Sep 17, 2010

What Is It About Sex? I Don't Get It

The sexuality debate is not about sex. It's always been about Biblical interpretation and the authority of Scripture.

I get that.

But here's something I don't get.

The debate over abortion, capital punishment, civil unions, war in Iraq, etc. also come down to Biblical interpretation and one's understanding of the authority of Scripture. 

No one on either side of the debate over these issues is picking their stance willy nilly. We all hold our views because we're convinced that's what Jesus would have us do.

But here's the thing I don't understand.

I don't understand how Biblical interpretation and one's understanding of the authority of Scripture over issues of sexuality is any different than Biblical interpretation and understanding of the authority of Scripture over any of these other issues.

And yet I hear over and over how if the PC(USA) does this or that over the sexuality issues that people are willing to leave the denomination. 

Why are we willing to leave the denomination over Biblical interpretation over the sexuality issues and why not the other issues?

What is it about the sexuality debate that's so different than any of these other issues?

I don't get it. 


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that it's because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20? "Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." This is of course in the context of sexual immorality in 1 Cor. 5-6.

Noel said...

What an excellent question! I am one who would have been happy to change my mind on the topic if only to keep the peace and avoid losing friends on the opposite side of the issue. I've tried--internally debating and playing inner Devil's advocate one way then the other--but there is something else about this that loads the issue with what can seem like inordinate gravitas. I've considered that the resistance may be my own issues projected forth into this one, but after much self-analysis and discovery, I must reject the "reaction formation" arguments as pitiably jejeune. Perhaps it is because most hot topics can be safely delegated to the theological intelligencia, while sexuality is so real and weighty in every individual life as to render anything like an "expert" opinion suspect and unauthoritative. Add to that the political dimension and it seems that however we fall on this issue we are guaranteed to offend someone's core sense of identity.

Why is sex such a big deal? I suspect for the same reason nuclear power is a big deal. In the human realm, it has the potential to affect everything else. Sex and sexuality are simply huge; it's like holding an opinion about the role and nature of oxygen--there is no escaping total subjectivity one way or the other.

Again, an excellent question.

Alan said...

IMHO and experience, the denomination has lost churches over issues like, "over abortion, capital punishment, civil unions, war in Iraq" [well maybe not Iraq; but certainly the US involvement in Vietnam.]

And even among those churches that didn't leave there are those members who have voted for withdrawal by their absence.

James Kim said...

Thank you all for reading and posting your comments. Alan, I do agree with you that the denomination has lost both churches and people because of those issues.

Noel, there is something about the sexuality issue that makes it so visceral for folks. Many evangelicals seem to accept that we can live with the differences when it comes to most of these other issues, but the same evangelicals are totally unwilling to do so over the sexuality issue.

And the reasoning I have heard repeatedly is that the issues of sexuality is not about sex but about Biblical interpretation and authority.

My point in this blog is I don't see how the any of the other issues that we seem to okay to disagree are different than the issue of sexuality when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

It's still a puzzlement to me.

Thank you again for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Oh, but we are willing to leave the denomination over other issues! Abortion for example. Morality doesn´t change with the times. But the G.A. of PCUSA is looking to re-write morality to fit the world around us. Jesus warned us against just that.

Deborah Hollifield said...

Hi James, I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that God has chosen to embed everything about our relationship with him in sexual terms: God is the faithful spouse, God's people are unfaithful and prostitute themselves; Jesus is begotten; his mother is a virgin; we are born again; God cares for us like a nursing mother; marriage and family is a reflection of humanity's relationship with God; and on and on. I think the reason for the visceral responses of people to these issues and images is because they are the same volatile emotions we experience in carnal romantic relationships; and we project those emotions onto our relationship with God. Someone's different Scriptural interpretation is, in effect, "breaking up my marriage..."

James Kim said...

Deborah, I think you make some great points! The Bible is replete with examples of our relationship with him in sexual terms. Thanks! That gives me more to think on.

Anonymous said...


Two more things:

First, most other issues don't have such massive political campaigns directly focused at churches in order to pave the way for general civic acceptance.

Homosexual practice is considered biblically like incest. People don't seem to have much trouble continuing to "discriminate" against those involved in incest--or pedophilia, for that matter. But neither of these sexual sins has a vast socio-political army encamped around the church to get it to change its clear, longstanding, and completely biblical stance of opposition.

But homosexuality sure does, and so it interjects itself into all kinds of corners of church life and is so rankling that people naturally point to it as a reason to leave a church that has left its belief in the dust.

Second, people DO speak out about leaving the denomination over other matters. Abortion comes to mind. Earlier, people left over women's ordination. The modernist-fundamentalist controversy caused and still causes splits.

It isn't JUST the homosexuality wars that get people riled up, dispirited, and ready to jump ship.

Jim Berkley
Seattle, WA

Linda lee said...

I was thnking about your post and my thoughts turned to the Biblical theme of Shepards and their sheep. The issue for me that is alarming is that some of the leaders (shepherds) are
misleading the members (sheep) in the areas of sexuality and homosexuality. There are warnings about Sheperds who misrepresent God to their people. That is why the issues is about Ordaining practicing homosexuals or not ordaining them and not just about sexuality.
I believe that some who are homosexual will come to God and are saved through Christ; because we can be forgiven.
Each person decides for themself what their behavior will be and whether they are repentant, but the leaders who lead
"the little ones" astray will be judged harshly.
The issues you mention like
capital punishment, abortion, war are difficult issues; and of this list abortion is personal while the other items are corporate sin
against culture.
You ask why "sexual acts between same sexes" cross the line to cause such a stir. I believe it is because this sin is against the very nature of how God created: "from the beginning He created them Male and Female"....
Romans one talks about "supressing the truth "
and it is a form of idolatry to hold up a way
that is not as God created. It is to not "glorify him as god nor give thanks to Him."...for the way we are created i.e. born as male or female. Abortion is
close to this because it is also a personal
sin taking the life of your own seed.

The culture cannot speak to such sinful behavior because they do not have the wisdom or Holy Spirit of God. When they exchange the glory of God's created order (man/women, life) for "images" of right and wrong of their own choosing then God gives them over to their sinful desires - sexual impurity and wickedness.
The culture will impress ungodly ways on the people (sheep).
So where are the leaders... the Shepherds in all of this. They are going along with the foolish ways of the culture, against the nature and intent of God.

Sexuality (improper use of) and life issues
(abortion of your own seed) are both major issues. I want leaders who are not practicing Homosexual, not adulters, not willing to belittle life in the womb.

The real issue that upsets many evangelicals is the leaders who
are willing to lead by cultural mores rather than Scripture and Godly ways. This is the reason our churches are weak and do not have unity or power to do God's will. Our leaders are not being good shepherds. Just look at what is happening at the General Assemblies. Make no mistake, God will judge them harshly for their disobedience.

Linda Lee

Al said...

You are right in a sense. Dr Tom Gillespie, while President of Princeton, stated at one GA I attended "Our debates about homosexuality are not about sex, they are about Biblical authority". He was dead right (he normally was).

I think so many of us have our heads up our own USA Presbyterian backsides so far that we forget that almost all Christianity is unified on the view that Scripture clearly condemns homosexuality. Except for a few, mostly dying, American and European denominations, all Christianity is clear that homosexual behavior is clearly against God's will. There is overwhelming agreement this is outside of God's plan for humanity. This is not even a matter of debate in most worldwide Christianity. We overestimate our own importance.

So, when someone in the PC(USA) say that God approves of homosexual behavior and that we should too, some people (like me) believe that the only way to come to such a position is to be so far removed from historic, ecumenical, and shared Biblical standards that if we adopted this, the church would no longer have an actual commitment to the kind of Biblical authority that is a mark of true Christianity.

That's what sets it apart of any number of other debates where there is far less ecumenical and historic consensus.

James Kim said...

Linda, thank you for posting your comment to the blog. I appreciate your thoughts. I believe you are right in highlighting the importance of leadership. Godly leadership makes all the difference in the world. I am at a loss as to figure out how we are to move forward on this issue. Please read my post on a possible way out of the sexuality debate and let me know what you think.

The biggest issue facing the sexuality debate is that those who believe the standards should be changed are absolutely convinced that is what Jesus would have them to do, and nothing we say or do will ever change that.

What are we to do when there are people on both sides of this issue who believe what they are doing is exactly what Jesus would have them to do?

I am still wrestling with all this.

In the mean time, what I do know is that the non-Christian majority is looking at the way we are disagreeing, and how we treat one another in this debate is impacting our witness.

Again, I thank you for your comments and I appreciate you!


James <><

James Kim said...

Al, there is no doubt that the majority of the Christian world has an orthodox view of Biblical interpretation when it comes to sexuality. The "few" who espouse a different interpretation are without a doubt a small minority in the entire Christian spectrum both in history and numerically today.

Having said that, the issue for the PC(USA) is that if you were to poll the clergy in the PC(USA) the number who would favor a change in the ordination standard is quite significant.

Therefore, for the PC(USA) this is a very big issue.

I think the biggest question facing the life of the PC(USA) is in discerning whether we can still remain in the same denomination or if it is time that we go our separate ways. We have to ask and get clarity on the ecclesiological questions.

Thank you for posting your comments.


James <><