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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 78

Watson continues his description of a contented Christian:

He that is contented with his condition, to rid himself out of trouble, will not turn himself into sin. I deny not but a Christian may lawfully seek to change his condition: so far as God’s providence doth go before, he may follow. But when men will not follow providence but run before it, as he that said, “this evil is of the Lord, why should I wait any longer. (2 Ki. 6. 33) If God doth not open the door of his providence, they will break it open, and wind themselves out of affliction by sin; bringing their souls into trouble; this is far from holy contentation, this is unbelief broken into rebellion. A contented Christian is willing to wait God’s leisure, and will not stir till God open a door. As Paul said in another case, “they have beaten us openly, uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do they thrust us out privily? nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out:” (Ac. 16. 37) so, with reverence, saith the contented Christian, God hath cast me into this condition; and though it be sad, and troublesome, yet I will not stir, till God by a clear providence fetch me out. Thus those brave spirited Christians; “they accepted not deliverance,” (He. 11. 35) that is, upon base dishonourable terms. They would rather stay in prison than purchase their liberty by carnal compliance. Estius observes on the place, “they might not only have had their enlargements, but been raised to honour, and put into offices of trust, yet the honour of religion was dearer to them, than either liberty or honour.”

A contented Christian will not remove, till as the Israelites he sees a pillar of cloud and fire going before him. “It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (La. 3. 26) It is good to stay God’s leisure and not to extricate ourselves out of trouble, till we see the star of God’s providence pointing out a way to us.


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)
  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sunspots 728


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Finance: Catherine Rampell doesn't think President Trump's bashing of the Federal Reserve, or his apparent eagerness to get into a trade war with China, are good ideas. She says that these two mistakes will work together to hurt the US economy more than either, by itself.

Food: Relevant reports that a Rhode Island school district is going to give students who owe lunch money jelly sandwiches. In a later report, NPR reports that this policy has been rolled back. Some school districts are giving meals to children whose parents/guardians who haven't paid for lunches, when, apparently, they could do so, and have spent many thousands of dollars to feed these children.

Politics: Relevant reports that Jerry Falwell, Jr., says that President Trump should be awarded two extra years in office, because of the attacks on him during the first two years.

Relevant also reports that a Georgia politician believes that intermarriage between whites and non-whites is against the Bible's teaching.

Gizmodo, and other news outlets, report that the US refused to sign a declaration that climate change is endangering the Arctic environment.

S. E. Cupp reports that the Obama administration used drones in conflicts in some questionable ways, and that the Trump administration is using even more drones as deadly weapons.

Science: (or something) Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, and the richest man on the planet, says we need to move some of us off of the earth, in order to save humanity. The editor of Earther begs to differ.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Sunspots 727

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


The Arts: Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, has died. He was over seven feet tall

The History Blog reports that Maurice Sendak, of Where the Wild Things Are fame, also worked on stage design, for operas.

Christianity: National Public Radio reports on a fairly rare couple -- they were both virgins when they were married.


Computing: Gizmodo tells us how to delete voice recordings from Google Home.

Finance: Catherine Rampell on why Stephen Moore should not be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board by President Trump. The Hill says that Lindsay Graham and other Republican senators also are doubtful about Moore. Eventually, his name was withdrawn.

Health: Gizmodo reports on the variety of things men will try, in order (they hope) to grow taller.

NPR on why it's so hard to lose weight.

(and politics) Catherine Rampell reports that Attorney General Barr has joined legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. If these challenges succeed, millions of people will lose health insurance, and other popular provisions of the ACA will be null and void.

Politics: Michael Gerson complains about Attorney General Barr's belief in the expansion of the power of the President.

Science: Gizmodo asks if there will ever be new colors that humans can see.

Gizmodo reports that Chinese scientists, and others, claim that the recent gene-changing procedure, using the CRISPR system to alter the genes of two girls, was unnecessary, and that the whole procedure was flawed.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain. 

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Is the sun important to us? Absolutely

Why is the sun important to us?
 

For starters, the gravitational attraction of the sun holds the earth in a stable orbit, which is necessary for our very existence as living beings on this planet.

The sun is a giant source of energy. Einstein pointed out the relationship between energy and mass, in his famous e = m c-squared equation. Every second, thousands of tons of mass are turned into energy, by the sun. The process involves four Hydrogen nuclei fusing into a Helium nucleus, which has a little less mass than the Hydrogen nuclei. This fusion wouldn’t be possible without the extreme temperature in the core of the sun – millions of degrees. Temperature is a measurement of the velocity of molecules. At absolute zero, all motion ceases. In the core of the sun, the velocity of particles is so high that they can overcome natural forces of mutual repulsion, hence slamming together and fusing nuclei.


In case you didn’t know, the c in Einstein’s equation is the velocity of light, a large number, and it’s squared. That means that a little bit of mass can be converted to a lot of energy.


What happens to the sun’s radiated energy? Most of it goes off into space, perhaps eventually hitting something. The sun is about 93,000,000 miles away from us. Think of a giant sphere, with a diameter that large. The sun’s radiated energy goes off evenly in all directions. The earth occupies only a very small fraction of the surface of that imaginary sphere. But that very small fraction gets hit by a tiny bit of the sun’s emitted energy, and that is very important to us.


Energy from the sun keeps the earth at a temperature compatible with human, and other, life. It is possible that there is life elsewhere in the solar system, but not likely. Either conditions would be too hot for life, or too cold, in most planets and planetary moons, such as the moons of Saturn.
 

Energy from the sun, in the form of light, makes it possible for us to perceive the world around us, using vision. Most insects, most vertebrates, and some other animals use vision, which would be impossible without light from the sun. (Some animals can see types of light that we can’t, but that statement still applies.) We can perceive the world around us in other ways, to be sure, but vision is arguably more important than the other senses we have.

Energy from the sun makes the seasons possible, and also makes various critically important earthly phenomena, such as the water cycle, possible. Energy from the sun makes erosion and weathering of rocks possible.


Energy from the sun, in the form of light, makes photosynthesis possible. Essentially all of the food energy we take in came directly or indirectly from photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, light is captured by green plants, who use it to produce sugars and various other organic substances, that we need to build ourselves, and to release energy to keep us going.


Is the sun important to us? Absolutely. Yes, that’s the right word – absolutely.


Perhaps St. Paul was speaking of the critical importance of light, when, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote “1 Timothy 6:15b who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Monday, May 06, 2019

Does the Bible say that sex change is sinful?


National Public Radio recently posted a story on a disagreement over sex education in a public school. NPR quoted one person involved in this struggle: "When you fundamentally discredit the very nature of God's creation of our youth as male and female, you are seeking to discredit God."

There are a lot of people who believe that God's living creation is either male or female. Why? One reason is this verse: Genesis 1:27 "God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them." Claiming that there is legitimacy in changing gender, however it is proposed to be accomplished, is taken to violate this verse, and, therefore, to "discredit God."

Gender variations in non-humans
This verse does not seem to apply to non-humans, as it is in the section of Genesis 1 which speaks of the creation of human beings. Many non-human organisms are not either male or female. Many plants and invertebrate animals are both male and female. Especially in plants, and in some animals, sex simply has to  do with who produces sperm and who produces eggs. There is no courtship in plants, and there are no obvious sex role differences in them, or in some animals. In some animals, sex roles are not what you might expect. For example, there are amphibians in which the sperm-producing male takes care of the young. See here and here for videos. Many kinds of birds share care of the young. Some birds, especially pigeons and doves, produce crop milk, which serves some of the same functions as the milk of mammals. Crop milk is produced by both male and female birds.

There are vertebrate animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds) that can change sex. For example, chickens (and some other birds) can change sexes. Clown (Nemo) fish can change sex. Wrasse fish can change sex. The Wikipedia says this "Some species exhibit sequential hermaphroditism. In these species, such as many species of coral reef fishes, sex change is a normal anatomical process." There are not many examples of sex change in non-human mammals, and even in fish, birds and reptiles, as groups, sex change is the exception, not the rule.

Intersex humans
Many humans are born without being unambiguously male or female. Such intersex individuals are that way for several reasons, such as not having a normal complement of chromosomes, not having the normal anatomical apparatus for sex and reproduction, or having some of the anatomical apparatus of both sexes. See the Wikipedia article on "Intersex."

Genesis 1:27 is not the only passage with a statement that God created male and female. Genesis 5:2, Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 also make this statement, and the latter two quote Genesis 1:27. Please remember that some people believe that Genesis 1 and 2 were meant to be taken literally, and some other Bible-believing people believe, with good reason, that it wasn't so meant. I suppose that the two quotes of 1:27, by Jesus, strengthen the literalness of that verse's interpretation.

The purpose of Genesis 1:27 probably was not to declare that a desire for gender change treatments or surgery is sinful. Even so, it's not necessarily wrong to conclude that from the verse. Intersex humans, and those desiring a gender change, may be a result of the Fall.

OK. Even If intersex people are a result of the Fall, shouldn't we do something about this? Weeds, malaria mosquitoes, AIDS, earthquakes, and many other entities may not be part of God's original plan for the earth, but are the result of a Creation that is not the way God wanted it. We typically do whatever we can to alleviate these, and other conditions. Adam was told, according to Genesis 3:17-19, that he would have to till the ground, in order to obtain food from it. Some of this tilling was pulling weeds, no doubt. 

There are more results of the Fall. Babies are born with cleft palates, for example. I doubt if God's original plan for humans included that, and believe that such a condition, insofar as we can, should be treated, as should leprosy, diabetes, poor eyesight, heart conditions, and many more things. Why not, then, perform surgery, or otherwise treat, babies born as intersex? (In cleft palate surgery, and intersex surgery, the best interest of the patient, so far as it can be determined, should be a guiding principle.) Usually, such surgery is performed. Genesis 1:27 doesn't preclude occurrences of intersex babies. Some of them aren't unambiguously either male or female.

I have argued, so far, that it is right to try to correct various ills in the world, insofar as we are able to, and are correcting for unselfish reasons.

Now we come to people who desire transgender treatment. Do we owe them, like an intersex or cleft palate baby, such treatment? Clearly, some people do not believe so, and, in fact wish to deny anyone transgender treatment, because changing sex is wrong in principle. I have cited a Biblical basis for such belief above. But, my experience tells me that some of the objection to transgender has nothing to do with the Bible, but, instead, is based on an intuition that such treatment is wrong -- unnatural, not the sort of thing we want to have anything to do with.

I cannot judge anyone's reason for desiring transgender treatment. Some people's desires for that may be no more wrong that my desire to get glasses so I can see well enough to read and drive. If that is true, I would argue that such a person should get transgender treatment. But it is also possible that some, or all, people who want transgender treatment are twisted souls whose desires and motives are evil, and going against what God planned. If I knew that that was true, I would be against any such treatment. But I don't know, and I'm glad that it's not up to me to judge. It seems to me that desiring sex change treatment is not necessarily a violation of God's will, whatever Genesis 1:27 may say.

He Lives has a good post on Gender Dysphoria (thinking you are a male in a female body, or the reverse, as I understand it), and argues that saying that that condition is always due solely to the wrong desire of the person affected comes close to being heresy.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

* * * * *
Added May 13, 2019: There is an article referred to in the first comment, below, which is highly critical of the ideas behind a lot of gender dysphoria and trans-sexualism.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 77

Watson describes a contented Christian:

In a word, a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the word, desires to be wholly at God’s disposal, and is willing to live in that sphere and climate where God has set him. And if at any time he hath been an instrument of doing noble and brave service in the public, he knows he is but a rational tool, a servant to authority, and is content to return to his former condition of life. Cincinnatus, after he had done worthily, and purchased to himself great fame in his dictatorship, did notwithstanding afterwards voluntary return to till and manure his four acres of ground: thus should it be with Christians, professing godliness with contentment, having served Mars, daring to offend Jupiter; lest otherwise they discover only to the world a brutish valour, being so untamed and head-strong, that when they had conquered others, yet they are not able to rule their own spirits.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)
  

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Sunspots 726

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


The Arts: NPR discusses how movies have been getting longer and longer.

Christianity: A Relevant writer tells us 9 things we should do when reading the Bible. The 9 are ways to improve our understanding, and none of them are complicated.
(and health) A Christianity Today article discusses, at length, opposition to vaccination because some cell lines used to make material for use were derived from fetal tissue, and related issues.


Finance: Catherine Rampell on the incoherence of US trade policy toward Japan.

(and health) NPR reports on a snake bitten 9-year-old, who racked up medical bills of more than $140,000.

Health: NPR reports on adult family care in Vermont -- a way to avoid hospitals and nursing homes, for some, at least.

Politics: Based on the Mueller Report, Michael Gerson says that it's time for the US House to lay the groundwork for impeachment.

(Or something) Relevant reports on a few of the recent beheadings that are a feature of Saudi Arabian jurisprudence.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain. 

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 76

As his little book comes toward the end, Watson lists ways that a believer shows that she has divine contentment:

Character 3d. A contented spirit is a thankful spirit. This is a degree above the other; “in every thing giving thanks.” (1 Th. 5. 18) A gracious heart spies mercy in every condition, therefore hath his heart screwed up to thankfulness; others will bless God for prosperity, he blesseth him for affliction. Thus he reasons with himself; am I in want? God sees it better for me to want than to abound; God is now dieting of me, he sees it better for my spiritual health sometimes to be kept fasting; therefore he doth not only submit but is thankful. The malcontent is ever complaining of his condition; the contented spirit is ever giving thanks.

O what height of grace is this! A contented heart is a temple where the praises of God are sung forth, not a sepulchre wherein they are buried. A contented Christian in the greatest straits hath his heart enlarged and dilated in thankfulness; he oft contemplates God’s love in election; he sees that he is a monument of mercy, therefore desires to be a pattern of praise. There is always gratulatory music in a contented soul; the Spirit of grace works in the heart like new wine, which under the heaviest pressures of sorrow will have a vent open for thankfulness: this is to be content.


Character 4th. He that is content, no condition comes amiss to him; so it is in the text, “in whatever state I am.” A contented Christian can turn himself to anything; either want or abound. The people of Israel knew neither how to abound, nor yet how to want; when they were in want they murmured; “can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” and when they ate, and were filled, then they lifted up the heel. Paul knew how to manage every state; he could be either a note higher or lower; he was in this sense an universalist, he could do anything that God would have him: if he were in prosperity, he knew how to be thankful; if in adversity, he knew how to be patient; he was neither lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other. He could carry a greater sail, or lesser. Thus a contented Christian knows how to turn himself to any condition. We have those who can be contented in some condition, but not in every estate; they can be content in a wealthy estate, when they have the streams of milk and honey; while God
s candle shines upon their head, now they are content, but if the wind turn and be against them, now they are discontented. While they have a silver crutch to lean upon, they are contented; but if God breaks this crutch, now they are discontented. But Paul had learned in every estate to carry himself with an equanimity of mind. Others could be content with their affliction, so God would give them leave to pick and choose. They could be content to bear such a cross; they could better endure sickness than poverty, or bear loss of estate than loss of children; if they might have such a man’s cross they could be content. A contented Christian doth not go to choose his cross, but leaves God to choose for him; he is content both for the kind and the duration. A contented spirit saith, “let God apply what medicine he pleaseth, and let it lie on as long as it will; I know when it hath done its cure, and eaten the venom of sin out of my heart, God will take it off again.”

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)
  
 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Homosexuality: Questions and Answers

On June 13, 2009, I posted a rather long discussion of homosexuality. I tried to be kind to all readers and commenters. There were quite a few of both. Since that time, that post has slipped into obscurity. As I understand it, search engines look for newer posts first, usually. So I'm posting it again, hoping that others, who haven't known it was there, will read it, and comment.

There are is another reason for re-posting. One of the currently leading Democratic Presidential candidates is a practicing homosexual. And the apparent leading Republican candidate is a serial adulterer. If you want to know more about these things, do a web search for "Trump adultery," or for "Butigeig." (Butigeig spoke about his faith in an interview reported by Relevant. Here's a Trump adultery timeline in Newsweek.)

In this post, I'm not going to discuss the question of whether being an active homosexual, or a serial adulterer, makes one unacceptable, in God's sight, of being President of the US. Nor do I wish to discuss the question of whether believing voters could conscientiously support either of these types of person. Perhaps in further posts.

The last reason for re-posting is that I posted, on January 11, 2011, a comment about the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church. I should not have written as if Catholic clergy are/were the only abusers. They aren't. I have since read of a sexual abuse scandal involving Southern Baptist youth ministers in Texas. and of another abuse case in a Jewish training institution. Unfortunately, there are probably a lot more cases of ministers betraying their trust, their profession, and their God by such behavior.

Here's the original post:

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Homosexuality: Questions and Answers

Christians often make one of two mistakes about homosexuality. Some say that there is nothing wrong with homosexual activity, and some say that it is the worst (or the only) sin. Neither of these is consistent with the Bible. The most important question related to homosexuality is the authority of the Bible.There are only a few direct scriptural references to homosexuality: Genesis 19:1-5, 12; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; I Corinthians 6:9-20; I Timothy 1:10; Jude 1:7. (Deuteronomy 23:17-18 probably refers to homosexual prostitution.) Some, who mostly fall into the first error above, say that:
Genesis 19 is about gang rape, not homosexuality Ezekiel 16:48-50, Isaiah 1:10-17, Jeremiah 23:14 and Matthew 10:11-15 indicate that homosexuality was not the primary sin of the inhabitants of Sodom -it was lack of justice, lack of hospitality, and rejection of God - but see Jude 1:7, which says something about sexual sin;
that the passages in Leviticus and Romans aren't relevant for today's practicing homosexuals, because they condemn unnatural acts by heterosexuals;
while today's homosexuals are doing what is natural for them;
that I Corinthians and I Timothy are against pederasty, not the homosexuality of today.

These arguments may have some validity, but there is a strong biblical argument against homosexual activity. It is not from the texts cited above (although they are part of the evidence) but from the scriptural portrayal of heterosexual fidelity as God's ideal for humans, from the earliest parts of Genesis to the portrayal of the church as the bride of Christ in Revelation. (See Genesis 2:18-24, Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 5, The Song of Solomon, Ezekiel 16, Hosea 1-3, Matthew 19:4-6, John 2:1-11, Revelation 19:6-8, and elsewhere.)

1. Is homosexuality wrong? Yes and no. Based on scripture, homosexual activity is wrong. Homosexual tendencies are not wrong, any more than heterosexual ones, unless those tendencies are due to wrong choices. If I am attracted to someone other than my wife, because I have heterosexual tendencies, and act on it, that's wrong. Having the tendencies isn't wrong. (Acting on it doesn't mean just adultery or fornication--deliberately exposing myself to pornography, or lusting after movie stars, etc., are ways of acting on heterosexual tendency, and acting sinfully.) It isn't wrong to have heterosexual tendencies, unless those tendencies are due to wrong choices, so why should it be wrong to have homosexual tendencies?

2. Is homosexual tendency built in? In some cases. Recent evidence indicates that pre-natal hormonal exposure is important. There is probably some genetic influence. But some people choose homosexuality over heterosexuality. (James Dobson believes that homosexuality is due to how a child was raised, which is probably part of the story. If it were all of the story, the cause would be neither a choice by the person or some built-in factor.)

3. Isn't having homosexual tendencies, but not being able to act on them without sinning, unfair? God is not ever unfair. He may demand more of some than others, in certain aspects of their lives. All of us are born with tendencies that we must control in order to live Christian lives. It isn't just homosexuals that are called to life-long celibacy -- some heterosexuals are. All heterosexuals are, until they are married.

4. Can homosexuals form long-lasting same-sex relationships? Apparently. However, this often doesn't happen. (It often doesn't happen with heterosexual marriage relationships, either, but that's another sad story.) Are such relationships identical to stable Christian heterosexual marriages, in God's sight? No. They aren't God's plan. You could have a long-lasting sexual relationship with a prostitute, or even a dog, but the fact that it's long-lasting doesn't make it right. 

5. Can homosexuals become happy heterosexuals? At least some of the time. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) Probably not all of the time.

6. What should be the Christian attitude toward homosexuals? Practicing homosexuals, like practicing gossips, gluttons or thieves, are sinners. We should love them, but not love their sin. Overt sinners should not be leaders in churches, and certainly not pastors.

7. Is homosexuality the worst threat to marriage in North America?
No. If there were no homosexuals at all, marriage would still be under continuing and violent attack from its real worst enemy, namely that a woman and a man don't make Jesus Christ Lord of their relationship.


8. Is homosexual activity the worst sin? No. See what Jesus said in comparing Sodom to the people of his day, in Matthew 11:20-24, and Luke 10:1-12. Romans 1 indicates that homosexual behavior is a symptom of a worse sin, idolatry or unbelief.

Homosexual activity is not even the worst sexual sin -- it's not part of the 10 Commandments. (Adultery, of course, is prohibited in the 10 Commandments.) There's a list of curses for sinful activity in Deuteronomy 27:15-26. Four such were curses for sexual misconduct, and they didn't include homosexual activity. (That does not, of course, make homosexual activity acceptable for Christians.)

There are some other topics that I wish to mention briefly.

Intersexuality, or ambiguous anatomical sexual anatomy
(See Wikipedia article.) There is controversy over classification issues, but it seems that from 0.05% to as many as 1.7% of babies born have genital anatomy that is not normal. What does that have to do with homosexuality? This -- not everyone is born "normal." People do not choose to be born with ambiguous external genitals, nor do they become this way because of the way that their parents raised them, which relates, at least somewhat, to the questions of how people become homosexual, and God's fairness to them. So far as I know, Christian thinkers have not considered this phenomenon at all, let alone in depth.

Civil Unions
Should Christians oppose civil unions? A civil union would give homosexual couples some legal rights, such as joint ownership of property, and hospital visitation rights, but would not have the same type of recognition as a marriage. This is a difficult question, and I haven't resolved it in my own mind. If I am offered the chance to vote on the issue, I will try to make up my mind, God helping me. On the one hand, it seems unfair to deny a person, who has been a caregiver, hospital visitation rights for the person he or she has cared for, regardless of their sexual preferences. On the other hand, this might be a step toward full recognition of marriage between homosexuals, on the same basis as between heterosexuals, and, as indicated above, I do not believe that a homosexual couple can have God-approved marriage.

A church-approved marriage does not need to be the same as a state-approved marriage, although, often, it is. Couples, even totally unchurched couples, often seem to believe that they have a right to a church wedding, and churches often comply, sometimes even without any pre-marital counseling. Probably many churches, including my own, have, occasionally, had marriage ceremonies between a man and a woman performed that united couples that God really didn't want together.

Should Homosexuals be allowed to join churches?
I would draw upon the example of the early church, except that I am not clear as to whether the early church had membership in the same way that many churches do today. Let me stipulate that a church member is someone that the congregation, or its leaders, believes is a converted Christian, who is in agreement with basic Bible doctrine, and Christian practice, as understood by that church.

I don't see any reason to deny membership to a person with homosexual tendencies, as indicated above. Based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, persons engaged in homosexual activity should not be taken into membership, any more than greedy people, or swindlers, should be. They are mentioned in the same list as homosexuals. The good news is that the same passage states that some of the current members of the Corinthian church used to do some of these things, but had been redeemed from such activities, presumably including homosexuality.

Thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *  *

Added Jan 26, 2013: Here's a later post, on adultery and fornication

Added July 29, 2014: Here's a later post, on the idea that Jesus referred to homosexuality without condemning it. 

Added January 8, 2015: Here's my post on what's wrong with the political left/right in the US

Added January 18, 2015: One of the possible dangers, for the near future, for Christians, is that merely saying that the Bible says that homosexual activity is sinful may be called illegal hate speech, no matter what the motivation or tone of the statement. In other words, even answering a question: "Does the Bible say that homosexual activity is sinful?" with a "Yes, I believe that it does" may lead to legal action.

Added May 27, 2016: Benjamin L. Corey writes that some Christians are changing their attitude toward homosexuals, and indicates why this is so. (He thinks it's a good thing, by the way.)

On June 8, 2016, I added scriptural references to the first paragraph. I recommend this post on scripture and homosexuality by Ken Schenck.

On June 9, 2017, I found this post from Sojourners, which gives 10 Bible passages which, according to the article, indicate that the church should not condemn persons who are practicing homosexual behavior. 

This is a post, by me, arguing that marriage was not a sacrament in New Testament times.


33 comments:

Anonymous said...
You've given me additional insight in how to best deal with my niece. I do love her and I've told her that, but I don't condone her lifestyle. When I pray for her I ask for God to free her from the bondage she doesn't know she's in.
Lizabeth
groovyoldlady said...
Excellent post. Well reasoned and thoroughly Biblical.

However, I do take exception to your statement, "God is not ever unfair." He is BLESSEDLY unfair, or else He would allow us all to suffer the due penalty of our own sin. Instead, He most unfairly paid the penalty for our sin and just as unfairly imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

:-D
Martin LaBar said...
You are right, groovyoldlady. I should have said that God does not punish us unfairly, I guess.
Anonymous said...
I like this post. I noticed you put the two extreme views of homosexuality in the first paragraph. It's funny that neither of those takes scripture seriously. Both would end up being uber liberal theology. Kudos.
ClassyChassy said...
Good post. I have come across some bloggers who post in favor of homosexuality - that it is fine with God, blah blah blah --I have trouble with that, and you have written all of the reasons right here. Since I do not know these people, I simply say nothing, and leave no comment if I finish reading what they have to say. Congrats on your boldness here today.
Keetha Broyles said...
Appears that TWO of my blog regulars made their way over here AND commented (several others have told me they came) and ONE of my blog regulars became a follower!!

Now you have more readers!!!
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, anonymous.

Yes, that was my point, superrustyfly.

ClassyChassy, I wasn't bold. I doubt seriously if anyone who believes homosexual activity is compatible with God's will will even read this blog. I hope I did put forward the main scriptural reason why it is sinful, as well as some stern admonishment for those who believe that, as some say, "God hates fags," except that they won't read this, either. Oh, well.

Thanks, Keetha!
Daniel Smith said...
Great post. You've compiled the most comprehensive collection of information on this topic that I have ever seen - and you even included information on intersexuality. I didn't think there was any information on this topic and you have confirmed that.

I most definitely want to hear more on this topic as you have time to research and think through this complicated issue. I have a close friend that is openly gay who I grew up with. He is still a friend and a good one at that, but I question how to deal with and accept his sexual preference choices. Your guidelines are informative and I appreciate them.

I'd also like to add that I completely disagree with the notion that there is a genetic basis for homosexuality. Much research has been done on this for years and nothing has come of it. The only bit of supporting evidence I've ever heard is the information you presented regarding prenatal hormones - and I doubt that will make much of an impact compared to upbringing and personal choices.

Oh, and you might explicitly include the David and Jonathan verses where David loves Jonathan that some include as a depiction of homosexuality. It's the passage where Jonathan shoots arrows and what says is code for David to flee or stay.
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Daniel Smith.

I didn't include the passages about David and Jonathan, or the one where John is described as the disciple Jesus loved, or the one on the rich young ruler. In the first place, I was looking only for verses that are against homosexual activity, not those that might support it. In the second place, I don't think any of these incidents were related to sexual activity at all -- as C. S. Lewis pointed out, there's more than one Greek word for "love," and it's too bad that that isn't true of English, also. Only one of those words has to do with sexual attraction, as I understand it, where, in English, we seem to have moved to where "love" means "sex," often without much love, in our minds.

David, of course, had several wives, and children, and his most glaring sin was related to his lusting after Bathsheba's body. He certainly wasn't an exclusive homosexual, and I don't believe that he was a homosexual at all.

Thanks again.
Anonymous said...
Hello,

I've read a few of your blogs and believe that you are well-studied, fair, and open-minded in your posts as well as comment responses.

I am a homosexual male. I feel like I was born like this, but I suppose I'll never know for sure... I am also a practicing Catholic and come from a very conservative background. It should then be no surprise that when I discovered this about me, I did everything in my power to "change" myself. I believed there was something wrong with me. Everything I did to fight it led to more pain, and as a result, anger - especially with God. (This anger is no more... I understand that God gives everyone different challenges and trials through which to work.)

My entire story would be a book so I'll summarize here. I became aware of my homosexuality at 16, fought it for approximately 8 years, and began dating and learning about the "gay lifestyle" at 24. I'm 31 now.

As I stated earlier, I believe you to be fair. I also believe you well-intentioned. So I wanted to ask you to pray and reflect on this question - After much reflection on my part, I believe with all my heart that two men or two women together in a loving relationship is not morally wrong. I believe God loves those couples and does not disaprove. If I am wrong, why do I still feel with all my heart that I am not? Wouldn't God find a way to convince me I am wrong?

I believe I can speak fairly objectively in my belief. Though I am gay, currently, I am not dating. After much reflection, I feel relationships are not good for me. I seem to be happiest being single. This fact, however, does not impact my belief about homosexual relationships...

I am a teacher so I will refrain from posting my full name. I trust you understand. Also, if there is anything you would like to know about me or just wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on the topic, I am willing. It would just have to be outside of a public blog. Thank you for your time.

David
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks for your comment, David.

I will try to pray for you and your situation. Let me try to respond.

Unfortunately, our hearts can mislead us. as Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 11:8, and many other Bible verses indicate. As Jeremiah 17:9 put it: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (KJV) As I indicated in my post, I believe that the Bible has enough on this, especially the emphasis throughout it on heterosexual marriage as the norm, and blessed by God, to convince us of God's ideas on the subject, regardless of our own hearts.
As I understand the Bible, you should not be in a sexual relationship with someone, regardless of your homosexual tendencies.

I sympathize with you, and understand that I may be wrong in anything I have said about this issue. Also, I know that I am not looking at this in the same way you do, that is, from the standpoint of a person who is sexually attracted to a person of their own sex.

I'm sorry, but I don't think I have any special expertise in this area, and don't think that I could be of more help in this.

God help you. He loves you.

Thanks for your comment.
Andrew Ryan said...
Martin, 1) what is your opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's views on homosexuality? He said words to the affect that he doesn't see gays in loving, long-term relationships as being any more sinful than straight couples. His position can't be put down to ignorance of scripture - he's renowned as a biblical scholar.

2) Gay men are generally characterised as being more promiscuous then heterosexual men. I don't know much about gay culture, but I gather that the characterisation is probably true.

However, isn't this more down to the fact that men in general are more promiscuous than women? Straight men's promiscuity is limited by the women they can hook up with. Gay men don't have this limitation.

The evidence for this is that when straight men get rich or famous, they find it a lot easier to get women, and they tend to become as promiscuous as gay men.

The other factor is that gay men cannot marry. We're always being told that marriage stabilises people, encourages them to stick out relationships. I don't know if this is true, but if it is, would it not follow that denying gays the ability to marry would effectively be encouraging promiscuity?

This is similar to the fallacy that pigs are dirty creatures, therefore we keep them in muddy styes, which makes them dirty, reinforcing our original misconception. In other words, people say gays are too promiscuous to marry (an institution we believe discourages promiscuity), and then the same people point to all the promiscuous unmarried gay people as evidence.

Andrew - ar@wlv.ac.uk
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Andrew.

My reaction to the Archbishop is that it is possible to be a Biblical scholar and still deny what the Bible says. Whether that's what the Archbishop is doing, I don't know. It is possible, of course, that I am mis-reading the Bible. But I read it as indicating that homosexual sexual activity, even within a long-term relationship, is not God's best plan for humans, and is sinful.

In the US, and probably elsewhere, churches have sanctioned heterosexual marriages when not all such should be sanctioned, for any number of reasons, including immaturity of the partners, lack of real commitment to each other, and the partners not having any other relationship with the church. Ideally, I think the church should sanction a lot fewer marriages than the state allows, and that would be true if there were no such thing as homosexuality. However, that's not the way we do it, and I think the church sanctions a lot of heterosexual marriages that God doesn't.

I'm not sure that I oppose state-sanctioned marriage between homosexual partners, for some of the reasons you give, and for fairness -- why should a homosexual caregiver who would have been a spouse if homosexual marriage were allowed, be denied hospital visiting rights, for example?

But a God-sanctioned marriage has to be between a man and a woman, who are committed to each other, and to God, as I understand the Bible. Therefore, I oppose church-sanctioned marriages between homosexual partners.

Thanks for your comment.
Andrew Ryan said...
Martin, thanks for taking the time to reply. I've one other question. Some of the Christians I know who have no problem with homosexuality, I've asked them how they reconcile the 'anti-gay' passages in the bible with their stance.

A reply I've heard a couple of times is that those are OT passages, and that if they took such passages literally they'd also have to also take literally all the passages that condoned slavery. (Googling 'bible condones slavery' brings up many examples).

Is it not special pleading to reject those 'pro-slavery' passages, but not do the same for the 'anti-gay' parts?
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Andrew Ryan.

It is, indeed, dangerous to specially plead for something. Perhaps I, and other Christians, have done so in the matter of homosexuality.

It is also dangerous to say that we know better than the Bible.

As I read the New Testament, it isn't pro-slavery, but it accepts slavery, and some other things, such as the inferior status of women in Jewish society, as part of the culture. Christ didn't come so much to re-make culture (He didn't defeat the Romans!) as to re-make people, one at a time. Some Roman soldiers became His followers. A long time later, Christians led the fight to defeat slavery, relying, I guess, on their sense that it was wrong. They had some Biblical support. There's the Golden Rule -- they didn't want to be slaves, so why should anyone else have to be? There are also as admonitions, in both Testaments, to be just to the poor, and slaves were (and are) as poor as you can get.

My response to your question about the Old Testament is two-fold.

First, the Bible is much more a pro-heterosexuality book than it is an anti-homosexuality book, and this includes the New Testament, through Revelation.

Second, saying that the New Testament doesn't touch on homosexuality is just plain wrong. I referenced either five or six (depending on how you count) passages that deal with it in my post.

Thanks again.
Andrew Ryan said...
Martin, thanks again for taking the time to respond to my post. It is much appreciated. Thanks also for your Intelligent Design post.
Andrew, UK.
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Andrew Ryan.
Anonymous said...
I am the "David" that wrote the Jan 15th post. Sorry I've not thanked you for your response earlier, but it's been a busy month to say the least. Thank you again for your prayers and words. I think God will find a way to answer the questions I have. Peace be with you.

David
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks for your response, anonymous. God help us all.
Anon said...
"It doesn't make sense to put a church member with known homosexual tendencies in charge of children or youth groups"

Evil.
I don't have the energy at the moment to fully argue this article, and although I do think you are ignorant of what exactly you're saying, and so I forgive you; it is evil and it is bigotry.
Martin LaBar said...
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Anon, whoever you are.

If what I said was evil, I'm sorry. It is also true that heterosexuals have done some nasty things to children who were their responsibility in church children's work.
Megan said...
Thanks for this Dr. LaBar, It is obvious that your post has gotten people to think. Could you clarify homosexual tendencies? Do you mean someone who tends to be tempted in that area? I recently saw an interesting hypothetical on another blog that i will pose to you. Say a man is in a now legal marriage relationship with another man and gets saved. He might feel that to "divorce" would be sinful. The first thing that came to my mind was that since homosexual behavior is sin and homosexual marriage not recognized by God then it is not divorce but that is coming from a heterosexual female! What would be your take on this?
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Megan.

Homosexual tendencies mean that a person is sexually attracted to someone, or several someones, of the same sex as they are. And, yes, this is a form of temptation.

As to your hypothetical question, that's a tough one. I guess I'd agree with you that homosexual marriage is not recognized by God, so this wouldn't be the same as divorce. And I would further state that it is important to get out of a relationship or situation that is sinful right away. But I can also see that there might be legal or moral ties between a homosexual couple, for example they might own a house jointly, or they might have agreed to share expenses, or a pet, in some way. In such cases, just as with a divorce between heterosexuals, more than a mere sexual relationship is involved, and separating might involve temptations to deceive or be greedy or slanderous in the process.
Anonymous said...
Hello Dr. LaBar!

Thank you for your blog posts! They are very insightful!
I recently wrote a blog comment in response to your entry on homosexuality last year (the one on June 12, 2009). I am a "newbie" when it comes to arguments on homosexuality. If you have the time, please read it over--it would be greatly appreciated!
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are.

I read and commented on the other comment.
Anonymous said...
Thank you, Dr. LaBar, for your words! (I finally got around to reading this post!). It was truly a relief to hear someone comment on the many aspects of the homosexuality issue in a cohearrent, unbiased way!.
I replied back to your comment from the June 12, 2009 comment. I also wanted to you know that from here on out, I will post to this more recent blog post if I want to reply back.

Thanks again,
Callie (that is my online pen name)
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Anonymous/Callie.

By the way, Blogger (this is a Blogger blog) sends any comments to the blog author as e-mail, so it doesn't matter where you comment.
Anonymous said...
Not all homosexual people are paedophiles, and not all paedophiles are homosexual.

I find your implication that a homosexual person should not be trusted with young people to be offensive and inaccurate.

I am sure your words were well-intentioned, but remarks such as those you made about this subject undermine your credibility.
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, anonymous.

I stand corrected. Not all people with homosexual tendencies are paedophiles.

Some are, if I understand recent tragic scandals in the Roman Catholic church.
i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...
The loving "inspiration" of your responses to the commenters is as good as the "information" in the post, maybe better. Many have forgotten that speaking the truth in Love is what makes Truth believable. God bless you brother.
Martin LaBar said...
Thanks, Kerry i am. I hope I've had the right attitude.
vanessa said...
Hello, I was looking up more info on Athaliah and found this blog along side :) would you Please clarify #5'sanswer: 5)Can homosexuals become happy heterosexuals? At least some of the time. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.)Probably not all of the time.
Do you mean with our without receiving the redemptive work of the cross in their lives.For I have heard testamony of men who are now happily married and living lives sold out for Christ. could you please clarify your answer?
Martin LaBar said...
Thank you, Vanessa.

As you have indicated, there have been cases of practicing homosexuals who have become apparently happy practicing heterosexuals. I'm sure that the redemptive power of God was involved, as well as their own choice.

However, I doubt if that would be possible for all individuals. At least some people seem to be homosexual because their hormones make them so. You have probably had the same experience that I have, while watching TV. I have heard some men speak, and said to myself, something like "That sounds like a homosexual," and, it turned out that the person was, indeed, a homosexual. There seems to be a strong biological tendency, in some people, to be homosexual. God could overcome that, but, just as He doesn't choose to make all believers with Down syndrome into college professors, or all blind believers sighted, He doesn't seem to choose to change everyone's sexual orientation.

I believe that a Christian can be a fulfilled, happy, celibate. There are seem to be many examples of such, such as, for example, many protestant female missionaries, and Catholic nuns (most of whom would not have chosen to be homosexual, if such a choice were somehow allowable under God). This can be true whether the person's biological inclination is to be homosexual or heterosexual. I am thankful that, for most of my life, I have not been so called -- I have been happily married to a good woman -- and I hope I have some appreciation for those who have been called to celibacy for a significant portion of their lives, or all of them.

As I say, I'm not convinced that all practicing homosexuals can become satisfied practicing heterosexuals. I have no statistics on this, and no Biblical proof, but I still believe it, based on what I know of biology, and of how God deals with various other types of infirmity. I am convinced that, with the help of God, both heterosexuals and homosexuals can become, or remain, celibate.