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Christian Biblical Studies
All Scripture references are to the New International Version, UK edition unless stated otherwise.
Genesis 2: 24
THE ART COLLECTOR, Edward Perry Warren, was born in 1860, Boston, Massachusetts. Leaving behind the country of his birth, he adopted England as his home, dying in London in 1928. A connoisseur of antiquities, Warren travelled Europe in search of pictures, fine art and china. Among his collection was a silver cup, reckoned to date from A.D. 15, and now held by the British Museum. The cup was put on public display in the museum from May to July, 2006, coinciding with the events of Europride London. The cup formed the centre piece of an exhibition titled ‘Sex and Society in Ancient Greece and Rome.’
The British Museum’s choice of subject and timing says as much about sex and society in modern Britain, as it does about the Greeks and Romans. The silver cup portrays explicit erotic scenes of male lovers. Because of the nature of the images the cup was never on public display in Warren’s day, and in 1953 it was refused entry to the United States for the same reason. Only recently has the British Museum judged that an open display of the cup would meet with little disapproval.
This modern frankness has the advantage of opening up a once-taboo subject for discussion and letting in sunlight on the darkness. The figures of men and young boys on the Warren Cup represent the classical Greek stereotypes of erastes and eromenos, one the older man who is active, the other a boy, younger and passive. In some ancient Greek literature this relationship was deemed fitting between teachers and students, though today it would be called pederasty. The Warren Cup is a fitting touchstone for the modern controversy over homosexuality, for though some view the scenes of erastes and eromenos as acts of love, others view them as acts of lust, a corruption of trust and an abuse of innocence.
The ancient Greek view of homosexuality is a world away from our modern understanding. Beguiled by art, philosophy and a pantheon of gods, the Greek mind conflated a love for beauty with sexual desire. It was customary to attribute these powerful emotions to supernatural intervention. In Greek tradition the goddess Aphrodite is credited as the instigator of sexual attraction, so the waywardness of a man’s desires could be excused as beyond his control. Modern usage of the word aphrodisia derives from the Greek word for sexual desire, which also has its roots in the spell worked by Aphrodite on her subjects. There was no word for homosexual in ancient Greece, and a man was expected to marry and have children even though he might feel a strong sexual attraction to other men.
Since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, groups like Stonewall and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) movement have given men and women of diverse ‘sexual orientation’ a platform to express and defend their identity. The public work of these groups, as well as several scientific studies, has largely contributed to a wider understanding of homosexuality.
In 2008 the Swedish Karolinska Institute published a report on the brain structure of self-assessed hetero- and homo-sexual men and women. Using magnetic resonance imaging, a study of 90 subjects revealed that the homosexual men and heterosexual women in the study had brains whose right and left hemispheres were of equal proportion, while heterosexual men and homosexual women had a larger right hemisphere.
The same pairs also shared another feature. In the group under analysis, the homosexual men and heterosexual women possessed a wider spread of nerve connections in their left amygdala, a neural hub of emotional sensations; while heterosexual men and homosexual women had the greater spread in their right amygdala. These atypical brain structures of the homosexual subjects are regarded as strong evidence that their gender orientation was fixed at birth, not a development during adolescence, and not a choice.[fn1]
This hard fact has helped make homosexuality a divisive issue among Christians – if sexuality is not a choice, why is it discriminated against? Dr. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans is a case in point. John has been passed over for two clerical appointments because of his homosexuality. A life of celibacy has not won over conservatives within the Church of England to support his election to bishop. It is feared that his appointment would rupture the already fragile Anglican communion.[fn2]
Those who might support cases like that of Dr. John refer to the universal offer of salvation made in the New Testament. That homosexuality alone is no disqualification from a saving faith in Jesus is clear from the many Scriptures which teach of the comprehensive redemption available to all who recognise Christ as their Saviour and King (Romans 10: 9-13):
[I]f you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
In these verses Paul lays down the corner-stone of Christianity – justification by faith. There is no qualification here as to the nature of the one exercising faith. Though God’s favour was once limited to His chosen nation Israel, with the opening of the Christian era came the invitation to the Gentiles, or all nations, to become members of the new spiritual Israel. The exercise of a simple and sincere trust in God’s promises was sufficient to effect a cancellation of sins and return the believer to friendship with God. Past character was no bar to God’s election, as Paul further explained to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; italics ours):
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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.
Deeds Justify Faith
Paul reproves the church at Corinth, citing a list of wrongs, of which some were once guilty. But though such offences are no obstacle to God’s grace, Paul’s exhortation goes beyond the faith that justifies and reminds the previously immoral that they are now washed – they are from their conversion on to have characters and lives free from the previous weaknesses of the flesh. For while faith may be reckoned by God as righteousness, there is a further commandment to demonstrate one’s faith by works (James 2: 14-16):
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
Deeds are the fruit of a living faith, evidence that the word of God has taken root in the heart and the affections and desires are being changed. Paul likens this struggle of the new Christ mind for ascendancy over the old nature to a fight (1 Corinthians 9: 27, King James Version):
But I keep under [subdue, Ed.] my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Mastery of the Body
God may invite any, and the means of redemption is available to all, but to overcome requires effort – success carries with it certain conditions. Whatever habits or modes of conduct one used to prefer or wanted before committing oneself to a Christian life, the former ways must be abandoned in order for the Divine likeness to take hold (Ephesians 4: 22-24):
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The Christian warfare is not easy; it requires patience, perseverance, and self-denial. There is little doubt that to profess Christ means to live godly, and no matter what ‘type’ of sexuality one may possess when called, its expression is, like all human characteristics, subject to the righteous will of God as soon as the vow of consecration is made.
The belief by many that sexual union between men of the same sex is approved by God is starkly contradicted both by reason and Scripture. For as God designed those hidden parts of men and women which in all creeds and nations provide opposite sexes with a universal connection, like nuts and bolts, the new sexual mechanics of an alternative fitting, is as St. Paul puts it “against nature” and, therefore, against nature’s God (Romans 1: 26, 27, KJV).
To Be Continued
Citations to Web pages are correct as of the dates retrieved, but sites may expire or be moved.
[fn1] The Karolinska Institute is a medical university based in Stockholm Sweden. Though the sample size of 90 is too small to draw universal conclusions about the origins of sexuality, the results have been heralded as significant evidence that, for some at least, gender orientation may not be a choice. An abstract of the published paper is available here:
http://ki.se/ki/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=130&a=58064&l=en&newsdep=130 (retrieved 9 June 2011). Compare with this interpretation of the earlier research into pheremones:
<http://narth.com/2010/09/latest-gay-brain-study-scrutinized/> (retrieved 9 June
2011). (Copy and paste into internet
(Copy and paste into internet browser)
[fn2] The Very Reverend Dr. Jeffrey John currently holds the post of Dean of St. Albans. He was forced to stand down as a nominee for the office of Bishop of Reading in 2003, on the grounds of his homosexuality. He is still immersed in controversy. A contemporary account of the troubles in the Church of England is reported here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/7870158/Gay-cleric-in-line-to-become-bishop-in-Church-of-England.html (retrieved 9 June 2011). (Copy and paste into internet browser)
Article copyright June 2011 by ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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