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Comparison of six views of homosexuality with regard to:

Main sources of information;
God's pattern for human sexuality
When is sexual behavior moral?

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The six viewpoints, from:

bullet "Condemnation" -- the most conservative and traditional -- to
bullet"Liberation" -- the most liberal --

are actually stereotypes. They don't necessarily fit the opinions of individuals. Many people will hold beliefs that combine more than one viewpoint.

Presenting data in this way emphasizes that there are more sets of beliefs than the two extreme views that one hears so often in the media.

bulletOne sentence description (repeated):
Viewpoint Description or main emphasis
"Abomination" Homosexuality is profoundly immoral at all times.
"Change is expected" Homosexuals can change their sexual orientation, with effort
"Celibacy is expected" Homosexuals must either change or be celibate.
"Marginally acceptable" Committed homosexual relationships are the least awful option.
"Equality" Seek equal rights. Homosexuality, is morally neutral.
"Liberation" Reinterpret the Bible. Homophobia, not being lesgay, is the main evil.

bulletSource(s) of information:
Viewpoint Most important source(s) of information about homosexuality
"Abomination" The Bible is the sole source for moral, ethical, and spiritual knowledge. It is also a reliable source of scientific, medical, sexual, and psychological information. It is the unchangeable Word of God. Its authors were inspired by God. It is inerrant -- free of error. Six biblical passages specifically condemn homosexuality. Same-sex behavior has been a sin under all situations, from biblical times to today.

Science, including human sexuality research, can never make moral judgments. If its findings contradict the Bible, then the research must be faulty.

Liberals claim that the Bible's theme of justice for all supplants these passages. This is invalid, because it would imply that the Bible contradicts itself. It cannot do this. The specific condemnation of homosexual behavior takes precedence over any general themes.
"Change is expected" Same as "Abomination" position.
"Celibacy is expected" All homosexual activity is sinful, no matter what the relationship. Human sexuality studies are helpful to determine whether homosexuality is chosen or not, and thus whether a homosexual orientation is itself culpable. Theological studies are helpful to determine what homosexuality meant in biblical times so that we can better grasp its implications today.
"Marginally acceptable" Similar to the "Celibacy is expected" position. The Bible states that all "...homosexual practices are unnatural and Godless." 2 But the authors of the Bible had limited knowledge of homosexuality and no understanding of sexual orientation. Also, their statement were conditioned by their culture. We must interpret the Bible's message in terms of today's knowledge and cultures.
"Equality" There are four main sources of information: the biblical text, religious tradition, personal experience, and scientific findings.

Church tradition is important. However Christians have gone through a number of paradigm shifts in the past 15 decades: Two are the end to human slavery in the 19th century and the acceptance of female ordination in the 20th. Equal rights and acceptance of homosexuality is the latest shift.

We should consider the Scriptures "with utmost seriousness"  yet not always literally. 3 The six "clobber" passages in the Bible actually refer to such topics as homosexual rape, homosexual ritual in Pagan  temples, homosexual prostitution, homosexual behavior by idolatrous heterosexuals, etc. The oft-cited passages in Leviticus are part of the Jewish cultic purity code that is not binding on non-Jews.

The Bible is silent on homosexual orientation and on committed homosexual relationships. The Bible was written in a pre-scientific age; its authors were unaware of the concept of sexual orientation. They were culture-bound and in error. Today, we have the benefits of scientific research into human sexuality can help our understanding.

"Liberation" Same as "Equality" position.

bulletGod's plan for human sexuality:
Viewpoint God's plan
"Abomination" God created Eve to be Adam's wife. He made a woman to be the companion of Adam, a male. God said: "It is not good that the man should be alone." (Genesis 2:18). This indicates God's intent for humanity: Men and women are to pair off, and form permanent marriage bonds. Jesus confirmed this in the Gospels. Paul emphasized that men and women complement each other. Each has a specific role to play in the family. The husband's role is to lead and protect; the woman's role is to nurture and submit. Couples are to be fruitful and multiply.
"Change is expected" The purposes of permissible sexual activity include reproduction; the uniting of soul and spirit; mutual, intimate spousal support; and an archetype -- the differentiation and complementarily of the female and male has cosmic significance; it reflects the nature of God. Each of us becomes complete by a merging and commitment with a member of the opposite sex. Paul sees a marriage between a man and a woman as symbolic of the relationship between Christ and his church.
"Celibacy is expected" God's plan for human sexuality involves the joining of one man and one woman in marriage. They become one flesh. The purposes of marriage are both reproductive and unitive -- the latter involving mutual spiritual, emotional and physical support.
"Marginally acceptable" They accept the "Celibacy is expected" viewpoint, as an ideal. They stress the unitive function of sex more than the reproductive aspect.
"Equality " For most adults, God's main purpose of human sexuality is to aid in the development of an intimate and fulfilling relationship with another person. It provides "...a primary means for our growth from selfishness to that self-transcendence which is the essential quality of mature love....sexuality is given not only for our salvation, but for our delight." 4 This will often lead to the mutual decision to add one or more children in their family.
"Liberation" Sex is a gift of God to be used safely, responsibly, and with joy. One sexual format is not intended to fit everyone at all stages in their life. "A queer liberation theology ...will listen to the [Holy] Spirit speaking thorough the evolving, expressive truth that wells up out of the queer experience of oppression...5

bulletWhen is sexual activity morally permissible?
Viewpoint The nature of homosexuality
"Condemnation" It is only permissible within an opposite-sex marriage. Pre-marital, inter-marital and post-marital sex are major sins.

Roman Catholics go further and condemn sexual acts even within marriage, if contraception is used.

Same-sex behavior is far worse than illicit heterosexual sex because it violates not only a moral law but also natural law through the unnatural use of the sexual organs. It is in a class with masturbation and bestiality.

"Change is expected" Sex is only permissible within an opposite-sex marriage, because this is the only environment that provides male-female complementarity within the marriage covenant. Contraception is permissible, but children in the family are expected.
"Celibacy is expected" Sex is only permissible within an opposite-sex marriage. Contraception is permissible.
"Marginally acceptable" God's intent is that sex be confined to within the marriage of opposite-sex couples. This is the ideal, which can be approached by a same-sex couple within a committed relationship. Although less than ideal, it is a permissible use of sex. Such same-sex behavior is analogous to marital divorce: it is not the ultimate arrangement, but is acceptable in this sinful world, because the alternatives are much worse.
"Equality" Sex is to be confined to committed relationships where it is mutually agreeable, non-coercive, safe, non-exploitive, and intended to contribute to the development of the persons involved and of their mutual relationship. This applies to opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, in and outside of marriage.
"Liberation" "To engage in sexual activity that would be destructive of one's own or another's personality is ethically wrong and dangerous." 6 Other sexual activity is OK.  Consensual sex within a committed relationship is one permitted behavior. Casual sex may be acceptable if the "connection was aimed at mutual satisfaction and there was full acknowledgement of each other as persons." 7 This applies to opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, in and outside of marriage.

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Useful references:

  1. L.R. Holben, "What Christians think about homosexuality: Six representative viewpoints," Bibal Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. Lewis Smedes, "Sex for Christians: The limits and liberties of sexual living," Eerdmans, (1976). *
  3. W. Norman Pittenger, "A time for consent," SCM Press, (1976).  *
  4. Op Cit, Holben, Page 173.
  5. Op Cit, Holben, Page 205 & 206.
  6. Michael Valente, "Sex: The radical view of a Catholic Theologian" Macmillan, (1970).
  7. Op Cit, Holben, Page 208.

* Quoted in Reference 1.

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2004-SEP-17

Author: B.A. Robinson

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