Sunday, August 14, 2022

An Observation On Descriptions Of Heaven: They Are Figurative

"There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of “Heaven” ridiculous by saying they do not want “to spend eternity playing harps.” The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 10 (on “Hope”)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Discussion On Using The Bible To Legitimize Homosexuality

  • Discussion:
          -Following are a series of excerpts with responses to them from a debate that veered far from the original topic of the article in which they were published. A number of points may prove to be useful in discussing the issue of whether the Bible endorses homosexuality:

          "What if some christians think that oppressing gay people is a great evil and others do not even see their harsh treatment of homosexuals as oppression?"

          That would be a matter of semantics in this culture. If by "oppressing gay people" you are referring to something genocidal in nature, then that would be a heinous crime.

          "What if, in these cases, all concerned are genuinely striving to follow God and they've just reached different conclusions?"

          If God has delineated something to be good or evil, then there is no other conclusion to reach than that which He told us.

          "Are those in sincere confusion and mistake going to be damned for their lack of understanding?"

          I suspect the problem is more willful than accidental for a lot of people.

          "As to 1 Cor 6, as I'm sure you know, Paul was writing to a specific place with some specific circumstances and throughout Corinthians, he is addressing some specific concerns they had, offering his advice."

          Paul also gave moral imperatives for us to adhere to at all places and at all times. Morality pertains to that which is timeless and transcendent.

          "God has not delineated gay folks getting married as good or bad. Literally, that never has happened. Not in the Bible and not to you or me."

          Go read of the Apostle Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. He says outright that people who practice such a lifestyle will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul would have drawn this teaching from the Book of Leviticus which is in the Old Testament.

          "But the word that is sometimes translated as "homosexual" (and the word translated as "soft" or "effeminate" sometimes) are not at all clear in the text or context. But in context, sometimes in that day and time, men would have young male prostitutes - boys who were forced to be the "soft" ones and abused by the men who were prostituting them. That's the reality of Greco-Roman life at the time."

          The text of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 refers to both the active and passive partners of a homosexual relationship. The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, edited by Spiros Zodhiates, contains Strong's Greek Dictionary of the New Testament which has this entry on the phrase "abusers of themselves with mankind": 

           "733 arsenokoites ar-sen-ok-oy'-tace from 730 and 2845; a sodomite:--abuser of (that defile) self with mankind."

           The section of this Study Bible titled Lexical Aids to the Old Testament has this entry on the meaning of the term sodomite:

          "6945 Qadesh; this adj. is derived from 6942. It means a consecrated one, a devoted one, a sacred person; a devotee to licentious idolatry, a cultic prostitute or priest of Astarte (1 Kgs. 22:46). It is ironic that such a "holy" word could be applied to abominable practices of male homosexuals dedicating themselves to the honor of a false god (Deut. 23:17; 1 Kgs. 14:24; 15:12; 2 Kgs. 23:7; Job 36:14)!"

          Consider also this excerpt from a Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, by William Smith:

          "Sodomites. This word does not denote the inhabitants of Sodom (except only in 2 Esd. vii. 36) or their descendants; but it is employed in the A.V. of the Old Testament for those who practised as a religious rite the abominable and unnatural vice from which the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah have derived their lasting infamy. It occurs in Deut. xxiii. 17; 1 K. xiv. 24; xv. 12; xxii. 46; 2 K. xxiii. 46; 2 K. xxiii. 7; and Job xxxvi. 14 (margin). The Hebrew word kadesh is said to be derived from a root kadash, which (strange as it may appear) means "pure," and thence "holy." "This dreadful 'consecration,' or rather desecration, was spread in different forms over Phoenicia, Syria, Phrygia, Assyria, Babylonia."

           Consider this excerpt from the Archaeological Study Bible, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett general editors:

           "Evidence exists that even the Greeks may have been aware that this behavior was deviant. Aristophanes, the Greek comic poet, mocked homosexual behavior (even as he employed it as a comic device). For example, in Women at the Thesmophoria he ruthlessly ridiculed the notorious homosexuality of the poet Agathon. It would be an overstatement to claim that Aristophanes opposed homosexual practice, but his comedy betrayed an uneasy conscience about such behavior within the culture he inhabited. Plato, on the other hand, in his earlier dialogues spoke approvingly of homosexual behavior. Yet near the end of his career he observed in his Laws that homosexual intercourse was widely recognized to be unnatural." (p. 1836)

           It should be clear to anyone that the Apostle Paul condemned homosexual relationships as such. He would have expressed disdain toward the idea of a same-sex wedding. That would have been totally repulsive to him. Paul would have viewed homosexuality as sinful and something practiced only by people who are heathenish. 

          "Why do those religious traditions get to speak for God what God hasn't said? Isn't that blasphemous? Why not?"

          Are you serious in taking up this kind of a sweeping skepticism toward the moral dimension of the Mosaic Law? What sort of textual critical evidence do you have to support this branding of moral imperatives from God as being nothing other than man-made oral tradition?

          "So, if there SEEMS to be some disagreement with Jesus and the OT or Jesus and Paul, we look FIRST to what Jesus said to help us understand the other, not the other way around."

          This reasoning would be utterly inexcusable given that both Jesus and Paul held to Old Testament ethics. Jesus Christ upheld traditional marriage as defined by God since the timing of creation: "And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?" (Matthew 19:4-5)

          "We have Saved by God's Grace gay and lesbian and transgender members, beloved by God. The Bible does not say otherwise. Anywhere. It's just not there."

          The consistent pattern of marriage in the Bible from beginning to end is between a man and a woman. It presupposes that kind of a relationship. Never once are two partners of the same gender even hinted at. Never once are more than two genders spoken of.

          "But those all appear, on the face of them, to not be any kind of universal condemnation of gay guys getting married..."

          But God describes homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18:22 as being an "abomination" and "worthy of death" in Leviticus 20:13. That is indeed a universal condemnation of the practice. Consider this excerpt from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, on the Hebrew term toeba:

          "...the abomination may be of a physical, ritual or ethical nature and may be abhorred by God or man. Sharing a meal with a Hebrew was ritually offensive to an Egyptian (Gen 43:32), as was offering certain kinds of sacrifices (Ex 8:22). homosexuality and other perversions are repugnant to God and fall under his judgment (Lev 18:22–30; 20:13). Idolatry (Deut 7:25), human sacrifice (Deut 12:31), eating ritually unclean animals (Deut 14:3–8), sacrificing defective animals (Deut 17:1), conducting one’s business dishonestly (Deut 25:13–16), practicing ritual prostitution (I Kgs 14:23f.), and similar acts of disobedience (for seven more abominations, see the list in Prov 6:16–19) were sure to bring God’s wrath on those who perpetrated them. Twelve times the book of Proverbs uses the phrase, “is an abomination to the Lord.” In Ps 88, a prayer for help written by a man close to death, the physically repulsive appearance of a tôʿēbâ is stressed; the man’s former friends avoid him because they consider him to be a thing of horror (Ps 88:8 [H 9])."

          The Jewish Study Bible has this excerpt on Leviticus 18:22:

          "Biblical and ancient Near Eastern culture was not familiar with homosexuality in the sense of a defined sexual orientation of lifestyle (the Bible gives no indication that David and Jonathon had a sexual relationship). It acknowledges only the occasional act of male anal intercourse, usually as an act of force associated with humiliation, revenge, or subjugation (for the biblical examples see Gen. 19.4-5; Judg. 19.22). Of the biblical collections only H mentions it (here and in 20.13), declaring it to be an abominable act and a capital offense. One possible explanation might be that H views certain sexual acts that are not potentially procreative as aberrant."

          "(heck, lesbians aren't mentioned at all in the OT, so presumably, it's okay for THEM to get married, right?)"

          You take liberties by attempting to follow the strict letter of the text in a manner that is favorable toward your own theology. Your efforts to manipulate what it says is disingenuous and proves that you do not really care what Scripture says. How could you possibly be a Christian?

          The original audience to whom the Law was given would have understood Leviticus 18:22 to apply to lesbianism in principle. Furthermore, Paul expressly casts such relationships in a negative light in Romans 1:26-27. There is something especially unnatural about two women being together given that they have a motherly instinct. 

          "I know there are a handful of passages that SEEM to touch on perhaps gay issues, but they are nothing like clear or definitive condemnations of gay folks getting married."

          Even if there was only one passage in the entire Bible that implicitly showed God's disapproval of homosexual marriage, that would be enough for a real Christian. That would still count as evidence, but there are multiple lines of evidence showing that homosexuality is incompatible with a biblical theology of marriage.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

An Discussion On Culture And "Gay Rights"

  • Discussion:
          -Following are a series of excerpts with responses to them from a debate that veered far from the original topic of the article in which they were published. Some points may prove to be useful in discussing the normalization of homosexual behaviors with other people:

          "Ah, but WHO is it that is plotting even now to deny the right to marry and other basic rights to LGBTQ people?"

          That is not happening anywhere except in the Middle East. No reasonable person has any plans whatsoever to deprive the group of people that you mention of any basic human rights. They are being treated just like everybody else.

          "It's conservatives and the religious right. LGBTQ folks are NOT trying to tell straight people who they can and can't marry."

          We do not really see heterosexual people parading around the streets of cities in ridiculous and ugly attire exclaiming what they do behind closed doors. We do not see heterosexual people putting symbols of their sexuality on children's cereal boxes during a specific month of each year. Have a sense of decency and honor.

          "Who is it who's telling transgender folks which bathrooms they must use? It's conservatives. LGBTQ folks aren't telling conservatives which bathrooms to use."

          There are only two genders which are determined by genetics. That people want to be called by something other than what they really are, is no one else's problem but their own. There is no obligation on my part to affirm a man to be a woman or visa versa when all of human history up to this point did not do so.

          If this matter is really all that important, then businesses should create unisex, single person restrooms. Problem solved.

          "Who is it who's telling gay or lesbian couples that they can't adopt children? It's conservatives. LGBTQ people aren't trying to say that "Southern Baptists can't adopt children!"

          Adoption is not a gay rights issue. It is a children's issue.

          "LGBTQ people HAVE been oppressed for centuries/throughout history in nations around the world and in the US."

          Even if that is true, they are not being persecuted in the West right now. This leads up to a bigger point, namely, the utter futility of trying to negotiate with people who have a victim mentality. They are never happy no matter what you do for them, always demanding more.

          "They just want to live their lives in peace and without oppression."

          Dissidents only wish to be left alone and be able to live out normal lives without fear of their children being sexualized by predators.

          "Would you return to the days of criminalized homosexuality if you could?"

          This question is a meaningless hypothetical. I could not return to the days of criminalized homosexuality even if I wanted to.

          "Would you deny the right of gay guys/lesbian women to marry who they want?"

          Let those people be with whoever they want in secret, but I would deny that homosexual "marriage" is a natural human right from the very beginning.

          "The Supreme Court conservatives may do so."

          The only thing that a Supreme Court with the kind of composition that it currently has would do is to relegate the matter to the states. If an overwhelming majority of people in one state wants abortion to be illegal, then they should be able to have it that way. That is the way in which our particular system of government works. It is not perfect, but still works better than any other. If you do not like how a particular state is ran, then you can move to a different state in the country that better fits your standards of living. You could also run for office to change laws and publicly debate people to change minds.

          "Look, you are free to think what you want about LGBTQ people, but conservative Christians (and extremist Muslims) have lost this argument, at least in the free world."

          If "conservative" ideas have really been defeated, then why are they the only ones that have withstood the test of time? Why are progressive ideas always so irrational and destructive to a society? Bad ideas do not become better just because more people embrace them. Wrong is still wrong even if everyone believes it.

          "That's illegal discrimination and rightfully so. So, too, for gay customers. You don't have to like it, but discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation is illegal in our nation."

          You are making an invalid comparison. Skin color and gender is not changeable like sexual orientation. They are not behavioral characteristics as is homosexuality and lesbianism. They have nothing to do with each other. Gay customers should be served on the condition that employees are not required to compromise their faith. It is ironic that homosexuals demand acceptance and toleration while at the same time not extending that same attitude toward those who do not share their worldview. 

          "And for many of us, we thank God that these human rights have been accomplished because we're fighting for justice and morality, as best we understand it."

          Homosexuality is a sin against God. Such "marriages" are not recognized as valid before Him. However, LGBTQ people should not be shut out of society. They should not be denied access to basic needs. These people should not be demonized and dehumanized. We live in a fallen world which cannot possibly live up to God's perfect holiness.

          "That's one way that's one way that bigots use to demonize the other, make them monstrous, people who target children! It is an unsupported false claim."

          It is not an unsupported false claim when children's libraries contain books with sexually explicit content and there are parents who are outraged about it. It is not an unsupported false claim when there are reports of teachers telling students not to disclose the subject-matter of their classes to parents.

          "Are you saying that people who take the time to teach children are "targeting them" for propaganda?"

          Not exactly. It depends on the content of the instruction.

          "Or, when conservatives do it, they're just being helpful, but when liberals do it they're targeting and grooming children?? You see the problem with that, don't you?"

          The problem is that children are basically being taught how to have sex. They should be being taught things like math, grammar, and science. Children should not be being sexualized. They have no real understanding of how the world works. Moreover, people have grown up to have sex for thousands of years without any instruction as to how it is done. They just procreated.

          "And if you find my positions weird And tomorrow, perhaps you can understand how I also find your positions weird and immoral. As well as unbiblical, ungodly and irrational."

          I am not a radical. You are. You exposed yourself by talking. I know that you are okay with the destruction and corruption of innocence. Why else would you make an effort to defend exposing children to drag queen story hour?

          "After all I'm not trying to be objective, I'm saying that gay folks committing to one another in a loving respectful marriage is obviously, on the face of it, a good thing. How's that bad?"

          That is not how God designed things to be. There does not have to be some other reason than that He has given us a moral standard to abide by.