Monday, October 24, 2011

IRONMEN Session 3: Christian Faith and Homosexuality

     It has been a busy week in Toronto with the family since my last post. This final post of the IRONMEN Adventure Weekend is arriving more than two weeks late. There are other posts that I have in mind about things that have been happening in my life and thoughts, but I wanted to finish and upload this before I write anything more.

     The last session of the Willingdon IRONMEN Adventure Weekend in Whistler dealt with examining and understanding the issue of gender identity and human sexuality in the light of the wisdom called for in the Christian faith. As we began this rather intense session after the similarly fascinating talk of the night before on the topic of evolution and the Christian faith, I glanced over the general notes that had been provided and realized that there would be a lot of writing to do.

    As Pastor John opened the session with prayer that Sunday, he read from the book of Isaiah. It reminded us once again that though we had gathered to think and seek wisdom in dealing with the challenges that we faced to our Christian worldview, that we would find our ultimate answers only in humbling ourselves and considering the nature and majesty of Almighty God:

    "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
    enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?
    Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
    or what man shows him his counsel?
    Whom did he consult, and who made Him understand?
    Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge,
    and showed Him the way of understanding?
    Behold the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
    and are accounted as dust on the scales;
    behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust
    Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
    nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
    All the nations are as nothing before Him,
    they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness.
    To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with Him?"
- Is. 40:12-18, ESV

    With that in mind, Pastor John led us to his first point, in considering key scriptures that would be relevant in thinking through the issue at hand:

A. Key Scriptures

1. Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."
2. Genesis 1:27-28:
     "So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
    The essence of the commandment being given to Adam and Eve was that in carrying out God's command to "be fruitful and multiply", they were to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God. There is something unique and profound about being male and female.
3. Genesis 2:21-24:
     "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
     “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
    We are told that man and woman are of like substance. We are also held to believe that we are not egalitarian, but complementarian. Men and women are wired differently. As an illustration in differences in behaviour, Pastor John used the analogy of the modes of headlamps on a car to describe his observation of the differing perspectives of men and women - men frequently and inherently tend to focus on thinking about the long-term and the future (high beam), whereas women frequently tend to pay more attention to the short term and current circumstances (low-beam).
4. 1 Peter 3:7: "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
    It is important here to note that God is angered when men do not honour their wives, and will not answer their prayers.
5. Matt 15:19:
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander."
    The word used in the greek for 'sexual immorality' is 'pornea'.

    Having gone through the ideas presented by these important verses with regard to the nature of men, women and the specified covenant of marriage, Pastor John turned our attention to specific passages in both the Old and New Testaments with regards to homosexuality.

B. The Overall Teaching of Both Testaments - and Homosexuality

1. Leviticus 18 & 20 - the holiness codes 
   Lev. 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."
    Lev. 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."
2. Romans 1- The depravity of man
    Rom. 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." The Apostle Paul clearly illustrates that the truth is plan to all men - and yet we repress the truth
    Rom. 1:21-23: "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." The failure of mankind to honour God as God
    Rom. 1:24: "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves," God gives them up, surrenders them to dishonour
    Rom. 1:25-27: "because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." It is indicated that both male and female sexuality are contrary to nature
3. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." It is noted that there is a penalty to walking contrary to God's design of biology and sexuality - denial of entrance into the Kingdom of God. But even here, there is good news. The Gospel comes to broken and non-functioning people to wash, sanctify and justify them.
4. 1 Timothy 1:8-11: "Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." There isn't an abundance of literature in the Bible about homosexuality. It is usually categorized in a group with other sins that break the system.

     Though we had waded through some of the critical passages of Scripture that defined the biblical and Christian perspective on homosexuality, there was still an equally critical and important aspect of the issue that John Neufeld wanted to clearly walk us through. We proceeded to an in-depth examination of what scientific research actually had to say about the subject.

C. What Does Scientific Research Say About Homosexuality?
  1. How prevalent is homosexuality?
  • 10%?
    • This value is commonly presented, cited or referenced in statistics, reports and literature regarding the size or prevalence of homosexuality within a population group. However, it is important to consider the origin of this value and the nature of the source. This statistic is generally credited to a study conducted in 1948 by Dr. Alfred Kinsey [1], researching the nature of sexuality in individuals in North America, specifically in the United States. Among many other statistics, Dr. Kinsey reports seemed to indicate that a large proportion of the population identified itself as homosexual, as high as 10%. This report has often been used and cited in the decades since it was first released. However, it should be noted that this number has never been sucessfully duplicated since then. With the claims of this report in our hands, and noting the counter-claims raised against its contents, we must also ask ourselves about its author. Who was Alfred Kinsey and what sort of man was he?
  • Kinsey
    • James H. Jones [3] authored a biography of Alfred Kinsey, titled "Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life", attempting to construct a portrait of the man. Kinsey's spectrum of research involved more than just formulation of theory and interview of subjects. He notes aspects of Kinsey's own sexual activity and participation in experiments in great detail, noting that Kinsey was both a masochist and exhibitionist, who regularly filmed himself having sex with his wife, as well as other people, including co-workers. He also filmed her having sex with other men. In addition, Kinsey filmed himself engaged in what would be classified as sexually deviant behaviour, allegedly for the purpose of experimentation. He collected sexual material from around the world, which included pornographic films. In the process of investigating pre-adolescent orgasms, he is alleged to have interviewed a single paedophile and presented the data as being from various sources. He is also alleged to have over-represented prisoners and prostitutes in his work, and to have distorted his studies by including a disproportionate number of homosexual men in his sample. These and other details can be found in Jones' and others' biographical works of Alfred Kinsey.  
  • Real Numbers
    • Dr. Judith Reismann [5], who has authored a number of books on Kinsey and his work, cites studies that indicate that the actual proportion of homosexuals in a population sample may be 1 - 3% at the absolute most. But even that is not the central issue. So we must ask ourselves this question: 
  • So What Is This All About?
  2. What Causes Homosexual Behaviour?
  • Biological Basis? 
    • There is so far no evidence regarding a marker for homosexuality in human DNA. It has simply not been found.
  • Dangers
    • Studies and reports conducted among homosexual and heterosexual populations indicate that homosexuals in general:
      • Are 300 times more likely to commit suicide
      • Are likely to be involved with multiple sex partners
      • Are more likely to contract Sexually Transmitted Diseases and struggle with depression
      • Have a lifespan of as much as 20 years less than that of heterosexuals
  • Why hard to break?    
    • Yes, it is true that breaking the pattern of homosexual behaviour is one of the hardest things to do. But in the end, it essentially reduces to the truth that all behaviour pattern of sin are tied to the "flesh"
    As I listened to Pastor John thinking through the above points, it gave me much cause for thought and compassion towards the internal struggle of the homosexual person. I had encountered transsexuals in India, but I had never met a homosexual person in my life until I first moved to Vancouver, where my first roomates in a basement that I rented was a homosexual male. Though my acquaintance with him was short (he moved out to Montreal two weeks after I moved in), it was one through which I learned a lot and had much cause for examination of my own paradigm and behaviour, and still does so to this day. I have often wondered what became of him. And it was thus that John Neufeld moved on to the next section, which I found personally relevant.

D. How Should Christians Respond?

  1. In wisdom - in a way that breathes life into other men
  2. With discretion
  3. With love - the greatest need that any man has is to known Christ and the love of the Creator

    Pastor John then proceeded to tie all his thoughts together and bring them to a close with the relevance of the Gospel and the truth of the Bible in this matter. I have more notes on this final section which I will update when I get back to Vancouver. Not having the time or space to pack the notes from the Adventure Weekend, I had attempted to photograph the last page using my phone and transcribe it from there, but it didn't turn out very clearly. I will update this final section before the end of this week, hopefully by Thursday night or Friday, and move on to other matters that I've been wanting to write about. Keep watching this space!
- The Wisdom Seeker
[1] Dr. Alfred Charles Kinsey
[2] Kinsey Reports
[3] James H. Jones
[4] Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life
[5] Judith Reismann