Bishop V. Gene Robinson on the Bible and Homosexuality
By: Al Dobras|Published: March 16, 2011 5:43 PM
Sally Quinn, moderator of the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, recently tasked Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson with elucidating the Bible's position on the subject of homosexuality, which the newspaper then featured in five consecutive installments.
Bishop Robinson, who left his wife and two teenage daughters to take up with his male lover, became the first openly homosexual person elected to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church. His consecration in November 2003 ultimately led to the formal breakup of the denomination and the establishment of the reform-minded Anglican Communion Network.
In order to justify their lifestyle, homosexual clerics like Bishop Robinson are obsessive about trying to convince people that contemporary understandings of Scripture’s position on homosexuality are wrong. To make their case, they invariably resort to convoluted and contradictory lines of reasoning, which they hope will rationalize away what has been considered a seriously deviant behavior for at least the last 3000 years.
Their arguments usually suggest either that the passages used to condemn homosexual practice are misunderstood by modern critics of homosexuality, or conversely, that the ancient writers were not capable of understanding same-sex attraction in the modern sense. When reason fails, the bishop and like-minded apologists also believe that the Bible was not inspired by God, but the scripture reflects the experiences of men in the context of their cultural environment:
Scripture, therefore, is primarily the writer's opinion as influenced by the culture and any biases he may possess. Consequently, a passage of Scripture must be examined in that context for the true meaning to emerge, no matter how straightforward the text may appear. As the bishop puts it:
In other words, if one disagrees with the plain text, it can be claimed that the writer was unduly influenced by the culture or that we just do not understand what the writer meant. Perhaps the text simply doesn't apply to the present day. It is with this understanding that Bishop Robinson examined what he calls "texts of terror" used against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. I will address his points in the order of the original On Faith installments.
Homosexuality in Leviticus
The Holiness Codes of Leviticus include the following passages: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Lev. 18:22) and "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them" (Lev. 20:13).
A common-sense interpretation of these passages would suggest that homosexual acts are serious sexual sins and that the behavior was so grievous and harmful to the close community of wandering Israelites that perpetrators were put to death.
Nevertheless, in Bishop Robinson's view, this passage is completely misunderstood. The bishop believes that Moses (or God) was incapable of understanding that a person could be naturally disposed toward homosexuality. Thus, to the ancient mind these acts would only seem unnatural when actually they are normal. Robinson quotes the Rev. Dr. Frank G. Kirkpatrick on the topic:
In the bishop's words, "This is an important point, difficult for the modern day mind to grasp: homosexuality as a sexual orientation was unknown to the ancient mind."
There are several things wrong with his analysis. First, there is no scientific evidence that a biological or genetic component to homosexuality exists. No one can prove on a biological basis that he or she is a homosexual, and to this day homosexuality remains a personal declaration of sexual behavior. Second, sexual proclivity toward the same sex was expressed in ancient times in the same way as expressed in modern times. In fact, first-century Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C. to A.D. 50), describes the homosexual lifestyle in terms remarkably similar to what we see in the gay community today, including certain negative consequences:
Any number of ancient sources could be cited that describe homosexual behavior in terms consistent with modern interpretations. For example, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (c. A.D. 37-96) wrote this in Book II of his Against Apion:
Clearly, there is nothing new in modern same-sex relationships that wasn’t practiced by the ancients, except the irrational desire by liberal activists to codify acceptance of the behavior into law -- including the right to redefine holy matrimony.
Homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God decides He must destroy those cities because “the outcry against [them] is so great and their sin so grievous." Abraham, whose nephew Lot lives in Sodom, bargains with God to spare the cities if ten righteous people can be found there. God agrees and sends two angels to Sodom to assess the situation, but they are confronted at Lot's house by a number of men who seek to have sexual relations with them. The decision is made to destroy the city -- only Lot and his family are allowed to escape (Genesis 18-19).
In Bishop Robinson's interpretation, the sin of Sodom was their lack of hospitality toward the angels:
What the bishop conveniently forgets is that the incident at Lot's house only served to confirm God's decision to destroy the city. Sodom's fate had already been sealed, primarily because of the grievous sin of "unnatural intercourse" described above by Philo, a sin that has carried the name of the city for the last 3000 years: sodomy.
(It should also be pointed out that no rape occurred. The intention of the men of Sodom was certainly to impose their sexual will on the angels, but were struck down before they could enter Lot's house).
What Did Jesus Say about Homosexuality?
One of the more baseless rationalizations for a Biblical acceptance of homosexuality is the view expressed by the bishop that Jesus did not say anything about same-sex relationships, so therefore they must not be sinful.
Jesus is not recorded as having said anything related to intimate sexual relationships between people of the same gender. One has to wonder, if homosexuality is such a heinous sin against God, why does Jesus himself never refer to it? One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence, but still, why no mention of an issue now causing entire churches to split?
The obvious answer is that there are numerous sinful acts of which Jesus made no mention, that were nonetheless sinful: kidnapping, abortion, pederasty, and incest, to name just a few. Jesus' mission was to save us from our sins, not write a new book of the Law. As Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
(One group of laws was indeed brought to an end by Christ. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonial laws were rendered obsolete, since Jesus Christ Himself negated the need for the sacrificial system by His finished work on the cross (see Hebrews 9:1-15).)
St. Paul's Letter to the Romans
Paul's letter to the Romans includes what appears to be a direct and unequivocal condemnation of homosexual behavior:
Again, a common-sense interpretation of these passages leaves little doubt that Paul was condemning homosexual behavior, whether by male or female. Bishop Robinson, however, sees the text in a different light:
Again, Bishop Robinson ignores the plain text interpretation of these passages to suggest that Paul is talking exclusively about idolatry and the acts of temple prostitutes -- not same-gender sexual acts themselves. However, early commentaries on Romans 1:26-27 confirm the common-sense interpretation. The following is a commentary by St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (AD 347-407):
To suggest that Paul's passages in Romans 1 do not express disapproval of same-sex relationships strains credulity and is self-serving in the extreme.
Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy
In these letters, Paul describes the seriousness of homosexual behavior, including the practice among a number of heinous sins, and declares that offenders will not inherit the kingdom of God:
Bishop Robinson dismisses these passages out-of-hand, claiming that the word translated as homosexual is obscure and could refer to a male prostitute, pederast, or sodomite. "Whatever its meaning," he concludes, "there is no reason to believe that homosexual men, as we now understand them, are the target of Paul's condemnations."
What is clear is that the acts Paul refers to involve illicit male-to-male sexual contact, of which the great majority of modern translations employ the term homosexual. The KJV translates the word(s) as "abusers of themselves with mankind," which leaves little doubt as to its meaning.
However, the real issue gay activists have with Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the phrase he uses to end his discourse on the condemnable offenses noted in 1 Corinthians 6:11:
The fact that some have been "washed clean" of these offenses and justified in the name of Jesus Christ, implies that one can give up homosexual practices. This goes against the mantra of gay activists who claim homosexuality is inborn and unchangeable, even though this claim is scientifically unsupportable and ignores the reality that many have permanently left the lifestyle.
In our secular culture, it is readily apparent that sexual liberation has been heavily embraced by the media, education, government, the arts, and, to a lesser extent, even the military. In the quest for a hedonistic society, Christianity is the enemy and marginalization of the faith is the goal. The primary instrument chosen to pursue this objective is validation of the homosexual lifestyle because of its corrosive effect on Christian values and the institution of marriage. There is not a facet of society that is not under direct assault by gay activists whose mission is to break down all resistance to validation and institutionalization of the homosexual lifestyle.
Included in this assault is the repeated blasphemy of the person of Jesus Christ through homoerotic literature and art. The most recent example was a taxpayer-funded exhibit by the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colorado, featuring an “artistic” work by Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya. The piece, "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals," depicts Jesus engaged in a contemptible homosexual act.
However, the "unkindest cut" has been made by clerics of the faith like Bishop Robinson whose universal disdain for scriptural authority serves to undermine the heart of the Christian gospel. We have been forewarned of such teachers:
But the Apostle Paul charges us in Romans 1:16 to defend what we have been given: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Let it be so.
Al Dobras is a freelance writer on religious and cultural issues and an electronics engineer. He lives in Springfield, Va.
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