Monday, December 04, 2006

Theology, Worldview, Bible, Compassion - Glesne

Post #17, Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America, a continuing conversation between Pastor David Glesne and Pastor Lars Clausen

Dear Lars,

Thanks for your post of November 27 which moves several central issues onto the table. I too see us turning a corner in our discussion and entering more into the arenas of philosophy and theology. (After writing what follows, I just noticed your most recent post as well.) I agree about moving on – although I do so a bit grudgingly because there are some assertions made that will go unchallenged and not clarified. But because we and our readers are starting to cover the same ground over again and repeating ourselves, I - as you - am willing to let this peripheral discussion of science and behavior rest and move to the more core issues.

As we do, let me just say that as a result of this discussion with you and especially our readers, I am sure that I didn’t realize then the full implications of what I wrote at the beginning of chapter 5 in my book when I said that when the discussion turns to the data gathered from science and experience we can quickly move into a low-land fog in which one interpretation can always look as good as another. This scientific study is more valid than that scientific study. This person’s experience counters that person’s experience. “We sink into the quicksand of opinion and interpretation that loses sight of the particularity of the claims at issue which cannot cope with the passion and tenacity with which these opinions and interpretations are argued and held.” It can become a stalemate that ends up trivializing the debate. I have learned much through the discussion for which I am grateful. Thanks for you important lead, Lars, and for your level-headed approach to our discussion. But lest we trivialize…lets move on.

What I will do here is interact with the three central issues you bring forth in your November 27 post.

True Nature? You ask, Lars, why I can’t be open to understanding that the true nature of a numerical minority segment of our population is LGBT? Why does the heterosexual majority need to describe the minority as sinful and against the will of God?

I love your compassion for people, Lars. Your warm heart comes through for LGBT people again here so clearly. Your question, however, moves us into the realm of the understanding of the nature of human beings which I believe moves us beyond the minority – majority social distinction. I could accept that self-described LGBT persons’ true identity is LGBT if it were not for the following: 1) God’s revelation concerning the creation of male and female in his image and their identity as male and female rooted in the very nature and being of God himself, 2) the reality of the Fall of human beings into sin with the result that we as fallen creatures cannot know our true nature from merely observing or experiencing current realities because human experiences are never self-interpreting and self-validating, and 3) God’s condemnation consistently and without exception in His Word of all homosexual behavior (and indeed all sexual behavior outside of the man – woman marriage relationship).

I understand God’s revelation to us in the Scriptures to teach us that sexual behavior in the lives of both heterosexual and self-described LGBT persons which is outside the will of God is against the very character of God and therefore equally condemned by God. That is why I am eternally grateful for God’s radical love which sent Jesus so that my sins (and the sins of all others) can be forgiven and by the work of the Holy Spirit I can be restored in Christ to my original creation – not perfectly in this fallen world but substantially - restored into the image of this One who is most truly human – Christ. My openness to understanding is limited only by the form of God’s Truth as revealed in Scripture.

Objective Reality? You ask a most important fundamental philosophical question when you ask what makes us take up and keep the worldviews we hold. You then helpfully spell out the differences of two worldviews – a subjective view of reality (experience based) and an objective view of reality (revelation based). Let me attempt at least some preliminary personal reflections on worldview and why I hold the worldview that I do.

I am thinking that “religion” or “worldview” is that which binds together and makes sense of reality, much as a ligament, for example, binds muscles and bones together into a working whole. A religion or worldview, then, is made up of beliefs and practices which give meaning to, make sense of, and bind a community together. Most basically a worldview provides understanding of origins (where the world came from), of moral order (the meaning of existence), of who I am as a person (personhood), and of how I know what I know (epistemology). In short, a worldview or religion is to make a cohesive sense of reality.

I believe it was Francis Schaeffer who said something to the effect that wise people choose their presuppositions but most people catch them like measles. What I believe he was saying is that everyone has a starting point and some people choose them carefully and wisely and others just sort of inherit them from their environment. In seeking to understand the reality that surrounds me and answer the questions I have of myself, history, and the cosmos, I can choose either to start with my own existence and work outward from there in search for the meaning of the world, human existence, my own existence and how I can know anything, or I can start with the existence of God. Since everyone must start somewhere, God is just as legitimate a starting point as my own existence and experience.

What I have found is that God being there, creating the cosmos, then speaking into human history truth about Himself, myself, history, and the cosmos makes the most sense and corresponds best to what I know about myself and the world around me. For example, God existing as a unity and diversity within Himself (Trinity) explains the existence of unity and diversity of this world. God being a Personal God who thinks, feels, and acts explains that personal portion of reality called human beings made in His image who think, feel, and act. Since God has created human beings to communicate with human beings through language, I am not surprise to read in Scripture that God has in like manner spoken in human language to human beings. God being there explains 1) where the world comes from (God spoke and it came into being), 2) the reason for my existence (God created human beings to love and to enjoy community with Him), 3) the human dilemma (why human beings are the most noble of creatures and yet the most flawed - because of sin), and 4) how I can know something for sure, because God has communicated truth to human beings. God has not told us everything but He has communicated what we need to know to live and find meaning in this world.

Having chosen God as my starting point, I have found that as I bring the questions regarding being, morals, and epistemology to Him and His Word, my questions are adequately answered. Because I find what He says to be true in the areas where I can verify them, I have confidence that what He says in areas where I cannot verify to also be true. And so I have humbled myself before Him trusting Him not only for salvation but for living. I am trusting God’s explanation of reality to be the true explanation. I enjoy the full range of human experience and can even face fallen reality in all its twistedness and depravity because of the hope that is in Christ both for my future and the future of the world. My human experience shapes and molds me to a great degree. But I never see human experience as self-defining, self-explanatory, or self-validating.

With regard to the specific matter of homosexuality, different starting points again, I think, let us see where we can end up on the different sides of the Continental divide. Robert Gagnon has written a helpful paper entitled “Why The Disagreement Over the Biblical Witness on Homosexual Practice? which was written in response to Myers and Scanzoni’s What God Has Joined Together. He acknowledges that we have reached a seeming impasse in our discussions in the church.

Gagnon speaks of inverted hermeneutical scales. He sees one side served best when it formulates the following arguments, in this order of significance: 1) Scripture, 2) philosophic reason (a nature argument), 3) scientific reason, and 4) experience. The other side of the debate formulates the following arguments, in this order of significance: 1) experience, 2) scientific reason, 3) philosophic reason, and 4) Scripture. He points out, then, that not only do we have different starting points – Scripture for one and experience for the other – but that “each side adopts a range of arguments in inverse order of significance to the other side”.

I find his description helpful. I would also agree with him, however, that although we come at the issue from different angles, what is not at issue here is that the Scriptures and its hermeneutical (i.e. interpretative) application are ambiguous. I will let Gagnon speak for himself: “There really are no substantive exegetical and hermeneutical arguments for claiming that Scripture does not give us a decisive witness against homosexual practice per se.”

I hope I am speaking to your second point here and that this gives you at least a glimpse into seeing why I hold the worldview that I do.

Consequences: In this section, Lars, you question the interpretations about homosexual behavior as sinful that are ascribed as revelation from God. If I hear you correctly, I hear you saying that as we listen closely to the stories of our homosexual friends, we hear homosexuality as more than an act, a behavior, a pseudo-identity, and that compassion should therefore move us not only to accept these neighbors as persons but to approve of their behavior. And so if I understand you correctly, the foundation of your worldview is that compassion moves you to affirm and approve to same-sex persons and their behavior.

Lars, as I state in my book, I too believe it important to listen to the stories of LGBT people. That is one reason why I enjoyed reading Straight into Gay America. These are friends, neighbors, family members, church members, real people, with real experiences, with the full range of human emotions and feelings, with real joys and hurts. Listening to their stories honors them as fellow human beings. Christ calls us to follow his example, to listen and show compassion and love to these neighbors as well as all others.

But the question must be asked, “What constitutes true compassion and love for our homosexual neighbors? Do we humans get to define compassion and love? Or does God define compassion and love?” My concern is with what I believe to be your premise that compassion and love does not include calling for correction and for restoring a person to God’s kingdom. Let me explain.

Although there are those who would argue otherwise, I would argue that proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture. Rather, Scripture is uniform throughout, unambiguous, and straightforward in every respect that homosexual behavior is contrary to the revealed will of God. It follows that Jesus himself, who never called for the abolition of the moral Law of God, but rather summarized the Law’s fulfillment in the two great commandments of loving God and one’s neighbor, would have found any self-affirming and unrepentant homosexual activity to be egregious, putting the person at risk of not inheriting the very kingdom of God he proclaimed and embodied. He would have looked at an incestuous man or a polyamorous man in the same way. He would have compassion and love for the homosexual person, the incestuous man, and the polyamorous man but he would not have condoned the behavior. Rather, he would have offered them a way out of their sin.

Jesus had compassion and love for the Samaritan woman (John 4). In that love and compassion he never condoned her multiple marriages, he accepted her without approving of her behavior. Jesus had compassion and love for the woman caught in adultery (John 8). In his compassion and love for her he called the adulterous woman out of sin, lest something worse should happen to her. In I Corinthians 5, the early church faced the situation of an incestuous relationship between a member of their community and his stepmother. I put the question before us. “Who was more loving – Paul or the Corinthian believers?” The Corinthian believers were affirming of the incestuous relationship. Paul rebukes the Corinthian Christians and urges the excommunication of the incestuous man not to be punitive, but in the hope that once outside the church, this man would get roughed up by Satan and wake up to the serious consequences of his sin, and would return and be restored to the kingdom. Paul then goes on in chapter 6 and warns the Corinthian believers not to be adulterers, warns men who have sex with men, warns men who have sex with prostitutes, lest they risk not inheriting the kingdom of God. I am betting that in God’s eyes Paul is the more compassionate and loving.

Every one of us is a sinner and continually in need of daily repentance and God’s grace and forgiveness and cleansing. But there is a big difference between this and participating in serial, unrepentant sin which can sever us from God. I believe the church is called to be compassionate and loving to all sinners which involves calling for repentance and correction of life lest something worse should happen to us.

I think we are touching on central issues here as we focus on compassion and love for our neighbor and I’m thankful for how open and honest we can be with each other.




Anonymous said...

In your discussion of relying on HUMAN EXPERIENCE or GOD'S REVELATION, here are guidelines from the American Psychological Association. NARTH says the APA was taken over by gay activists. Maybe the real issue is that APA listens to HUMAN EXPERIENCE...

Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients

Attitudes Toward Homosexuality and Bisexuality

Guideline 1. Psychologists understand that homosexuality and bisexuality are not indicative of mental illness.

Guideline 2. Psychologists are encouraged to recognize how their attitudes and knowledge about lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues may be relevant to assessment and treatment and seek consultation or make appropriate referrals when indicated.

Guideline 3. Psychologists strive to understand the ways in which social stigmatization (i.e., prejudice, discrimination, and violence) poses risks to the mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients.

Guideline 4. Psychologists strive to understand how inaccurate or prejudicial views of homosexuality or bisexuality may affect the client’s presentation in treatment and the therapeutic process.
Relationships and Families

Guideline 5. Psychologists strive to be knowledgeable about and respect the importance of lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships.

Guideline 6. Psychologists strive to understand the particular circumstances and challenges facing lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents.

Guideline 7. Psychologists recognize that the families of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may include people who are not legally or biologically related.

Guideline 8. Psychologists strive to understand how a person’s homosexual or bisexual orientation may have an impact on his or her family of origin and the relationship to that family of origin.
Issues of Diversity

Guideline 9. Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the particular life issues or challenges experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of racial and ethnic minorities that are related to multiple and often conflicting cultural norms, values, and beliefs.

Guideline 10. Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the particular challenges experienced by bisexual individuals.

Guideline 11. Psychologists strive to understand the special problems and risks that exist for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.

Guideline 12. Psychologists consider generational differences within lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations, and the particular challenges that may be experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual older adults.

Guideline 13. Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the particular challenges experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive/emotional disabilities.

Guideline 14. Psychologists support the provision of professional education and training on lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues.

Guideline 15. Psychologists are encouraged to increase their knowledge and understanding of homosexuality and bisexuality through continuing education, training, supervision, and consultation.

Guideline 16. Psychologists make reasonable efforts to familiarize themselves with relevant mental health, educational, and community resources for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

For more details:

Anonymous said...

I would like to know if you would agree to the following as empirical truths:

1. That homosexual orientations—defined as persistent sexual and romantic attractions to members of one's own sex and a corresponding absence of such attractions to members of the opposite sex—exist and are not chosen.

2. That a change of one's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, to the extent that it occurs, occurs rarely.

Based on a great deal of research, I am convinced that both of these are true. I would like to point out that these are simply empirical questions. They have no bearing on a moral determination and need not pose a threat to your worldview. I concur that it does not necessarily follow that simply because homosexual orientations exist, they must therefore be acted on.

But accepting these as true, then, it is clear that "homosexual offenders" are quite different category when compared with persons engaged in polyamory or incest. Consider sexuality as a searchlight (the analogy is not perfectly apt, but bear with me). The searchlight for people with heterosexual orientations is only able to shine on persons of the opposite sex, while the searchlight for people with homosexual orientations is only able to shine on persons of the same sex. For a heterosexual offender engaged in polyamory or incest, the response of the church is clear: you try to knock enough sense into him to get him to move his searchlight to an appropriate target. For a homosexual, however, you're not just demanding that he move his searchlight to another target, you're demanding that he extinguish it. In most cases, permanently.

In short, what I would like to suggest is that this discussion not only consider the question "is homosexuality immoral?" I think it must also consider the question "is insisting that homosexuals live a life of unchosen celibacy a reasonable burden for them to bear?" I'm not suggesting this to create an obstacle that you cannot surmount. I am suggesting this because the two questions are, if one concedes the two empirical points above, one and the same. There is nothing that precludes a "yes" to both questions. I am asking only that you acknowledge the implications and consequences of your position.

(For the sake of intellectual completeness, you are not just limited to advocating celibacy for people with homosexual orientations. You can also advocate that they pursue romantic relationships and marriage with members of the opposite sex notwithstanding their sexual orientation, or you can advocate that they pursue romantic relationships with members of the same sex with the understanding that such a relationship may never a sexual component. The former, however, is so fraught with problems that it is, to say the least, impractical, and I hardly see you endorsing the latter, so that leaves only celibacy.)


Paul Frerking said...

I have a real problem when it comes to people saying that they "know the truth." When someone claims to "have the truth," or "knows the truth," it essentially divides us from one another; it implies that "I know" or "have the truth" and that those who differ from me are "wrong." How many wars have been fought because "I know the truth" and that "my truth" differs from "your truth?" It seems to me that this is rooted in hubris. Why are there different denominations, and that all of them claim to "have the truth"? Just as soon as I say, "I know the truth" does it mean that others do not "know the truth"?...that I am
right...that those who disagree with me are "wrong"?

All of this returns us to the question that Pilate asked so long ago, "what is truth?" How do you know that you have "the truth," and that anyone who deviates from what you know to be "true" is therefore "wrong" or "false"? Did not St. Paul state (I Cor. 13), "Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."? He said, "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face." Just to look at how my mind has changed over the years teaches me that what I believe is, at most, tenuous and open to further revelation and change. I used to think it wrong for women to be admitted to Word and Sacrament ministry. Now I come to the opposite conclusion (sorry ladies for this "late comer." When one considers how the church reacted to Galileo in the sixteenth century and now in the
twenty-first century, this ought to teach all of us a lesson about "knowing the truth." If you ARE a Bible-believing person, then don't you also believe, "Now I know only in part"? What do I know? I know that all of us are sinners; that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from "sin, death, and the power of the devil" (if there IS a devil!). I further know that I am charged to love everyone and not to pass judgment upon them lest I am also judged; to "explain my neighbor's actions in the kindest way (8th Commandment Luther's Catechism meaning); and that I do not begin to have all truth.

When I graduated from Seminary, I thought I knew what was "right" or "wrong." I believed that what was "true" was in a great big box and that "shades of grey" were in little boxes on either side of this
"truth". This was in 1962. After 40 years in ministry, after serving in the Army (Chaplain) for four of these years, and in Vietnam for one of them, for coming out of the Missouri Synod and into the LCA, then ELCA, I came to believe that my understanding of "the truth of the Scriptures" was now in a very small box; and that on either side were huge boxes called "shades of gray." I do not know a lot about the
arguments being discussed by Pr. Dave and Pr. Lars about homosexuality, but I feel far more comfortable with the understanding and conclusions that Pr. Lars arrives at, and very uncomfortable - and even strangulated and suffocated by the arguments that Pr. Dave is making.
Paul R. Frerking
Spring, Texas

Ben said...

An interesting quote which could be viewed as relating to this discussion:

“The Bible is essentially an open, artistic, imaginative narrative of God’s staggering care for the world, a narrative that will feed and nurture into obedience that builds community precisely by respect for the liberty of the Christian man or woman.”
--Walter Brueggemann

Nancy said...

I think we're finally getting to the crux of the matter. People who are homophobic seem to be essentially focused on male sexual acts and also to be attracted to "revulsion" at them. It seems to me that those who are most opposed to recognizing single sex relationships may be repressing some attraction to homosexual contact and suffering nightmares because of that attraction - which they, of course, track right back to the devil. It's a mean cycle! Focusing on sexually "abhorrent" acts as the most important aspect of same gender coupling leaves the virtues of mutual love, domestic and civic responsibility, and child-raising out of consideration. That's a nastily narrow focus

Male-pattern homophobia is powerful, partly due to denial of one's own nature. It pre-dates religious proscriptions and permeates the culture--even more deeply in eg Nigeria, I think. It seems that the "reasoning" may go: I hate and fear gay males, I love and fear God ergo God must also hate gay males.

AND whence the primacy of original "born into" SIN ? If we consider all persons to be sin-ridden - and see sex as the main source of sin, then we must be constantly looking for sin in sexual relationships. Preoccupation and difference-phobia ensue.

My favorite license plate was OSTOPIT. Whatever obsession you suffer from - speeding, competition, rage, judgment etc OSTOPIT. I want it for my van.

In Jesus' love. nancy

Christoph said...

Hello all - first time poster to this discussion. A question for you, Dave. In this post, you say that "Scripture is uniform throughout, unambiguous, and straightforward in every respect..." I'm curious how you came to hold this understanding of Scripture. Three questions:

1. What do you mean by saying that scripture is "uniform throughout?"

2. If scripture is indeed "unambiguous", why is there a need to interpret it in our preaching, teaching, living, etc.? Why exegete and write commentaries and debate over something that's "unambiguous?"

3. In what ways, really, is scripture "straightforward in every respect?" Do this mean that that scripture is consistent? Please help me understand where you're coming from.


Dr Chapman said...

Hi Dave,

In order to apparently dismiss the scientific data, you commented that:

"This scientific study is more valid than that scientific study. ... It can become a stalemate that ends up trivializing the debate"

This seems to imply that all studies, are equal, which is certainly not the case. As a scientist I know that some methodologies are more reliable in examining the question at hand. If two studies arrive at different conclusions, and one of those studies uses unsound methodology, then it is clear that one scientific study IS more valid than another. From what I gather reading this blog, and knowing the sources you have been quoting, it is evident to me that you relied on the studies with exceedingly poor methodology and dismissed those with sound methodology. Assuming you are not trained in analyzing methodologies you can certainly be forgiven for making a bad choice here and there. However, the consistency with which you dismiss sound studies for unsound ones implies something else is at play: this is particularly evident in that each time you sided with the study that portrays homosexuals in an extremely negative and stereotypical light. This makes me question your motivation in choosing your data. It seems that you chose the studies first and foremost because they fit your predisposed bias.

I find it highly concerning that when confronted with this information, your recourse is to throw your hands up and say that discussions of this sort only end up trivializing the debate. This is a serious issue when you have actually insulted and denigrated up to 30 million Americans (in a study of over 100,000 Americans, the CDC in Atlanta indicates about 9.8% of the population do not identify as heterosexual - the number that identify as homosexual is much smaller, but not all homosexuals openly identify as such, as some recently outed pastors can attest to). Denigrating up to 30 million people as feces-eating pedophilic perverts is not to be taken lightly - especially when you, a pastor, spread these untrue statements throughout the denomination. I suggest that in the future you locate individuals who can help you sort through the pseudo-scientific misinformation that is out there. With Paul Cameron's statistics this would have been very easy to do, given his repudiation by the American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association for unethical research and fabricating data. A fact that is well-known and well publicized.

The scientific debate is not trivial, but one that is central to the entire debate. Furthermore, the actions and dishonesty of some in the anti-gay camp, the uncritical acceptance of what they say by others is also not trivial in the least but central to the debate. Those who falsify information should not be treated with equal authority as the sound researchers. I encourage you to do more research before denigrating our lives and loves (your assessment of "the" gay lifestyle (grammatically meaning there is one gay lifestyle) does not apply to me - my gay lifestyle is very, very different).

The truth does set us free.

Dave said...

Welcome to the conversation Christoph.

What I am saying is that Scripture is clear and pervasive throughout in its opposition to homosexual practice. In Part II of my book I deal with the portions of Scripture that touch on homosexual practice and it is my reasoned conclusion that the Scriptures themselves are clear and unambiguous on this matter. It is true that Christians come at the issue from different angles. But it is my contention after studying the texts that the biblical witness itself and the Scriptures' interpretation of itself are clear and straightforward on the matter of homosexual practice.