper given at the Biennial Heads of Colleges & Halls conference), p.5. Personal homophobia, for example, is expressed in an individual's belief that gays are genetically defective, interpersonal homophobia in active discrimination such as name calling, institutional homophobia in educational discrimination, cultural homophobia in any social norms that legitimise the active oppression of homosexual people.
18 I prefer this distinction to the older one of invert and pervert as a less question-begging and prejudicial one. See Field, Homosexual Way, pp. 4-5.
19 John Stott argues in Christianity Today, April 5, 1993 that the most important teaching in the Bible relevant to the monogamous homosexual issue is its clear and positive teaching on heterosexual marriage as God's foundational design for life. He thin that any appeal to the prohibitive texts against homosexual practice in the Bible will simply beg the hermeneutical question, if deployed.
20 Sometimes the argument is put that the same hermeneutic that allows some evangelicals to endorse the ordination of women will logically entail endorsement of the ordination of practising homosexuals, who are in stable monogamous same-sex relationships. A form of the argument, that prima facie might attract such a criticism, might itself run that the Bible knows neither of women's ordination nor of stable monogamous homosexual relationships, therefore there is liberty to relate Scripture to modern realities not then on view. But both the argument and the criticism are flawed by their failure to recognise that the biblical language about homosexual practice is morally loaded (like. the language about the practices of drunkenness or theft). Here St. Paul's catalogue found in 1 Cor.6:9-10 provides a case in point (malakos and arsenokoitai refer to the passive and active roles in homosexual intercourse respectively). The language about women, however, is not morally loaded per se. Consequently in Anglican terms (going back to Cranmer himself) the ordination of women is a matter of order. The matter of the ordination of practising homosexuals, however, is a question of faith and morals.
21 According to Gordon Wenham, the argument is flawed that runs, since Scripture nowhere overtly condemns a monogamous homosexual relationship, such a relationship is not forbidden. He maintains that the NT use of the word porneia as an umbrella term for sexual immorality would exclude such a relationship too. See G. Wenham 'Heterosexuality in the Bible' in T. Higton (ed.), Sexuality And The Church (Hockley: ABWON, 1987), pp. 27-38.
22 There is an important distinction in moral theology between objective moral theology and pastoral moral guidance. This distinction covers the difference between the good that ought to be pursued (objective moral theology) and the good now achievable given the dilemma (pastoral moral guidance). For this useful, traditional Roman Catholic distinction see R. M. Gula, Reason Informed Faith: foundations of Catholic Morality (NJ: Paulist Press, 1989), pp. 306-308. An example of pastoral moral guidance would be to advise a monogamous homosexual couple to practise safe sex lest the situation become even more complicated through possible AIDS transmission. Again, in a mission context, a missionary might advise that a newly converted husband not set aside two of his three wives and their children (pastoral moral guidance) for monogamous marriage (objective moral theology), lest the cast-out wives and children starve, or worse.
23 The counter argument might be put that biology is destiny: that is to say, that if there is a genetic element in homosexual orientation then a moral right to express it comes too. But biology and moral concerns are not to be crassly brought together. For example, one may ask whether the fact that a woman is able to bear a child brings with it an obligation on her to do so. As David Hume pointed out long ago the move from, what is, to, what ought to be, is a tricky one. Such a move later became known as the naturalistic fallacy see the article on the fallacy and Hume in A. N. Flew (ed.) A Dictionary Of Philosophy (London: Pan, 1984), Second rev. edn, p . 240241. For a sociological critique of the biology as destiny' argument, see Scarpitti & Anderson, Problems, 253-255.
24 Quoted in Christianity Today, April, 1993, p. 17. For a moving personal account of homosexual experience meeting a human need see H. A. Williams, Some Day I'll Find You (London: Collins, 1984), p. 197 especially.
25 See P.T. Forsyth, God The Holy Father (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1957 reissue of 1897)
26 Quoted in James McAuley (ed.), Generations (Melbourne: Nelson, 1978), p. 195. Note: 'gyre' means spiral or circle. Yeats died in 1939.
27 following McAuley's interpretation, ibid., p. 310.
28 See the account in W.H.C.Frend, The Early Church (London: Hodder&Stoughton, 1971), p.216. Augustine appealed to the Lukan text, 'Compel them to come in' with regard to the Donatists (Lk. 14:23).
29 19 A. Macintyre, After Virtue (London; Duckworth, 1987), Second Edition, p. 263.