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More Thoughts on Scripture, Ethics, and the Meaning of Marriage

More Thoughts on Scripture, Ethics, and the Meaning of Marriage
December 28, 2018

I want to thank Karen Keen for taking the time to interact with my review of her book, Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships. It was helpful for me to read through her response (several times now) to gain more insight into her arguments and, perhaps, to clarify where and why I think the evidence she uses to support her arguments isn’t as compelling as she thinks it is. (Her response is posted HERE.)


There’s no way I could respond to everything she said without this post being longer than the previous one. So let me take up a few points she made in her response to tease out a bit more the crux—or cruxes—of our disagreement.


Karen asks:

Do Traditionalists and Progressives Agree On 1st Century Socio-Cultural Context or Not?

 Karen then sums up my critique:

In my book I state that traditionalists and progressives largely agree that same-sex relations in antiquity were exploitative. Preston objects saying: “Traditionalists and progressives are not on the same page about the meaning and interpretation of the prohibition passages.”

Karen suggests that traditionalists and progressives largely agree that most same-sex male relationships were exploitative. And this is true. It just wasn’t my point. The main point I raised in my review was not just about the background material but the “meaning and interpretation of the prohibition passages,” as Karen rightly quoted me above. Progressives and traditionalists aren’t typically on the same page here. And the difference is vital.


I honestly don’t know if Karen just missed my point or deliberately neglected it. Or, perhaps, I’m the one who simply wasn’t clear. I’m going to assume the latter. So let me just state positively how I understand the prohibition passages.

  • The prohibition passages are secondary to the debate. (Karen and I agree on this point.) The primary question has to do with the definition, structure, and purposes of marriage; i.e. is sex difference an essential part of what marriage is?
  • Though they are secondary, the prohibition passages are still important since they directly address same-sex sexual behavior. (I don’t think Karen sees them as important as I do.)
  • Same-sex sexual behavior is always prohibited in Scripture, and there’s no indication in the actual text of Scripture that the writers had a specific kind of same-sex sexual relationship in view.
  • From the literary sources we have, the Greco-Roman world exhibits a broad range of male same-sex sexual relations. Most of these were exploitative or between people of different power differentials (pederasty, master/slave, prostitution, etc.). However, we do have evidence of adult, consensual, same-sex relations. (I think Karen would agree with this.)
  • The opposite is true of female same-sex sexual relations, however. Almost all of the literary and archaeological evidence we have shows that most female same-sex relations are between consensual adults. And Romans 1:26-27 assumes that both female and male same-sex sexual relations were an aberration from the Creator’s intention. (Karen doesn’t think Paul was talking about female same-sex sexual relations in Rom 1:26, so she wouldn’t agree with this point.)
  • The actual language of the prohibition passages contains language of mutuality and consent, and they use general categories of male and female, reminiscent of creation, suggesting that the prohibitions apply to all kinds of same-sex sexual relations, including those between consensual adults. (I’m not sure if Karen agrees with this; some statements seems to say she does, while others suggest she does not.)


If progressives agree with all of these points, as Karen suggests, then so be it. I’m quite happy to let the reader decide it these points are insignificant. As I reflect on these points, they seem pretty significant. They’re not the heart of the matter (the definition of marriage is), but they are significant nonetheless.


Now, there’s one more missing piece to the applicability of the prohibition passages, and this might be the crux of our disagreement. Karen says:

Same-sex relations were certainly considered “unnatural.” But “unnatural” was typically understood as violation of patriarchal gender norms and the lack of procreative potential–both which are arguably non-essential to marriage today. These were not merely Greco-Roman views on sexuality, but common Jewish views that Paul likely held. Paul diverged from Greco-Roman sexual ethics, but there’s little reason to believe he diverged radically from Philo or Josephus.

Karen’s point is very similar (if not identical) to Jim Brownson’s assumption that the same moral logic that drove Greco-Roman and Jewish critiques of same-sex relationships also drove Paul’s. That is, Paul’s critique is based on cultural assumptions about gender (that men are superior to women) and the lack of procreative potential in same-sex sexual relations. But since we don’t hold to these moral assumptions, we shouldn’t see same-sex sexual relations as sinful. We don’t share Paul’s moral logic.


I’ve already shown why this argument is problematic on several historical and exegetical levels (in my review of Brownson’s book and in People to Be Loved, 93-98; cf. 67). For one, the moral logic behind ethical commands often contains multiple components. Even if lack of procreative potential was one reason why Paul saw same-sex relations as immoral, there are likely several other reasons as well. Also, Paul differed quite a bit from Josephus and (especially) Philo in his view of women. Paul would have been kicked out of Philo’s synagogue if he heard Paul say things like “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor 7:4). Both Josephus and Philo were much closer to the radical misogyny inherent in Greco-Roman culture. Lastly, there’s nothing in the actual text of Romans 1 suggesting that patriarchy or lack of procreation were the driving moral concerns behind Paul’s words. Karen’s (and Jim’s) argument assumes that Paul must be thinking along these lines, as if we can open up Paul’s head and stuff it full of cultural assumptions despite what he actually said.


In short, while Karen and I agree that the prohibition passages aren’t the main issue in the debate, they still add significant support for the historically Christian view of same-sex relationships. Every time Scripture mentions same-sex sexual relationships, it always prohibits them. And there’s no evidence that Scripture writers only had a certain kind of relationships in view. If God, who knows that gay people have existed from the beginning of time, really does approve of same-sex sexual relationships, he certainly could have been much clearer.


But let’s move on to more important matters. Karen asks the fundamental question:

How Important Is Sex Difference for Marriage?

Karen’s response to this question is as follows:

The purpose of sexual differentiation is procreation, and procreation is not required to validate a marriage…Significantly, covenant represents the foundation of biblical marriage. Sexual differentiation is secondary and tied to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Procreation is not required for marriage and therefore is not essential in the same way as covenant.

I find this logic to be strange. If the reader is convinced by it, then to each his own. But, as I said in my review of Karen’s book, this kind of logic raises a false dichotomy between sex difference and covenant faithfulness. Marriage can be both (1) a covenant union and (2) between two sexually different persons. I’ve already argued in my book, several blogs, and in my review of Karen’s book why Scripture says that sex difference is part of what marriage is, and Karen has not responded to (let alone refuted) my actual exegesis. For this discussion to move forward, and her project to succeed, she will need to show much more convincingly that Scripture does not consider sex-difference as an essential part of what marriage is.


In brief, the historically Christian view of marriage recognizes God’s revelation through Scripture to say that marriage is the covenant union between two sexually different people from different families, and that this covenant union is intended to last for life. We also know from the rest of Scripture that death (Rom 7), adultery (Matt 5), or abandonment (1 Cor 7) might terminate this union between sexually different persons. And we know this from scriptural addendums to the norms laid out in Genesis 2.

But we never see any such addendums made to the necessity of sex difference. Sex difference is part of what marriage is, and there’s nothing in scripture that would suggest otherwise. Karen says that sex difference isn’t part of the foundation of marriage because covenant is, but this isn’t a logically sound argument. Saying that covenant is the foundation of marriage does not (logically or biblically) exclude the necessity of sex difference in marriage. Again, both can be true at the same time. Marriage can be (1) the union between two sexually different persons from different families, which is (2) a covenant intended to last for life. But Karen’s view only works if one (covenant) cancels out the other (sex difference).


Now, Karen does try to minimize the role of sex difference in marriage by reducing sex difference to procreation. In her own words, and according to her own logic:

  1. “procreation is the primary purpose of sexual differentiation” (p. 33)
  2. “the New Testament minimizes procreation” (at least, it’s not a primary foundation of marriage) (p. 35)
  3.  therefore “[t]his has implications for non-procreative marriages, including same-sex unions” (p. 35 cf. 33)


Now, when Karen says that “procreation is not required for marriage,” she means the lack of actual children. Or in her own words: “[T]he biblical authors don’t define marriage by procreation. Lack of children does not annul the bond” (p. 33). This means that when Karen says that “procreation is not required for marriage,” she’s not talking about procreative potential or the reproductive structures inherent in sex difference, but the actual “lack of children.” Childless marriages are still marriages.


I don’t disagree with Karen. I too believe (with most traditional Christians) that childless marriages are still marriages. But this misses the point. (Even in the procreation-happy Old Testament, childless marriages are still marriages.)

In brief, sex differences include the biological structures necessary for reproduction, but sex difference can’t be reduced to having actual children, nor can they be reduced to “anatomical complementarity—the fittedness of the penis and the vagina” (p. 35).


Regardless of whether every marriage results in procreation, every legitimate marriage is, biologically, structured toward procreation based on kind (male and female). Sex difference includes capacities for reproduction, but can't be reduced to the procreative structures of the body functioning perfectly (i.e. the actual reproduction of children).

Scientifically, we know that male-female sex differences include much more than what is essential for reproduction. Sex differences are manifold, all the way down to the different ways in which males and females generally see and hear. (For a general overview of sex difference from one of the world’s brightest psychologists, see Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, ch. 18, esp. pp. 346-350).


Biblically, procreation is an important telos of sex differences, especially in the Old Testament. But again, sex difference can’t be reduced to procreation. For instance, sex differences are explored in several places where procreation isn’t in view (Gen 2:18-24; Deut 22:5; 1 Cor 11:2-16). In fact, the second creation account of Genesis 2, where sex differences are connected to marriage, doesn’t explicitly mention procreation. Neither does the collection of love poems known as the Song of Songs.


So, sex difference includes, but can’t be limited to, the structures of reproduction, and certainly can’t be reduced to the successful reproduction of children.


Now, sometimes Karen seems to agree that in “the New Testament procreation [and therefore sex difference] is explicitly minimized” (p. 33). Elsewhere, though, she points out that the New Testament’s minimization of procreation had to do with its elevation of singleness not childless marriages: “Paul and Jesus downplayed marriage” but they “did not envision a new paradigm of childless marriages” (p. 120 n. 10). So, does the New Testament minimize procreation in marriage, or does it assume that marriages will be ordered toward procreation? Just before her argument cannibalizes itself, she rescues it from its own jaws on page 34:

Some critics…[say] that Jesus and Paul did not diminish the role of procreation within marriage. They championed celibacy, not childless marriages [According to p. 120 n. 10, Karen is one of these critics…]. True, but that was by necessity. In the first century, lack of reliable contraception meant that singleness was the only confident way to avoid procreation. Modern contraception offers new possibilities for modeling the hope of immortality in non-procreative marriages alongside celibacy (p. 34).

Her ethical argument hinges on two words: Modern contraception. That is, since we have invented ways of having sex without procreating, and since sex difference is all about procreation, therefore sex difference is no longer part of what marriage is.


I’m quite confident that the readers of Karen’s book and our blog exchange will be able to evaluate the ethical potency of her argument.


Personally, I’m not ready to invest modern contraceptives with such ethical power. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. And even if we can—use contraceptives for sex within marriage (viz. the lifelong union between two sexually different persons)—this shouldn’t deconstruct the historically Christian view of what marriage is. But we live in a free country. You can live by whatever ethic you want. If you think that modern contraceptives contain the ethical power that Karen invests in them, then live by that ethic, and do it consistently. Just don’t call it a biblical, let alone a Christian, sexual ethic. As Christians, we should let Scripture—and not the pill—play a more primary role in helping us understand the Creator’s will for sexual expression.


In sum, Karen has still not convincingly shown that sex difference isn’t an intrinsic part of marriage. Therefore, the foundation upon which the rest of her argument stands is still in need of some serious attention.

In any case, let’s move on to her next two points, which we will consider together:


What about Legal Deliberation?

Legal Deliberation and the Sabbath Law

In short, Karen points out that laws often have exceptions to them based on human need and this is relevant for our discussion. She writes:

Preston assumes there are no scriptural tensions that apply to same-sex relations. Yet such tensions are evident in Paul’s concerns about sexual ethics broadly. The tension is evident when he says “If they cannot control themselves, they should marry” (1 Cor 7:9). Paul, in contrast to Greco-Roman culture, was concerned about sexual monogamy and reducing promiscuity. But Scripture does not address the ethical dilemma of a gay person who “cannot control themselves.”   

Karen then goes on to rehearse what she said in her book about the Sabbath command and divorce laws and why she thinks this supports her view that some marriages don’t require sex difference. I’ve already responded to several aspects of her argument, but again maybe my previous response wasn’t very clear. At the risk of repeating myself, let me again push back on Karen’s point with, what I hope will be, more clarity.


Some laws (I’m using “law” very generally here to include values, principles, moral goods, divinely intended behavior, etc.) are absolute and unchangeable from Genesis to Revelation. They don’t shift and change; there are no caveats, fine print, or exceptions to the law.


Adultery, for instance, is always wrong. This is what I meant when I talked about some laws exhibiting continuity—their moral authority continues from Genesis to Revelation and there’s no hint in Scripture that there might be some cases where adultery is okay, even if someone has an innate, unchangeable desire to commit adultery. We could think of many other laws that show similar continuity (idolatry, lust, murder, etc.)


On the other end of the spectrum, we have several laws that, in Scripture, aren’t always viewed as categorically wrong. These are laws that exhibit discontinuity: circumcision, dietary laws, and, as Karen rightly observes, Sabbath keeping and divorce. Why do we say that these laws are not categorically always wrong?

Because we have Scriptural evidence to say this.


My simple pushback then is this: There is no compelling Scriptural evidence that sex difference might not be part of what marriage is and that same-sex sexual relationships might be God-honoring for some people. Using Scriptural evidence that some laws (Sabbath, divorce) might not be categorically wrong as evidence that other laws (or all laws) might not be categorically wrong is an unjustified hermeneutical leap, and a herculean one at that. In fact, I wonder, if we follow her reasoning, what other laws can we overturn for the sake of accommodation?  


Karen rightly points out that just because sex difference in marriage might be rooted in creation doesn’t mean that it’s unchangeable. I agree. Sabbath and divorce are also rooted in creation. This is true, but it’s an insufficient argument to prove her point. It’s not just because sex difference in marriage is rooted in creation that makes it unchangeable (though that is one piece of evidence). It’s that there’s no evidence in Scripture anywhere that sex difference isn’t part of what marriage is for some people, or that adult consensual same-sex sexual relationships might be God-honoring for some people.


This brings us to one of the primary linchpins in Karen’s argument: “Scripture does not address the ethical dilemma of a gay person who ‘cannot control themselves’.”


Much of her argument hinges on this point; pull this pin out and her argument might explode. So it’s important to slow down and reflect on the logic of her argument.


Again, Karen has already shown that some laws have exceptions based on human need. So while Scripture never actually says that sex difference isn’t part marriage, and it always says that same sex relationships are sin, some people have the human need of getting married and having sex. Therefore, for “a gay person who ‘cannot control themselves’” sexually, we should encourage them to enter into a sexual relationship with the person they desire and call it a marriage. While Scripture may not explicit validate this, it does talk about making exceptions to rules in order to meet the perceived need of some people. And since “Scripture does not address the ethical dilemma of a gay person who ‘cannot control themselves’,” we therefore need to pull from other principles in Scripture to address this dilemma—a dilemma that was unknown to the biblical writers. 


Before I respond to this, I just want to encourage our audience to read Karen’s book for yourself. I’m boiling down the crux of her argument (which took her several chapters to lay out) in one paragraph. Karen has been thinking her way through this subject for decades—literally. She’s spent countless hours (some of which, I’m going to guess, have been agonizing) studying and thinking and praying her way through this topic—a topic that’s not just a topic but a part of her life. As one human to another, we need to honor Karen by taking a good deal of time to understand both her heart and her argument. Buy her book. Read it. Read it again. Take notes. Pushback. Raise questions. Read it again. And do your absolute best to understand what she’s actually arguing for. Only then will you have demonstrated genuine Christ-likeness in evaluating the legitimacy of her argument.


In as much as I have done that, I find her argument that “Scripture does not address the ethical dilemma of a gay person who ‘cannot control themselves’” to be ethically and logically problematic for several reasons, in addition to the other problematic portions that I have already address above and in my previous review.

First, while Scripture doesn’t name gay people it does address gay people because it addresses all people. The Bible does speak profoundly and relevantly (and authoritatively!) to our general categories of sin, human nature, internal desires, the complexity and fallenness of our hearts, emotions, minds, and wills. Even if the Bible doesn’t speak comprehensively to every aspect of human nature, temptation, and desire, it does speak sufficiently and authoritatively to the basic structures of obedience and disobedience—especially to structures as basic as the foundation of marriage and sexual relationships. While the Bible doesn’t explicitly use the category of sexual orientation, it does address sinful forms of sexual expression that might spring from innate desires that will be there to tempt us from cradle to grave. Of course the Bible doesn’t name every specific desire, bent, addiction, orientation, kind of sexual lust, kind of sexual temptation. It doesn’t need to. If we required the biblical writers to possess all our scientific knowledge about human nature, they wouldn’t have the authority to say much of anything anymore (especially in light of all the recent advancements in neurobiology as it pertains to addiction, etc.)


For Karen’s argument to work, she has to assume that the God who had at least a hand in authoring Scripture did not speak very clearly (or accurately?) about the basic meaning of marriage and a rather significant category of sexual relations; namely, whether same-sex sexual relations could be considered marriages. Karen’s argument raises some serious questions about the love and care and integrity of God—if we believe in even a minimalistic view of inspiration.

Second, the “ethical dilemma” Karen speaks of doesn’t resonate with the ethical rhythm of the New Testament. Put simply, inborn desires don’t justify behavior. Even if we say that same sex desire is inborn, biological, or is part of an “orientation,” this doesn’t—ethically—deem the behavior that springs from it as morally good.


I love how Justin Lee (an affirming gay Christian) puts it:

Just because an attraction or drive is biological doesn’t mean it’s okay to act on...We all have inborn tendencies to sin in any number of ways. If gay people’s same-sex attractions were inborn, that wouldn’t necessarily mean it’s okay to act on them, and if we all agreed that gay sex is sinful, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that same-sex attractions aren’t inborn. ‘Is it a sin?’ and ‘Does it have biological roots?’ are two completely separate questions” (Torn, 62).

Our modern categories of sexual orientation don’t present us with an ethical dilemma foreign to the New Testament. For Karen’s “dilemma” to work, we’d have to construct an entirely different kind of ethical reasoning that doesn’t resonate with how the New Testament approaches sexual ethics. 

Third, the assumption that the New Testament writers had no concept of what we now call sexual orientation is not supported by historically evidence. The APA defines being gay as an “enduring sexual attraction to” people of the same sex. Karen believes that “this sexual orientation appears to stem from a combination of innate and environmental factors” (p. 91). Were such categories completely unknown to the writers of the New Testament? Of course the word gay (or homosexual) didn’t exist back then, and surely our modern understanding of sexual orientation is more developed than what was available to the biblical writers (or anyone living in the pre-modern era). But, historically, we have lots of evidence that the ancients believed that some people were born with an innate and “enduring sexual attraction to” people of the same sex. We have much evidence from Greco-Roman literature written several hundred years on either side of the New Testament that some people were born with an innate sexual desire for the same sex. We see this especially in various astrological texts that were uber popular and influential among the populace (see Harper, From Shame to Sin, pp. 59-60 on the popularity of astrological texts in the first and second centuries A.D.).


For instance, one text says: “If the Sun and Moon are in masculine signs and Venus is also in a masculine sing in a woman’s chart, women will be born who take on a man’s character and desire intercourse with women like men.” Another text written around the time of Paul says that if the sun and moon are at a particular location when a woman is born, she “will be a Lesbian [Arabic: sahaqa], desirous of women, and if the native is a male, he will be desirous of males.” Such evidence leads Lesbian scholar Bernadette Brooten to conclude:

Contrary to the view that the idea of sexual orientation did not develop until the nineteenth century, the astrological sources demonstrate the existence in the Roman world of the concept of a lifelong erotic orientation (Love Between Women, 119-120)

Were the biblical writers aware of this? Did they believe, or assume, that some people had an innate, lifelong sexual attraction to people of the same sex? We cannot say. We do know that such a view would fit in perfectly well with how the biblical authors talk about the innateness of desire. What we can say, with much historical confidence, is that such a category was available to them. We have no historical grounds to say that our modern concept of innate and enduring same-sex attraction was an ethical category foreign to the world of the New Testament writers.

Fourth, Karen misapplies the logic of 1 Cor 7 to support her point. I’ve already pointed this out in my review, and Karen’s admits that she doesn’t “know what Preston means by saying Paul is ‘making a concession between two relationships he believes are morally good’.” I’d be curious to know if my point was lost on my readers or just on Karen. In any case, let me try to say it again more clearly.


Paul believes that:

  • Celibacy is a moral good
  • Marriage (male-female) is a moral good
  • Same-sex sexual relations are sin

His point in 1 Corinthians 7 is that if a single person (a moral good) is burning with sexual passion, then they should get married to someone of the opposite sex (also a moral good). This isn’t an ethical dilemma. Paul’s not making an exception to a law. Paul believes that both celibacy and marriage are morally good.


But Karen takes Paul’s point and applies it to something that contradicts Paul’s own ethical framework. Paul would never say: if singleness is too hard, then you should pursue a sexual relationship that resonates with your innate desires. He says, if one morally legitimate vocation (singleness) is too difficult, then you might want to pursue another morally legitimate relationship (a male-female marriage). Neither Paul nor Jesus nor any first-century Jew or Christian would recognize Karen’s method of ethical reasoning.


In short, the New Testament wouldn’t consider the existence of “a gay person who ‘cannot control themselves’” as an ethical dilemma it’s unable to address.


Miscellaneous Items

There are several other things I’d love to discuss about Karen’s response, but none of them are as central to her argument. So, let me just hit a few more and we’ll call it a day.


First, in my review, I pointed out that Karen misrepresented my treatment of celibacy and reparative therapy in my book. In her response, she almost admitted this, but still points out that I:

Discuss reparative therapy, mixed orientation marriage, and celibacy–in that order. The ordering made me assume he was suggesting “try this first, then this, and here is celibacy last.” But maybe Preston did not intend for it to be read that way.

Yes, to confirm, I was not saying “try reparative therapy, and if that doesn’t work, then get married, and yet if that doesn’t work, divorce your spouse and try out celibacy as a final option.” I didn’t think it was possible to read my chapter that way, but just in case anyone else interpreted it this way, I want to clear the air: Karen’s interpretation of my chapter is not at all what I as intending to say. My chapter was simply laying out the different approaches that have historically been pursued by gay Christians who believe in a traditional sexual ethic. I tried to be fair and respectful to each view. To be clear, I do not support reparative therapy and I do not agree with “the ex-gay movement” that said: “You can change your sexual orientation and get married.” I’m not one of the “conservatives” Karen talks about who “use the hope of reparative therapy and mixed orientation marriage to avoid dealing with hard questions around life-long celibacy.”


Second, Karen says that I “seem to suggest that gay and lesbian people who cannot be celibate should just try harder and continue to fail and repent throughout their lives.” I’m not sure where she got this from. I didn’t say this at all. I specifically said we need to talk a bit more about the role of the Holy Spirit when we’re evaluating whether the Creator’s will is doable or not. (I’m still surprised at how little attention Karen gives to the role of the Spirit in her ethical reasoning, especially when she’s considering whether something like celibacy is possible. Can Christians talk about ethical possibilities without including the role of the Holy Spirit?) I also said that while people can live without sex and marriage, we cannot live without love and intimacy. And that it’s the church’s job to cultivate deeper, more authentic, life-giving communities that celebrate, cherish, value, and embrace gay and lesbian Christians pursuing faithfulness.


Again, at least one reason why single people often have a hard time flourishing in church is that we’ve created a culture where we idolize sex and marriage. And I don’t think the assumptions supporting Karen’s argument are helping with this.


Lastly, Karen says “Preston needs to do much more to address the issue of life-long celibacy. Does he believe life-long celibacy is possible for everyone or not?” I’ve already addressed this in my book and in my review of hers. In short, yes.


Yes, I believe the historically Christian view that God designed and intends for sexual relations to take place in a covenant bond between two sexually different persons (called marriage). And if you aren’t in a marriage, you shouldn’t be having sex. In as much as this is true, then I believe that obedience to God’s will is always possible for those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and in healthy intimate relationships with fellow believers.


The entire question of the possibility or goodness of lifelong celibacy hinges on the question of sexual faithfulness. Is it true that God intends for his image bearers to express themselves sexually only within the lifelong covenant of marriage? Is that from God? Because if it’s not from God—if it’s just a byproduct of a historical misreading of Scripture—then let’s ditch it, kill it, kick it to the curb. Let’s protest it, critique it, and stop repeating this bedeviled lie.


But If it’s from God—if the Creator really did reveal to his creation that sex difference is part of what marriage is, and that all sexual relations belong within this covenant bond—then we have the joyful obligation to cherish this revelation. If it’s from God, then it’s true and beautiful and good; it is part of human flourishing and not antithetical to it, despite what some people might say or feel or what some anecdotal stories might suggest. Determining whether something is true (or not true) is logically and ethically prior to determining whether we can, or should, do it.


Truth determines both beauty and possibility, especially when the Spirit is genuinely at work in resurrecting us from the grave. 



I want to conclude by reemphasizing what I said at the beginning of my previous review of Karen’s book. I believe Karen is an intelligent person and has done a lot research in this topic. I know that when two scholars go back and forth, we can get so focused on arguments and exegesis that it could feel like we’re missing the actual person we’re talking to. This is a real danger, especially for interactions across two blogs. Karen has raised some pointed concerns with my review, and I have done the same in my response. It seems appropriate to conclude by saying: go read Karen’s book. While I (obviously) disagree with their conclusions and many of the arguments used to support their conclusions, it’s important that evangelical Christians take the time to read the actual book with patience, humility, and understanding. Disagreement isn’t’ refutation. If you don’t agree with Karen’s book, you need to show why.


Thanks again, Karen, for the stimulating interaction. I truly hope that both of us come out as sharper thinkers and better people as a result.



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