Bishop Robinson

What saith the scriptures?

Old Testament

Abomination Sodom Good

Abomination

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13).

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22).

"The texts in Leviticus 18 and 20 are simply wrong. They are morally incompetent because they are based on ignorance. They should be viewed, as should so much else in Leviticus and the rest of the Torah, as stages in human development that we have outgrown, that we have been educated beyond and have therefore abandoned." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, pp. 125-126).

It really is just that simple. You can follow God's word, or you can join Bishop Spong and the Episcopal Church in abandoning it. We know that the law is nailed to the cross, nevertheless it still offers a window into the mind of God on these topics.

Sodom

"And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them'...take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." (Genesis 19:5-13).

"...as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7).

Good

"And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'...Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:18-24).

New Testament

Against Nature Inherit the Kingdom The Lawless

Against Nature

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Romans 1:26-27).

"Yes, I am convinced that Paul of Tarsus was a gay man, deeply repressed, self-loathing, rigid in denial, bound by the law that he hoped could keep this thing, that he judged to be so unacceptable, totally under control, a control so profound that even Paul did not have to face this fact about himself. But repression kills . .This is certainly what is revealed in the Pauline tirade recorded in Romans 1 — a frightened gay man condemning other gay people so that he can keep his own homosexuality inside that rigid discipline of his faith." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 140).

Given that there is no reason to believe Paul was "a self-loathing gay man" other than his condemnation of homosexuality as immoral, which is consistent with the continuing testimony of scripture, then here again we come to a fork in the road: follow God's revealed will, or 'pick and choose' with Bishop Spong's Episcopalians. One wag wondered why, if homophobes (what could a word so formed mean?) fear that they are secretly homosexuals, then do arachnophobes secretly fear that they are spiders?

Inherit the Kingdom

"You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9, Jerusalem Bible).

The word the Jerusalem Bible translates as 'catamites' is μαλακος, literally meaning 'softie.' The 'softies' in view are, not pudgy people, but the passive partner in a homosexual act. Because this 'slang' phrase might mean various things, advocates of the contrary view dispute its meaning, but it does seem that Paul is covering both bases of the homosexual equation. The word the Jerusalem Bible translates as 'sodomites' is αρσενοκοιτης, which means "lying with men," (Liddell and Scott), from 'arsen'="the male...the male sex," (Liddell and Scott), and 'koite'="the marriage-bed...the act of going to bed" (Liddell and Scott). It is a word which occurs elsewhere in Greek literature with the same meaning as the New Testament, as in Sibylline Oracles ii. 73, "Do not practice homosexuality, do not betray information, do not murder."

But condemnation is not the last word. Notice what happened to these evil-doers:

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

And such were some of you: no longer, but once were. There is no ill the Great Physician cannot cure.

The Lawless

The word cited above, αρσενοκοιτης, also occurs in 1 Timothy 1:10, in a similarly non-flattering context:

"But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine..." (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Instructions One Judge
Problems Killer God
Evaluate Execution
Law Court


Betrayal in the Garden, Giotto
Conformity
Vindication
Testimony
Work No Ill
Pick and Choose
Born That Way

Conformity

Paul said, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2). Some who hold the contrary view on this topic say that Paul failed to heed his own admonition not to be a conformist. They allege that the dim view he undeniably took of homosexuality was thoughtlessly picked up from the culture around him.

It cannot have been from the Gentile culture around him that he picked up this hostility, though. The pagan world of classical antiquity was a Golden Age for homosexuality. Popular literary works the day, like Plato's 'Symposium,' if rewritten today, would need to be updated to take place in a prison rec room, because that is where these known pederasts would find themselves. Emperors were even rumored to have contracted gay marriage:

"He [Nero Caesar] castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him. He married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that some one made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero's father Domitius had had that kind of wife. This Sporus, decked out with the finery of the Empresses and riding in a litter, he took him him to the assizes and marts of Greece, and later at Rome through the Street of the Images, fondly kissing him from time to time." (Suetonius, the Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero).

There is much talk nowadays about faithful, committed relationships, and this marriage held up: Sporus was there at the end, as faithful as Eva Braun: "Four men rode with him [Nero] as he set off from the gardens: Phaon, Petitions Secretary Epaphroditus, the eunuch Sporus, and an unnamed servant." (The Great Fire of Rome, Stephen Dando-Collins, p. 222).There is no possibility at this late date of confirming or denying scurrilous palace gossip of the first century, but whether this story is true or false, people at the time found it credible. Imagine if, instead of Monica Lewinsky, our former president had had a dalliance with Morris Lewinsky! What changed all this is Christianity.

The 'homosexual rights' advocates of the day knew who their enemy was, which is why it was Crescens who got rid of Justin Martyr: "Crescens, who made his nest in the great city, surpassed all men in unnatural love [paiderastia], and was strongly addicted to the love of money. Yet this man, who professed to despise death, was so afraid of death, that he endeavored to inflict on Justin, and indeed on me, the punishment of death, as being an evil, because by proclaiming the truth he convicted the philosophers of being gluttons and cheats." (Tatian, Address to the Greeks, Chapter 19).

Vindication

Those falsely accused of a crime like murder or robbery angrily demand, not forgiveness, but vindication. No one offers to forgive faithful married heterosexuals for their lifestyle, because "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled..." (Hebrews 13:4). It would be presumptuous and insulting to offer forgiveness in those things which people are doing right, not wrong. No one begs forgiveness for wearing red socks, or living on Elm Street, or receiving the Employee of the Month Award, because these are things which are morally neutral or even commendable...unless one is employed as an exotic dancer. Certainly we are all sinners, yet not all we do is sinful. It is those things which are morally blameworthy for which we come to God for forgiveness: "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him." (Daniel 9:9).

Discussions of this issue tends to veer confusingly between vindication, claimed by the innocent, and forgiveness, pleaded by the guilty. There's no question that God's forgiveness is free to whosoever will come, like the song says, "The cross upon which Jesus died Is a shelter in which we can hide; And its grace so free is sufficient for me, And deep is its fountain -- as wide as the sea. There's room at the cross for you, There's room at the cross for you; Though millions have come, There's still room for one -- Yes, there's room at the cross for you." (Ira F. Stanphill),-- and not only that, but power to bring to birth a new creation. What advocates of Bishop Robinson are demanding, as best I understand it, is vindication.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Testimony

The early Christians left behind a body of literature which, while not reliably inspired, does offer worthwhile guidance as to the mind and practice of the early church. These authors did not approve of homosexuality:


  • “For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure, — who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonoring the fair workmanship of God (for beauty on earth is not self-made, but sent hither by the hand and will of God), — these men, I say, revile us for the very things which they are conscious of themselves, and ascribe to their own gods, boasting of them as noble deeds, and worthy of the gods.”
  • (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, Chapter 34).

  • "The second commandment of the teaching is: You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt boys; you shall not be sexually promiscuous; you shall not steal; you shall not practice magic; you shall not engage in sorcery; you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide; you shall not covet your neighbor's possessions; you shall not commit perjury; you shall not give false testimony; you shall not speak evil, you shall not hold a grudge."
  • (The Didache, 2. 1-3)

  • "And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honorable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions."
  • (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 21).


  • “Do you, therefore, show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a purloiner; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or supercilious; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity.”
  • (Theophilus, To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter 2).






Later authors continue the same themes, as for instance Basil writing in the fourth century, who brackets homosexuality in unsavory company:

"Those who defile themselves with men or with beasts, and murderers, and poisoners, and adulterers, and idolators are deemed worthy of the same condemnation." (Basil, Letter CLXXXVIII, Section VII, p. 29 Loeb edition, Volume III).

Work No Ill

The Danbury Baptists, in their letter to Thomas Jefferson, made this their principle for civil legislation: ". . .that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor." Although some prior thinkers, like Thomas Aquinas, asked civil government to prepare men for heaven, this is not what Jesus instructed:

"'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'" (Matthew 22:21).

Man's eternal destiny falls within God's sphere, not Caesar's. Those who engage in private sexual behavior which does not awaken or alarm the neighbors have a right to stand on the Danbury Baptists' plank: their behavior is no concern of the State, as it harms none but themselves. But the modern gay rights movement is not asking to be 'left alone.' They want society to give its Good Housekeeping seal of approval to their chosen lifestyle. In demanding gay marriage, they insist that their fellow citizens celebrate a union which Bible believers consider immoral. But this violates the conscience of these citizens, because God says,

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).

Would that all Americans would display the tolerance and civility not to demand their fellow citizens "call evil good," just because it would please them. No one demands that those citizens who share atheist Sam Harris' view that "raising our children to believe that they are Christian" is a "ludicrous obscenity" (Sam Harris, 'Letter to a Christian Nation,' p. 88) be compelled publicly to celebrate Sunday School Week, as this would violate their freedom of conscience. Although Sam Harris has judged the "Christian Nation" to be immoral, he has not violated anyone's rights or committed a hate crime in so doing; he is free, in this free country, to pronounce his damning verdicts against others. Hopefully gay marriage will prove to be the 'bridge too far' of the gay rights movement.

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when children would be judged according to the content of their character:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." (Martin Luther King, Jr., 'I Have a Dream').

To dream of a country where people are judged by the content of their character rather than by their sexual behavior collides with the road-block that, in the three major monotheistic religions, sexual behavior is very much a part of "the content of their character." While no one dreams of a country whose moral arbiters are landladies and employers, the push for gay marriage violates the conscience of millions of Americans. God willing, it will fail.


 Danbury Baptists' Letter 
to Thomas Jefferson



Pick and Choose

Bart Ehrman accuses Christians who join in God's disapproval of same-sex relationships of picking and choosing what parts of the Bible they will accept:



  • “There are millions of people in our world...who suffer social estrangement because of their sexual orientation. Some of this social alienation originates among simpleminded Bible believers who insist that gay relationships are condemned in Scripture...this condemnation of gay relations 'because the Bible condemns it' is a case of people choosing to accept the parts of the Bible they want to accept and ignoring everything else. The same books that condemn same-sex relations, for example, also require people to stone their children to death if they are disobedient, to execute anyone who does any work on Saturday or who eats pork chops, and to condemn anyone who wears a shirt made of two kinds of fabric. No special emphasis is placed on one of these laws over the others -- they are all part of the biblical law. Yet, in parts of society, gay relations are condemned, while eating a ham sandwich during a lunch break on a Saturday workday is perfectly acceptable."
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'God's Problem,' p. 17).




Is this, indeed, a question of Bible believers picking and choosing, or did the Holy Spirit do the picking and choosing? How about eating a ham sandwich? The Holy Spirit told Peter, do it:

"On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." (Acts 10:9-15).

An apostolic council met at Jerusalem to consider this very question: should Gentile converts to Christianity keep the law of Moses? Their verdict:

"The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well." (Acts 15:23-29).

The law is holy: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12). As such it offers valuable insight into the mind of God. But whereas the moral law continues to guide and teach, the ceremonial law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The sacrificial system of Moses pointed to Jesus. Once the reality toward which the temple system dumbly pointed had come, of what further use was the shadow? Certainly it's a free country; people who do not think the Holy Spirit spoke to the apostles need not believe any of these things. But to accuse those who do think the Holy Spirit spoke to the apostles of 'picking and choosing' is ill-informed. It was God the Holy Spirit who did the picking and choosing, not man.







This is not to say there is no one who 'picks and chooses' which scriptures to accept. When it comes to picking and choosing, Bishop John Shelby Spong's Episcopal flock lead the way. They expel Moses' 'primitive, tribal' law from the Bible, along with hapless Paul, who had the temerity to condemn homosexuality: "Is there any reason why anyone should believe that this convoluted and bizarre understanding of the tortured Pauline mind could ever be called the 'Word of God'?" (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture. p. 136). Even the finicky heretic Marcion allowed the bulk of Paul's letters to remain in his canon, though he joined the Episcopalians in discarding the Old Testament! Once you've gotten rid of all the scriptures they dislike, how much is left? A few choice phrases, not enough to bother binding as a book; the Episcopal holy book could fit on a mimeographed sheet: "God is love," etc. But if you are reading God's book to cull only a few worthwhile maxims, then why call yourself a Christian? Surely a few worthwhile sayings may be found in Homer's Iliad or the Bhagavad Gita, yet no one leaning on such a slender reed calls himself a pagan or a Hindu. Hopefully in the future the Episcopalians will join the Unitarian Universalists in abandoning an identification that only causes confusion.

Hopefully few would willingly delete from the Holiness Code the command to love one's neighbor:

"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18).

It seems they want to 'pick and choose.' Yet it remains a popular approach to try to vindicate homosexuality by ejecting Moses from the Bible:

"Is there any doubt where Jesus would have stood in these episodes—where, in his mystical members, he was standing then? He was with the gay man, not with his haters. This is made all the clearer by the fact that gays are called unclean for the same reason as were other outcasts of Jesus' time—because they violate the Holiness Code of the Book of Leviticus. . .Those who have been anxious to keep this taboo alive in our time are selective in what parts of the Holiness Code they continue to observe from the Book of Leviticus." (Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant, pp. 32-33).

Have these people discovered, as they plainly believe, a triumphant refutation of Christian sexual morality?


Eating Lobster Moral Law
Ceremonial Law Universal Law
Sabbath Keeping The Talmud
Law of Love Kiss the Son



Born that Way

The idea has been adopted in modern American political discourse that sexual orientation is innate, i.e., one is born that way. This idea has been accepted and promoted as 'scientific' in the near total absence of any evidence in its behalf. There is evidence to the contrary, for instance in the higher percentage of adult homosexuals who report having been sexually abused as a child. If there is a causal nexus there, then it is tragic that crime victims would, in later years, base their 'identity' on what a sordid criminal did to them.

Those who follow popular culture are becoming perplexed at how mere fatalism is being recycled, repackaged and sold to the rising generation: "And tangled up in that message comes the strange central theme of “Born This Way” — resigning to fate." (Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way: Music is Preaching to the Bored Choir,’ by Chris Richards, May 20, 2011, at WashingtonPost.com). The old idea 'biology is destiny' has become stylish again. Hopefully young people will have enough innate skepticism not to embrace this recycled idea, dug up from the land-fill where it was deposited many years ago, without examination, simply because moneyed interests promote it. This same pop diva, I'm told, tells the dim-witted youngsters who follow her that they are "gods." Was there ever a 'god' so lacking in power as the down-trodden peons she imagines her followers to be in reality: helpless play-things at the hands of biology, or even of the mean children who teased them? Surely a 'god' must have the power to define himself.

The complex of ideas which led here began with the claim that repression is the cardinal sin which triggers all ills and neuroses. This idea was the center-piece of a system of quack 'therapy' for which the insurance companies no longer need pay, the costly 'therapy' having proven as ineffectual as the once-popular pre-frontal lobotomy:




Even if, contrary to evidence, it were true that one is 'born that way,' it is irrelevant for the church, because Christians are not born but reborn. We have received new lives for old: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. . ." (Colossians 2:13). There is no malady the Great Physician cannot cure, no depravity He cannot cleanse. In choosing candidates for church office, there is no case to be made for choosing open, known, and unrepentant sinners.




Recently young Matthew Vines has attracted a lot of attention by claiming that Bible teaching on homosexuality is basically irrelevant, inasmuch as Paul knew nothing of modern, loving, committed homosexuality, because it did not exist at that time. Is this plausible? This author and speaker alleges that the Bible authors have no concept of sexual orientation, even though a word like 'effeminate' can only be understood as referring to orientation or habitual behavior. His argument, when all is said and done, is not so much about the Bible as about what 'people back then' thought. It has been pointed out, in rebuttal, that the Bible is more of a closed, self-referential system than a dialogue with the nations, and Paul cared more about what Moses in Leviticus said about homosexual relations than what any pagan Roman poet thought. This is certainly true. But did the people of New Testament times, whether pagan or worshippers of the living God, have any such set of ideas as he ascribes to them? Or is this just one more tall tale, like when Madalyn Murray O'Hair claimed that 'people back then' did not know sex led to child-bearing?:


Theognis and Kurnos Meleager
Harmodius and Aristogeiton Sacred Band of Thebes
Orestes and Pylades Sappho and Damophyle
Pausanias and Agathon Plato and Dion
Alexander and Hephaestion Cleomenes and Panteus
Crates and Polemo Terence and Scipio
Julius Caesar and King Nicomedes Marc Antony and Curio
Gracchus and Spouse Callistratus and Afer
Nisus and Euryalus Hadrian and Antinous
Heliogabalus and Hierocles Sexual Orientation
Just Friends Nero and Sporus
Antonius and Julius Calvaster Bassianus and Hierocles