Monday, August 06, 2007

Sexual disorder and human nature, Clarification

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Luke 18:11

A few months ago I found myself seated among people whose conversation transgressed against intellectual rigor. To my right was a certain deacon of the Episcopal Church who was still just beginning ECUSA withdraw (we call them “recovering ECUSAns”), and to my left was a layman who had yet to begin his own withdraw. Speaking of one of the bishops of the Episcopal Church, the layman said, “I think he’s really gay, but just doesn’t know it yet.” The recovering “deacon” answered, “I agree.” I tried to explain to both of these men that they had just invented a category of human being that does not exist. My words were wasted on them. Finally, the “deacon” said, “I don’t understand homosexuality.” Then he emitted a nervous chuckle.

I suppose he meant that he could not empathize with it. Neither can I; but I have considered it my duty to try to learn all that I can from genuine psychology, that is the rare and now censored kind that studied human behavior scientifically rather than attempting to fit everything into an overarching theory. How else can I, a priest, minister to “all sorts and conditions of men” in the real world? So, in terms of reading and study, as well as observations in the field when talking to real people of every stripe, both in my ministry and in my former work in hospitals and among discharged patients, I have come to understand the homosexual as well as I possibly can. And, I am not impressed by clergymen who fail to make it their business to study the real world in which sinners live and die. I have had to understand others too, such as drug addicts. The fact that I have never even used illegal drugs, and the fact that I have never had any sort of “same sex attraction,” does not stop me from doing the best I can to know the facts about the sins that enslave people. A real priest knows that the streets are always part of his parish.

These two men assumed that the man of whom they spoke could be “gay” and not know it. Their first mistake is in using the word “gay.” They mean that he is a homosexual. But, most such people are by no means gay, or happy in any way. The folks who have been using the word “gay” are the militant sinners who have “come out of the closet” to boldly proclaim their life of sin and to demand that the rest of us approve, if not applaud. Furthermore, the word “homosexual” is also a word that cannot fail to deceive. There is no such person as a homosexual, since “male and female created He them.” We will return to this point.

What the two men assumed only proved that they had fallen for the lie that pervades modern society. They assumed that a person could be what they call “gay” by nature. Modern people have been pondering the possibility of a “gay gene” for years. But, the idea that same sex attraction is the actual nature of any person remains a bit of fantasy that has no scientific basis, and for which there is no evidence. Much theory has been promulgated, but no facts have been established to support the idea. Far more plausible is the older belief that was based on the only kind of science available to the world of psychology, namely observation of human behavior. Simply put, the causes of this attraction can be explained scientifically only in terms that are psychological, not physical. Furthermore, if a man old enough to be a bishop in ECUSA felt this kind of attraction, he would have known it long ago (and maybe he does). To believe that this disorder is part of human nature denies the teaching of scripture. God made two sexes, not a multiplicity of “genders.”

Their shallow theology matched their shallow science. The major reason that one had left ECUSA, and the other was disgusted with it, was the open acceptance of homosexual sin. The “deacon” had spent years sending children into a Sunday School class taught by a woman who proudly and openly lived with her Lesbian lover and their adopted child. And, he spoke of the children returning every week from Sunday School in time to watch two men from the choir (the recipients of an ECUSAn blessing on their “same sex union”) walk up to the communion rail holding hands. The state of his mind puzzles me. He disapproved of something he thought to be an expression of their true natures, rather than willful sin. In the shallowness of this kind of theology, was he assuming that people are in danger of damnation due to their nature, instead of their sin? Did God make them to be this way, and furthermore in order to damn them, whether or not they committed the acts of sin that would be the fruit of such an alleged nature?

I have said there is no such thing as a homosexual (or Lesbian), because God has made only two sexes, male and female.* However, it certainly must seem to the person who experiences same sex attraction that the feelings come from nature. In one sense they do. The male who feels these things feels the same kind of attraction as all other men, and it is stimulated by what he sees or what he thinks, as with all other men. The female also feels the attraction according to the same impulses felt by other women. In both cases the feelings are natural to men and women; what is not natural, however, is the source of the attraction itself, the attraction to one’s own sex instead of the opposite sex. Furthermore, the psychological state that produces this disorder is not a sin in itself, but rather a temptation experienced by a minority of individuals. The temptation itself is never a sin.

Accordingly, the Church has never taught that individuals who experience such feelings and temptations are somehow special objects of God’s wrath, or that they cannot live by God’s grace in such a way as to rise above the temptation and overcome it. The moral consideration is always a question of behavior. Obviously, a person can acquire culpability by placing himself in a state of temptation rather than avoiding it, as is the case with everybody living about every kind of sin there is. The saint is the one who loves God and so overcomes temptation by resisting it, and often the saint has had to repent and be forgiven for past sins before learning to stand firm. In this sense, the person with same sex attraction is no different from the person who has to fight temptations to adultery or fornication, or perhaps pornography and self-abuse. But, it is here that everyone must consider the promise our Lord made repeatedly in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation to the one who overcomes.

When we speak of homosexuals and heterosexuals, we abuse language and imply that different natures exist other than the two sexes. For this reason, modern people use the word “gender” incorrectly. This word applies to the use of language, specifically articles as they are in most languages other than English. It is not a word with biological, but rather linguistic definition. The purpose in using the word “gender” for human beings is to avoid the fact that we come in only two sexes. No man is a homosexual, but some men are sodomites; and this speaks to the only genuine issue of morality, namely behavior. The Bible does not speak of people in this category, but of acts. People are always “male and female.”

The fact is established that many people claim that their same sex attraction has been cured. For others, such an approach has not worked. From a moral perspective, if someone is cured of same sex attraction only to become an adulterer or fornicator, nothing good has come out of it. One sin is traded for another, one life of sin for another. On the other hand, if someone seeks such a cure and receives it in order to enter into a true and valid marriage, to have children and take a godly place in that vocation, then something good has been achieved. However, to treat such a cure as good in itself, without moral improvement, or without the grace of the marriage sacrament, is not acceptable and orthodox moral theology.

Finally, my colleague Fr. Matthew Kirby made a statement that seems to have been misunderstood. In recent comments he wrote: “all human sexuality is disordered from the Fall onwards, like everything else.” This was a theological statement, and a true one at that. When his position was criticized, I defended it with these words:

“When Fr. Kirby speaks of disordered sexuality as a universal condition of the Fall, his theology is completely correct. It was a theological statement, not a theory from psychology. If not for this general disorder, each man would have the grace to want only his own wife, and no other woman, even in the most random thoughts and the most involuntary and fleeting urge. So, too, the woman for her husband. The Fall was the Fall from Grace **, and without that grace our urges fell from the perfect goodness of the image of God to something more basic and more of the nature of the animal. Fr. Kirby is quite right, therefore, in what he wrote.”


* Rare cases of the biological androgyne, where both kinds of genitalia (one inside, hidden and very small) are present in the same person, do not qualify as an argument against this teaching, any more than a person born blind indicates that it is the nature of human beings not to see. Furthermore, the biological androgyne really is one sex or the other, with extra genitalia probably due to a twin that never separated into a distinct person, and it can be corrected surgically. There have been other findings of deceased embryonic twins inside of a person.

** In a future post, I mean to explain the word “grace” as the Church has always understood it (a bigger subject than many Protestants have understood.)

42 comments:

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Thank you, Fr Hart, for expressing what I meant about universal disorder so clearly. While I had said similar things before, they would not have been seen by all our readers.

One caveat: there is no theological reason that homosexual tendencies could not have a genetic component, though it is unlikely (on scientific evidence) that genetic factors are sufficient to determine the condition. Our genetic makeup was not immune to the effects of the Fall. Indeed, it could not be, since one of the things that happened at the Fall was the loss of original righteousness. This was a supernatural gift ensuring, inter alia, that the body was properly subordinated to and controlled by the mind and the mind suffused by Grace. Once this was lost, the "animal" part of our nature was free to dominate to a significant extent, even though the mind retained natural powers. And the protective ordering of Grace-Soul-Body was gone. So, original human physical properties could become the material for actual sin either by their usurping soul OR by them being mutated in their own nature.

We need to carefully distinguish between "natural" as meaning "according to God's original design" and "natural" as meaning "in accordance with material causation".

poetreader said...

Thanks, Father Hart, for opening a truly necessary subject. I am, as I've mentioned before, a same-sex attracted male, once (decades ago) actively practicing the consequent sins, later married for 14 years, but still, as I enter into old age, subject to the same old temptations. I am consciously and deliberately celibate.

A lot of effort has gone into trying to find out where these impulses come from, and a lot of discussion as to whether they can be 'cured' or not. I tend to feel that such efforts are fated to be fruitless. A man is what he is, wherever it came from.

"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" in one way or another. Everyone is subject to temptation of some sort, and each person may be tempted differently from every other one. There is a great deal we do not understand in how this comes to be, but it is the most obvious reality in the basic makeup of humanity.

One thing we do understand, however, is that God holds us responsible for our behavior. The standards of sexual morality as found in Scripture and Tradition are clear, and it required extremely agile mental gymnastics for the modernists to wriggle out of them. Sexual activity belongs to the marriage bed, is honorable there, and is sinful elsewhere, and marriage is of a man and a woman and rightfully intends the birth of children.

All behavior is judged as to whether it fits that standard. Whether I am tempted by a woman, or by a man, if this person is not my lawful wedded wife, this temptation is to be refused -- in all cases.

Temptation is always disordered, whatever form it takes. If I truly want what God has denied me, I've already yielded to the notion that my desire trumps that of God.
Thus, to be aware of sexual attractiveness is one thing, but to entertain the notion that fulfillment of that desire, even mentally (what Scripture calls lust), is to eanter into the realm of sin. It's the same for the person called "gay" and for the person called "straight".

ed

Fr. Kirby,Yours was posted while I was writing this. You managed to say precisely what I'd temporarily given up on trying to express at the moment. Thank you

ed

Alice C. Linsley said...

May God bless you richly, Ed! May your witness be used to His glory.

Warwickensis said...

I think I've said before somewhere that we're called to walk the tight-rope between not loving enough and overstepping the bounds into sin.

We are "programmed" to love and be loved, properly, decently and in full respect of who we are and who the other is. The human mind is vast and complex and it is a testament to the creative power of God to produce something that is influenced by so many things.

The consequence is that in the barrage of information that our brains receive, it is easy to see that same-sex attraction is possible, but difficult to see why!

The brain is a chaotic electrochemical system, yet from that chaos comes order, if we allow the Creator to bring forth order from that chaos. The quality of that order depends on the quality of our submission to God.

I'm with Alice on this one, Ed!

Anonymous said...

There is little scientific evidence - whether psychological or physical - to prove or disprove that same-sex attraction is un-"natural". Observations of wildlife assert that same-sex attraction is as common-place amongst animals as it is among humans; and similarly "baffling" or without identifiable purpose (i.e. minus obvious survival or procreative purposes).

What there IS evidence of is monogamous same-sex relationships that are observable as similarly committed and loving as hetro-sexual ones. Also of homosexuals able to live chaste and celibate lives.

It seems pointless then to assert that homosexuality is a "disorder" of nature whether psychological or physical. Most (not all) homosexuals do not remember "choosing" to be same-sex attracted; neither would most opt to be... largely due to societical, policitical and religious prejudices/attitiudes.

This area of "nature" is hardly understood by anyone... perhaps it is best left to God the Creator to fathom His own Creation and for us to worry more about Gospel principles regarding love and respect?

Prejudice is largely based on ignorance - Fr Hart is doing right by trying to address his ignorance. However, to avoid prejudice (which is NOT a Gospel attitude) it would be prudent to continue to "offer up" his musings and ruminations whilst still deliberating the "origins" of same-sex attractedness - which I doubt very much Fr Hart or anyone else is likely ever to fathom!

What is clear from Scripture is that ALL mankind is expected to live chastely... Marriage is understood to be purposeful for pro-creation and family life. The real debate is whether "togetherness" (i.e. companionship etc) and sexual expressions of "love" between commited couples (of mixed or same gender) for purposes other than pro-creation IS acceptable...? For example, if a man marries a woman who knowingly cannot bear children... are they not marrying for "lust" (seen as love) rather than vocation?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

An Anglican Catholic Church bishop sent me this comment to be posted anonymously:

"I hope someone will point out to Anonymous that he or she has confused a genetic or primitive understanding of 'nature' with a traditional teleological understanding.

"Some people may well have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism which they never consciously choose. That does not make alcoholism 'natural' in the classical sense, and it sure doesn't make indulgence in alcoholic behavior any less destructive."

The same comment to which his Grace responds also asserts that same sex attraction has been observed in wildlife. But the "evidence" requires that these animals have the same complexity of mind and emotion as human beings, and the same capacity for confusion and the same deeply rooted psychological symbolism. It also requires rather forced, awkward and silly interpretations of the animal's behavior, possibly driven by an agenda. So, yes, one can find these "reports," but they do not stand up to reason. Nonetheless, wildlife can be brutal, and behave in many ways that do not indicate moral acceptability if imitated by people.

Prejudice is largely based on ignorance - Fr Hart is doing right by trying to address his ignorance. However, to avoid prejudice (which is NOT a Gospel attitude) it would be prudent to continue to "offer up" his musings and ruminations whilst still deliberating the "origins" of same-sex attractedness - which I doubt very much Fr Hart or anyone else is likely ever to fathom!

I was addressing the ignorance of others, actually, which I could not have done without having thought about the relevant issues long ago. However, the origins of same sex attraction remain a complicated subject that has been dealt with, in the past, by a scientific approach to psychology that is now completely censored- forbidden (a new kind of enforced prejudice).

The origins, however, are not the focus of moral theology. The focus of moral theology is casuistry in light of revelation, and then, guided by Scripture and the Tradition, to apply Right Reason to the cure of souls. This requires realistic appraisal of the particular needs of individuals as we apply reasoning based on each of these three things: 1) general revelation, 2) specific need, and 3) particular gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we lose sight of any of these three, we cannot be effective confessors and pastors.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, the idea is not to weigh the three things I have mentioned against each other. They are not in a state of tension, and none eliminates the significance of the other two. The idea is to keep all three in mind all the time. Therefore, the specific needs of individuals cannot be weighed against general revelation. Instead, general revelation must be applied to the specific need. Our brother, Ed, has done this for himself. He has chosen to live according to the general revelation , and therefore has been receptive to the particular gifts of the Holy Spirit that aid him, supplying the grace to overcome.

Furthermore, in this way he provides an example to everybody, since everybody faces some kind of temptation.

Anonymous said...

So we are to ignore how we are made? We are to ignore God's image? We are to divorce the physical from the spiritual? We are to shun our genetic make up in order to strive only for the spiritual? We are not to love God our Creator by loving His Creation nor love what is physically and essentially "us"?

This is not revelation. In Christ, the "new Adam," is not God's creation - the physical and the spiritual - reconciled? Is not His creation "restored"? This Platonic view, distancing/seperating the physical from the spiritual, is not the message of revelation. In Christ God reconciles His Spirit with His Creation - and those who witness and accept this in Christ - are to follow in like manner; reconciling their physical nature with their spiritual nature.

This involves/includes abstinence from those attitudes or behaviours that are contrary to the spirit of the Gospel but they are not to do so to the detriment of the "self". "Self" may be appreciated as not just the Soul but the physical entity that is us combined. We know that our physical bodies - our health etc impacts on our spiritual well being; "you are what you eat" and high fatty foods for example lead to depression etc. We cannot divorce physical from spiritual - this is where apologetics can fall down entirely.

The primitive/classical understanding of body and soul is a corrupted understanding/appreciation of God's Creation. Christ's sharing in humanity was not just spiritual; it was physical, that is the point of the incarnation.

By all this I mean to suggest that, the reconciliation of our physical/genetic entity necessitates an appreciation and acceptance of it - combined with the morality and precepts of the Gospel. Sexuality is not a "disorder" - hetrosexuality is no more "natural" than homosexuality - there is just "sexuality". The key is reconciling our sexuality with our spirituality - for the benefit of our spiritual selves we must appreciate our physical creation and we must allow God's purpose for His Creation and our lives.

To say homosexuality is "un-natural" is to question the Creator. It seems we are agreed that we may never divine the origin of homosexuality - but neither do we hetrosexuality. Hetrosexuality seems to make teleological sense - i.e. there seems to be an obvious purpose, i.e. procreation; but we don't say that procreation is the sole raison d'etre of human existance.

"The origins, however, are not the focus of moral theology. The focus of moral theology is casuistry in light of revelation, and then, guided by Scripture and the Tradition, to apply Right Reason to the cure of souls."

Appreciating the origin - which ultimately must come from the Creator, helps us to understand the revelation and appreciate Scripture in a way that produces "right reason"; which will assist the "cure of souls" more ably by appreciating where souls are and where they need to be. Moral Theology if it is to be effective and "right" must begin by accepting what is changeable and what is not.

Sexuality is not the same as a predeliction like alcoholism. Sexuality is something that encompasses more of our being than a like or dislike. It is a fundamental component of our physical and psychological make-up. Sexuality is not something that can fundamentally be changed. It therefore requires appreciation in order for the application of Moral Theology to be relevant and workable.

There is no point in telling someone to change something they fundamentally cannot change about themselves. And it would be totally immoral to suggest to a being created by God in a certain way that they are "disordered" - that does not make sense and is presumptious.

The fact of the matter is, in order to apply "1) general revelation, 2) specific need, and 3) particular gifts of the Holy Spirit..." we need to appreciate (if we cannot understand) who and what we are.

Ed believes he has done this for himself - whether or not he believes that his sexuality is "natural" or "disordered" (and I hope not the latter) he is trying to apply his understanding of self and general revelation to his particular circumstance (need) and thereby opening himself to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is commendable. And where we, Fr Hart, whole-heartedly agree, is what everyone else should be doing too.

To sum up;
1) sexuality is a wholly natural condition not just a state of mind or self-expression;
2) if God is the Creator, sexuality is a gift from him and whatever form it takes is deliberately given to the created;
3) reconciling this gift of sexuality to the moral code and idealogy of revelation and Scripture is the purpose of spiritual fulfillment for everyone;
4) but this reconciliation cannot be done by condemning/judging any particular condition nor holding one as better or preferred to another: that questions the purpose and omnipotence of the Creator;
5) appreciating the nature and purpose of our sexuality with our spirituality will enable us to care for others and appreciate ourselves.

I do not believe that what I am suggesting is either new, contraversial or at odds with revelation or Scripture. But it is challenging and deliberately so in order to address the issues and concerns of the unchurched as well as those within the Church. Moral Theology is easier than it looks - if we do not make it impossible by ignoring the fundamental starting positions of those we would apply it to... or we become like the Pharisees and open ourselves to hypocrisy... Which is fundamentally what distances us from the unchurched.

poetreader said...

((blush - blush))
Gee, Father, thank you for the soft, kind, and largely unmerited words. I'm a miserhable sinner, just like everyone else. I've got temptations that are particular to me, and, by God's grace, I've come to know what His answer is to them. I try and I struggle. If that much is an example to others, praise His Name! Me, in myself, I'm no example. Without the Blood of Jesus, I'd be hell-bound for sure. Pray for me.

ed

Albion Land said...

Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss Anonymous,

Forgive my all-encompassing salutation, but I haven't a clue who you are.

You send at comment which began: "So we are to ignore how we are made?"

I shall be happy to publish it, if you will be kind enough to put a name to it. If you didn't save the text, just let me know the name here, and I will cut and paste it.

Thank you.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It appears that the latest anonymous post has come from the same person who made an earlier comment. The problem with everything that this commenter has said is that he rejects the sources of Authority that come to us by way of genuine revelation. The Church has never at any time in its history believed or taught the assertions Anonymous has set forth, and has “always, everywhere and by all” ("quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus") taught the very opposite. The idea that the Incarnation means that we must accept every form of sexual behavior is simply a variation of Gnostic heresy, and very much of a contradiction of the teaching of the Word made flesh: He taught plainly: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18)”. The Incarnate Son of God saves us from sin and death. “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21), not, “for he shall affirm all people in their sins.”

First of all, by revelation and authority I mean specifically Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition (not scripture, cleverness and experience). The Anglican “three legged stool” comes under criticism for its simplicity, and under attack by revisionists who rephrase it to mean something else. Furthermore, it is often distorted into a system of checks and balances, as if it is three separate things weighted against each other. This approach is wrong. We bow first and foremost to Scripture, but not as we choose to interpret it (and Anonymous has clearly bought into an interpretation that has made even the formerly Catholic Rowan Williams revert to the worst and most subjective kind of Sola Scriptura), but we understand Scripture only by the Right Reason of the Church in its Tradition, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus. It is not difficult to prove that the Church has always known and taught that the only physical sexual relationship that is good and blessed by God, and that is not itself sinful, is copulation between one man and one woman who have already been joined together in Holy Matrimony. All the rest is always sin. To deny this is to deny the only teaching that Christianity has ever known in all of its ages. To pretend ignorance of this obvious and well established fact is an empty and obvious bluff.

To contradict Anonymous, in the hope of helping the same, we are in fact supposed to deny ourselves (Matt.16:24), and the reason is because we do understand the origin of the common disorder that affects all mankind, namely the Fall into sin and death. That further and more complicated disorders have arisen is not the plan or work of God, but rather manifestations of the very things from which Jesus Christ sets us free. For one man this may be homosexual acts, and for another lust for his neighbor’s wife. For another it may be drinking excessively, or gambling away the family’s assets and income, or even extreme rage leading to murder. If all sexuality is supposedly from God, then this must include rape and pederasty. If everything that appears to be the nature of individuals is from God, then He is the author of evil, having created the violence of bigots and warmongers, and the cruelty of sadists. And, many of these things do appear in the disordered sexual passions that have wrought havoc in history, and caused suffering to the innocent. (Furthermore, the Church has always revered “the purity of virgin souls,” and has never made “personal fulfillment” into a virtue.)

Anonymous would, no doubt, say that the arguments he (she?) has set forth do not include the things I have mentioned. But, the logic of a premise is not under the control of the person who sets forth the premise. Just as one cannot stand at the top of a thirty foot hill and roll a ball only ten feet down the hill simply by meaning to roll it no further, so no one can say that his own premise is not subject to the gravity of irresistible logic. The only logical conclusion of Anonymous’ assertions, once the ball has rolled all thirty inevitable feet down the hill, is that evil is good and good is evil. To try to make this into the meaning of the Incarnation is to land in quite a pitiable and horrible quicksand, a pit of total destruction.

Far better to learn what the love of God really is, and to let Jesus Christ set you free from sin and death. It is not too late my Anonymous friend, to let Him so free your mind, and your whole life.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I wrote:
"...even the formerly Catholic Rowan Williams..."

Anglicans understand that I mean formerly Anglo-Catholic. Eric Mascall had thought, many years ago, that then very orthodox Williams was one bright hope for the future of Anglicanism. How sad what he has become.

poetreader said...

Anonymus,

Please, if you are going to address this blog again, submit a name. If you can't submit your real name, at least give us an identifier. It's rather rude to make such strong comments without doing so. I make a point of giving full information about myself - check my profile if you like. and I really don't appreciate potshots from behind a tree.

Your comments show a thorough misunderstanding of the Gospel of Our Lord. I find no reference in the Scriptures or in the Fathers, or in any Christian writers before the last century or so, to any right of self-affirmation or self-fulfilment. Humanity is disordered in its very nature. We affirm a doctrine of original sin, however it be defined, that recognizes that every human impulse or activity is, in some way, disordered by the presence of that sinful nature.

Yes, my sexuality is disordered (in spite of your 0h-so-patronizing hope that this is not what I think), as is yours (whatever form it has taken) and as is that of every human being on this planet, and sexuality in itself is among those aspects of humanity that need redemption. What the cross declares is that God's love for us recognizes how flawed we really are and how impossible it is for us to be properly ordered by our own action or choice. He saves us. We don't save ourselves.

Quite bluntly, if you do not accept that, you aren't really accepting Christianity. What you procalim is another message entirely.

"Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me," is what the Master said.

OK. I'm homosexually inclined. Am I, simply because I recognize that fact about myself, to affirm and practice that asopect of my personality against what I read in Scripture and against the advice of century after century of Christian teaching? Is that denying myself as my Lord demands?
Or is that raising myself to the place where Satan stands, denying the authority of God?

Read Genesis 3. Whether the story is seen as literal or as a sacred metaphor, it was the very seeking to know good and evil without reference to the revealed will of God, expressive rather of the desire to be like Gods, that constituted this first of all sins.

I'm praying for you

ed pacht, Rochester NH

FrJo said...

I have not at any time in my comments;
a) advocated the practise of homosexuality (please quote me if I have);
b) denied the authority of Scripture or revelation - with respect to expressions of sexuality (again please quote);
c) deliberately sought to patronise anyone (I'm sorry Ed if you thought my appreciation of your situation was such);
d) suggested nor even referred to "self-fullfilment" (I'm certainly not a subscriber to Gnosticism);

Rather I have tried to suggest;
a) that sexuality is a given part of our make-up (genetic and/or teleological);
b) that to refute the physical is not necessarily the point of revelation; it is rather the reconciliation i.e. the understanding, appreciation of self and the response to the Gospel that is important;
c) that Graeco/Roman (and Western) classical understanding of seperating the physical from the spiritual has an overbearing influence on our understanding of Creation or the Created Order, therefore limiting our appreciation of it;
d) a person cannot be "blamed" nor should be condemned for their created state - but can be encouraged and taught through Gospel precepts to behave morally.

If God has created someone with a propensity - that may be understood as a natural instinct; should they be blamed? No. They should be encouraged through accepting Christ to reconcile that propensity to the truth of the Gospel.

My point is, and has always been, about "attitude" towards the problem; it is impossible to know the mind of the Creator ("Aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit") - and presumptious to claim to. Therefore, the origin of sexuality rather than be classed as "disordered" if we are unable to grasp the genetic or teleological raison d'etre or cause, should be simply "accepted" as "a given" state intended by Him. There is a significant lack of evidence to suggest that homosexuality is "un-natural". What is important though is how to address the persuasion to sin - if homosexual practise is ultimately sinful - to conform the created to the Gospel. Telling them that God has dealt them a handicap is not, I would venture to suggest, the best way so to help them?

The question I asked and which has not been answered was; "when/how do we understand/differentiate lust and love? Particularly the difference between hetrosexual and homosexual expressions of the same. If a man marries a woman who cannot bear children, but expects to enjoy sexual relations - is that not lustful? If pro-creation is not possible, what is the motive? Is "Marriage" per se a licence to have sexual intercourse for self-fullfilment? If that can be considered "ok" then why cannot committed homosexual couples do the same, if their condition is created by Him? Has God given us the propensity to "love" for companionship as much as pro-creation? Is sex totally sinful or a gift?

I'm asking this question in the hope of finding a way that will address contemporary Western attitudes; to find an apologetic that will appeal to the way of thinking that most have. Traditional arguments are no longer effective - people ask deeper questions now than perhaps they ever did before. We are no longer dealing with an illiterate people...

It is not simply enough to regurgitate the "same old, same old" but to refresh (not change) "The Message".

(Of course, paedophilia, beastiality and sado-masochism I am not addressing - though I see the logical extension of the question. However, all three of the above seem to be motivated entirely by lust and harm. However the majority of homosexuals (like hetrosexuals) would not identify themselves with those practises/motives but rather see their sexuality as a propensity to love rather than to harm. I am trying to find an apologetic for the generally "right-minded" and thinking individual, with a consciousness akin to accepted general principles of morality accepted by modern Western society.

I also ask for those Christians - lay and clerical - who are homosexual, whether practising or not - who seek a way of understanding their situation.)


For personal reasons - and knowing what the internet is like - I have posted annonymously. But have proferred an "identifier" as requested. I am a cleric seeking to pastor sensitively - not to spare the rod, but to help Souls to understand.

Albion Land said...

Fr Jo,

Thank you for choosing a monicker so that readers can coherently, and without being confused, respond to what YOU have to say.

Also, welcome to The Continuum. I, for one, honour your commitment to providing pastoral ministry to people as and where they are, and not as we wish they were. But I would add that we cannot conform ourselves to the mind and likeness of Christ by merely accepting ourselves as we are. You speak to that in your latest comment, and I would welcome your elaborating on your thoughts.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Jo

I am about to start a long trip, and can answer only briefly.

I responded to the comments based on the only sense that could be made of them. The last one did provide an apologetic for accepting one's condition as natural, and therefore as good; and this can be done only by assuming that the revelation has been deficient all along. The only conclusion of that is to give up and give in to all urges and treat them as good. By the way, I believe that modern people are far more illiterate than ever, and very poorly read, compared to only a century ago. Most college graduates today have little or no real education. The problem today is not how to deal with enlightenment, but rather a combination of ignorance and presumption.

And, I see no way to reconcile sinful desires to the Gospel. We need to bring back the truths of the scripture, including self-denial, restisting and standing firm and (sit down) mortification. Unless people see the need to overcome sinful desires, they will never try. That is sound pastoral advice. After they are willing to follow Christ, then we begin to help in as many practical ways as we can.

Also, read again the comments of Fr.Kirby and the quotation in my comment from an Anglican bishop. Look at what they say about the use of the word "nature." Your question was answered already.

You wrote:
… a person cannot be "blamed" nor should be condemned for their created state - but can be encouraged and taught through Gospel precepts to behave morally.

Okay, but not everything in us is due to our "created state." Your theology seems not to have any room for the reality of Original Sin, whether western (inheriting guilt and concupiscence) or eastern (inheriting no guilt, but not inheriting the truly created nature with all of its grace either, and inheriting concupiscence). We are not exactly what we were created to be, and need the restoration that is only to be complete when we are patterned after Christ’s own immortality- which cannot be until He comes again.

If God has created someone with a propensity - that may be understood as a natural instinct; should they be blamed? No. They should be encouraged through accepting Christ to reconcile that propensity to the truth of the Gospel.

But, if the tendency or desire cannot be reconciled, then do not blame it on creation or God, but on the Fall. The man who e.g. wants a hundred women instead of one cannot reconcile his “nature” to the Gospel; he has to mortify it. The word repent must be part of the Gospel message. So, too, the other words I have used. Otherwise, we present the false Gospel St. Paul rejects in the opening of Romans chapter six.

I'm asking this question in the hope of finding a way that will address contemporary Western attitudes; to find an apologetic that will appeal to the way of thinking that most have. Traditional arguments are no longer effective - people ask deeper questions now than perhaps they ever did before.

Without the Traditional answer, we will lead people into error. The proper way, and the example of Anglican thinkers in the past, is to give the Traditional answers with a sound, loving and thoughtful approach. I hope you are simply looking for a way to help people understand and accept it, something I have been doing for years.

poetreader said...

Yes, Fr. Jo, thank you for giving us a name to use. That's necessary for intelligent discourse. However, not everyoine is fool enough to be as transparent as I've chosen to be. I wouldn't expect that.

I also thank you for the clarification of your position. your initial wording was such as to appear both confrontational and condescending toward those of traditional views on this issue. I was distinctly put off by your hope that I did not consider my inclinations to be disordered, when I had clearly stated already in this comment thread that all temptations are disordered. Nonetheless I'm very glad that is a factor than I had thought.

You still haven't responded to what I see as the core of the issue: the recognition of the fallenness of humanity and the essentially disordered nature of ALL man's ways, including but not limited to sexuality, and the utter inability of mankind to make consistently proper (allow me to say holy) choices or to hold acceptable attitudes. We are basically flawed, not because of God's creation, but because of our own choice (as a species) to distort that creation.

Where does that leave us now? I am what I am. That seems to be something that is not going to change, at least not easily. I don't know what causes me to be such, where it came from, or what place it really has in creation. I play the hand I've been dealt because it's the only hand I have.

No one has the right to condemn me because of the form my temptations may take. Even should I sin grievously, no one has permission to cease loving me. It was sinners that Jesus chose to spend time with, not the self-proclaimed righteous. Unfortunately much of what I seem to be seeing in the latest defections from TEC seems to be heavily laced with attitudes of condemnation.

Yes, the Scripture and Tradition are explicit and clear in their expectations of sexual morality - not so much in condemning certain acts (though that is definitely there), but primarily in placing it firmly into the context of a marriage of a male and a female. Sex is blessed in the marriage bed, and not permitted otherwise.

I'm not one to get into debates over 'natural' and 'unnatural', as one ends up in endless argument over definitions and philosophical approaches. It would appear that, in the most 'scientific' definition, any sexual attraction that occurs in nature is 'natural' -- as are such things as murderous rage on the one hand and tender loving care of children on the other. What is, is.

Religion, Christian or otherwise, starts with what is, declares it to be inadequate and considers what should be.

I am what I am, I can't change that, but I am called on to be in control of my behavior, and I am thus constrained to live according to what my faith tells me has been revealed. To act otherwise, however 'natural' it may be, is to sin.

Thus I am so constituted as to have a deep appreciation for the beauty of the young male, as strong as that which many men I know have for feminine beauty. In neither case is there permission to do what might seem to come naturally. I've been instructed by God, as have we all, that there is a single permitted entrance into thoise mysteries, and that that is marriage.

Though I think it's an unfortunate development in language, the use of the word 'gay' has become so established that it becomes difficult to speak intelligently about these issues without using it, and therefore I will avoid word-games and circumlocutions, and affirm myself, like very many of the historic saints of God, as gay and celibate, and as wanting my desire to be entirely submitted to the will of God, and not to pleasing myself.

ed

frjo said...

Ah! Dear Albion - that is the question I am seeking an answer to!

"The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate; He made them high and lowly, each to their own estate..." as the most often ommitted verse of "All things bright and beautiful" puts it! My point though is, and I don't think most right-thinking people would disagree, the reason why this verse is often times ommitted is because it suggests a certain "fait a compli" about Creation.

It is not enough to say "you were created homosexual and that is your lot"; there must be, some sort of purpose in mind. At least this is what the majority of homosexual Christians ask me. Why has God created them with a propensity to love - but in a way rejected by traditional interpretations of Scripture? Aside from lust, are their feelings of love akin to hetrosexuals who marry, totally abhorrent?

It is true that "Gay" culture as epitomised by the Gay press, tends to be overtly sexualised. But for all that, it is known that the majority of homosexuals are "non-scene" i.e. stay at home and lead "normal" hard working lives like the rest of society. It's not all about "cruising" and promiscuous behaviour, drinking, drugs and sex. There are homosexuals leading quite quiet ordinary lives, but who are committed to one partner, or who are chaste until such time as they meet their "special someone". Homosexuals on the whole, behave in exactly the same way as hetrosexuals do!

So the questions most ask are reasonable and legitimate. "If God made me this way, and I honestly do not remember choosing to be gay nor would I deliberately have chosen to be gay", "and I lead a 'normal' life like everyone else, working, paying taxes, generally ethical in all that I do", "how is it that I am condemned to live a life of total celibacy unlike my hetrosexual counterparts?" "Why did God make me with the potential to love?" And by "love" they mean the higher kind, not just lust.

I find it diffcult to answer them constructively and in an intelligent way that will answer more questions than it raises. But I feel sure, somewhere there is an answer and if that answer were known and spread widely in a positive way, so many more Souls might be won for the Kingdom of Heaven than are at present - and not just homosexuals.

It is not enough to counter present contemporary thinking with "stop being selfish" especially when there is so much that is right in "equality and diversity" values. The social minded "liberals" are very close in ideaology to the Gospel - right respect for all mankind, peace on earth, proper stewardship of the world's resources etc. Yet they are turned off by the Church who seems unable to speak to them coherently. Why do we appear to be so at odds with people who actually aren't very far from our position on a lot of things?

The "liberal" agenda actually is not so scary as some might think. What is wrong in celebrating the diversity that exists culturally in our societies? What is wrong in wanting all people taught, employed and paid equally? What is wrong with having an "equal" society for men and women where all are respected? I see nothing contrary to the Faith here.

The Church - whilst some welcome the overt return to conservatism that some think is taking place - is beginning to fail in its mission to speak to the people. While the Church is beginning to be seperated from those who have "lost" The Faith - (ECUSA etc) it at the same time is losing face with the people who still need salvation. We Traditionalists do not speak to them in a way that makes sense. The Church in Africa is not a good example of Gospel proclamation; it turns people off and away, needlessly.

We need a new apologetics reflective and suited to our times - just as our Fathers did before us. There is no point harping on about the past - the future is overtaking us and fast. We are not at the end times... not as far as we know. We have no herald of the second coming. So let's concentrate on the job in hand and speak to the people in a way they understand...

poetreader said...

What we need is solid thinking about the implications of the fallenness of humanity and of nature generally. The first three chapters of Genesis, completely regardless of whatever factual content they may have, constitute a beautifully poetic consideration of the same basic and troubling question being raised today:

"If revelation tells us what kind of a world God wants, and if the world we see is unlike that, what happened? What are the implications of that?"

When one starts with the assumption that "God made me gay", one is already begging the question. Did He? How do we know that?

I don't know where it came from in my own case. Indeed I did nothing to make it happen. I can't remember a time when my inclinations were anything other than they are, even though I was in my twenties before I was able to identify what it was that made me different. Is my homosexuality God's will, or merely something that his creation of free will made possible? You see, I do believe in original sin, and I believe that not only the human species, but the entire earth has been bent from its created form by the presence of this sin.

I'm not answering my own question, but I can't accept an unproven assumprion as a place to work from. That's very flawed argumentation.

What do we know about love and beauty? We do know that they are both creations of God. Is it wrong for me to appreciate the beauty of the male form? Those who would say that, I charge with the possibility that they blaspheme in saying so. God created beauty to be appreciated. Is it wrong for me to love another male to the extent that I would lay down my life for him? Obviously not. How close a friendship is acceptable in God's sight? Well, consider David and Jonathan. Though David's life shows how thoroughly he appreciated the women, he yet had embarrassing things to say about his friend. So what's the issue?

Allow me to be rather blunt. The issue, narrowly considered, is one of where it is appropriate or permitted to put my male organ. Both biology and traditional theology establish a single intended use for this capability. It is intended to be received in the specific receptor of the opposite sex. Can other things happen? Of course. Do other things happen, both in humans and in animals? Yes, they do. Is that in accord with design. Seems like a stretch to say that.

In parts, at least, of the animal kingdom, there don't seem to be built in regulations of what sort of things can happen. Humans, however, have a moral sensibility that is at least as much a part of human nature as are these various drives and attractions. Every human society regulates sexual expression. This is not negated by the fact that the form of regulation does vary - there is no society that does not have such a concern at its very center.

Traditional Christian thinking and practice has never had any doubt that God has given principles on which to regulate sexual expression, and has never had any doubt that most men will have a hard time keeping within those limits.

Men, it would seem, are, by inclination, rather promiscuous. A 'straight' male will have his head turned by a particularly attractive woman or girl, and may well be seized by a strong sexual desire. Is that to be fulfilled every time it arises? Is it ever right for a man to sleep with a woman to whom he is not married? Not by traditional teaching. Is it necessary for someone who does not marry to maintain lifelong celibacy? It sure is.

Since marriage is between a man and a woman (never before the twentieth century has it been said otherwise by Christians), the question is settled. We 'gay guys' are in the same boat with unmarried 'straight guys'. Celibacy is our lot.

Am I attracted by men and boys? Well, yeah. Have there been those I've deeply loved? Yes, thank the good Lord, there have. Am I therefore entitled to be other than celibate? No, I'm not.

Everything good about me is a gift of God, and I am thankful. Everything, however, that would put me in a place where God has not allowed me, is a distortion of His gift, and does have to be denied.

ed

rev'd up said...

FRJO said:

"We Traditionalists do not speak to them in a way that makes sense."

I'm sorry, but you are the only "Traditionalist" I've read here that *isn't* making sense. Your zainy ideas about evangelism turn the plain teaching of Holy Scripture on its head.

For examples of this, please--read the Bible!

I will only indulge upon you, due to certain constraints, to point out what St. Paul teaches in Romans Chapter 1. 22. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. 23. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. 24. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves....

There is no need for "Traditional" Catholics to create, as you say a "new apologetics reflective and suited to our times." The Fathers of the Church thought it best for sinners to convert rather than pervert the Gospel to make it more contemporary.

You would also be well served to read Ecclesiastes which ends: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

"Love" is not the issue. "Good and evil" are the issue. Sodomy is evil; and God in His love has revealed this to us. There is no gentle way to express this to those willingly enslaved by this sin, monogamously or otherwise--whether they "love" each other or not. They must repent and turn to Christ or suffer the consequences. They will by repenting, be given sufficient grace to live righteously. Perhaps those who feel the temptation to return to their sin should give thanks to Almighty God; for in it they are reminded of their need to do penance and make reparation for those past sins in which they not only corrupted their own souls but the souls of their partners.

poetreader said...

Rev'd Up,

You state the position I agree with and state it with considerable clarity. However, something more is needed if we are to bring Christ's love and His saving Gospel to this particular class of sinners. Merely condemning sin and railing about its presence is something the Pharisees were good at. Jesus commended them for their corrrectness, as those that sit in Moses' seat, but he condemned their unloving hearts. He Himself spent his time with the sinners abnd was condemned for that. He loved them first, and then corrected them, ultimately dying for their forgiveness.

An apologetic that only presents their wrongness, but fails to provide a reason to change actually uses the truth to drive people deeper into the road to Hell.

I find myself in a position that requires superhuman strength that I do not have. God help me -- He does. My various 'gay' friends and aquaintances despise my commitment to celibacy, and, indeed, do push in the direction temptation already leads. With God's help I can be consistent in rejecting that.

In my own parish I simply cannot speak as frankly as I have here, for a spirit of judgment pervades many of the parishioners. I have been hurt by that. I am where I belong, but, you know, God's people do not make it easy for me to stay there, and (I speak as gently as I am able) they will be charged with this at the day of judgment (as I will for many other things). It hurts me deeply that there are people I simply can't bring to my own church. Their presence would not be welcomed and they would be made to know that.

I do think Fr. Jo is amiss in his understanding of this issue - seriously so, but it won't do simply to reject him. He is asking questions that real traditionalists need to find loving traditional answers for. Active and committed homosexuals need salvation and are as beloved of God as the apparently 'good' people.

ed

agrarian said...

poetreader,

I greatly respect your struggle. However you lose me here:

An apologetic that only presents their wrongness, but fails to provide a reason to change actually uses the truth to drive people deeper into the road to Hell.

Is not the prospect of spending eternity in the fires of hell reason enough to change?

No, not everyone can be reached by this message, only those whom God has made ready to hear it. We can only reach those who have been given eyes to see and ears to hear. But we may pray that all be given those eyes and ears. That is the best that we can do, is it not?

agrarian said...

frjo,

I'd be interested to know what church or jurisdiction you serve in.

poetreader said...

Agrarian,

When one compares the fear of something with which one is threatened and the reality of a loveless reception by a church, one is not really given a reason to change.

Mere fear of an avenging God simply doesn't motivate anyone to seek Him. Why would anyone want to spend eternity with a God whose nature repulses one? If an apologetic does not draw the hearer toward a loving God who wants sinners to flee to Him, all it does is drive people away with the ugliness of the picture drawn.

That's my point, and it was also Jesus' point in the Gospels. He loved sinners and welcomed them, and when they were assured that He wanted them offered the chance for repentance and the power to change.

If the Church does less, we fail to win souls, and ultimately drive many away.

ed

agrarian said...

poetreader,

Mere fear of an avenging God simply doesn't motivate anyone to seek Him. Why would anyone want to spend eternity with a God whose nature repulses one? If an apologetic does not draw the hearer toward a loving God who wants sinners to flee to Him, all it does is drive people away with the ugliness of the picture drawn.

I am at a loss as to how to respond to this. The sinner makes the choice, not God. So this is not what I would call an "avenging God." Besides, His Wrath is indistinguishable from His Love: it's the same thing perceived differently by individuals in different states of sin.

Beyond this, I am not sure how you would win any genuine converts without them calling upon the Lord. How is one to accept on mere intellectual argument that some obscure character who lived in an obscure place 2000 years ago was indeed God Incarnate? I doubt it can be done. But once one calls upon the Living God and directly experiences His reality, then we have a genuine convert, and those seemingly insurmountable hurdles surrounding His Wrath (from a secular viewpoint) are overcome.

If the sinner would imply call upon the Lord in all earnestness, all these "problems" would be resolved.

fr jo said...

Thank you Ed! You it seems have grasped where I'm coming from!

Fr Hart, Rev'd Up - please, do not confuse my musings as interpretations of my theological thinking! I am "thinking outside the box" deliberately to provoke discussion to find an answer! I have never presented my thoughts as being deeply held personal beliefs let alone presented them as a "theology" of any kind. They are musings on philosophical and theological application to specific circumstances/questions. They are "comments" - not theological treatises, and shouldn't be confused as such.

My comments also express some of the ideas and concerns that the people I minister to raise and ask me. I am not in need of "educating" as to the status quo or the teaching of The Church. What I am seeking is a "new" apologetic! And by that I don't mean avoidance of what the Father's say or what The Church teaches - I'm not seeking anything radical; I am seeking something of a new heremeneutic, a new 'presentation'.

Agrarian, I minister within an inner-city parish (UK) and have responsibility as a spiritual director for a number of clergy - for whom some of this discussion - and for my parishoners and those I would minister to, is pertinent. I don't see that my jurisdiction would make any difference to the discussion.

Talk of a vengeful God is no longer useful - it turns people away from Him. "God is love" - it is much more difficult to help people to understand that love if you begin dialogue by condemning them - apparantly on His behalf.

In like manner it is difficult to persuade people to "give something up" that they feel very strongly is a "natural" part of their being. Especially without significant evidence to prove the contrary, appealing to ancient texts and ideaology, anthropology and social attitudes that are no longer prevalent, while they obviously have value, do not appeal to thinking people today. One's almost suggesting that they need to study classical philosophy and theology before they can even begin to understand the Gospel - and that is NOT true... surely?!

I do not view "Traditiontalism" as something static. The Church is challenged and has always managed - to re-present the Gospel to each generation. We are challenged to do so now in the 21C. I am genuinely asking for thoughts on "how" we do this.

I am not asking for a way to "make black white" though I have felt the need to deliberately poke the "status quo" in the hope of discovering a new insight or perspective.

Unlike some, I believe that every child of God has the propensity to know his Father and be redeemed by His Son, our Brother (who humbled Himself to share in our humanity). It is my duty as a Pastor and as a Christian to bring others to the knowledge and love of God. God has given eyes and ears to ALL His children - it is our job to open those eyes and ears. I am seeking to do that and asking for help to do that; for I do not want to "lose one sheep" from my fold and want to bring others into my... His, fold. That is my duty and vocation.

poetreader said...

Agrarian,

It is true that God's wrath and His love are intimately related. Only that explains such a strange solution as the Cross, but, if a sinner is shown only God's anger at his sin, how is he to come to love God, to run to his promises?

How are we to proclaim God's saving Gospel to people who see only how much we despise them? Do they thus receive a vision of His desire to save them from theur sins?

My parish, which I do live very deeply, is not an attractive environment for such as I. A celibate homosexual is still seen as a dangerous presence, not really to be trusted. What then of the person being called by God who has not yet seen his need to be delivered from that lifestyle? Of course an open and unrepentant sinner needs to be shown that his sin is sin. Of course he needs to repent. Will he hear that message from those who refuse to love him as a human being? I don't think so.

Yes, it is God who calls, and, yes, He does sometimes reach sinners in spite of what Christians do, but isn't it the desire of a real Christian to be a part of God's calling rather than an obstacle?

Fr Jo

I think we continue to have serious differences, but we appear to have a powerful shared desire in this area. I would be honored if you would desire to enter correspondence with me. My email is openly displayed in my profile.

ed

rev'd up said...

Ed, I appreciate your candor and pray that God give you grace to overcome your weaknesses. Certainly we all have weaknesses that may or are separating us from the God of love. Still it is every man's right to chose whether or not he will submit to God's love. We forsake Him, He will never forsake us.

If I am a thief, a liar, an unbeliever or a coward I must renounce those sins and turn to God; while recollecting God's(already pronounced) terrible judgement against those sins. God punishes each sin approriately: Divine justice (correction or punishment) and Divine love (warning & hope).

If you will indulge me; Miss Christina Rossetti in "Time Flies: A Reading Diary" has for today's (Aug. 11) entry:

""How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." (Matt. xviii. 12, 13)
"And so do we. So, at least, seem oftentimes to do the most fervent intercessors: red-hot for the salvation of saints, at white heat for the salvation of sinners.
"Whence further it would almost appear that excellent pious people love the guilty more than the innocent, scarlet sinners more than fellow saints.
"Are any of us disheartened hereby and driven out of sympathy with our brethren? Nay, there lies an effectual remedy within reach.
"Let us but humbly recongnise ourselves as the sinners God discerns us to be, and we shall thankfully accept a share in the effectual fervent prayers of those who praying always faint not."

My failure is not a lack of love toward sinners (even sodomites), it is this: I can lack a godly humility. Knowledge of Church teaching and how it MUST apply to each man is not, in my view, a failure to love sinners but it can, unless one is mindful, easily be mingled with pride and superiority.

Fear of an avenging God (though He also be just, merciful and loving) actually does motivate me and others I know to curb sinful tendancies. And I believe, if someone is truly penitent, it will motivate them to renounce sin and embrace righteousness.

The Fear of God who is the lover of souls is the beginning of wisdom. "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die." (Psalm lxxix. 9-11)

We Catholics are the prisoners! We must not let the world set the terms of our our Faith--"love" is treated as an emotion by those who are without the Church but within it is treated as an predictable action. Those who are at present lost to the sin of sodomy are little better off than those lost to the sin of gluttony. Nevertheless, we cannot molly-coddle *any* sin even at the expense of sensetivity to an individuals feelings.

We are commanded by the Apostle to "Come out from among them." I warn you that any aquaintances you have that will not renounce the abomination of Sodom are in reality not friends at all but malefactors. They are devils sent to tempt you. It is not expedient that you have any dealings with them at all--they know that you are Christ's and they know where to find you. Your willful, continued contact is not only a source of temptation to you, it is a weak testimony to them whose souls you know are lost and a potential scandal to others. Do you know that you are always going to be able to resist their temptions?

In Christo.

poetreader said...

Rev'd up,

You are rejecting those with whom Our Lord sat down to eat.

Yes, God's standards are high, and yes, God continues to require those standards to be sought, and to be kept to the full extent of our ability, and to be confessed with repentance when we fall.

Jesus, however, never shouted at sinners, but only at self-righteous judgmental religious leaders whom he called 'whitewashed sepulchers, full of dead men's bones.'

No one will get from me an approval of sinful conduct (nor will I approve of my own sinful conduct, but lay it before the Lord with tears and repentance), but no one will be rejected by me nor made to feel like trash. It was for sinners, like me, and, yes, like you, that He hung on that Cross.

I can't let your last tirade pass uncondemned, any more than I can let any other sin so pass. You, sir, are in need of deep repentance and amendment of attitude. You are pronouncing judgment, not of actions, but of human souls, such as the Lord has reserved for himself. If you are really so fearful of the Lord's judgment and retribution as you call upon others to be, you should be trembling in terror. Listen to Our Lord, my friend. I truly want you to be among the sheep on the Lord's right hand. To that end I shall pray for you.

ed

agrarian said...

poetreader,

What I get from you is that you do not need a new apologetic (no Christian does), but rather that the clergy at your parish needs to better catechize the parishioners with regard to this issue. This is a sin and we all have different sins. Not a one of us sinners need be singled out for anything like a burning at the stake as found in many fundamentalist Protestant churches. Your clergy has dropped the ball by failing to be Catholic. God bless you.



frjo,

I asked about your jurisdiction because I cannot see where you have not mistaken what is meant by "human nature" in a Christian theological sense (our intended state before the Fall), instead using the term in its secular scientific sense (our unfortunate state after the Fall). This is extremely basic Christian theology. I would expect to see such an error from clergy of the Episcopal Church or the Church of England, but not from that of a Continuing jurisdiction. I would guess that you are CofE, but you still have not specified.

fr jo said...

"How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." (Matt. xviii. 12, 13)

THIS is my point exactly! Rev'd Up, if you are a pastor than dwell on this text somemore and understand why I am asking the questions that I am! We all know the theory - that is not the point. How we communicate it to the present generation is the problem - which I don't think you are really addressing? If you are in contemporary pastoral ministry, you have a duty to communicate the Gospel sensitively and with understanding!

rev'd up said...

I condemn no man's soul--they do that well enough for themselves. The fact that sin is punished by God, a fact that you can count on, is the "new-apologetic" but it is not "new" is old; it is from the beginning. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Why must sodomites be approached any differently than other sinners? Must we be "sensitive" to murderers and pedophiles as well? And what does "sensitive" mean anyway? Does it mean that we should love the sinner, hate the sin?--whatever that means! Gentlemen, you are delusional about the ramifications of your gentle raprochment with sin and un-repentent sinners.

Ed, Jesus dined with sinners (so have we all, by the way) but don't accuse me of "rejecting" them. It's not about me it's about them rejecting Christ. Why won't you warn them of the wrath to come? Are you truly satified with your "sensetivity-ing" them into hell? What you espose is theological BS! You need to remember that our Lord's message was one of REPENTANCE. Demanding that others repent therefore is the epitome of love.

Sure, we all fall short of loving our neighbor as our self. It follows then that we must never leave the safe harbor of TRUTH, which is embodied in the plain teaching of the Holy Scripture, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church.

Please, read John's first epistle.

In Christo.

poetreader said...

Rev'd up, you said:

Why must sodomites be approached any differently than other sinners?

They shouldn't. I'm not the one doing that, my friend. Is a homosexual more offensive to God than an embezzler, or, for that mater, a malicious gossip? "The wages of sin is death BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Must we be "sensitive" to murderers and pedophiles as well?

YES! That does not mean accepting their sinful behavior. That means a consistent witness that such behavior is wrong -- but they are among those for whom our Lord died, and those, like you and me, whom He patiently calls to repentance, without bullying.

And what does "sensitive" mean anyway? Does it mean that we should love the sinner, hate the sin?--whatever that means!

Sir, if you are saying here that you have no obligation to love the sinner, you are denying the Lord that bought you. I don't like to be that harsh, but it's true. "Love your enemies," He commanded. He didn't ask, He commanded. He died for you while you were a sinner, and you still are, as am I. If you do not hate your own sins with at least as much passion as you hate the sins of others, you are rejecting our Lord's parable about the mote in his eye vis a vis the beam in your own.

Gentlemen, you are delusional about the ramifications of your gentle raprochment with sin and un-repentent sinners.

Rev'd up. I would appreciate it if you would read what I wrote. The sins I once committed and could again if I ceased to follow Jesus, were abhorrent. I hate them in myself and I hate them in others. No one is under any illusion that I approve of these behaviors. But I am not going to call another human "Raca". I am not going to treat anyone with contempt. My Lord tells me that to do so is to risk hellfire.

Sure, we all fall short of loving our neighbor as our self. It follows then that we must never leave the safe harbor of TRUTH, which is embodied in the plain teaching of the Holy Scripture, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church

Well, yes, but TRUTH is a lie without love. If I lack charity I am as a clanging cymbal. So clang away, my friend, I'll begin to hear you when I begin to hear the love of Christ in your words, and not before. I'll pray for that to be.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I see that Fr. Jo has stirred the pot (played Devil’s advocate?), which is fine, as long as useful discussion follows from that. However, I must disagree with the idea that modern people ask deeper questions than ever before. Supplying the truth of our Tradition to each generation requires, however, interpretation of tongues.

If you look at what I posted in April for Easter, you may find some answers. http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2007/04/easter.html

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I think that Rev'd Up and Ed are talking past each other. Both agree that we must hate the sin and love the sinner; the question of how this is done to the best effect is answered by St. Jude. The short epistle tells us, in verses 22, 23, to be aware of the two different temperments of people in general.

What Ed is telling us about his own life is very much akin to the words of St. Paul in II Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul's thorn was persecution, and Ed's is the temptation he has told us about. The answer is the same: His grace is sufficient, and His strength made perfect in weakness.

poetreader said...

I don't think I'm missing his point at all, and it scares me.

I strongly seek the middle way between two powerfully unChristian tendencies prevalent today. There are those (firmly in control of ECUSA) who approach homosexuality as though it is not a sin at all, thus robbing sinners of the chance for repentance.

There are also those, however, who elevate this issue into the center of everything, making homosexuality, in and of itself sufficient reason for schism, and treating this one particular class of sinners with particular disgust, a disgust that extends also to those able to be tempted in that way who are not so sinning. This quite clearly gives the impression that there is no real place of repentance for these people, and no potential welcome for them.

The victims of both errors are equally in danger of condemnation and equally bereft of help from God's people, and the perpetrators of both errors are damaging those whom God sent His Son to save. Our Lord said something about a millstone around the neck.

Father, the verses you quote from St. Jude are far more nuanced than that. The Textus Receptus does use different words for 'have compassion' in verse 22 and 'save' in verse 23, but there is no shortage of variant readings which put the word for 'pity' in both places. to 'have compassion, making a difference' is to associate closely with those trapped in a sin, while making it clear that the sin is not being accepted. One saves with fear, pulling them out of the fire, not by sending them away and abandoning them, but by reaching in where it IS dangerous, getting close, and grabbing hold. When St. Paul (in 1 cor.) counseled excommunication for the man sleeping with his stepmother, he made very sure that the church was keeping watch and working with him, and held them accountable for bringing him back.

We are our brother's keeper. We are not only to love, but to touch sinners, to make them know that there is a welcoming place for them when they are finally ready to seek forgiveness, to let them know, by our actions toward them, that they are loved,even while they are still sinning, that we value them for themselves, and that they are not and never have been trash; but also to let them know that God is not only calling them to change, but has promised power so to do, and has promised forgiveness for lapses on the way to holiness, to those who still seek it.

This is not what I've seen and experienced in churches. There seems very little middle ground between those who bless licentiousness and those who greet sinners with disgust. It was the latter category that offended our Lord most deeply.

Those temptations that arise from the depths of our own personal nature, are the ones that it is hardest to recognize as needing change, and it is even harder to see the possibility of change. Yes, sinners need to have their acts identified as sin - but they need to have modeled the answer that God lays before them. To threaten someone with hell for something they do not believe can be changed is a horribly cruel thing. If the Church is not demonstrating that there is help, and that there is love directed toward them, and that there is a place to be welcomed, then the Church is refusing the Great Commission.

Another little nuance in what you said, Father: you are right, I do identify with St. Paul in this matter of the thorn in the flesh, whatever that thorn may have been. I am indeed highly blessed by his proclamaition that Christ's grace is sufficient. Amen and Amen.

However, I can't share your confidence in having identified what his thorn was. I've read both ancient and modern commentaries on that passage, and there seem to be three categories of guesses made.

1. I've not often encountered the identification of his 'thorn' with persecution, though it has been said, and has a certain credibility.

2. Most of the references I have found posit some sort of physical ailment, which some have identified as a disease of his eyes, and have assembled a lot of references that seem to support that. It's the one that looks most likely to this fallible writer.

3. It has also been common to identify this 'thorn' with some besetting temptation, a thought that might be supported in Romans 7, and some have guessed that he could have been subject to same-sex attractions. I don't think so, but I can't see that it can be entirely ruled out either.

It seems quite possible that he avoided getting specific precisely in order to allow all these various classes of strugglers to learn from his example.

ed

agrarian said...

poetreader,

Your candor bespeaks tremendous courage. I greatly appreciate it and am learning much about this sin through you. But it now occurs to me that your unease with some of the comments here may simply be a result of your own (perhaps perfectly understandable) oversensitivity with regard to this issue. Let me demonstrate by first quoting you:

There are also those, however, who elevate this issue into the center of everything, making homosexuality, in and of itself sufficient reason for schism, and treating this one particular class of sinners with particular disgust, a disgust that extends also to those able to be tempted in that way who are not so sinning.

I bolded "homosexuality" because I am now going to substitute something else for it:

There are also those, however, who elevate this issue into the center of everything, making women's ordination, in and of itself sufficient reason for schism, and treating this one particular class of sinners with particular disgust, a disgust that extends also to those able to be tempted in that way who are not so sinning.

I might as well try it again:

There are also those, however, who elevate this issue into the center of everything, making liturgical revolution, in and of itself sufficient reason for schism, and treating this one particular class of sinners with particular disgust, a disgust that extends also to those able to be tempted in that way who are not so sinning.

What I am getting at is that no Traditionalist on this thread is necessarily singling out homosexuality for special treatment, contra your perception. Indeed I do not see where anybody is. As Catholics, we must pass on the traditions (Tradition -> the Holy Spirit -> the Life of the Church) handed down to us. Looking back, the Holy Spirit has not revealed that homosexuality is any more acceptable than ordaining priestesses. When someone with ecclesiastical power begins second-guessing and defying the Holy Spirit in such a way, schism must ensue. The Holy Spirit demands it. If not for schism, the Truth held by the Church would have been obliterated long ago by Arians, Gnostics, Nestorians, Monophysites...you name it. And "schism" really is too mild a word since we are talking about heresy here. The Holy Spirit demands that action be taken in order to preserve the Truth and encourage the heretic to consider seriously his sin (and I certainly don't mean anything remotely akin to Torquemada's un-Christian actions!). This action is done out of love even if some refuse to see it.

You really need to show this latest post of yours (the one from which I quoted above) to your clergy, if at all workable. If fellow parishioners are not pursuing the Royal Path in dealing with homosexuals, then clergy must take on this issue. I can well see what you are talking about if indeed homosexuals, who obviously need the spiritual hospital the Church provides in a powerful way, are discouraged from even walking through the door. The more radical (or Pharisaical) anti-Catholic Protestant sects have tainted American church culture in general. Catholic clergy must work hard to curb those cultural excesses at every turn.

God bless you.

Albion Land said...

Agrarian,

You have hit the nail right on the head:

"I can well see what you are talking about if indeed homosexuals, who obviously need the spiritual hospital the Church provides in a powerful way, are discouraged from even walking through the door."

Earlier this evening I was preparing a comment on this thread, but I got interrupted and had to drop it. What I had begun to do was to encourage people to return to what the real point of discussion was here -- apologetics.

And now you have given me an opener.

I would say the discussion got off track after Fr Jo raised the question of needing to reexamine our apologetics, to make sure we are communicating to this generation in a language they can understand.

But remember, apologetics is directed at people who are unchurched; it is the first step toward evangelism. And sorry, Rev'd Up, but people in the Western world, where most of us live, speak a different language than their ancestors of even a century ago. And a major reason for that is that so many people today are atheists, agnostics or, worst of all, don't give a flying hoot about all this God business.

And I speak from ample personal experience -- having dedicated much of my personal ministry to engaging in apologetics with the atheists, the agnostics and the indifferent -- that talk of fire and brimstone, true as it is, will absolutely guarantee a deaf ear.

I think where we may have got off track is confusing apologetics with catechism, with spiritual formation. And here, I will agree with Rev'd Up, that the contemporary Western church has failed to do its job. Christianity is not standing in a circle, holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

I often try to explain this to my 18-year-old daughter, who is going through her phase of I-know-it-all-atheism. Her view of Christianity, one that I failed as a father to properly form, is that it is something for wimps and losers, a fairy tale that makes people feel good, feel secure. And what I tell her is: try being a committed, pious Christian for just 24 hours, and then get back to me.

The hardest thing in the world is to live a Christ-like life, but it is also the easiest, if we give ourselves over to Christ and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us. "My yoke is light."

As a final point, a warning: the Galatians Five Rule has been breeched. Someone sent a comment on this thread earlier today that I have rejected. I do not tolerate ad hominem attacks here. You know who you are, and what you said. If you wish to make a theological point, kindly rework you comment and resubmit it.

poetreader said...

Agrarian,
Thank you. I think you are correct that I've overreacted a bit, and thereby lost some of the clarity of my thinking. My reference, however, to a one issue schism over homosexuality was not to real traditionalists, but principaLLY to a large number of 'Network' types who have so blown up the one issue that they talk about little else. I have encountered these. Nonetheless, I'm sure the Continuum (though not all of its members) are well aware of a spectrum of issues. I did overstate myself.

Please, I'm not accusing my own parish of maliciousness. It isn't there, but of the kind of unthinking negativity that lessens or destroys its ability to reach out according to its calling. I'm pretty open about expressing that.

Where there is the kind of anger and negativity that I've seen expressed here (as there is in a case or two in my church - something I'm also open about discussing), then I do believe I am justified in speaking sharply.

At any rate, though I am glad the subject has been brought into the open, I'd as soon we decide enough has been said for now; though, Albion, this particular thread (as see the title) was specifically about Sexual disorder, and not specifically about apologetics.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

(My use of Jude 22, 23 was meant to convey the usual interpretation. Some people can be moved only by fear and others only by compassion. When the subject of Pharisees comes up, it is they who the most need to be motivated by fear. Very religious people can lose the fear of God all too easily. My readiness to ascribe St. Paul's thorn to persecution was based on his own expectation that it awaited him "in every city." Nonetheless, the main point to take home is the prevailing grace that comes from Christ to aid human weakness.)

Agrarian, Ed is right that groups have arisen in the Anglican world who were ready to accept all the heresies and sins until it came to one: homosexuality. About this problem I wrote my article "The Gay Divorcee" published in Touchstone in April 2004.
http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-02-019-v

Leaving ECUSA was the AMiA, a single issue movement when it began. Staying in was the AAC (i.e. the other AAC, American Anglican Council-it has some other name now). Both of these movements had been made up of people who accepted it all, including bishops who divorced and remarried after consecration, one who ran off with his secretary and divorced his wife to marry the other woman. They put up with a Gene Robinson who abandoned his wife and daughter, and only cared when the issue was that they would have an "openly gay bishop." I mean they finally cared about the problems of ECUSA enough to make some noise (and although AMiA had been formed in 2001, it was, nonetheless, about only that one issue at the time).

At the beginning of this thread is my article which includes the absolutely idiotic remarks made by two men; clearly, they seemed to think that people who face homosexual temptations were simply "that way" by some irresistible twist of nature, and that they were all beyond hope. Obviously, in their world of non-thinking reactionary willful ignorance, there is no temptation to overcome, no grace given to do so, but only a "nature" that damns a person even against his will.

Frankly, people who- I will not say "think"- react in that way cannot evangelize those who suffer from this kind of temptation. Having worked in hospitals with patients who were dying from AIDS, and having ministered to every kind of sinner imaginable, I know how much damage is done by this false gospel of despair.

Ed wrote:
There seems very little middle ground between those who bless licentiousness and those who greet sinners with disgust. It was the latter category that offended our Lord most deeply.

What I have seen, and what I wrote about both in the opening of this whole thread and the Touchstone article I have mentioned, is just how little that ground is. Peter Toon has commented on the same problem, writing of a meeting he witnessed of the beginning stages of the AAC in which was present an Episcopal bishop who had abandoned his wife and married again. Here was a purple shirted adulterer helping to organize a response to the homosexual problem that was supposedly going to be the ruin of ECUSA (or TEC), as if his kind had not already killed it long before.

rev'd up said...

On the NOR today, they had this post
http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=0707-notes-psychopath

which concludes this way: "God could have given the Atonement any way He wanted to. But the cross and Resurrection is what He chose.
If the Very Rev. - wants to call God insane, a psychopath, and a monster, he blasphemes God at his own risk."

The point of the article is that the crucifixion was necessary to save man from the punishment he deserves as a sinner. This is in spite of the popular notion that our sins aren't all that bad--crucifixion of God's own Son seems extreem for folks who are, after all, rather nice.

Granted, The Continuum's thread has been specifically about un-natural sexual disorder, nevertheless it can be read as applying to all sin. And despite the culturally out-of-phase-ness of telling people their sin will justly condemn them to hell (Albion said: "many people today are atheists, agnostics or, worst of all, don't give a flying hoot about all this God business") what alternative do we have?

What was the means by which Christ and His Apostles preached salvation? What was the apologetic of the early Church?

Is there any other Christian apologetic than Christ crucified, resurrected and ascended? I don't think so, even though atheists, agnostics and the un-interested might be turned off.

We convert no one. That is the work of the Holy Ghost. Our obligation is to fulfill the Law of Christ; baptizing the nations and teaching them to observe all the things that Christ has commanded us to do. It is not with the vanity of subtle words and contemporaneousness that men's souls will be saved.

Take the two verses from St. Jude. The Douay-Rheims translates them: 22. And some indeed reprove, being judged. 23. But others save, snatching them out of the fire. And on others have compassion in fear: hating also the spotted garment, which is carnal.

The Haydock Bible Commentary provides this tradional, Catholic interpretation of these verses.

"'And some indeed reprove, being judged.' He gives them another instruction to practise charity in endeavouring to convert their neighbour, where they will meet with three sorts of persons. 1. With persons obstinate in ther errors and sins, these may be said to be already judged and condemned, they are to be sharply reprehended, reproved, and, if possible, convinced of their errors. 2. As to others, you must endeavour to save them, by snatching them as it were out of the fire, from the ruin they stand in great danger of. 3. You must have compassion on others in great fear, when you see them, through ignorance or frailty, in danger of being drawn into the snares of these heretics; with these you must deal more gently and mildly, with a charitable compassion, hating always and teaching others to hate the carnal coat, which is defiled, their sensual and corrupt manners, that defile both the soul and body."

When this commentary was written the world was not so far removed from what it is now. Revolution, Industrialism and "science" had done much to destroy the family and Christendom. Yet still to make the more profound point; the early Church preached Christ crucified for men lost in trespasses and sins.

Look, the truth is; I personally don't much like being in a possition of having to codemn other's sins-- I've got problems enough of my own.... But, if I am going to behave as Christ commands, I must stand ready to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. This is foolishness to men but it is the power of God to save.

The point is that this is what Catholics *used* to do and they don't anymore. We need only look at the state of the Church to decide whether the "new apologetic" is working.

Albion Land said...

COMMENTS CLOSED ON THIS THREAD

The view of editorial board is that discussion on this topic has gone as far as it usefully can. Moreover, it has veered perilously close to getting nasty, something that we do not tolerate.

Let us move forward.