Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Response to Daniel Helminiak's Article on CNN


Sometimes I think that CNN hates Christianity.  Actually, what I really think is that I am right.  I hate to come down on a news organization or to paint them with a broad brush, but they seem to love to post articles from people with "alternative" views on the Bible and Christianity.  Today is no exception.  Today they posted another argument saying that the Bible does not promote homosexuality.  I decided that I am going to start to address these articles if not for nothing more than to keep others from falling into grave error by listening to spiritual quacks promoted by CNN.  Click to read today's farce here.  I will use the author's own Scripture.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.  Romans 1:26-27 NKJV
Of course, when he quotes Scripture, he does some editing and leaves no reference as to what translation he is using, so perhaps it is his own.
"Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another." 
When presented with a Scripture that is being interpreted in a different way than what us generally accepted, the best thing to do is to read the Scripture in its context to see if the alternate interpretation can fit into its original context.  The author cleverly leaves out part of this passage making it seem as though it exists in a vacuum.  He left out "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions."  That is key as it implies that this passage is a conclusion and not a statement that stands alone.  Including the first sentence, it begs the question "For what reason?"  Let us see what Scripture has to say on the matter.
For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  Romans 1:20-25 NKJV
The author makes the assertion that any condemnation Paul gives regarding homosexuality is not an ethical judgement.  I think including the reason that God  gave them up to "vile passions" makes it rather clear that it is an ethical condemnation.  Even more, it is a declaration of homosexuality being a sin associated with the rejection of and rebellion against God.  Putting his partial passage in its proper context makes impossible his argument that Paul was not condemning homosexuality as sin. 
The Greek term para physin has been translated unnatural; it should read atypical or unusual. In the technical sense, yes, the Stoic philosophers did use para physin to mean unnatural, but this term also had a widespread popular meaning. It is this latter meaning that informs Paul's writing. It carries no ethical condemnation.

Compare the passage on male-male sex to Romans 11:24. There, Paul applies the term para physin to God. God grafted the Gentiles into the Jewish people, a wild branch into a cultivated vine. Not your standard practice! An unusual thing to do — atypical, nothing more. The anti-gay "unnatural" hullabaloo rests on a mistranslation.
This is utter nonsense and pointless and used just to try and elevate the author's argument.  He says that it "could" be translated as unnatural but it shouldn't be translated as unnatural in this case.  Instead, he believes that it should just read "atypical" or "unusual."  However, his illustration only serves to prove the point of "unnatural" being the proper translation.  Grafting, no matter the reason or what is being grafted into what, is unnatural.  It is very typical, but is rather unnatural.  In fact, the purpose is to give properties to a plant that, when left to its natural growth, would not provide.  It is working against nature for a specific and desirable effect.  Unnatural, in and of itself, does not imply sinful.  However, the rest of the passage in question roundly condemns this particular "unnatural" act as sinful. 
Besides, Paul used two other words to describe male-male sex: dishonorable (1:24, 26) and unseemly (1:27). But for Paul, neither carried ethical weight. In 2 Corinthians 6:8 and 11:21, Paul says that even he was held in dishonor — for preaching Christ. Clearly, these words merely indicate social disrepute, not truly unethical behavior.
Once again, he is making an argument but not giving all the facts.  First of all, even if you buy that dishonorable did not carry ethical weight, Paul also refers to their behavior as "uncleanness" in 1:24, which is a definitive ethical judgement.  In 1:27, the author focuses on one word while ignoring the passage as a whole.  Here is Romans 1:27.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.  Romans 1:27 NKJV
Please note, Paul also refers to their behavior as an error (again an ethical judgement) and one that deserves penalty.  The errors before God that deserve penalty are what most people would call sin.  However, the author seems to ignore that important fact.
In this passage Paul is referring to the ancient Jewish Law: Leviticus 18:22, the “abomination” of a man’s lying with another man. Paul sees male-male sex as an impurity, a taboo, uncleanness — in other words, “abomination.” Introducing this discussion in 1:24, he says so outright: "God gave them up … to impurity."

But Jesus taught lucidly that Jewish requirements for purity — varied cultural traditions — do not matter before God. What matters is purity of heart.

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles,” reads Matthew 15. “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Or again, Jesus taught, “Everyone who looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Jesus rejected the purity requirements of the Jewish Law.
The main problem with this part of the discussion is that he implies a disagreement between Paul and Jesus.  In other words, the author is denying the inerrancy of Scripture.  Even though this entire discussion is invalid because of that fact, I will address his comments nonetheless.  His implication is that homosexuality does not imply impurity of heart.  I ask, then, what is it?  If homosexuality is not proceeding from the heart than it is not a sexual orientation, but a lifestyle choice.  Is he really arguing for the ability to change one's sexual orientation (I say not because he has written other articles implying that changing one's orientation to be an impossibility).  Homosexuality is not the cause of an impure heart, but a the reflection of a heart that is already impure.  This same argument is reflected in the previously quoted passage from Romans.  Homosexuality implies a heart that is impure and therefore makes his entire argument irrelevant.  He is using one part of the Bible to prove his point while at the same time trying to prove false another part of the Bible he disagrees with.  
In calling it unclean, Paul was not condemning male-male sex. He had terms to express condemnation. Before and after his section on sex, he used truly condemnatory terms: godless, evil, wicked or unjust, not to be done. But he never used ethical terms around that issue of sex.
I almost laughed when I read this. Once again, the author is pretending that his few verses exist in a vacuum.  I already mentioned several terms Paul uses to condemn homosexuality in the few verses he does cite, but let's continue in Romans to see what else Paul has to say about those who practice homosexuality. 
And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.  Romans 1:28-32
In defense of the author, Paul did not specifically use the term "unjust" and only implied godlessness without actually using the term.  However, I think the moral judgement on homosexuality is rather evident and strong. 
As for marriage, again, the Bible is more liberal than we hear today. The Jewish patriarchs had many wives and concubines. David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were probably lovers. The Bible’s Song of Songs is a paean to romantic love with no mention of children or a married couple. Jesus never mentioned same-sex behaviors, although he did heal the “servant” — pais, a Greek term for male lover — of the Roman Centurion.
The Jewish patriarchs did have many wives and concubines.  So did many of its kings.  However, in the New Testament, Jesus clarified his position regarding multiple marriage and why it was allowed for a time.  The implication that David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi (this would be a relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), and Daniel and the palace master being lovers are just grasping at ridiculous straws.  There is zero evidence anywhere in any kind of Scripture that they were lovers.  Is is merely wishful, albeit disgusting, thinking on the part of homosexuals.  In other words, they just made it up in their twisted minds with nothing to back it up whatsoever.  As for the Centurion's servant, that is merely one possible translation of that word.   In fact, that very same word is used to describe David as God's servant in Luke 1:69.  Is the author implying that David was God's male lover?  If so, his blasphemy runs much further than I imagined. And, finally, his comment on Song of Songs is equally laughable.  By his argument, Song of Songs can also apply to relationships between humans and animals or humans and aliens from outer space or humans and fallen angels or anything else for that matter.  But, of course, in reality, Song of Songs is a song between a man and a woman with every implication of marriage.  
Paul discouraged marriage because he believed the world would soon end. Still, he encouraged people with sexual needs to marry, and he never linked sex and procreation. Were God-given reason to prevail, rather than knee-jerk religion, we would not be having a heated debate over gay marriage. “Liberty and justice for all,” marvel at the diversity of creation, welcome for one another: these, alas, are true biblical values.
Again, saying that Paul never linked procreation is a pointless argument.  First of all, sex and procreation are implicitly linked.  There is no need to specifically say it.  Do I need to explain that I drink water because if I do not I will die of thirst or is that implicit knowledge understood by those who might hear me say that I was going to get a drink of water?  He also never said that the marriage should be between man and a man or a woman and a woman.  In fact, he specifically said that men should marry women and women should marry men.  If he is so concerned about what Paul specifically does and does not say, he should be concerned about that.  Paul explicitly says that men should marry women and never links marriage to same-sex relationships.  

Before I close, I need to address the author.  This bit of heresy was written by Daniel Helminiak.  When going to his own website, you learn some very interesting things about Mr. Helminiak.  He is a Catholic priest, or he was.  That is because he is a homosexual.  He also has several writings on his site dedicated to the founding of a one-world religion based on the "human spirit" and that religions that could not fit in with this new kind of spirituality should be deemed irrelevant.  In other words, he is the perfect illustration of the passage he tries to deny.  His lifestyle did not fit into his faith and so he gave up his faith, tried to alter the Word of God to fit his lifestyle, and now tries to deny Jesus Christ altogether.  And so, in closing, I will end with the prophesy his life has fulfilled. 
For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.   And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.   Romans 1:20-32 NKJV

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