May 6, 2013

Cultural Crossroad X: Unnatural Acts & Self-Idolatry II

Another interesting feature of Romans 1 is the way it ends. In Romans 1:32 we see a parting comment from Paul that reads as follows:
Romans 1:32 ~ “…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
We see the Old Testament concepts of a “death penalty” bridged to New Testament times (an indicator of sin’s severity). I believe we also see this concept bridged to our time when we observe the behavior of the modern church. It is the idea that others give, “hearty approval to those them [their sins].”We need to ask ourselves a question: What does this show about churches that not only do not preach against the sin of homosexuality but actually openly accept the practice within the Church without expecting a change? What’s worse is what this reveals about many churches that are now accepting active homosexuals into church as leadership, priest and pastors. It sadly shows that these churches should now be grouped in with the culture or people referred to in Romans 1:18-32. This is a stern condemnation of churches that have ended up accepting this behavior. It is clear they are flirting with the wrath of God.
Pro-homosexual views such as John Boswell’s believe that Romans 1 didn’t condemn homosexual behavior as “against nature” in the sense of the violation of “natural law.” Boswell appeals to the culture of Paul’s time by stating that there was no clear idea of “natural law” existed in Paul's time or for many centuries thereafter (Boswell-Kindle location 3013). The only way he could know this is to cite extra-canonical sources. Boswell claims the text is actually speaking to homosexual acts committed by heterosexuals in infidelity (Boswell-Kindle location 2940). The only possible way for him to make this assertion is to know the intent of the sinners in this passage - and we cannot. To do so would constitute revisionist history or worse radical historicism.

Radical Historicism
The simplest explanation of radical historicism is that it assumes that reconstructing histories is an interpretive process rather than the verifying and documenting of ‘facts’. Radical Historicism wishes to adopt a critical but bias perspective or worldview that influences the reconstruction of history. It presupposes that, for example, that racial or homosexual oppression exists (then and now) and will then examine particular social practices in the past in relation to legitimating ideologies that endorse it.
Radical historicism involves the uncovering of historical evidence but the meaning of the evidence depends upon a new reconstruction (after a deconstruction) of old “taken for granted” ideas about the time period that is being examined (Gagnon 739). In the case of the Bible and homosexuality, it is a reconstruction of the history of Ancient Near East in the time of Moses and Christ so it looks favorably upon these issues or through a narrowly defined hermeneutical grid. The reconstruction of history then takes place directly alongside the analysis. The process of revealing history both informs and is informed by the process that wishes to uncover it. Therefore those that approach history from this angle have presuppositions and bias built right into their conclusions that lean towards their bias and becomes heavily subjective.
In reality, only what can be gleaned from Paul’s writing can be assumed here in this context, not assumptions about what Paul was thinking based on extra-canonical cultural/historical precedents or modern homosexual presuppositions. Regardless of Paul’s intent writing this passage, it is being shown throughout this paper that the Bible condemns homosexuality regardless of motive no matter what presuppositions people bring to the text (White et al-Kindle location 1649-1650).
In addition, Boswell then goes on to assert that the reference to homosexuality is simply analogous to theological sin and it is not the point of Paul’s argument (Boswell-Kindle location 2940). Although it is true that the main point of this periscope is the apostasy or fall away from God (v.21, 25) and the result if sin amplified, this fact in no way allows for the glossing over of the clearly immoral homosexual practices being mentioned. Just because Boswell asserts that the acts being referred were not performed by admitting/confessing homosexuals, does not negate the fact that the punishment that would be incurred (v. 26-28) because of the immoral nature of the sexual actions in question.
Theocentric vs. Anthropocentric

What should also be mentioned is the pro-homosexual view of “unnatural acts” in Romans 1:26. It is, in their view, a morally relativistic one. They believe that it is not a violation of natural law per se but what would be considered natural relative to a heterosexual. It is therefore believed this passage is directed specifically at heterosexuals who go beyond their natural or normal sexuality to homosexuality. It then becomes an issue not of homosexuality but rather a stigmatizing of heterosexual infidelity (Boswell-Kindle Location 2937). Again, even if it is true, blame-shifting to heterosexuals for infidelity in no way retracts the sin of homosexuality clearly affirmed by Boswell in this passage. What Boswell also does by approaching the text in this manner is to view the passage from an anthropocentric view and not a theocentric or divine view. It assumes Paul is purely writing from a human level in Romans 1 without divine inspiration.
By framing the understanding of the passage as being relative only to a human heterosexual it has thereby excluded the divine viewpoint in favor of a human one. This is contrary to the idea that the Epistle of Romans is essentially a theocentric dissertation on God’s view of sin (Romans 1:18-3:20) and that it is only through righteousness apart from the Law in Jesus can one be freed from any sin. Paul is referring here to objective “God” truths, not man-based subjective or relativistic ones. This means that the “unnatural” character of these acts would not necessarily have been a violation of a heterosexual woman/man’s idea of right or wrong but God’s right or wrong. It stands to reason that if Roman’s is addressing the theocentric view of sin the “unnatural” would be in reference to God’s understanding of nature or a natural order. A theocentric view would consequently view these sinful violations as a violation of God’s created order or the natural usage of something as He created them, not something that would be out of the ordinary from an anthropocentric heterosexual view which Boswell will argue strongly for (Boswell-Kindle location 2976-2995, Gagnon-Homosexual Practice 286).

Sin Is Still Sin
The whole idea of people being given over to their sin as a result of not acknowledging God and His divine order is then lost by making this passage anthropocentric as Boswell has done. It then only becomes wrong or becomes a sin in the sight of the heterosexuals that view homosexuality as wrong. This makes the relativistic heterosexual observation point the highest authority. This goes totally against Scripture being the authoritative word of God which is based in objective and absolute truth (White et al-Kindle location 1326-1328).
What is most telling in Boswell’s aforementioned argument is the statement that the unnatural acts do not refer to homosexuality being against nature but against the nature of a heterosexual.
“…the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.” (Boswell-Kindle location 1313-1322)
It is possible Boswell misses the entire theological point here. The sinner will be judged for the sin regardless of the premeditation (sin of commission) or lack of (sin of omission) behind it. Homosexuality, both the behavior and thoughts of it are sin whether those thinking or acting on the sin are normally heterosexual or homosexual. The act(s) of homosexuality or fantasizing about it are roundly condemned in this passage and in the greater scope of Scripture. To be given over to said sin or similar ones is the effect of having fallen away from God and apostatized (v.21, 25).

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