Christian Ethics and Homosexual Practice Module G582 Christian Ethics and Homosexual Practice There are three main contributing factors that have influenced modern attitudes towards homosexuality: 1.the Hebrew Scriptures 2.the New Testament 3.Natural Law tradition.
OLD TESTAMENT (1) The Holiness Code in Leviticus enforces a death penalty for sexual relations between males: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman OLD TESTAMENT (2) It is imperative however that we understand the context within such a commandment was made, alongside prohibitions such as heterosexual activity between a man and a
woman while the woman is on her period. Today few people would cast any assertions about the immorality of the latter. Thus, unless one maintains the moral importance of abstaining to the complete Holiness Code, one cannot justify condemnation of homosexual acts on the basis of Old Testament teaching. OLD TESTAMENT (3) It is also important that we understand that the Old Testament makes the assumption that homosexuality is a
freely made decision whereas today there is increasing evidence, although not conclusive, that sexual orientation is partly or wholly determined by neuro-physical events in the brain and genetic makeup. It is important to observe that these biblical ideas were conceived in times ignorant of such knowledge. OLD TESTAMENT (4) It is very clear how the ethical system present in Old Testament times has
evolved into the ethical system present in New Testament times. For example, the Old Testament acceptance of polygamy is replaced with monogamy before New Testament times. Therefore it is very difficult to justify the transformation of the prohibitions of the Old Testament and the New Testament over such a big time difference. NEW TESTAMENT (1) The New Testament rejects the Old
Testament concept of purity rules which form the basis of the Old Testament prohibition of homosexual acts. The New Testament does prohibit homosexual relations, particularly in the writing of St. Paul in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians. It is essential however that we examine the contextual background from which such views are expressed. NEW TESTAMENT (2) The evidence available to us suggests that the
modern conception of homosexuality is very different to that of the prevailing conception at the time of the New Testament writings. Roman writers were generally inclined to accept that most people at the time were attracted to members of both sexes. They were not familiar with the idea of a homosexual who might participate in sexual acts exclusively with the same member of sex. Furthermore, exploitative homosexual acts with young boys was a common problem at the time.
NEW TESTAMENT (3) On these grounds neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament teachings can bear any direction with regard to the morality of homosexual practice today. Even if Paul was referring to exclusive acts of homosexual relations it is difficult to support this argument in the present day without maintaining that it is equally immoral for a woman to enter a church without wearing a hat, which seems absurd.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH The Roman Catholic Church adopted the whole of Aquinass thinking and today still takes the same approach to religious questions including the issue of homosexual practice. NATURAL LAW AND HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE (1) The physical properties that distinguish the
male and female species are very clearly designed with a sexual intercourse as one of the main purposes of our creation. We can determine this using reason and rationality by observing the male and female form. We can also know that the purpose of sex is pro-creation, and can deduce from this that any sexual acts that are not procreative i.e. masturbation or homosexual acts are wrong. NATURAL LAW AND
HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE It must however be (1) appreciated that it is only in the last few centuries that we have been able to understand fully the human reproduction process. Prior to this understanding it was generally understood that semen contained the whole of the person, and wasting semen through homosexual acts or masturbation is essentially the same as abortion since you are killing what has the making of a potential human
being. Therefore, the influence of Aquinas and other scholars on the Catholic approach to homosexual acts could be based on an entirely false premise. NATURAL LAW AND HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE (1) It is very important that we draw a distinction between possessing an inclination towards sexual
activity with another member of the same sex and actually physically expressing this inclination. The first is essentially a defect in the same way that partial blindness is a defect of eye sight. You would not consider someone with a defected eye sight as morally wrong so you cannot condemn those who have a defect in their sexual orientation. Ultimately, humans are created sexual beings and thus there should be no shame or condemnation in observing each others sexual orientation. SITUATION ETHICS
Situation ethics is primarily associated with Joseph Fletcher whose book was released 1966, the hippie era, which became very popular because it was very much in keeping with the mood at the time. Written from a Christian prospective, Fletcher wanted the church to adopt this theory. Methodist did, Roman Catholic rejected it. OBJECTIVE AGAPE LOVE
Situation ethics has one single maxim, unconditional or agape love (as Fletcher agreed with Augustine). Not a love understood as an emotion but a more objective unconditional what is best for the other person kind of love. Fletcher: Justice is love distributed REJECTION OF LEGALISM
Situation Ethics is a strong rejection of Legalism but also Antinomianism; it acts as a compromise between the two but counts as a relative approach. For Fletcher, Legalism leads people to do the right thing regardless of the consequences and goes against Jesus command to show compassion. Fletcher said there are three approaches to moral decision making the legalistic way, the antinomian way and the situational way. He advocated the latter.
JESUS AS A SITUATIONIST (1) Jesus showed mercy to the woman in adultery instead of stoning her, and ate from a cornfield on the Sabbath when it was necessary. The two greatest commandments are based on love love God and love thy neighbour. Christians aspire to Jesus and it could be argued that Jesus practiced situation ethics.
JESUS AS A SITUATIONIST (2) A situational approach to ethics is therefore more in keeping with the teaching of Jesus than a system formed around tradition and rules. If we follow the ethical system of the New Testament and seek to act out a love for ones neighbour and equal treatment of everyone, a Christian is forced to accept homosexual practice. It would not be continuous with the New Testament ethic to deny a homosexual their
right to express their emotion physically with another member of the same sex. JESUS AS A SITUATIONIST (3) On this basis, the only grounds on which a Christian can condemn the practice of intimate homosexual activity is if the activity is for a pleasurable or otherwise meaningless purpose, as opposed to an outward expression of a genuine love and commitment for one another. What is more questionable is whether or
not it can be ethical for a homosexual couple to bring up children.
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