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Could Paul Distinguish Sexual Immorality from Homosexuality?

Could Paul Distinguish SEXual Immorality and HomoSEXuality?

This post is Part II in a series on morality, and this installment uses the topic of homosexuality for a muse.  I don't plan to go into depth specifically on the issue of homosexuality, as I have already done that in this post.   Instead, this time I want to take a specific swat at delineating the biblical topics of homosexuality from sexual immorality - as I think the two are often tossed into the same bucket, which causes a lot of confusion.

In Paul's letter to the Galatians, which most scholars accept as authentic, Paul writes the following as he tee's up his Fruit of the Spirit doctrine: 

"Now the works of the flesh are these;  adultery [sexual unfaithfulness], fornication [sexual immorality], uncleanness, lasciviousness [unbridled sensuality],  idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings [orgies]…"   

Wait?  Did Paul accidentally forget homosexuality in his magna carta of sins?  No, of course not.  While it's clear that Paul has real issues with sexual morality, he does not comment here on the issue of two people of the same sex in a loving and committed relationship.  This is because:

Are Progressive Christians Losing Morality?

Lost Something Morality
A recent article by blogger Chad Holtz accused the "progressive Christian movement" of losing morality and holiness.  In the post he recalls his early progressive days at conferences and noticing no difference in progressive Christians and the rest of the world - including drinking, crude language, and looser sexual standards.  He even recounts hanging around the camp-fire outside the Patheos RV (famous for making “Patheos Punch”) late into the night during progressive Christian conferences, and how that "reminded him of his Navy days where nothing was edited, nor sacred..."   This got me to he right?  Are folks in the amorphous "progressive Christian" type of grouping prone to throw morality out the window?  And if so, is that a problem?  

Can Someone Tell Me How to Become a Christian?

Question about Christianity
Hello.  I was wondering if someone could help me out.   I heard lots of people talking about this thing called Christianity, based around someone called Jesus, and it sounds interesting.   Can someone please tell me what Christianity is, and what I have to believe in order to become a Christian?   Thanks!

PS, if I get any insightful comments I will add the top few into this post and reference a link to who provided it (unless you don't want me to).

Top 3 Comments:

Rachel Held Evans Sees the Light?

Walking out the door and seeing the light
A few days ago, popular blogger Rachel Held Evans announced that she was "leaving evangelicalism" due to a last-straw event of World Vision deciding not to employ gay folks to participate in their child feeding programs.   And while many people within the Christian community may think she's gone too far, I say that finally she's seen the light!  Let me explain.

For so many of us who've ventured through the fundamental or evangelical realms, we can identify with having been richly blessed and badly burned by today's mainstream evangelical movement.  Many "evangelicals" (more on that word in a bit) are great and loving people (and many are personal friends of mine) but it's when they're in the group mentality that they can be unrelentingly obstinate and closed minded if you so much as question something in their commonly agreed upon "what we believe" doctrines...  Some are this way because of lack of knowledge and indoctrination, others out of a tightly guarded reverence for church authority, and others simply out of a need for job preservation.  I say this from experience, and as one who left a church family behind for this very reason.  I'm still viewed by some of them as "lost" or having "stumbled in my faith," and I think some still hang around me out of some hope to "re-save" me...  All the while it's not like I've become a satanist or militant atheist... I still call myself a Christian!  Now here's what fascinates me about this Rachel Held Evans situation....

The Evangelical Liberal

Those of you familiar with Christian Evolution know that I rarely "reblog" directly on the site, but instead usually do that kind of thing via social media, etc...  But a recent blog post by a chap named Harvey Edser who has a blog titled The Evangelical Liberal caught my eye.  This post stood out to me because it speaks to what so many people have emailed me directly about to bat around, which is how to experience one's self in a Christian context when any or all of the common creedal boundaries have become confusing, frustrating, or uncertain.  

I have given my own views on this very challenging topic in my manifesto about whether I'm a "Christian."  And I now want to share with you a post from The Evangelical Liberal that does an outstanding job discussing the same topic, and I hope it offers you another valuable angle at the question, and provides insight to you, as it did me.

PS, I'm not going to open comments on this one as you can ping me direct to discuss if you wish, or feel free to leave your comments directly with Harvey.

Here's the post:  Uncertainties, and what to do with them >>

The Book of John (Lennon)

John Lennon Thinking about GodI play a bit of guitar in my spare time, and the other day I came across a nice fingerstyle arrangement of the song Imagine by John Lennon.  I'd heard the song about a thousand times before on the radio, but I never thought to learn it on guitar until this cool arrangement came my way.  And the process really made me think...

As I was practicing the arrangement I was also singing along with it, and while singing it, the words hit me in a way that they never had prior, and that's what I want to discuss with you today.

Love is God

Love Target BullseyeWe humans often talk about God.

Collectively we have gone through stages of understanding God over time, from mythic views, to literal views, to scientific views - and there's some truth to be found in all of those expressions.

When we talk about God, we often use the language of religion (referring to God as Yahweh, Jesus, Brahman, Allah, Buddha, etc...).

Sometimes we simply use the language of Spirituality (The Universe, Spirit, Reality, or Om).

But at the end of the day, all of those descriptions are just born from limited human languages, derived via varying cultures and backgrounds, and through personal and group experiences over the centuries.

For those who come through a Christian tradition, we find Jesus demonstrating great enlightenment in the ways of love, and in the ultimate expression of Love as God, which he refers to as "The Father."  Does that mean that God literally has a beard and a pen*s?   No, it means when teaching about love and eternal ideas, we all are forced to use words that we can understand and digest.  In fact, the greatest teachers go out of their way to discuss the most complex of ideas using the simplest of examples.  

When we boil it down, everyone is talking in very limited ways about the same ultimate core when talking about God, which is Love...although the other details may vary greatly (and are probably more expansive than we will ever be able to comprehend).  When an atheist talks about virtue and good, that also equates to Love.  

And the one thing we know for sure, across each and every experience of God, the word Love becomes immediately evident and true.   Love is not owned by theists or non-theists.... It's universal.  Love transcends dogma.  Love knows no boundaries.

The lowest and simplest, as well as the highest and most complex common denominator of Truth = Love.  Or said another way, Not Truth ≠ Love. 

If all of us humans - religious or spiritual or atheist - simply clung to Love (Love of Self, Love of Others, Love of God / Being / Existence / Reality / Truth, etc...) we would become so consumed with it that the other details would just become minor cultural differences.  Spirituality and Reality would be one and the same.  Does this mean that Christians for example must abandon Jesus to do this?  Absolutely not, in fact a focus on Love might just be the ultimate adherence to the message of Jesus in the first place!

It's actually pretty simple come to think of it....  I invite religious, atheists, and spirituals to focus more fully on Love as what binds us.

Paul's role in Christianity?

Saint Paul of Tarsus Painting
Recently I was having a theological conversation with a friend, and he was referring to Paul's writings as part of making his case (he said that the doctrine of Original Sin is a fact because Paul said so).  Finally I asked him why he thinks anything Paul says must be authoritative in the first place?  Why wouldn't Paul's opinion be fallible like any other pastor or theologian over the course of time?  And in response, as I have noticed before in similar conversations with others, he acted like I was crazy to even suggest such an idea. 

Now don't get me wrong, there's a lot that I like about Paul.   Some of my favorite "Christian" verses are Pauline (such as Phil 4:8 and 1 Cor 13:4-5).  Paul was passionate, smart, loyal, motivated for good, and caring.  But I don't see him as being an especially channeled voice for Jesus, or particularly more "inspired" than you or I could be.  To me, he was a man who went from persecuting Christians, to trying to make more of them, after a spiritual experience of Jesus.  Paul's vision of Jesus wasn't a download of all of God's thoughts, or a special endowment to speak authoritatively about all things on God's behalf - it was just a vision of Jesus telling him to "quit persecuting him" and "go proclaim Jesus" ... that's it.  There's even evidence that James, the brother of Jesus, disagreed with some of Paul's ideas (i.e., justification by faith vs. works).  

Furthermore, I've personally known pastors who claim that they audibly heard or have physically seen Jesus, and those pastors don't even agree on everything amongst themselves... so even if there is such a thing as a legitimate spiritual experience of Jesus, there's no reason to believe that some perpetual perfection comes with the package.  Paul wasn't any different in that regard.  He had encountered Jesus in a mystical way, and he thought the world as he knew it would end during his lifetime (via Jesus' return).  He spread the message of Jesus as he understood it all over the land.  And he crafted some of his own ideas, such as that on original sin (and some might also say ideas about woman, slaves, and homosexuals too).

To date, the typical response I receive to questions like this is a quote of Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy, where Paul writes: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."   But I ask, how can we quote Paul as proof that his writings are God inspired?  I would also ask whether Paul was thinking about that letter to Timothy as "scripture" in the first place?  And lastly, I would ask whether Paul even wrote that letter to Timothy, as many scholars highly doubt it because of the differences in language and style.

I'm open minded to a discussion here, but it shouldn't be an angle that Paul is infallible because Paul says so.  Otherwise we should acknowledge once and for all that while Paul may have been a great man in a lot of ways, there's no reason to think he was omniscient or infallible.   And if we do acknowledge that, maybe we can appreciate Paul's best thoughts more fully, without having to accept others that seem clearly based on his own biases and understandings.  What do you think?

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