Monday, October 24, 2005


JJ blogged recently about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, a tool which many Christians have used for centuries to help discern right from wrong. In short, any sound doctrinal position rests on four pillars: Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Personal Experience. Any one (or two) of these alone can lead to serious error: scripture can be twisted to suit any conceivable end, tradition can lead to oppression, reason is subject to human error and personal experience is thoroughly subjective.

On the issue of homosexuality, tradition is the primary bulwark against the acceptance of same-sex unions by most churches. Nobody on either side of the debate disputes the fact that the Church has, throughout its history, condemned all homosexual acts. It's possible that there were a few rare exceptions here and there, but prior to the last 40 or so years those appear to have been anomalies.

Scripture has been claimed by both sides in the debate, and current scholarship has demonstrated that the 'clobber passages,' when properly examined in their original contexts, form at best a weak case against monogamous same-sex unions. There's a stronger case to be made from the way the male-female paradigm is repeatedly emphasized in both the Old and New Testaments, particularly as it's employed to illustrate Christ's relationship with the Church. Yet even that begs the question of whether such illustrations should be used as proof that only heterosexual unions can ever be legitimate. After all, a teacher can best drive home his (or her) point by using illustrations that all (or at least most) of his students can directly relate to. The illustrations themselves are not necessarily meant to be interpreted by the class as imposing an additional set of laws.

As for personal experience, everyone has a different story. My experience yanked me out of the comfort of my little ex-gay world and dragged me kicking and screaming to the crossroads I find myself at now, only to traipse off without another word and leave me there. Whatever that really means, it's clear that I'm exactly where God wants me to be.

Which leaves reason. With each passing year it seems to become more clear that reason favors the normalization of gay relationships. And reason's voice cannot be shoved into a closet and locked away. Even most conservative Christians agree that if God declares that something is sin, He has a reason for doing so. Sin is harmful, either to the perpetrator or the victim (or both), and its effects can ultimately be measured in the real world. If the evidence suggests that an action does more good than harm in the majority of cases, we have good reason to question whether it is in fact a sin. It may still be a sin in some cases, or it may be that we misunderstood altogether.

It's because of this that so many Christian advocacy groups continue to recite Paul Cameron's 'statistics' (among other myths and discredited studies) years after his research was thoroughly debunked and laid to rest. They realize that they will lose in the marketplace of ideas if they can't find a way to get reason back in their corner, even if they manage to win the debate in the scriptural arena, and so they have become willing to adopt decidedly un-Christian tactics in the hopes of scaring people into their camp. Quite frankly their willingness to lie in the name of upholding the truth doesn't instill me with much confidence.

So what do I do with the fact that reason stands in direct opposition to tradition (and possibly scripture) on this issue? My mind is largely convinced by the facts but something in my gut holds me back from embracing what reason says to me. Whether that instinct is the work of the Holy Spirit (who brought me out of my former way of thinking to begin with) or the residual effect of a lifetime of legalistic programming remains to be seen.

I don't need to be psychic to know that everyone who's already chosen a side has their own opinion about which of those two possibilities is correct. But I'm not ready to choose my side just yet - or even to say that it would be appropriate for me to choose a side.

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