As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

On October 13 Nicholas Wolterstorff offered his voice in favor of same-sex marriage in a speech he delivered at the invitation of All One Body, a Grand Rapids, Mich., based organization that promotes participation in all dimensions of church life by all persons who confess Jesus as Lord, including members of the LGBT community. Wolterstorff emphasized that he was not speaking as an authority or expert on the subject. Indeed, he has recently clarified that, should the CRC maintain traditional Christian teaching on homosexual practice, he will abide by that decision.

Nick is a mentor and good friend to me. I respect him deeply and have learned a tremendous amount from his work. That said, I come at the issue a little bit differently. Human sexuality is currently my primary area of research, and I am a member of the CRC’s study committee charged with articulating a biblical theology of human sexuality.

At the heart of Wolterstorff’s speech was his confession that, based on experience, he no longer believes committed, same-sex relationships violate the biblical command to love one's neighbor as oneself. It is this experience that prompted him to reconsider Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality.

It’s worth emphasizing how much Wolterstorff and I agree. Wolterstorff agrees that the Mosaic law condemns homosexual relationships in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23. He also agrees that several New Testament passages, specifically Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, could legitimately be interpreted as condemning the practice of homosexuality.

However, Wolterstorff believes that Christians are no longer bound by all of the stipulations of the Mosaic law, and he believes that none of these New Testament passages are sufficiently clear to require the church’s rejection of committed same-sex relationships.

I laud Wolterstorff for his humility and honesty with respect to this matter. In a spirit of friendship, I wish to offer three of my own reflections in response. (I have written a fuller response to Wolterstorff here.)

First, we should reflect carefully about how to understand the relevance of the sexual code in the Mosaic law. Just because homosexual practice is condemned in the Mosaic law doesn’t mean it is immoral. A primary theme of the New Testament is that Christians are not under the law. That’s why we don’t submit to its sacrificial system, its penal code, its prohibitions against tattoos, or its rules concerning a woman’s menstrual cycle.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean the Mosaic law has no moral relevance for Christians anymore. We continue to submit to its prohibitions of incest, bestiality, and adultery, all of which are found in the very same passage as the prohibition of homosexual practice. Indeed, the prohibition of homosexual practice appears in the very same part of the law as the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18).

So how do we determine what parts of the law remain morally binding on Christians? We follow the guidance of the New Testament. The Jerusalem Council famously declared that while the Gentiles are not bound to keep the whole Mosaic law, they are obligated to observe its teachings regarding sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). And Paul combines the very words used to describe homosexual practice in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23 (arsenos . . . koiten) to condemn the practice in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (arsenokoitai). It would be hard to imagine stronger evidence that the Mosaic law’s condemnation of homosexual relationships remains binding for Christians.

Second, we should interpret Paul’s comments about homosexual practice in Romans 1:24-27 within their full context. Paul’s purpose in Romans 1:24-27 is to show that homosexuality betrays the same sort of objective distortion of creation as does idolatry. How do we know this? The key to understanding Paul’s argument is his repeated use of the word “exchange.”

Paul observes that just as people foolishly “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (1:23), so God gave them over to “sexual impurity” (1:24). Because they “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (1:25), God gave them over to “shameful lusts,” and they “exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones” (1:26).

Here Paul offers a clear, direct, and objective correspondence between idolatry and homosexuality. It is the exchange of natural (i.e., created) sexual relationships (i.e., relationships between persons with complementary sexuality) for unnatural sexual relationships that makes homosexuality like idolatry, and thus makes homosexuality what Paul calls the “due penalty” for the error of idolatry (1:27).

Unless we pay attention to the context of Paul’s comments on homosexuality we miss all of this, making us more likely to misuse the text in dangerous ways. Romans 1 confirms what Genesis 1-2 strongly implies: that sexual intercourse only tells the truth about who we are as human beings when it is the expression of sexual complementarity within marriage.

This is why the word “sex” historically has two meanings in English: it can either refer to one’s gender [i.e. whether one is male or female] or to intercourse between a man and a woman. The very concept of sex presupposes sex difference: the binary relationship between male and female. The meaning of the concept “man” presupposes the existence of “woman,” and vice versa. Sexual intercourse requires intercourse between these two. Without male and female, it isn’t really sex.

Third, we should interpret all of these passages in the context of the Bible’s fuller teaching about the meaning of human sexuality. After all, what is at stake here is the purpose of God’s creation of human beings in his image as “male and female” (Gen. 1:26-27). Why did God design human beings to image him by exercising dominion through sexual complementarity? Why did God say, not just that the man needed someone like him, but that he needed someone different from him, as is clearly communicated by the Hebrew word our translations usually convey as “suitable” helper in Genesis 2:18? And why does Genesis 2 devote so much attention to sex (i.e. sexual complementarity)? It’s because sex is full of meaning for what it means to be human.

The New Testament confirms for us with powerful consistency that sex matters. It matters because it is fraught with gospel meaning. The body is meant "for the Lord, and the Lord for the body," Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:13. What we do with our bodies sexually either tells the truth about who we are as human beings or it tells a lie. That’s why Paul tells Christians to “flee sexual immorality” (6:18) just as they are to “flee idolatry” (10:14). That’s why he emphasizes that those who do not repent of sexual immorality, including homosexual practice, cannot enter the kingdom of God (6:9-10).

What truth is revealed through sexuality? The truth that human beings were created to devote themselves to unconditional, intimate communion with one who is like, and yet different from themselves: God (and with one another in God). Thus Paul follows numerous Old Testament examples in explaining that the marriage between a man and a woman is a mysterious image of the love between Jesus and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Thus he explains that just as a man and a woman become “one flesh” as they hold fast to one another in marriage, so human beings are called to be united as “one body” as they hold fast to Christ (1 Cor. 6:15-17). Thus he intimates that the relationship between a man and a woman teaches us something about the relationship between the persons of the Trinity (11:3).

None of this suggests that our sexuality only has meaning within the context of marriage. After all, both Paul and Jesus lived celibate lives. Paul even encourages women and men to remain single so as to serve the kingdom more faithfully (1 Cor. 7). For we express our sexuality as female and as male either in marriage or in celibacy. Either way, through our sexuality, through our experience of what it means to be human as male and as female, we learn what it means to bear the image of our trinitarian God. And this is as true for those of us who are same-sex attracted as it is for anyone else.

All this is very mysterious, I admit it. It is hard to put into words and gives rise to innumerable questions, many of them unanswerable. But that does not make it any less true. Paul himself told us that it is a “profound mystery” (Eph. 5:32), one inextricably tied up with the mystery of God’s love for human beings from before the creation of the world (1:3-10).

And so we must be humble as we submit ourselves to the gospel and to the Spirit’s leading in these matters. Because sex isn’t “just sex.” It’s about the gospel. Every time we perform a sexual act or abstain from a sexual act we are communicating something: either a truth or a lie about what it means to be created in God’s image. And Christians are called, whether through marriage or through celibacy, to express through our sexuality what it means to be united together in the intimate communion of the God who is love.

 

CRC Position Statement on Homosexuality

Wolterstorff: Biblical Justice and Same-Sex Marriage

Wolterstorff: A Response to Matthew Tuininga on Sexuality and Scripture. (From Perspectives)

 

 

About the Author

Matthew J. Tuininga is the assistant professor of moral theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. He blogs at matthewtuininga.wordpress.com.

See comments (15)

Comments

Thank you for this article by Matthew Tuininga defending the traditional view of our denomination on the issue of homosexuality.  Obviously, Tuininga has put forth a lot of detailed exegetical and scholarly effort to defend this position.  As Tuininga points out, Woltersdorff, in his 45 minute address at the Neland Ave CRC in Grand Rapids could only give an abbreviated  perspective on his opposing opinion to the traditional view on this issue.  So it would seem that Woltersdorff is at a distinct disadvantage in presenting his view of pro same sex marriage within society and the church.  Others have noticed this unequal treatment by two acclaimed scholars within our church denomination, including Nicholas Woltersdorff, himself.

Hence, Woltersdorff has been given the opportunity to respond to Tuininga’s article and opinion in another separate article, recorded in “Perspectives, a Journal of Reformed Thought.”  In this further article, Woltersdorff, goes to much greater lengths to answer Tuininga’s concerns with a more detailed and scholastic response from a Biblical exegetical perspective.  It would seem only fair for the Banner to publish both articles side by side if the Banner is at all concerned about objectivity in helping its readers to understand this issue.   I am hoping that Woltersdorff’s response will be printed as an upcoming Banner article.  It’s ashamed that they were not presented side by side as in the “Perspectives Journal.”

These two articles are helpful to some extent in formulating an opinion on the subject.  But what they also show is that the average person in the pew is left at the mercy of the experts.  It’s these experts who are the ones who seem to know the heart and mind of the Biblical authors and in fact the mind of God.  The average person in the pew is not schooled in the tricks of the trade for doing Biblical exegesis to the extent that these scholars are.  But what is also amazing is that two highly credentialed scholars, coming from the same Reformed Biblical world and life view, as well as a similar basic understanding of Scripture, can come to opposing views on any given subject, in this case, the subject of homosexual behavior or same sex marriage.  Both have used the tools of their highly acclaimed trade but yet come to different conclusions.

This sends up huge red flags for me.  I’ve been convinced for some time that you can make the Scriptures say almost anything you want it to say.  Hence, the reason for the thousands of different Christian denominations who all claim the Bible as their authority, but yet interpret it differently, coming to different conclusions on a myriad of topics.  And so they split from each other based on these differences of interpretation and form increasingly new and different Christian church groups.  These groups and denominations all employ highly educated Biblical scholars with impressive credentials behind their names.  Doesn’t this make one wonder, how expert the so-called experts really are?  All these PHD’s in Biblical scholarship and they still cannot agree.  God help us.

Editor's note: There is a link at the bottom of the article to Wolterstorff's response to Tuininga, published in Perspective.

Thank you, both Drs. Matthew Tuininga and Nicolas Wolterstorff, for your thoughtful, respectful dialogue. Just one matter: Wolterstorff writes, " . . . it was Paul’s personal view that all homosexual conduct is wrong . . . But the church does not regard Paul’s personal moral views as definitive." How do we distinguish between the Apostle's personal opinion and his stature as a divine spokesperson? Is this not equivocating on the authority of the very Scripture one uses to build one's case for SSM?

Interesting comment Walt.  It would be informative to get Woltersdorff’s response to your comment, but I doubt if we will get any interaction from him.  Here’s my take.  First, you misrepresented him.  He didn’t say, “...it was Paul’s personal view that all homosexual conduct is wrong...” but rather, “Almost certainly it was Paul’s personal view that all homosexual conduct is wrong;”.  Your quote doesn’t leave any wiggle room, whereas his actually quote does.

Secondly, I think you may have a faulty view of Scriptural inspiration and authority.  Our Reformed perspective on the inspiration of Scripture is that it is an organic inspiration rather than mechanical.  The Biblical authors wrote Scripture through their own personalities; in other words, Bible books reflected the personalities of the authors who penned them.  I think Woltersdorff is suggesting that it is very likely that Paul’s own personal bias and opinion may have been reflected in his writing.  After all, Paul was not without sin.  He was human like the rest of us.  In Romans 7, Paul reflects on his own sinful nature and the power of sin in his own life.  Do you think that sin really had no influence on Paul?  Influenced by bias, we often form opinions that go contrary to what is right and true.  Certainly the same is true for Paul.  How we might distinguish between Paul’s opinion and God’s word could be revealed with the passing of time and further revelation from other sources or even a better understanding of the Bible we already have.  Woltersdorff uses the example of slavery.  Women holding positions of authority in the church could be another example.  It would be interesting to get Woltersdorff’s perspective on your question, Walt.

@ Roger- Are you suggesting that Paul's sin crept into Scripture and is thus contained in his writings? Really? Are we then left to doubt the Word or be kept in the dark as to its meaning and application until "the passage of time," or we dig something up from another source.

I have trouble reconciling this approach with God's own description of His Word- Ps. 12:6; 33:4, 6;119:89, 160; Jn. 17:17; Jas. 1:21 just to reference just a few passages. 

I think you have a faulty view of the integrity of Scripture and God's ability to protect His message while using sinful men to write it. It seems to me to be a view driven more by a desire to have a pliable word from God that can be made to say whatever we wish it to say, rather than a command Word from our Lord and God that we are to submit to by faith and not only because we understand it fully, and certainly not only when we agree with it.

Steve, I’m merely trying to understand how it is that opinions as to what Scripture clearly teaches at one point in history can change with the passing of time.  I wasn’t trying to say that Paul’s sins crept into Scripture, but rather that he was a sinner like the rest of us humans and therefore subject to influences that were not necessarily God-driven.  For instance, self righteous people most often think their opinions and biases are God given.  Even the Pharisees sincerely believed their self righteousness and legalism was true to the Scriptures that they were in possession of.   But obviously it wasn’t consistent with the gospel that Jesus presents.

Or you might take the creation story of Genesis, which until fifty years ago or so was considered an actual accounting of the origins of our world, even by using the best of Reformed exegetical principles.  Now with the increasingly reliable findings of science, the opinions of Christians down through history, including the authors of Scriptures, are seen as ill informed.  Our present day Bible scholars are trying to find ways to make sense of the creation account without suggesting that the original author of Genesis wasn’t just passing on the primitive myths of the past.  I think they’ll have a difficult time of it. 

Or you might wonder how from the time the Scriptures were originally written women were to live in submission to men, and not be given positions of authority in the family, church, or society.  But with the passing of time (nearly two thousand years for the CRC) opinions have changed and Christians (not all though) have allowed women to hold all positions of authority.  We have found a way to read Scripture anew, now allowing a change of opinion from the past.  What accounted for the false understanding in the past.  Couldn’t it be possible that Christian opinion was influenced by the biases of a past culture or the biased opinions of Bible authors?

Or how do you account for Paul’s permissive attitude toward slavery, which has been advocated by many Christians down through the course of history.  But now we know better.  What accounts for Paul’s misguided opinion?

Or how do you account for the various views of baptism, end times scenarios, Arminian and Calvinistic views of salvation, and on and on.   Seems to me that we have a pretty pliable word from God.  So, Steve, what’s your explanation for all this pliability?  Be assured, I not speaking in behalf of Nicholas Waltersdorff.  It would be nice to know his thoughts on this.  But I do wonder what your explanation is.

Roger posits the following:

"Hence, the reason for the thousands of different Christian denominations who all claim the Bible as their authority, but yet interpret it differently, coming to different conclusions on a myriad of topics."

What I can not logically follow if there are "thousands" of denominations why does he continue to make his point in the CRCNA which has a position already?  Surely he can save himself and the rest of us a lot of grief and join one of the hundreds of denominations that would embrace his views.

I respect his views but do not understand his reasons to contunue to swim upstream in the CRCNA. Why? What is his (and others) objective?

My explaination is very simple- the problem is sinful men, not the Word of God. The Word reflects the imutable character of God. It is fixed. It is truth. It doesn't change. Sinful men, when confronted with the Word that condemns them begin to twist it and interpret it in ways that that suit their need to justify their sin. The Pharasees are a perfect example of this in action. They had the command to love God and love their neighbor from the commands in the Old Testament. Instead of obeying those commands they twisted the commands to make themselves appear righteous while laying heavy burdens on those around them. They were righfully condemned by Jesus.

Thanks Harry, for sharing your concern.  It is frustrating when fellow members don’t share your exact sentiments, especially in regard to matters of faith.  We want to think that there should be harmony in the church, peace and goodwill within the body of Christ.   But historically, there has been no more divided institution than the Christian church.  And that even happens with God promising that the Holy Spirit will lead the church in all truth.  And we can’t even have harmony in our own denomination.  After all we are a break off from the RCA.  And since then there have been several groups (now denominations) that have split away from us, maybe the most recent, splitting from us over the women in office issue.  Those leaving have even formed a separate theological seminary (MARS) to distinguish themselves from the CRC.  Feelings are still raw over that issue.  And now we are facing another new issue that has the potential to split the denomination again.

The question I wrestle with is who should be the ones to leave.  I know you are suggesting that I should leave.  Should Nicholas Woltersdorff and other pillars in our denomination also leave?  Is there no room to wrestles with big issues in our denomination.  Would we have been better to not wrestle through the women in office issue?  Where do we stop?  At what point do we stick our heads in the sand and say enough is enough?  For you, I think we have reached that point.
 
If for you, that point has come, then perhaps its time for you to leave and go to another denomination that accords with your thinking.  There are plenty of those around, even within the Reformed persuasion.  But I doubt that this issue will go away any time soon, even for our denomination.  As Woltersdorff suggests, there are increasing numbers of Christians who are coming out of the gay closet and claiming their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many are members of our own churches and love the Reformed faith.  Until we can make room for them as full members of Christ’s body I doubt that this issue will go away.  Hopefully we can wrestle with this issue in a spirit of love and good will.

Thank you Matthew Tuininga for your well-reasoned Biblical response to Nicholas Wolterstorff. Unlike you I do not know Wolterstorff personally (though I know his brother, who was my youth leader-- small world in the CRC.) I have read some of his books and articles and am very thankful for way God has used him in not only our denomination, but the entire church of Christ. He is a respected scholar and his careful opinions should carry considerable weight. However, on this issue I tend to agree with Matthew Tuininga.

I think most Christians would agree that love is not what our society understands tolerance to mean, and that there are times when it is more loving to tell someone that their behavior is wrong than to simply accept it. I think that upon reflection most Christians would also agree that ethics of the so called New Morality of the 1960's is wrong, an ethics that states that "we should be free to do anything we want to do, as long as it does not hurt someone else." Not only is the "not hurting someone else," often a very subjective standard, but there are also commands in the Bible which tell us not to do things (often in the area of sexuality) that do not seem, at least on the surface, to pose any harm to others. So, for me, as I would assume that for most pastors, and most Christians, the deciding factor as whether homosexual behavior is right or wrong, has to be what the Bible says about this.

For the last 2000 years most scholars and Bible interpreters have interpreted the applicable scripture passages to mean something similar to Tuninga's interpretation, and have understood human sexuality in a similar light. That carries some weight for me. Secondly, there are no Biblical texts which address the subject of homosexual behavior in other in a negative way. That is not true for what the Bible has to say about other matters that divided Christians like women in leadership or slavery. Even those opposed to women in ecclesiastical office must acknowledge that there were female prophets and leaders in the Bible, and that the gift of prophecy and other spiritual gifts were given to sons and daughters. And even those in the nineteenth century, who said that the Bible upheld the institution of slavery could not deny the Biblical emphasis on liberation and the negative tone throughout the scriptures regarding that institution, and often regarding those who held slaves.

Certainly there are better exegetes than I who interpret these passages differently than I do. But there are also respected exegetes with whom I would agree. And it's not simply because I am more convinced by the latter that I reject the conclusion of the former, but I also do so for the reason I mention in preceding paragraph.

As a pastor and as a friend to some who have these tendencies, I have personally dealt with those who have engaged in homosexual behavior. And while I love these people, I cannot condone what they are doing without Christ's words in my ears, "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin, so watch yourselves." (Luke 7: 1- 2 NIV) Some may see my reluctance to embrace their behavior a causing others to stumble, but this is my conscience, not theirs.

That having been said, I truly doubt that any change in the CRC's position will salve my conscience. I've read articles and books support same sex behavior and marriage, but I have not found them convincing. I sat with two other CRC pastors at a restaurant, who share my view. They both told me they would leave the CRC, if our position changes. I said I would not, but that I would say that our denomination erred in its conclusion, I would refuse to officiate or even attend same sex wedding and that I would continue to preach that it is wrong. I would do these things, even if it meant I would be deposed. I cannot sin against my conscience.

Of course, I do truly wonder whether we will ever agree on this. After all, as open minded as we try to be, we are not studying this issue in a vacuum. Some say that our children will be more open than we to changing. This may be so, but do we really want to pit children against their parents and grandparents? And do we want to put our pastors and members in a position where they might have to chose to sin against their own conscience?

Have we given thought to uniting with Reformed Church in America, who also is struggling with this issue, and then amicably dividing into two denominations that have different opinions on it. We could continue to work with each other on those areas where we agree, but we would agree to disagree on this matter. As I meet other pastor from other denominations, I have concluded that denominations may not be God's best way of keeping us united, but given our sinfulness and the limitations of our humanity, they are the way he has woked through history to do so.

No matter what we decide to do, let us all put our hope in God and pray that his truth will prevail.

Thanks Roger for your comments. I want to repsond to your paragraph:

***The question I wrestle with is who should be the ones to leave.  I know you are suggesting that I should leave.  Should Nicholas Woltersdorff and other pillars in our denomination also leave?  Is there no room to wrestles with big issues in our denomination.  Would we have been better to not wrestle through the women in office issue?  Where do we stop?  At what point do we stick our heads in the sand and say enough is enough?  For you, I think we have reached that point.*****

It is exactly the "pillars of the church" who may be leading us away from scripture. Those office bearers and Profs who have signed the CRCNA forms to become leaders need to be very careful how they promote their ideas. The CRCNA has a process for that. If this new committee (in my view) sides with scripture and onfirms homosexual activity as sinful what will you do?

Our congregation just rewrote their articles of incorporation. You know what the largest section was? The addendum on "how to seperate from the CRCNA". Apparently we were no alone in doing this.

I have rested my discussion on this topic on John 14 vs 2. The many mansions (rooms) part.

When the committe wrestling with this subject brings out its report in 5 years the CRCNA will have (based on history) 15/20% fewer members and depending on where this decision ends up there will be a further 20 % less (based on the women in office debate).

Maybe the RCA and CRC should agree up front who will make the decision to allow gay marriage. Then we can all seek our own room.

Thanks David for you response to Tuininga’s article on homosexuality.  I do believe that your perspective fits well with the predominate thinking of CRC members.  I agree that Tuininga presents a fairly convincing argument against same sex attraction and marriage.  But by the same token, Woltersdorff presents a convincing argument for same sex attraction and marriage in his response to Tuininga’s article (Perspectives Journal).  Both are convincing articles.

I find it interesting, when Synod instructed that a committee be formed to study and articulate a Biblical theological position on human sexuality, they instructed that its findings remain within the bounds of our 1973 position statement on homosexuality.  In other words, at the end of the study committee’s research, homosexual behavior will still be condemned.  You might have thought that the newly formed committee be instructed to study this important topic to see what the Bible has to say about human sexuality, period.  Instead, Synod put a limitation on the study committee.  “We already know what we want the Bible and report to show about homosexuality, so stay within those limits.”  It is conceivable that a more progressive Synod might have instructed the committee to produce a report that shows the Bible’s openness toward homosexual activity within the bounds of marriage.  But no, we had a more conservative Synod this year, hence the limitation placed on the committee as to what the final report would show in regard to homosexuality.  In other words, you can make the Bible say what you want it to say.  You want a narrow interpretation, have Tuininga work on the committee.  You want a more open interpretation, have Woltersdorff work on the committee.

I personally like Woltersdorff’s response to Tuininga and find it the more acceptable perspective in regard to homosexuality and same sex marriage.  Tuininga, and many Christians, hold the idea that if the Bible teaches it, then there’s no more debate. The discussion is over.  If the Bible says that homosexual activity is wrong, then it’s always wrong.  It’s a simple black and white approach.

Woltersdorff, on the other hand, seems to be saying that the Bible does teach that homosexual activity is wrong, but does that mean it is always wrong or wrong in every set of circumstances?  Perhaps, to the set of circumstances that the Bible addresses it is wrong, but there may well be other mitigating circumstances in which it isn’t always wrong.  To this we have to use a good dose of reason and a careful scrutiny of Scripture.

An example of this difference (how we read Scripture) is how we, as Christians, understand the topic of origins.  The Bible teaches a literal six day creation that took place no more than 8,000 years ago.  Adam and Eve were the first humans created on the sixth day of creation.  Not only is this the testimony of the author of Genesis, but of other Bible authors, as well.  This is what the Bible clearly teaches, so for many Christians (nearly all Christians until fifty years ago) this is the only acceptable accounting of origins.  But now with the more recent scientific research it is being discovered that the earth is much older than the 8,000 years taught in the Bible, but is millions, even billions of years old and that life on earth developed through a long process of evolution, including the development and evolution of human life from lower species.  So now, many, if not most Christians, recognize that the Biblical account is not to be considered as a factual rendering of reality when considering the topic of origins.  Our understanding of the Bible has changed.  What we thought the Bible clearly taught in the past, we now understand in a different way.  Science (part of God’s self revelation) has given us a new perspective on the topic of origins. 

In the same way, same sex marriage (a new innovation) has changed how we look at homosexuality.  Previously, homosexual activity was almost always, if not always, considered outside of the marital state.  Just as single heterosexuals having promiscuous sex is considered sinful, so also single homosexuals having promiscuous sex is considered sinful.  But introduce marriage into the picture and the scenario changes.  Sex within the state of being married is not only permissible, but is expected.  But the apostle Paul was not considering responsible God loving married homosexuals when making his rebuff of homosexuals because legalized same sex marriage didn’t come into existence until just recently.  Just as sexual activity would be expected from a married heterosexual couple, wouldn’t it also be expected also from a married homosexual couple?  On top of this, these married homosexual couples that we are talking about, who want to be members of the church, profess a love for Jesus Christ.  Such homosexuals are obviously outside of the purview of Paul’s rebuke, as well as the scope of what other Bible passages are speaking about.  Shouldn’t we therefore understand that the Bible’s rebuke of homosexuals doesn’t fit every conceivable set of circumstances, but only the circumstances that the Bible authors had in their minds when writing?

So although Paul and other Bible authors considered homosexual activity as sinful, they didn’t take into consideration every conceivable set of circumstances in which it takes place.  With what we know today, it should be obvious that the married gay couples who desire to be part of Christ’s body, the church, should be welcomed with open arms.  But sadly they aren’t.  I do believe that eventually we will see a change from our present position.  In my opinion, it can’t happen soon enough.

Again, thank you, Roger, for taking the time and effort to challenge the status quo.

Roger, I agree with you that study committees should be made up of those holding a broad range of views within our denomination.  It may not lead to a single unified report, but it does give our synod opportunity to hear the best understandings of all sides.  Optimally, Synod, could then prayerfully decide which understanding would be normative for our church.  And I agree that this should have been done in this case.  I was not at Synod, so I can't say why this was not done.  I suspect that there was a certain distrust of the leadership of our church and fear that "they" may stack the committee with those who favored a new interpretation of same-sex relationships. I've spoken with some in the RCA, who felt that this was done in their denomination. There also may have been fear that even opening the possibility that our position may change would cause congregations to leave the denomination. Regardless of the motivation, it would seem that Synod wanted to make clear that they did not question the position our church has already taken on the issue of homosexuality, but that it only needed updating. Nonetheless, I've always held that the truth is best advanced when all sides are heard.  And, in my view, if that is done fairly, I doubt that there will be much change in our church's position. 

It is interesting to note that, even after their study committee advocated a congregational approach to this issue, the Synod of the RCA voted to put in their book of order that marriages in their denomination must between a man and woman.  We don't know what is going to happen since this must ratified by their classes, but it would seem that there is strong support in their denomination not to change their understanding.  So, if we were to unite our two denominations, a split over this issue would probably happen anyway.  I hope and pray that such a split would be amicable.

As I see it both sides are motivated by love for God and neighbor, even if we cannot agree as to what that love is compelling us to do.  Nonetheless, I cannot see that it is possible for both views to be normative in one denomination.  We do have to choose.  And I am hoping that we choose to uphold what our the church has heretofore understood God's Word to teach, but I am also hoping that we can do so in a way that demonstrates our love for those with same-sex attractions and for those who disagree with us.

The 'Authority of God's Word' is crucial regarding sexuality and many other issues:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDlCIIRG6mY