I have a question on an article pertaining to homosexuality. I was wondering if you could take a look at this article I had to read for a class. I would love to know your thoughts on it as it is an argument I have never heard before and would love to be informed and prepared to answer. Thank you! http://forusa.org/content/homosexuality-bible-walter-wink
This author is quite knowledgeable and comes off as if he is using the Bible comprehensively and carefully. In fact, only the first description is accurate–he is fairly knowledgeable. He is very biased–is reading his opinion into rather than out of the Bible–and is also rather blatantly making the Bible appear to be vastly more confusing than it actually is. Is there some room for question and confusion (for example on polygamy)? Yes, but the existence of minor areas of potential confusion are, for this author, reason to reject entirely, and I mean entirely, every conceivable law on sexual relationships. Period. End of story. Well, we should recognize the end that he reaches as evidence that we should look carefully at how he got to such a clearly-wrong conclusion.
So, let me analyze what is going on here.
First, he makes a massive assumption here which I believe is not only not justified by the data, but which is simply, downright untrue, bordering on a blatant lie. This is his gross and unfounded assumption about Paul:
Paul believed that everyone was “straight.” He had no concept of homosexual orientation The idea was not available in his world. There are people that are genuinely homosexual by nature (whether genetically or as a result of upbringing no one really knows, and it is irrelevant) For such a person it would be acting contrary to nature to have sexual relations with a person of the opposite sex.
What is the basis for this rather obviously untrue statement? It is a philosophical presupposition. He is apparently assuming that people in ancient times were stupid—too dumb to realize that some people are homosexually oriented. Really? So he assumes that Paul and his contemporaries were not aware that some men have more effeminate traits and vice versa? Is it possible that Paul noticed that sex between males is inherently unnatural because it involves putting certain body parts in places that they are not designed to be put into (please forgive my use of a somewhat graphic illustration, but I am not sure how to put this in a completely nongraphic way)? The entire basis for his subsequent argument is based on this rather obviously false assumption. What is the evidence from this author that Paul believed everyone was straight? Is he telling us that in the ancient Greek world people did not recognize homosexuality and homosexual orientation? Is this backed up by evidence? My answer is a clear no to this one! Greeks and Romans were well aware of homosexuality and talked about it at great lengths.
This author assumes that what is “unnatural” is based only on what one finds oneself wanting to do naturally, and not on 1. A decision about what is natural based on God’s statement of what is natural and 2. What is clearly biologically “natural” based on anatomy and physiology. What if one is naturally attracted to young children or animals? This, too, is a rather obvious insertion of the author’s view on this topic into the biblical discussion, rather than letting God or the Bible speak to this topic. In other words, this author is assuming that Paul simply got it wrong—essentially that what he wrote is not even inspired. Obviously, anyone who takes the Bible seriously will find this argument troubling. What bothers me is that the author pretends that he takes scripture seriously by some of his other comments, such as his listing of “unequivocal condemnations” which he later argues away as not relevant for our discussion of sexual norms today. In other words, his conclusion is that such “unequivocal condemnations” are simply wrong—errors on the part of those who wrote them!
Another “trick” this author plays is that he pretends he recognizes the difference in Christianity between how we interpret Mosaic laws today (which is that such laws are not in force unless they are either stated or implied in the New Testament), but then in his final discussion he completely throws this out in order to support his blatantly false conclusion that there is no set sexual more in place in Christianity!!! For example, he uses the fact (and it is a fact) that the Mosaic law prohibits certain activities, such as sex during menstruation and marriage to non-Jews, and the fact that these are not in force in Christianity as “evidence” that there is no sexual more in place at all!!! Wow! This is rather blatant misinterpretation of scripture. The fact that certain activities such as eating certain meats or having sex during menstruation created ceremonial uncleanness in Judaism does not mean that these activities are inherently sinful. In a sense, he also does the reverse, showing that things allowed in the Old Testament are not allowed in the New Testament, and using this as evidence that there is actually no prescribed sexual orientation law at all. For example he claims that prostitution was allowed in the Mosaic law. This is simply not true. He also claims that polygamy was lawful then, but not in the New Testament, again using this as evidence that the Bible is so confused that no sexual standard is absolute. Again, this is a misunderstanding of biblical interpretation (although perhaps not so blatant a misinterpretation as the one with regard to sex during menstruation). It is true that polygamy was not outright condemned in the Old Testament. Neither is it outright condemned in the New Testament. In fact, it is not outright condemned in the Bible, but, based on either Old or New Testament principles, anyone can infer that God has always hated polygamy, but he allowed it because of the hardness of human hearts. There is no confusion here, except perhaps in the mind of this author.
Let me go through his list of supposedly confusing contradictions in the Bible and show how inaccurate he is, in my opinion:
He says that the OT condemns the following, but the NT allows them:
intercourse during menstruation (was never sinful per se, but a matter of ceremonial cleanness under Mosaic law)
celibacy (some texts) (this is never condemned anywhere in the Bible, but in some cases it is advised against, and for good reason I would say)
exogamy (marriage with non-Israelites) (was never sinful per se, but a matter of ceremonial cleanness under Mosaic law)
naming sexual organs (not sure what he is talking about here. He is probably taking some verse out of context)
nudity (under certain conditions) (obviously, nudity is not sinful per se, either in OT or NT, as husband and wife are nude together. He is simply trying to create ambiguity where there is none)
masturbation (some Christians still condemn this) (still sinful in OT and NT)
birth control (some Christians still forbid this) (never condemned in either OT or NT)
He says that “the Bible permitted behaviors that we today condemn”:
Prostitution (has always been outlawed in every case, both in OT and NT)
Polygamy (already discussed. Not outlawed in either the OT or NT, but biblical principles imply it was against God’s intent all along)
levirate marriage (levirate marriage is not sinful either under OT or NT. It is not sinful to marry the former wife of one’s dead brother. There is no difference here, except that it is binding on a Jew but not on a Christian)
sex with slaves (this is condemned in both the OT and the NT unless marriage has occurred)
concubinage (definitions can be an issue here, as to whether concubinage is marriage or not. I will assume that concubinage is another form of marriage, in which case the argument is moot)
treatment of women as property (this is always sinful and treated as such in both the OT and the NT)
very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13). (What verse in the OT says that it is OK for a man to have sex with an 11 year old girl? This is not a biblical argument.)
If we allow for my analysis (and please let me know if you have any questions about my analysis, his contention that the Bible is very confused and confusing on sexual morality is a totally bogus claim—completely unsupported by the biblical evidence.
I hope this helps.