Paul on Same-Sex Sexual Relationships in Romans

According to traditional readings of the Bible, a set of texts, often called the “clobber texts,” are assumed to make an open and shut case for God’s condemnation of all same-sex sexual relationships. Of the six most used clobber texts, Romans 1:26-27 is often considered to be the strongest of the lot, since it is purported to condemn not only same-sex sexual relationships between men but is the only place in the Bible considered to also condemn such relationships between women. But, considering what is now known about same-sex sexual attraction and the opportunity for same-sex couples to now be married, do the clobber texts, and Paul in particular, clearly support condemning same-sex sexual relationships in all contexts? What is the context of Paul’s words in Romans 1? What issue is Paul addressing and what was Paul’s understanding of committed, monogamous same-sex relationships?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11221
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That’s not the case. “Sexual unions” in heterosexual couples are overwhelmingly a narrative for creating environment in which childbirth and upbringing have shared responsibilities. Whatever relationship aspect, and all of the narrative people imitate, are a wrapper to “sell” the necessity for shared responsibility in raising kids.

The relationship building aspect of it, is once again, to avoid conflicts and gain synergy necessary for raising kids.

I’m not saying that a couple can’t be childless. I’m also not saying that homosexual marriage is immoral.

I am saying that our morality is teleological in its nature. As that, romanticizing marriage with zero mention of procreation aspect that it was built for to support… is one of the reasons progressives seem to be floating in space of ideals detached from reality at times.

We can’t swing the pendulum so far the other way around, that we completely ignore biological context for marriage to begin with. Doing this as a biology prof in Adventist U is even more puzzling.

You know very well WHY sex is there as a primary function. It’s certainly not there to give wedding planners more stuff to do. It’s not there for tea and sympathy. It’s there to keep life going. Yes, there are fringes in which that mechanism varies, but again, we should be upfront and honest about it, as opposed to diminishing importance of teleological aspect of sex in order to make people feel better. And that goes for people who can’t have kids, and homosexuals alike. They are not “second class humans”, but they shouldn’t be in the driving seat to formulate teleology of sex for everyone.

Biblical scope of marriage, and government aspect of benefits are two entirely different issues that should be separated in this conversation.

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This article is a breath of fresh air. There are many forms of sexual expression that are embraced in Scripture including polygamy which is prevalent and indeed commanded in the Old Testament in certain cases. The myth of monogamy is a Pauline creation and then only in the context of elders. Some people are compelled by biology and quite incapable of remaining “faithful” to one sexual partner for life, and others enjoy solo activities. Some people are attracted by biology or choice or just to have fun to members of the opposite sex, some to the same sex, and some to everyone. Some people want to try different combinations. I don’t buy the idea that it’s only biological anymore than I buy the idea that being addicted to porn on the Internet is only biological. Some habits develop over time. And that’s fine. Whether you think you’re addicted to a certain type of sexual conduct because of biology or just because you wanted to try it and want to do it more, what’s the problem with that? Genitalia can connect in many configurations. The idea that there has to be some high-level “divine” biological basis for saying that it feels good a certain way is an insult to the energy that created us all to be free people. You’re not bound by biology - you may have just experienced things that gave you a new perspective on life. And of course some people start out in a certain way and then decide to add on or focus on their repertoire. And others would prefer to hand off the choice to a biological compulsion because it is easier to explain it in a narrow minded world.

There should be no judgment or artificial limitations on consensual human sexuality amongst independent adults.

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Every Western Medical / Psychological / Psychiatric Association has stated unequivocally that gays / lesbians have zero input nor control of their INATE sexual orientation. Neither do their straight siblings / cousins have input into their sexuality.
ALL of us, straights and gays are born that way.

Furthermore across every racial, ethnic, tribal group five per cent of the population is gay.

Since God is the only creator ( Satan, himself a created being has zero creative power ) we can only assume that God Himself creates that five per cent gay / lesbian population.

It is clear to me that even though He creates them, God HATES gays / lesbians particularly gay / lesbian children.

Because in every one of his manifestations He programs His followers to be cruel, vindictive and unaccepting of their gay offspring.

Orthodox Jews, followers of JEHOVAH, treat their gay children shabbily and shamefully.

Muslims, followers of ALLAH are extremely cruel and unaccepting of their gay kids.

We have only to hear the personal stories of SDA KINSHIP members to know how Christians, followers of God, reject their gay children.

This is why the suicide rate of gay teenagers is eight times that of heterosexual teenagers—- the hurt, the derision, the discrimination that followers of God / Jehovah / Allah heap on their gay offspring has horrendous fallout.

A gay child in an accepting Atheist family is far better off than a gay child in a rejecting Adventist family !

As to the “clobber texts”, an all knowing, allegedly omniscient God, had to have known that these anti gay texts in His Scriptures would create MISERY for millions of gays over multiple millennia.

Gay bashing, gay bullying, gay murder, so prevalent and pervasive in western Christian societies is totally a result of these “ clobber texts “.

Discrimination in housing and employment and other indignities, is due to these “ clobber texts”.

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shintoism religions have zero homophobic comments nor anti gay texts in their religious writings and homophobia is much less prevalent in countries espousing those religions.

Compare that to the rampant flagrant homophobia in Islamic countries who worship Allah !

Illustrative of this is the criminalization of gay sex in Uganda and Tanzania where gays can get life imprisonment for gay sex and in Nigeria where gay sex can elicit the death penalty. The natural, tribal,
pre Christian religion in Africa was not homophobic.

India just recently decriminalized gay sex — a legal holdover from British rule — Hinduism, their dominant religion, has zero proscriptions against gay sex.

These countries were contaminated ( I use the term advisedly ) by Christianity and the influence of the Anglican Church, under British rule has resulted in this anti gay legislation.

In summary, God, who supposedly inspired scriptures, deliberately allowed “ clobber texts” which have resulted in untold misery and grief for gays over multiple centuries in many countries where Christianity prevails.

He is definitely NOT a loving God to the gay / lesbian population he creates.

More particularly, when He cruelly imposes LIFE LONG LONELINESS on that unfortunate five per cent of the population, who through no fault of their own, have celibacy forced upon them !

God in his hatred for gays, ensures that they have the same hormonal sex drives as their straight cousins / siblings— they just are not allowed to act on those drives. How sadistic is that?

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Sex isn’t an art. It’s not something you get to express, unless you are painting with fluids :slight_smile:.

Sexuality is functional, and has specific biological context that makes ZERO sense as anything else. You can go full Existentialist and claim that all of it doesn’t matter, and that there are various configurations, etc… but there’s only one configuration that gets us to 2100s, and it’s not that unique to our species either :slight_smile:

I’m sorry, but this is ignorant. And I don’t mean to shame you, just the concept. Of course you are bound by your biology, because you are your biology. The only reason you are typing this, is because your parents had sex as biology intended them to. Your brain is a biological mechanism, so even the fact that you are discussing sexuality in context of psychological phenomena makes it a scope of rather deterministic biology.

Again, this is an incredibly ignorant statement, given that there are no free people without specific configuration that maintains population numbers up, allowing for productive abundance such population would produce. Again, full disclaimer, I respect you as a person, but I think certain concepts need broader concepts to show why these are more problematic than one may thing these are.

I’m not making an argument that we can’t accommodate for “anomalies” in whatever way we can, but let’s not confuse anomalous with intended. Hence, let’s not let anomalous take the drivers seat when it comes to standards of sexual ethics that got us here in the first place.

This is, once again, incredibly ignorant. I don’t mean to bash you or make you feel bad by saying that, but I’d like to emphasize it somehow to hopefully invite you to pay attention to sex to be something much broader than mere relationship dynamics between two people. That’s why we have sexual ethics to begin with. Technically, we already limiting consensual scope of sexual relationships by having a gender, which IS a memetic construct that drives sexual ethics.

Any man can walk over to another consenting man and cause them to ejaculate through stimulation… gay or not. The same goes for women. So, you see, gender-driven sexual boundaries are already driving sublimation of sex as an urge, and create sexual specialization that expresses itself as a society favorable to large population dynamics.

That’s why we have taboos like public nudity and public sexual acts, or dude on dude sex, because if these taboos disappear, then our social dynamics would be vastly different. It doesn’t mean that it can’t work in some hidden alcoves of swinger clubs that meet in private and all share each other. But, you aren’t considering a much much broader scope of sublimated sexuality that structures and feed into societal ethics and behavioral models.

I don’t think Church thinks about those types of things, except perhaps by some wild consideration of implications, but Church does have to consider the teleological nature of standards that are at the core of the system that the Church itself is a product of.

Again, we can accommodate whatever deviations from human standards we were brought into, especially if these are a function of “autonomous nervous system” that people are driven by or have to struggle with. It’s the same issue with Trans, but it’s the same issue with pedophilia, it’s the same issue with cleptomania, and a score of other “philia and mania” that we have to manage in order to arguably have what we have now.

Again, you may find it absurd, but if we removed ALL taboos with gender-based sexual preferences and examples, I can guarantee you that women would be the first ones to cry foul :slight_smile:

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Both of these are wrong, at least to some degree.

There aren’t “homosexuals”. Homosexuality is a category, and so is heterosexuality. Categories are artificial, and so is our models that approximate distribution of these categories.

Models are not reality, and both of the distribution scopes aren’t set in stone when it comes to how malleable sexual preferences may be, when you consider gender scope that people tend to imitate. Given that gender is a layer on top of rather blind sexual mechanism that will respond to stimulation whether you want it or not. A man can cause you to ejaculate, and the only thing that would dictate whether you prefer it or not is what everyone else will think about it, and broader implications of this sexual dynamics for society at large.

And that’s a more viable perspective for someone like yourself to look at it.

God is an ideal collection if behavioral models. These models are driven by developmental necessity. I think we are in an era where we can negotiate and accommodate variable ethical standards for individuals, but I don’t think it makes much sense to look at a version of these in the past and think that these are more relevant to contextual survival than these are to highest scope of ideals possible.

the problem with this biblical basis for slavery argument isn’t what revisionist theologians later felt a need to address…it’s rooted in the fact that Ham isn’t the individual who was cursed, even though he was implicated in the event that drew the curse…specifically, it was Canaan, the son of Ham, who was cursed…most of us realize that the Canaanites were largely wiped out in the course of Israel’s conquest of the promised land, or Canaan, which did involve slavery of indigenous Canaanites:

“And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Gen 9:24-26.

this actually means that the progeny of Ham that settled in Africa, as is presumed, weren’t cursed…in this instance, an unperceived factual error led to a misuse of the bible, rather than an interpretive one…revisionism’s treatment of slavery in the bible therefore isn’t a potential model for the treatment of the LGBT question in the bible…

the problem with this particular long running argument is the failure to recognize that the bible teaches what we can call the doctrine of original sin, which means that what we are naturally born with is sinful and condemned before any chosen acts occur…in this context, saying that something that is natural cannot be sinful and condemned runs directly against scripture…

egw, much more explicitly than the bible, teaches that what she calls inherited tendencies to sin, far from being morally neutral, represent a situation against which effort will need to be directed to overcome, or resist…she doesn’t teach that natural tendencies necessarily give licence to related, resultant behaviour…

these considerations are part of why the i’m-born-this-way-get-over-it argument in the LGBT question isn’t convincing for adventists interested in following inspiration…

the other consideration, of course, is that the bible is essentially the only place in all of antiquity where we see instruction to avoid homosexuality…in fact the backdrop in Leviticus, where strong homosexual proscriptions occur, is that surrounding nations had normalized homosexuality, but that Israel was being called out of homosexuality, along with other sexual perversions, like incest and bestiality…to say that this particular instruction is culturally limited because heterosexuality was a cultural value flies in the face of the text…

it’s good that bryan is addressing the major reason why LGBT has experienced difficulty being accepted in adventism, namely relevant biblical texts…but stronger argumentation than anything presented in this article is going to be needed if anything is going to change…

I think this is arguable, since the doctrine itself is never spelled out in the Bible, but much like much of theological doctrines, it’s strung together using isolated verbiage that has nothing to do with it in context.

Paul often laments his inability to live up to certain standards, which is quite obviously a problem with unrealistic standards and not human biology. You also have to keep in mind that Paul murdered and locked up Christians, and David likewise slept with his soldier’s wife, and put him on front lines to get rid of him.

So, contextually, these two have been tortured by their deeds, and thus they poetically described that as “there’s something really really wrong with me, and I think it’s always been there”.

Given that we learn and imitate behavior from surrounding cultural context, concept of original sin as a biological and genetic anomaly makes very little sense.

I think, if you remove sex-gender sexual ethical boundaries, all of us are quite capable of homosexual sex, and would find it quite enjoyable. But, I don’t think it would allow us to have the very same society of abundance we get to enjoy now, arguably due to sublimation of sexual impulse into a much more complex competitive standards.

Again, we HAVE to consider broader context here for human and mamalian biology in general.

Sexual ethics is a memetic sublimation of something that will “fire” more or less exactly the same way otherwise. It’s likewise quite trainable and “Pavlovian” in a sense that arousal can be associated with other stimuli that have nothing to do with typical sexual stimuly at all. It can be achieved through intentional conditioning, or associations that a person lives through and develops on their own. And there are plentiful examples of fetishism of that nature from all over the world… in which people may be aroused by specific body parts, shape of the body, or even inanimate objects.

Perhaps, we can make a case that due to this kind of malleability of sexuality, we have to be able to take control of it, and formulate sexual ethics in a way that makes our society more productive, and more conducive to produce successful generations of people. And, this is what we do now.

But, you can’t point to this and then claim that this function is unnatural of itself and must be thrown into a category of “missing the ideal”, and thus stigmatized.

Overall, I think we are collectively moving to a more mature version of humanity where we are able to rationally control, or even get rid of irrational impulses that can’t contextualize reality and will fire when triggered.

Perhaps a genetic predisposition to a gender orientation that differs from one’s apparent biological gender is more a matter of epigenetics (a predisposition by nature requiring an environment trigger).

For instance: Two sisters raised in the same family, both experiencing sexual abuse. One becomes heterosexually promiscuous, the other lesbian. Both now healed by the gospel.

Some years ago a young gay man walked into our church. As I prepared him for baptism, I felt I had to address how to interface his sexual orientation with church membership in good standing, and set forth the standard of celibacy as long as his orientation remained homosexual. Then I explained to him the cause-effect dynamic involved in his sexual orientation.

(1) worshipping the creature rather than the Creator results in deep love deprivation. The Holy Spirit is no longer shedding the love of God abroad in the heart.

(2) The next generation seeks to fill this love void with sex. That breaks up homes and deepens the love deprivation experienced by children who grow up without both of their parents together in a loving, supportive home.

(3) Though not the only outcome of broken homes, the relational dynamics of these broken homes in many cases contribute to the emergence of homosexuality. Again, this contributes to an even deeper love deprivation in the following generation.

(4) Total moral breakdown.

These generations are evident in American society.

(1) the Scopes Monkey trial in the mid-1920s illuminates the growing rejection of the Creator for the creature in American culture and education.

(2) In the mid-1960s we have the sexual revolution with widespread abandonment of holding sexual intimacy sacred in the confines of marriage. Notable in this revolution was the 1968 Woodstock Rock Concert.

(3) In the 2000s we have the formal recognition of same-sex civil unions and then marriages.

(4) We can expect the fruit of this ever-deepening love deprivation just as surely as we see how it has developed through the generations thus far. The ultimate end of this course is total anarchy and societal breakdown.

If we recognize the root cause, then we know the antidote—a direct, personal relationship with God whom we glorify (praise) and to whom our hearts are thankful and grateful. The Holy Spirit will then pour out His love in our hearts and bring the deep healing we need.

This passage from Romans 1 should never be used as a “clobber” passage, for that is to make matters worse by deepening the love deprivation even further by the sense of rejection it perpetrates. Rather it should awaken compassion in the heart for all who are, like ourselves, suffering the devastating effects of love deprivation.

I heard from the young man with whom I had shared this about 10 years later. He reported to me that he was worshipping in another Adventist church, was entrusted with a responsible church office, and enjoying life in a heterosexual marriage. When the trauma of his childhood was healed by the love of God shed abroad in his heart, perhaps the epigenetic switch flipped back to heterosexual attraction.

the doctrine of original sin is most forcibly presented in the bible in Romans 5, where it is presented as an antonymic parallel to justification…it is a complete presentation, in context…

i think the bible’s presentation of morality is far more fundamental than you suggest…it may be true that producing successful generations of people is its result, but this is never offered as any kind of rationale…in both the bible and egw, what is called righteousness is articulated in terms of its own imperative, irrespective of outcomes outside of salvation and damnation…

Thanks to Bryan Ness for attempting to bring about a change in thinking on this subject. I only wish some of the responses would use their counter attempts to the change as a way of curing cancer, etc. We have been down this road so many times that it is like ‘spitting in the wind’! We, as a church/individual’s, are willing to understand other parts of the Bible in a more enlightened matter, close our minds when it comes to sexual orientation and only use a few texts, out of context, to condemn. Yes, it is a condemnation of the person, ask the individual!

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You would never read this passage that way if not for Augustine didn’t formulate that interpretation.

Romans 5 is not an argument for genetic transmission of sin. It’s a statement that outlines limiting condition of humanity, falling short and needing divine help. Pauls narrative has always been individual weakness, and not the concept of default guilt that comes with original sin doctrine.

actually i arrived at the doctrine of original sin through Paul before hearing of Augustine…some of us have made a habit of studying the text without the help of commentaries… :slightly_smiling_face:

the part of Rom 5 in question is an argument for the unearned quality of forensic righteousness and justification using the unearned quality of inherited sinfulness and condemnation as an illustration…paul is assuming that his readers understand and accept original sin, and is using that understanding and acceptance to teach the core element of his gospel…without this understanding of original sin, paul’s teaching of justification, and in fact his reason for writing, is illogical…it makes no sense…

Who? Jews in Rome. Stop it. :slight_smile:

Seriously though, you will not find the concept of original sin in Judaism, largely because Jews understand that our relationship with ideal revolves around contract, which otherwise makes no sense and is unnecessary if that contract becomes entirely one-sided.

I’m fairly sure people are quite capable of making judgements even in whatever limited capacity of their understanding. On the other hand, there simply isn’t anything or anyone else to show with better ability to make complex judgement that us. This is a world of which we are a product, and in a sense the world itself is a present to us in which we get to be the dominant species, and making grand decisions about resource management both human and natural.

It’s quite obvious how poor decisions can result in our collective extinction, while proper ones allow us to further benefit from structure of the world. Biblical narrative isn’t about “the guy in the sky”, or as LeBron would put it - “the man upstairs”. Biblical narrative is about ideals, and our relationship with ideal. It’s not about magic goo that needs to be cleaned with someone’s blood as detergent.

Did I miss it or the author really has no training in biblical interpretation?

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Another solid and thought provoking article. Thanks Dr Ness. I look forward to the day when we no longer need articles like this because Adventists “get it”. But for now that isn’t the case. We are no where near the point of understanding humanity and the diversity of God’s creation. If we can’t even understand what sin is and isn’t, then we will continue to need articles like this to clarify what the Bible is (or isn’t) talking about.

I get that ho-mo-sex-u-al-i-ty is a big word with multiple syllables, so unless this word is one that defines you, it is easy to get it wrong and apply an alternate meaning to the word. If we keep talking about it, hopefully we can understand it better, sooner than later. Dr Ness got it right. But unless you (many of the commenters) are homosexual, then stop telling us (the homosexuals) what, why, how, etc we are as we are. We are tired of being told what it means to be us. We already know that, and most of the time your (or the Adventist church’s) definition of homosexual doesn’t match up to ours. So that ends the productive conversation. I doubt Paul had any concept what it meant to be homosexual as it is used in 2021 and certainly didn’t write about that in Romans. Thanks again Bryan Ness for making folks think.

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read Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 18 for evidence that the jews believed in inherited effects:

“In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Jer 31:29.

“What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” Ezek 18:2.

don’t forget the important allusions to original sin in david:

“Behold, i was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Ps 51:5.

“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Ps 58:3.

in fact the entire ancient world seems to have held to this inherited guilt concept, which may explain why achan’s family, along with achan, needed to be destroyed, and why the families of daniel’s enemies needed to be fed to the lions, along with those enemies themselves…perhaps the wholesale destruction of sodom and gomorrah, and even the world in noah’s flood, also reflects an ancient mindset of genetically transmitted guilt…

but regardless, the plain text in Rom 5 is unmistakable: without the concept of unearned, as in inherited, guilt, paul’s point of unearned justification falls flat…the one is the vehicle for understanding the other…

as for LeBron’s “man upstairs”, you’re veering off into a tangent…and you aren’t grasping the enormity of humanity’s lost plight, and why a divine member of the godhead has needed to die in our stead…your confidence in our ability to make grand decisions about resource management, as if answering this question is all that is needed, appears to be severely naive…

None of these verses read or mean anything close to what you try to imply rather selectively through this doctrine.

There’s obvious generational effects for other oppression, or screwups that leads yo generational poverty. It has nothing to do with genetic nature of original sin, but rather with consequences that lead to multi-generational effects.

The problem with showing that is that OT also gives multi-generational blessing to those who do good. It’s in direct contradiction of doctrinal aspect of “born evil”.

Wicked tell lies from birth is obvious allegory, and juxtaposition to righteous that don’t do that, which doesn’t fit your narrative.

There is no humanity-wide mhltigenerational guilt that you find in OT. It’s. Ot there. There’s localized multi-generational effects that go either way.

You would have to cherrypick to think that concept of original sin is there.

What’s your point? That someone without a theology degree can’t write about biblical texts? In my POV, reading the Bible from different perspectives and with different backgrounds is very valuable. I do not want a magisterium to be introduced through the back door.

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Sexual excesses and abnormalities might have been one of the causes for the destruction of the Antediluvians; and the real cause for the destruction of the Sodomites. God does not condone such a departure from his order in regard to intimate relationships between male and female (creatures). Even the animals Noah commanded to take into the ark were to be a male and its female counterpart. This shows God is particular. Let us not twist the Scripture to our opinions. God says: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind,(man) as with womankind; (woman) it is abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22).
Thanks.

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