Posted by Dermot O'Callaghan on 19th May 2016
On Friday 13th May 2016 I attended a fringe meeting at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, organised by Changing Attitude Ireland, at which the speaker was Jayne Ozanne, a patron of Accepting Evangelicals. I wanted to ask her a question, and sent it to her the previous evening:
I hope to be at your talk in Dublin tomorrow and to ask a question. I am writing in advance to give you some time to think about it. A large part of my difference with your position is that you claim that Scripture supports your way of life, but the best scholars (on both sides of the debate) are agreed that it does not - and the only way to justify it is by looking to a different authority as stated by Luke Timothy Johnson below.
I have also appended a number of quotations from other scholars to support my view.
I look forward to meeting you.
With kind regards
‘the biblical assessments of homosexual practice are unambiguous in their rejection'
‘Prof Gagnon and I are in substantial agreement that the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexuality condemn it unconditionally’
Pim Pronk: Free University in Amsterdam.
‘To sum up: wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned. With reference to it, the New Testament adds no arguments to those of the Old. Rejection is a foregone conclusion.’
‘efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it.’
You can’t say we’ll reinterpret the Bible against what all the best scholars say
Bernadette Brooten (contra exploitation argument)
‘Boswell … argued that … “The early Christian church does not appear to have opposed homosexual behavior per se.” The sources on female homoeroticism that I present in this book run absolutely counter to [this conclusion].’
William Schoedel (contra ‘Bible only against homosexual practice by heterosexuals’ argument)
‘We would expect Paul to make that form of the argument more explicit if he intended it … Paul’s wholesale attack on Greco-Roman culture makes better sense if, like Josephus and Philo, he lumps all forms of same-sex eros together as a mark of Gentile decadence.’
Wm Loader (contra 'Jesus was not against same-sex relations')
‘Jesus’ statements [in Mark 10:2-9 // Matt 19:3-9] clearly exclude sexual relations beyond [the union between a man and a woman]. Nothing indicates that Jesus would have approached the prohibitions of Lev 18:22 and 20:13 any differently than his Jewish contemporaries. Indeed he would have apparently supported John the Baptist’s very strict application of the incest provisions of Lev 18:16 to Herod Antipas (Mark 6:17-18)’
Louis Crompton (contra the notion that Paul was only opposed to heterosexuals having homosexual sex)
‘According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian’
Luke Timothy Johnson (homosexual sex is not supported by Scripture – it depends on a different authority)
“The Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love…The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says…I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience."
On the day, Jayne answered my question, contending that she was right. She talked inter alia of having studied in Stephen Hawking’s department at Cambridge, and said that he had corrected Einstein, who himself had corrected Newton, who had corrected Copernicus etc, each improving on the work of his predecessor. The implication seemed to be that she was correcting the biblical scholars named above who still held the outdated view that the Bible was negative towards same-sex sexual relations.
We had a brief conversation after the meeting, but didn’t reach any agreement. Our discussion was warm and friendly, however – perhaps an example of ‘good disagreement’. Yet something more is necessary. Good disagreement surely requires us to acknowledge that we cannot both be right - one of us must be wrong. My money is on that list of biblical scholars.