Thursday, 17 April 2014

God and Sex

Wow that is a rather big title and one that I am not going to do justice to in a blog post, however I do want to make some observations in line with the theme of the blog.

Let me first say that I have no theological training my qualifications are in economics and Maths teaching so I come to this very much as a lay person.  I came Christianity at the age of 11 through my school CU, my family were not Christians. I did not go to church until 16 by which time I had read the bible cover to cover the only way I knew how. So I very much had no preconceived slant on the Bible.

Over the past week I've have read quite a lot on the Christian attitude to Same-sex marriage (SSM), including Steve Chalke's and Vicky Beeching's post announcing their support for SSM and a lot of the comments attached to those pieces.

First I want to clarify some semantics, what we have in the UK is not equal marriage, heterosexual marriage laws in Britain have actually been based on Biblical concepts. Biblically there are two aspects to a marriage Social recognition and Consummation or Sexual intercourse. The law in Britain held that if a marriage was not consummated then it could be annulled, declared never to have happened. There is no such regulation surrounding the new SSM law, neither is there any recognition of adultery being a ground for divorce, unlike traditional marriage. The SSM law seems to divorce the concept of marriage from sex entirely.


I believe there are nine explicit Bible references to homosexual practice 4 in the Old Testament and 5 in the New (Genesis 19:1-25; Judges 19:22-30; Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 Romans 1:24-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Peter 2:6-10; and Jude 7). This is not a very prolific but taken as face value these make a compelling case against the Church condoning homosexuality. However the accusation is that you cannot take individual verses to make doctrine on, in the past the Church has done this and it has resulted in racist and sexist attitudes which we now reject. In particular it is pointed out the seemingly explicit verse forbidden women to speak in Church which a large part of the Church deems to be cultural advice to a specific Church. 

So could it be that these verses condemning homosexuality are also based on the cultural norms of the day in those locations?

I do not believe this to be the case because of the nature of the verses themselves and because of an overview of scripture as a whole. Firstly the verses used to justify keeping women out of leadership are a specific instruction given in a letter, whilst the verses listed above are of a far more sweeping nature and largely equate homosexuality to other sins. Also there are plenty of scripture that can be shown to counter this not least the leadership roles of some women (Deborah in Old Testament, Priscilla in the New). No such counter scripture appears to me to be supportive of homosexual practice. 

An overview of scripture all is unfavourable as any mention of marriage from Genesis on is about a man and a woman. From the creation with Adam and Eve to Jesus talking about marriage it is always in the traditional context, in Mark 10 he quotes from Genesis “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. There is no mention or hint at marriage being anything else at any point in scripture.

I understand that many people feel attracted sexually towards members of the same sex but in a Christian context our feelings should not be our God, if everybody followed their feelings the world would be in an even worse mess and we would be little better than animals if at all. Peter Ould's blog (http://www.peter-ould.net/) is perhaps the best place to go for discussion on this.

Now my politics are very firmly on the left. I understand the desire to be inclusive to all people regardless of their sexuality but from my understanding of scripture I cannot see how condoning same-sex relationships is an available option to a Bible believing Christian, as the Archbishop said on his phone in my understanding of sexual intercourse is that it is exclusively for marriage and marriage is between one man and one woman. As in the theme of the blog, The left (liberal) in both Christian and Secular circles are perhaps guilty in this area of politics of erring on the side of leaving out the Holiness aspect of God's nature and only perceiving the Loving aspect.

Now I titled this piece God and Sex and yet have almost exclusively talked about homosexuality. The reason for this is of course topical, because this is the area of traditional teaching that is being challenged, according to this article  in the economist  nearly 80% of Brits still see adultery as morally wrong. Divorce is sadly quite common in Christian circles but is not seen as something to be proud of, similarly sex before marriage, although in this day and age where a formal wedding costs thousands of pounds perhaps the two Biblical principles of marriage mentioned earlier can be found in couples who don't yet go through a legal wedding. Whilst these things may go against Biblical teaching they do not set themselves up to oppose those precepts which is why the focus on homosexuality comes in. Desiring God blog puts this in more detail although in an American setting 

Sex is God's invention and God's plan, given to us for procreation, for bonding and for pleasure in right context and perhaps the best place to finish on is the thrice mentioned call in the Song of Solomon; I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.




Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Possibly the earliest existing welfare state

In the Old Testament, God set laws in place for how the nation of Israel was to be governed. Whilst I do not want to recommend that we use these rules to run a modern state, I believe that it gives insight into God's heart and the sort of principle's we might want to base our laws on.

Contrary to popular myth and many right-wing Christians who often refer to the Old Testament, this does not show a God lacking in love. My contention is that the laws put down in Old Testament amount to probably the first welfare state that ever existed.

Take for instance these verses from the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 14

 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Throughout the Old Testament laws as expounded in the book of Moses concern is placed to look after the elderly, the sick, the widows and indeed the foreigner. Deuteronomy 10:18-19, 16:11-12, 24:17-21, are all good examples where those who are unable to fend for themselves are to well treated, some would say even given welfare, for out of the tithe, like a 10% tax on income, these groups of people were to be looked after.

Some argue that the Old Testamant is full of hatred and bloodshed, and perhaps this is Chronicled, but from the Law one can see that this is not God's heart, take Exodus 22:21 for example “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Explicitly outlawing racist behaviour in the land Israel.

Therefore it is my contention that those on the right of politics have misunderstood God's heart if they have ever used christianity to promote policies that either seek to undermine the welfare state or promote any racist attitudes, because God's heart is to care for those less fotunate and indeed he was prepared to use the vehicle of the State to ensure those ends were met.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Christianity and politics

In a thread on another Blog (The Greenbenches) I stated that Christian teaching has two poles, one love and the other holiness. Many people place emphasis on one of these poles and tend to ignore the other. However both are necessary for completeness and order. I believe it is these two poles that shape my political beliefs and bring an eclectic mix to my policy stances.

If you place the emphasis on holiness or in its secular form morality, to the exclusion of love then the tendency to become judgemental is prevalent. I believe this outlook is common among many right-wing politicians whether they claim to be Christian or not.

If you place the emphasis on love or compassion, to the exclusion of holiness then the effects can be less immediate but this leads to a lack of moral compass, an anything goes culture which can destroy lives, families and ultimately society. Rome was destroyed largely by decadence. This outlook is more common among left wing politicians especially those of the liberal left.

Jesus clearly taught both love and holiness, God is love and we are called to be Holy as God is Holy. This means that we as Christians are to walk in compassion on this earth, without judging individuals but at the same time eschewing compromising with amorality in the world.

It is my intent to expand on these starting points in forthcoming posts.