Liberal Theology is not a political movement per se. It predates the Liberal party in the UK and US liberal-conservative politics. They have their own principled commitments. Keep coming back and we'll explain more. For now all you need to know is that they wish to save Christianity from the Bible.
This blog is called Shellfish because if you try and talk about the authority of Scripture these days, something heard over and over is, "Well, Leviticus says you can't eat shellfish, but we do?"
It's amazing how that reasoning stops so many people in their tracks. The initial answer we want to give is, "That's hardly the same thing." The correct answer is that Paul explains in 1 Corinthians that all foods are permissible. However, Paul consistently said that the only permissible expression of sexuality was in marriage between a man and a woman.
Jesus also said as far as food, that it was not what goes into a person that defiles them. Jesus also said that men and women were created for each other, that we were created to be in union, one man and one woman.
Next time someone tries the "Shellfish" or the "Jesus never" argument on you, for goodness sakes, set them straight. If they don't see the light, don't fight, send them here:
Read on, from the close of Professor Robert Gagnon's penetrating analysis of the faulty reasoning behind Journey Together Faithfully:
... in the light of Scripture, a study of the ancient world, and modern scientific evidence, the following four points can be made. (1) Sexual 'orientation' is not like ethnicity or sex (i.e., it is not 100% inheritable and culturally immutable and, of course, it leads to patterns of behavior that show increased risk of harm). (2) The concept of exclusive attraction for members of the same sex originating in a combination of congenital influences and early socialization was already known in the ancient world at some level. (3) The Bible's witness against homosexual practice is predicated on a more holistic and secure understanding of embodied sexuality than modern pro-homosex fascination with the direction of ones sexual desire at a given stage in a persons life. Thus (4) knowledge of a ‘homosexual orientation’ would neither have constituted radically new information for the authors of Scripture nor would it have made a difference to their overall indictment of persons aroused by what they already have and are as sexual beings.
Can Christians Use Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in Formulating Ethics?
In “Other arguments in Journey Two” we saw how Christian disuse of capital sentences for sex offenses did not signify the ethical irrelevance of Levitical laws against incest, adultery, and bestiality. Hultgren & Taylor do not raise this point when they close their discussion on the Levitical laws by asking: “Can Christians use passages from Leviticus in developing ethical positions today?” (p. 9). However, they do rightly note that Christians cannot simply dismiss Levitical laws as having no relevance even as guidelines for Christian conduct.
Unfortunately, Hultgren & Taylor cite only one criterion for discerning whether the laws against male-male intercourse have continuing relevance for Christian morality: reuse in the New Testament (compare the seven criteria that I cite above under “The Need to Spell Out Reasons for Enduring Relevance”). To make matters worse, their last word on the matter reflects the negative stance on the Levitical witness that appears elsewhere in their discussion: While some interpreters see such reuse in the New Testament, “other interpreters have concluded that while the New Testament prohibits certain kinds of same-gender sexual behavior, it is silent on others” (p. 9).
Certainly some interpreters have argued this. But the grounds for doing so are insubstantial.
First, as we have noted (see point 7 under “Reasons for Enduring Relevance”) both Rom 1:24-27 and 1 Cor 6:9 clearly echo the Levitical prohibitions, indicating that the New Testament authors adopt the absolute stance of those prohibitions. Indeed, all the extant evidence from the early Judaism indicates that Jews universally both understood and appropriated the Levitical prohibitions in the same absolute light (see, for example, Josephus, Philo, and rabbinic texts; The Bible and Homosexual Practice, ch. 2 on the witness of early Judaism).
That the early Christian community did so as well is confirmed by the requirement that Gentiles abstain from “sexual immorality” (porneia), found in the “Apostolic Decree” of Acts 15 (see above under “Where’s Jesus”). This requirement clearly harks back to the sex laws in Lev 18 (other elements of the Decree can be traced to Lev 17) and undoubtedly included at the forefront, as with developing Noahide laws in early Judaism, a prohibition of male-male intercourse.
Second, we have also shown above (“Ignoring the Intertextual echoes to the Creation Texts”) that Rom 1:23-27 and 1 Cor 6:9 contain clear intertextual echoes to Gen 1:26-27 and 2:24 respectively. If homosexual practice is being contrasted unfavorably with God’s design for male-female pairing at creation then obviously there isn’t any form of male-male or female-female intercourse that would have been acceptable for Paul. We noted that Background Essay fails even to discuss the contention of intertextual echoes to Gen 1:26-27 in Rom 1:23-27, found in The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 289-92. And we showed how the attempt in Background Essay to dismiss the link between “men who lie with a male” in 1 Cor 6:9 and the citation of Gen 2:24b in 1 Cor 6:16 fails on at least three counts.
Third, we shall also see other arguments for the fact that Paul was not limiting his indictment of homosexual practice, including:
- The absolute wording of Rom 1:24-27
- The mention of mutual gratification in Rom 1:27
- The parallelism between the creation argument in 1:19-23 and the nature argument in 1:24-27, which combined allude to the revelatory value of the material structures of creation
- The mention of lesbian sex in Rom 1:26, sexual activity that was not normally conducted in the context of prostitution, cultic activity, or adult-adolescent relationships
- The fact that the conception of non-exploitative homosexual unions was well known in the Greco-Roman world and yet still made little difference to critics of such unions.
The notion that Paul would have found loving and committed adult homosexual unions to be acceptable is as absurd as contending that Paul would have approved of the case of man-stepmother incest in 1 Cor 5 if it had been a committed relationship.