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Friday, September 8, 2017

The Scriptural and Philosophical Basis for the Bloomington Statement

In an effort to precisely mirror the Nashville Statement, I did not provide any justifications for the affirmations and denials contained in my Bloomington Statement. However, a person whose opinion I hold in high regard suggested that it would accrue to the benefit of both my readers and myself if I would provide them. After some consideration, I agree.

Hence, what follows should be considered my offering of the scriptural and philosophical underpinnings of each article:

Article I:  Genesis 2:24 makes plain that sexual intercourse was intended to be an integral part of the marriage covenant between two people. Christ makes it very clear in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:3-9 that God originally intended that a marital commitment be for life, that it is a Divine institution and that the contract is not subject to human nullification. Hebrews 13:4 makes plain that marriage is an honorable estate that is available to everyone. Moreover, Genesis 2:18 establishes the principle that it is NOT good for a man to be alone - that the help and support of another HUMAN was anticipated by God as a basic need of each individual (see Genesis 2:19-20).

Article II:  Exodus 20:14, one of God's great fundamental laws (known popularly as The Ten Commandments), clearly states that God ordained fidelity/faithfulness as "His" standard for human relationships (and marriage in particular). As sexual desire is an integral part of the way we are biologically hardwired to function as humans, it must be a part of the creation that God described as being "very good" in Genesis 1:31. Moreover, when we take a close look at the scripture which is most often used to denigrate sexual attraction (Matthew 5:28), we see that Christ was speaking about the commandment related to fidelity. Hence, it is clear that Christ was referring to sexual lust for someone other than one's wife/husband. In other words, this is not the blanket condemnation of all sexual desire which some Christians have attempted to make it. Indeed, in Genesis 2:25, we are informed that Adam and Eve were not created with sexual shame about their bodies.

Article III:  Genesis 1:27 makes plain that both genders were created in the image of God. Galatians 3:28 makes clear that both genders are considered equal before God through Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 strongly implies that things like love, kindness, goodness and gentleness are universal values that can and should be attributable to both genders. Likewise, things like anger, selfish ambition, jealousy, hostility and drunkenness are not the exclusive purview of men (see Galatians 5:20-21).

Article IV:  Once again, Galatians 3:28 makes it very clear that both genders are equal before God. Romans 2:11 also makes it very plain that God does not show favoritism when it comes to who is given an opportunity to be in "His" Kingdom. Moreover, to further underscore this point, we know that Christ indicated that marriage would not be a part of our experience in the Kingdom (Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25 and Luke 20:35). Since Jesus Christ is responsible for reconciling everything to God (including humankind), it follows that any and all consequences of the fall are removed by that reconciliation.

Article V:  Since both genders reflect God's persona (see again Genesis 1:27), it follows that all of the traits which WE normally associate with one or the other gender are not exclusive to either. As it is theoretically possible to enter the Kingdom without some of our body parts (see Matthew 5:29-30), we must conclude that being physically or emotionally whole is not a prerequisite of entering that Kingdom.

Article VI:  As the Bible is silent on the question of sexual orientation, we must conclude that it is inconsequential to any of the great issues addressed therein. And, before anyone starts quoting Leviticus 18:22 or Romans 1:26-27, we should all be able to agree that those passages refer to BEHAVIOR. They have absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation - a concept that was wholly unfamiliar to the ancients. In fact, Scripture indicates that it would be wrong for someone to go against their own nature (Romans 1:26-27) or conscience (Romans 14:23).

Article VII:  Paul told the saints at Rome that we should measure ourselves in accordance with the faith which God has given to each one of us (Romans 12:1-3). Likewise, he told the saints at Corinth that if they would judge themselves, they would not be judged (I Corinthians 11:31). The standard is God's, but it is the responsibility of each and every one of us as individuals to interpret that standard and apply it to ourselves by employing the light which God has given/placed within us.

Article VIII:  We read in John 3:16 that Christ told Nicodemus that God loved humankind so much that "he gave us his one and only Son, so that EVERYONE who <whosoever -KJV> believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." It is logical to assume that EVERYONE/WHOSOEVER is inclusive of EVERYONE or ANYBODY who believes in him (including homosexuals and transgender people). Later, when Christ was explaining that he was the only way into the sheepfold, we read that he told his audience that his purpose was to give everyone an abundant life (John 10:10). Later still, the author of the gospel tells us that his purpose in writing the book was to facilitate a belief in Jesus as the Christ, and that that belief will lead to life (John 20:31). In many places, Paul admonished ALL Christians to walk in holiness (see Romans 6:4, 8:1, I Corinthians 7:17, Galatians 5:25, Ephesians 2:10, 4:1, 5:2, 8, etc.). Finally, if we observe same sex attraction in both humankind and the animal kingdom, it cannot be unnatural (contrary to nature) and calling it an anomaly does not negate or remove its existence in nature (e.g. we could say that tornadoes and hurricanes are anomalies, but that does not alter the fact that they occur in nature from time to time).

Article IX:  Any sexual desire/ behavior that supersedes or comes before our duty to God could be said to be idolatrous (see Exodus 20:3-5). Likewise, any sexual desire/behavior that violates our commitment to another person is an expression of infidelity (see Exodus 20:14). Any desire/behavior that violates our own conscience or doesn't originate in faith is sinful (see James 4:17 and Romans 14:23). Any sexual desire/behavior that violates our obligation to treat others the way in which we would like to be treated is a violation of Christ's Golden Rule (see Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). And sexual desire/behavior that results in some hurt or injury to another does not fulfill God's law and should be labeled as sinful (see Romans 13:10). In other words, there are broad spiritual principles outlined in Scripture that define whether a desire/behavior is wrong/sinful. Finally, there is no explicit statement anywhere in Scripture that forbids sexual intercourse before marriage. The best argument that anyone has been able to muster for the understanding that premarital sex is contrary to God's purposes, is based on the assumption that a collection of certain scriptures implies it.

Article X:  Christ did not place any qualifications on our obligation as Christians to love each other (see John 13:34 and 15:12, 17). Likewise, his apostles affirmed this obligation of Christians to love each other (see Romans 13:8, I Thessalonians 4:9, I Peter 1:22, I John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11-12, etc.). Paul also told the saints at Corinth that love NEVER fails (see I Corinthians 13:8). Moreover, to treat homosexuals and transgender people in ways which we would not appreciate being treated is a direct violation of Christ's Golden Rule (see again Matthew 7:12). Finally, we cannot find ANY instruction or Divine directive to disparage these people in Scripture (there is NONE, and don't bother offering up an instruction to Old Testament prophets to show God's people their sins - that was not addressed to you, and the folks to whom it was addressed were instructed to concentrate on sins, not to disparage people).

Article XI:  The instruction to Christians to edify/build up each other is repeated several times in Scripture (see Romans 14:9, Ephesians 4:1-11, I Thessalonians 5:11 and Hebrews 3:13). Paul told the saints at Rome to "be kindly affectioned one to another" (Romans 12:10, KJV). Christ instructed his followers not to judge each other or be focused on spotting and correcting each other's sins (see Matthew 7:1-5).

Article XII:  Paul makes plain that grace is about acceptance before God, the forgiveness of sin and our ultimate salvation (see Ephesians 1:6-7, 2:5-8, II Timothy 1:9, Titus 2:11 and 3:7). There is nothing in Scripture that states or implies that grace is not available to homosexual and transgender people.

Article XIII:  The prophet Isaiah said that God had the unqualified ability to save (see Isaiah 59:1). Paul said that God told him that God's grace was sufficient to save him and that God's power was perfected in Paul's weakness (II Corinthians 12:9, KJV). He also told the saints at Philippi that he was confident that God had the ability to finish what he had started in them (Philippians 1:6). He told the Romans that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). A little later, in the same epistle, he said that God alone makes the determination as to who will stand or fall, and that with God's help "they will stand and receive his approval" (Romans 14:4). There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that God's power/ability to save anyone is limited by any circumstance or other power.

Article XIV:  Paul told Timothy that Christ came into the world to save sinners (I Timothy 1:15). There is no indication anywhere in Scripture to suggest that any individuals or groups are excluded from this general category of "sinners." When John saw Jesus approaching him, he is reported to have said: "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) That sure sounds like all sins to me. Paul stated over and over again that we are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10, II Corinthians 5:18 and Colossians 1:21). Christ himself is reported to have told his followers that "God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).

All of the above referenced scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation, except those where I have specifically stated that they were derived from the King James Version of the Bible. Hence, as you can see, the Bloomington Statement was not some flight of fancy based on thin air or a slight of hand. On the contrary, each of the affirmations and denials that comprise the fourteen articles are founded in Scripture and philosophical premises that are both logical and sustainable. Moreover, any scriptural foundation which can be supplied by the proponents of the Nashville Statement must be seen as contradicting the scriptures referenced here (which I would think creates quite a dilemma for fundamentalists). What do you think?

7 comments:

  1. I hope to respond to this, but it may take a few days or longer to do so. The next two weeks may be very busy for me.

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  2. There is a lot of stuff here, and I want to address it one Article at a time. So, for this post, I will only be concerned with the first article. If you choose to engage me on this, then I can move on to the next once we have done with the first.

    "Genesis 2:24 makes plain that sexual intercourse was intended to be an integral part of the marriage covenant between two people." WHICH two people?

    "Hebrews 13:4 makes plain that marriage is an honorable estate that is available to everyone." Which part of that verse says its for everyone? Do you think that one implication of Mt 19:10-12 is that not everyone should marry?

    "Moreover, Genesis 2:18 establishes the principle that it is NOT good for a man to be alone - that the help and support of another HUMAN was anticipated by God as a basic need of each individual (see Genesis 2:19-20)." I think you should have extended your citation to verse 22. WHAT was the human that God gave as support to the man? I agree with the principle that a man should not be alone and that God made another human to meet this need, but do you think that his choice of what human to manufacture reflects another principle?

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    1. I am happy to answer you or anyone else who wishes to challenge my thesis on the Divine perspective on human sexuality point by point. However, before I proceed, I believe a word of caution is in order. As the Bloomington Statement was originally generated as a response to the Nashville Statement, any arguments offered against it must be seen as supportive of the Nashville Statement and/or the more traditional Christian perspective on human sexuality. Before proceeding, we should all be willing to ask ourselves a few questions about that Nashville/traditional approach:
      What has been the fruit of that approach down through the centuries of human history?
      Given what we now know about the human psyche, does that approach make sense? In other words, can it reasonably be expected for us to follow it and/or for it to result in a positive, healthy or "good" outcome for those of us who attempt to live by its tenets?
      Given the history of Christianity in other areas of doctrine/dogma, is it reasonable to assume that Christianity got this one (human sexuality) right? And, if Satan truly has deceived the whole world, is it reasonable to conclude that he missed an area as fundamental/important as the Divine perspective on human sexuality?
      Now I'm ready to proceed:
      Genesis 2:24 - We could say that the focus of this verse is on the male (if we take it in a literal sense, that wouldn't be unreasonable). Nevertheless, I think that most of us would be willing to acknowledge that this is meant to apply to both genders, and that the underlying principle suggests that leaving one's parents' household and cohabiting (in a clearly sexual sense) with someone are essential components of the marriage covenant between two people. Are you suggesting that this only applies to Adam, to Adam and Eve or to the male gender or to a generic male and female? I guess this boils down to just how narrowly or broadly one wishes to define the principle?
      In Hebrews 13:4, we read: "Marriage is an honorable estate in ALL, AND THE BED UNDEFILED: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Does ALL mean ALL? If homosexuals are understood to be excluded from this "ALL," then any sexual activity which they engage in must fall into the whoremonger/adulterer category and be subject to damnation? If you are suggesting that Matthew 19:10-12 implies that marriage is not for everyone, aren't you clearly contradicting this statement in Hebrews that it is appropriate for ALL?
      As for Genesis 2:18-22, once again, are you suggesting that the broader spiritual principle (that it is not good to be alone) is applicable only to Adam or the male of the species? Is it OK for women to be alone? Is it OK for gay people to be alone? Do you think that Genesis 2:18-22 reflects the literal/actual way in which men and women were created? If so, doesn't that necessarily contradict the account in Genesis 1:26-30? Do you honestly believe the Eve (woman) was an afterthought? Did God design humans to be male and female to facilitate reproduction (as implied in both accounts - Genesis 1 and 2)? OR Did God create Eve (the female) as the only appropriate "help meet" for the man? Don't you think that the human/animal contrast in the story was intended to be significant?
      Traditionalists love to point out that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. This argument, however, is not credible - it is not rational. Weren't Adam and Eve representative of the origins of the entire human race? Aren't they portrayed as the ancestors of everyone else - the primordial parents? Isn't it appropriate to suggest that all of humanity was in their loins? In other words, didn't God also create Steve? Didn't God also create you and me?

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  3. Your preamble seems to say that we should decide what is right and then interpret the bible against that backdrop. I agree with you that certain attitudes seem to produce better fruit than some others, but where scripture is not clear to us, then I think we ought to do whatever seems to be the best to do, and where scripture seems clear, then I think it has to trump our opinions of what is best.

    Gn 2:18-24: There is a principle here, which you identified: it is not good for a man to be alone and consequently God made someone for the man. I am suggesting that this isn't the only principle at work in what God did. He chose to make a woman, not another man. And he did that after Adam had noticed that the animals were male and female (in answer to your question about whether the human/animal contrast was intended to be significant.) We could say that God made a woman so that the earth could be replenished and that since the earth is now replenished, this principle is not so relevant today, and maybe we'd be right, or maybe we'd be wrong. What I am trying to convey though is that we must not assume that the only issue here is that man needs another person. We should admit that on the face of it, it appears that this text is saying that man needs a woman. As I said, the woman may be explained by something else, but we mustn't read that into the text.

    And No, I am not suggesting that it is good for a woman to be alone or for gay people to be alone. It is also not good for a person to go mad, but things do happen sometimes.

    Hb 13:4: I see no reason to assume that "all" refers to all relationships. It seems to me to be saying that whatever is done sexually inside a marriage is alright: the marriage bed remains undefiled. But what is done outside of that marriage is subject to judgment. Writing this has prompted me to revisit the text, and it now seems to me that it is a statement that all should hold marriage in high regard and that on the marriage bed, anything goes, but on another bed there is judgement. In any case, I don't think it can be read as saying that marriage is for any two people that decide to be connected that way.

    I am not saying that you are wrong in the notion of marriage between two of the same gender; I am saying that the scriptures upon which you rely are not suggestive of that stance.

    You probably have a rebuttal, and I'll wait for it. If you don't, then I can proceed to the next Article.

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  4. No, I believe that the Bible, the world around us and our own observations and experiences should inform our views about what is acceptable to God and what is not. As far as Scripture is concerned, I believe that context and the weight of the evidence should prevail (one or two passages, no matter how clear they may seem to be, are not enough).
    You are certainly not alone in your assessment of the principles at play in Genesis 2:18-24. And, while I am more than willing to acknowledge the obvious reproductive component in telling this story of the primordial parents, it is apparent to me that the human/animal contrast is paramount. My interpretation of this passage of Scripture is more figurative/symbolic in nature (yours is more literal). I see Adam and Eve as representative of the beginnings of humanity, as representative of humankind; and as reflections of the Divine kind. In this context, Adam is sometimes representative of humankind, sometimes of the male gender and other times as the primordial parent. Likewise, Eve is sometimes depicted as a reflection/helper/companion of Adam, sometimes as the female gender and other times as the mother of humankind. I'm not sure about your last point about this passage. Are you saying that it may not be good for women and gay people to be alone, but that it's OK?
    I don't think that the "all" in Hebrews 13:4 refers to relationships either. I think that "all" refers to people, and that it means everyone. I certainly understand and respect your perspective on these verses, but your way of looking at them is NOT the only way to view them. For me, all/everyone means all/everyone - without qualification.

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    1. "Are you saying that it may not be good for women and gay people to be alone, but that it's OK?" Not sure what you mean by "OK"....morally acceptable? healthy? permissible? I'm not distinguishing women or gay people from hetero men. All need to be in a loving relationship with a companion.

      I now see your point about Hb 13:4 ("all")....when I get time, I want to study that word usage a bit more.

      I have no comments about Articles II and III except that i agree with you. I take exception to the last statement at Article IV: men do not bear children, but then that role is not the result of "the fall", so maybe I don't take exception after all.

      Article VI: "God-given orientation": let's tackle this one. I will start by asking you if alcoholism is a God-given orientation....?

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    2. Can we agree that sexual orientation is very different from a predisposition to have an addictive personality? Heterosexual folks don't choose to be heterosexual - they just are. If they were honest, I think that most heterosexual folks would tell you that they never had to choose a gender to stimulate their libido. I've never heard a heterosexual male say, "Jennifer's breasts sure are great, but Chuck's pecs look much better!" Whether it's part of the individual's DNA or it was the result of exposure to hormones in utero is immaterial to this discussion - it doesn't change the fact that it is a natural process (which kinda puts it in God's lap).

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