A reply to an Enquirer

Dear Enquirer

Thanks again for posting such thoughtful questions. (See here).

You said:

The question that comes to mind is, “Does God approve of all sincere love relationships because he is, after all, love in His very essence?” I am not so sure. Say, for example, my marriage was in serious trouble and I began to confide in a work colleague. I fall in love with her. I did not love my wife any more. My feelings are sincere and beyond simple lust. Is it right for me to leave my wife to be with the woman I love. What does God call me to do in that circumstance?

I think that the real point is about how we make ethical decisions. I think that it would almost certainly be wrong for you to leave your wife in the circumstances that you describe. However, I don’t think that because of anything that is said in the Bible. Nor do I think that I would say something different to someone who had no belief in God. I don’t think someone in that circumstance should do that because I think it would cause a great deal of harm both to you and to her. Now, that is a fairly modern way of thinking, but it is a very common way of thinking through ethical problems in the West. What causes harm? What would cause the greatest good? I think those questions are crucial.

So, that brings me to the question of “validity” You said:

…sometimes God may say “No” to love, no matter how sincere, if He does not recognise the validity (an awful word, I know) of that relationship.

Would that sentiment be any the less true if we substitued “common sense” for God? What I’m getting at is that though I think God loves us utterly, I’m far less convinced that God’s judgement is about determining the “validity” of any relationship. Moreover, I don’t think that God could ever be in the business of being the arbiter of different kinds of status. Does God think better of a bad, violent marriage if it happens to be between a man and a woman than God might think of a caring relationship between two men or two women? I just don’t think God is in that business.

Moving on to the Bible, you said:

The place of Scripture in the debate, especially those portions that deal in purely negative terms with same sex attraction.

Well, sure enough there are verses in Leviticus which can seem to speak against men lying with men. But then there are verses in Leviticus advocating the stoning of children. We don’t take them seriously and rightly so. There are odd verses in Romans which are thrown around in this debate, but without much careful thought. They may be about same-sex temple prostitution or they may be about the ritual castration that the Roman followers of Cybele practised. That doesn’t matter much to me as it it is clear in any case that Paul had no opportunity to write about mutal same-sex relationships. He had as little opportunity to write about Civil Partnerships as he did about Nuclear Weapons or Contraception.

Furthermore, can we be so very sure that Scripture is negative about same-sex couples. What about the Roman Centurian’s young man being healed by Jesus in Luke 7? I’m not claiming that they were a gay couple. Such a thing cannot sensibly be said about them. However, as I read that story. there are obvious resonances with same-sex couples today and it is far from clear that God in Christ was disapproving of these particular two people.

There are other examples too in which I see in Biblical stories patterns of behaviour and existence which chime in with the experience of many gay people today. Take Stephen for example, a beautiful young man (with the face of an angel) who comes with a cohort of men who just want to serve the church. Stephen tries to live out his vocation – preahcing and serving the widoms and he gets stoned and killed for his pains. Plently of gay people will recognise in Stephen patterns from their own lives.

I’ve pointed to those two examples because they are about relationships between people and with Stephen about relationships in the church. I agree that we can become far too obsessed with sex.

Thanks once again for your questions and the manner in which you’ve asked them.

And welcome back to blogging.