Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Responding to Rev. Tom Hobson, PhD

Here are our responses to Rev. Hobson's various arguments.  Rev. Hobson was kind enough to correspond briefly with us by way of email, and gave his permission to post his document.  We informed him that we would be posting our responses on this blog, and we will let him know when this post goes live.

Below are Rev. Hobson's arguments in block quotes, while our replies follow in italics. In a number of cases, we have already addressed some of these arguments in our expanded treatment of each of our refutations of anti-inclusion arguments and our pro-inclusion arguments.  In those cases, we will reference the post in question.

In the event that Rev. Hobson wishes to reply to us, after posting these replies and counter-arguments to our blog, we will give Rev. Hobson the last word.  This is not to say that we doubt we could continue to go back and forth for a very long time, only to set a limit ahead of time so that we remain pithy and thorough the first time, insofar as we can.

“Homosexuality is an abomination.” [My advice to conservatives: skip this argument. It is not central to our case.] Non-kosher food is an “abomination” (Deut 14:3), not to God, but in the sense that it is to be utterly despised by Jews. Jesus sets aside the kosher food laws for Christians (Mark 7:19), but there is nothing else in the Hebrew Bible described as an “abomination” that is not reaffirmed as sin in the New Testament other than cross-dressing (Deut 22:5). Male and female prostitution are specifically an abomination “to YHWH” (Deut 23:19), as are any form of idolatry, witchcraft, adultery, homosexual behavior, bestiality, and incest. Non-kosher food is the only ritual-cleanliness category for which this term is used.
It is claimed here that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 does not describe a “committed, monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender” because this was “not a category considered in Bronze Age Middle Eastern thought.” No such distinction was necessary. In both Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, we see that love, consent, and commitment are irrelevant. Both active and passive partner are held equally guilty, no matter what their motives or the quality of their relationship.
We believe this is a case of missing the forest for the trees. The use of [toevah] through the Old Testament demonstrates that it is culturally relative. This is why something can be [toevah] for Egypt that is fine for Israel. This does not change whether the object is described as taboo for Israel or taboo for the God of Israel as some things were certainly taboo to Ba'al and Marduk and their respective peoples. It is about maintaining cultural identity. The issue with idolatry, witchraft, and temple prostitution is that these are practices of cultures surrounding Israel. Israel is enjoined from doing them to protect their uniqueness. It is precisely this logic which Jesus assails in going far beyond merely setting aside kosher food laws, to violating the sabbath, not washing, associating with foreigners, the unclean, sinners, and tax collectors. Jesus programatically assaults the ritual-purity system at the roots.

It is false that incest (as we now understand it) is an abomination before God in the OT - what we would define as incest was perfectly acceptable to the culture that produced the Hebrew Bible.  There are also more abominations than are mentioned here, including cutting one's hair a particular way, or mixing threads in fabrics.  One gets the impression that the concern here is for maintaining distinct philosophical categories - that mixing of categories is what is detestable, and that this is an issue of natural philosophy where it is not also an issue of idolatry.  To be clear, ordained LGBTQ persons should not engage in idolatry of any kind.

The idea of an active and passive partner is interesting: it is a very common misunderstanding of sexuality in general, and is very likely connected to the idea, which we will return to in future posts, that a male dishonors himself by being the 'passive' or receiving sexual partner.  In brief, if your sexual partner is passive, that may be a sign of disinterest, but it is not a necessary aspect of the act itself.  Women are not 'passive' sexual recipients, nor are those on either end of a same-sex encounter (as long as things are going well that is).

The idea that love, consent and commitment are irrelevant needs to be put out of the conversation as soon as possible.  This is ethically, morally, legally and theologically an unacceptable position to take with regard to any sexual act, no matter what one's biblical interpretation may say.  A theological or ethical system where love, consent, commitment, intent and context don't matter at all is incoherent at best.

“Homosexuality is the ‘sin of Sodom’.” How can you deny the obvious?? One can say that intended rape is the real issue, but clearly implied is the sense that Sodom is depraved because they demand sex with their own gender. Homosexuality is never named specifically in other Biblical references to Sodom because the audience already knows the story (although see 2 Pet 2:7, which connects Sodom with the sexual sin of aselgeia). Ezekiel mentions inhospitality, but it also says Sodom did “abominable” deeds, an obvious categorical reference to the abominations named in Leviticus (Ezek 16:50).
These references are 'obvious' only to a reader who has a pre-existing anti-homosexual bias, which I can only imagine most readers in the ancient world had.  In fact, the claim that this sin is 'obvious' makes Biblical silence on the issue a more powerful argument in favor of the sin of Sodom being inhospitality, not less. The term [aselgeia] is not translated as having to do with homosexual behavior in any major translation that we are aware of, ever. Given the demonstrated anti-homosexual bias of many translators in their selective use of 'abomination' for [toevah], and the linguistic fallacy of 'sodomite' for [qadesh], we think it is probable that if they were convinced [aselgeia] referred to homosexual behavior they would have translated it that way.

“Homosexuality is like pedophilia or bestiality.” True, we cannot lump homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia together, but why is the person who is attracted to children to be viewed as dirt, while everyone else is loved by God? The real issue is not whether those who practice same-sex intercourse are loved by God, but the fact that all three practices in question here both grieve God and harm the person who does them.
First of all, no one is to be viewed as dirt, including pedophiles.  Pedophiles are loved by God.  The problem is that acting on one's pedophilia is necessarily rape under all circumstances - unlike consensual sexual acts.  It is a violation no matter what, because it is forcing sex on a child who is not physically nor psychologically prepared for sex.  Unlike consensual sexual acts, it is necessarily harmful in the extreme, and to compare pedophilia to homosexuality is without ethical or logical grounds.

We agree with Rev. Hobson, however, that the crux of the issue is harm - most importantly harm to the victims of pedophilia and bestiality. Homosexual practices do not necessarily harm anyone any more than heterosexual practices do, because there are no exclusively homosexual practices which we could consider in the first place.  To claim otherwise is to make a (very common) fallacy.

“Homosexuality is like incest or polyamory.” The Bible does NOT teach the goodness of behaviors that it tolerates in its characters. That is a deliberate falsehood. The Bible’s central teaching is stated three times, in the Torah, by Jesus, and by Paul: “The two [man and woman] shall become one flesh.” God intends sex only for a lifelong one-flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Any other practice is a departure from God’s intention, including fornication, concubinage, polygamy, and divorce.
What 50% of Americans practice is serial monogamy, not polyamory. With regard to Christian leadership, we regard divorce as sin redeemable by repentance and fidelity to one’s subsequent spouse. In the current debate, we are being asked to affirm homosexuality, not as sin redeemable by repentance, but as a good gift of God and a human right.
The last sentence is the only one which we can accept without argument.  Rev. Hobson is preferencing a tiny minority of the Bible's teaching on sexuality and relationships, but to claim that this tiny minority abrogates all other passages which describe even God-ordained arrangements which differ is a bit baffling.  One could just as easily argue that, particularly in the NT, the vaunted lifelong one-flesh relationship is merely a grudging allowance for those who cannot practice celibacy.  If the Bible's central teaching is as Rev. Hobson says, why does Paul consistently disagree?  Granted, we have talked about another way to view marriage, for LGBTQ folks as well as heterosexuals: as a school of virtue in the virtue-ethics sense.

“Homosexuality is unnatural.” When we say “unnatural,” we mean that God did not design us to do this. In his book What We Can’t Not Know, Budziszewski argues from God’s design: Our lungs were designed to take in air, not food. The same is true for the issue of practicing sexuality in total defiance to God’s design.
Same-sex relations are a part of nature. But so is sex between different species. So are cancer, schizophrenia, and AIDS. So are black widows and praying mantises who kill and eat their mates, and mackerel who kill purely for sport. “Go and do thou likewise”? And again, why is the natural sexual attraction to children not a part of God’s good creation? If we get rid of our arbitrary notion of consent, and/or if we can ever prove (as some in the APA have tried to do) that sex with children can sometimes be healthy, our objection to it becomes pure hatefulness.
(Added link is ours :) The argument comparing sexuality to respiratory function is a false analogy.  Lungs cannot take in food without putting our life in danger.  Many (most) sexual acts can be engaged in without doing the same, and it is a simple thing to say that sex acts which threaten one's life should not be attempted.  Once again, there are no homosexual sex acts which heterosexuals do not engage in in far greater numbers (if not greater proportions in some cases).  This means that whatever the category of "unnatural" acts we are so unspecifically discussing is cannot possibly be defined as purely same-sex acts.

False analogies follow between same-sex relations and sex between different species, cancer, schiziophrenia, AIDS, black widows, praying mantises and so on.  "Go and do likewise?"  Obviously not, fallacy aside.  (How would one "do" cancer anyway?)

Once again, the third false analogy returns: comparing consensual same-sex acts to pedophilic sex acts.  We have dismantled that argument more than once, and don't need to do so again.

We have no idea who in the APA have tried to demonstrate that adults violating children can sometimes be healthy - all we can find are some refences to a single symposium where a few participants made a limited case, and were rightly rejected.  Pedophilia remains on the APA's list of mental disorders.  Simply because a few APA members made a poor argument, do we have to accept further poor arguments equating consensual sex to non-consensual sex?  Ironically, this is precisely what Rev. Hobson is doing when he argues that pedophilia and homosexuality are similar.  And who is it who thinks that consent is 'arbitrary'?  Unclear overall, but consent in issues of sexuality is not arbitrary.

“Homosexuality is dangerous and/or unhealthy.” Homosexuality is no more or less dangerous and/or unhealthy than heterosexual immorality when practiced to the same degree. Both should be avoided.
This seems to contradict a claim Rev. Hobson made above, where he said that bestiality, pedophilia and homosexuality are all intrinsically harmful, comparing them once again by way of false analogy. We also wish Rev. Hobson would define what he means by heterosexual immorality. Since we know he believes homosexual behaviors are all immoral, we are left to assume that he means "all heterosexual behavior that overlaps with homosexual behavior". Is he saying in essence that the only safe or moral sexual act is vaginal intercourse in the bounds of marriage? Given that vaginal intercourse can transmit disease as readily as most other sex acts we don't believe his position is either palatable or coherent.

“Homosexuality is a choice.” We concur that same-sex desire is not a choice. As in the case of substance addiction, the choice is how we respond. We expect a pedophile to make the right choices in response to their attraction to children, even though they did not choose to have these desires. Those with same-sex attraction who choose not to get involved sexually with their own gender tend to have more success breaking free from their desires than those who do become sexually involved.

The agreement here is a good start. Unfortunately Rev. Hobson follows with an implied false analogy, comparing inborn sexual orientation to substance addiction.  The two are not really comparable.    For an LGBTQ person, the right response to their sexual orientation is identical to the right response to heterosexual attraction - except insofar as anti-LGBTQ bias makes their life needlessly painful, leads to ostracism from their community, and denies them rights afforded to other couples.  But in both cases, the exact same ethics apply.

We're also curious about the 'tend to have more success', since success rates in altering sexual orientation are abysmal across the board, such that therapies aimed at accomplishing this are not endorsed by any major US scientific organization.  The General Assembly of the PC(USA) agreed a decade ago, in fact, about the uselessness and ethical problems of conversion/reparative therapy (here is the 1999 GA decision's text in full).

“Sexual orientation can be changed with ‘reparative therapy’.” The claims that reparative therapy is a cruel hoax are sweeping and unsubstantiated. Reputable reparative therapy has been shown to have a 70% success rate in reducing unwanted same-sex desire, a rate comparable to substance addiction treatment. Both kinds of treatment have a similar rate of recidivism, but no one claims that treatment for addiction is useless or harmful.
We very much want a citation for the 70% success rate.  In all of our research, we never found anything like that.   On the contrary, we found that no US scientific organization endorses reparative/conversion therapy, and as mentioned above, neither does the PC(USA).  For more on the many problems and fundamental weaknesses of reparative/conversion therapy, see our expanded argument here.  (And again we have the false analogy with substance abuse, an entirely different issue, except possibly in a case of genuine sex addiction, against which heterosexuality is no protection.)

“Homosexuality damages society and/or traditional marriage.” Here I defer to page 13 of Alan Wisdom’s article “Is Marriage Worth Defending?” ( He argues that divorce and adultery around us tends to erode the marriages of all married couples. The same would be true for cohabiting couples, and for the acceptance of gay marriage as simply one more lifestyle option.
Again, I reject the claim that the Bible approves of eight different kinds of marriage. The marrying of female captives after a one-month waiting period is the Bible’s unique humane alternative to what everyone else in the Near East: rape and sale into slavery. Marrying a slave promoted her to family status; what’s wrong with that? Jesus rejects polygamy, and Leviticus 18 makes it extremely difficult, since it forbids marriage to any in-law. The only reason we do not favor levirate marriage is because we no longer have the same level of concern for preserving offspring for a man who has died. And the supposed forced marriage of a rape victim is actually marriage of a girl who has been seduced, which the girl’s father can prevent if the male is a jerk. (Here is a case of gratuitously seeking to distort the Bible by exaggeration to make it sound unworthy of belief.)
Suffice to say - Alan Wisdom makes an argument in his article, but it is neither strong nor compelling, and is founded on his presuppositions rather than on facts about the social impact of committed same-sex relationships.  One example: his claim that two parent households are better for children is correct - in fact, same-sex households are measurably, if slightly, better for children.  Furthermore, even if we accept at face value the argument that divorce and adultery have a deleterious effect on marriages around them it does not follow at all that the acceptance of gay marriage would have the same effect. In fact, it would seem to have the opposite effect, since it would reduce the number of unwed couples in society and increase family stability. A point which has been exhaustively demonstrated.  It would also provide more homes for foster children and for children to be adopted into, which would further benefit society, not to mention those children.

As for "gratuitous distortion" - we think that this is gratuitous ad hominem, seeking to imply that our intent is dishonest and geared toward making the Bible sound unworthy of belief.  It is not.  We take the Bible as seriously as Rev. Hobson does, though we do not have PhDs in exegesis; we simply disagree with him.

Rev. Hobson describes more of the context in which the many kinds of Biblical marriage arose, but does not refute their existence.  We are arguing over the details of the context of various kinds of marriage in the Bible, not on whether there is more than the one which Rev. Hobson lifts up (anachronistically, we think) as normative in all cases.  The point is that "Biblical marriage" means more than one thing, and Rev. Hobson seems to agree, while disagreeing on the details. We do think that if anyone cannot see what the problem with forced marriage of slaves is, or the forced marriage of a girl who has been "seduced" (what we now often call date rape, statutory rape or a number of other less flattering terms), then we certainly don't want them influencing our sexual ethics. Simply because in the original context an arrangement was better than prevailing cultural options does not make it adequately ethical.

“Paul condemns homosexuality.” Hagler and Clark’s reading of Romans 1 bears no resemblance to the text or context. Clearly, in Romans 1, homosexuality of both kinds is presented as a warning light for the depths of human depravity, not a gift of God if only it were practiced properly. It is not “cherry-picking” to take Paul’s sin list in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 as timeless and universal, both because it reaffirms many Old Testament commands that carried a death penalty (indicating their seriousness), and because it warns that those who continue such practices “shall not inherit the reign of God.”
Our reading of Romans 1 is not novel and is, in fact, widely accepted even by conservative interpreters. Our point is simple and correct - Paul is not writing a treatise on the evils of homosexuality. Paul is not even writing about sexual ethics. Paul is describing a variety of behaviors he regards as sinful, including gossiping, boasting, and disobedience to parents, but also some form of same-sex behavior, possibly ritual, saying that these are the behaviors of an outside group, but he then turns the force of his rebuke on his readers saying that they are even worse because they are self-righteous. The entire passage is a condemnation of pharisaic self-righteousness, the moral of which is judge not lest you be judged. To read Romans 1 as a text about sexual ethics is to completely misread it.

As for Paul's sin list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 it is absolutely cherry-picking to take a list given in a specific time for specific people, without context, and assume it is timeless and universal. Paul is fond of lists as a rhetorical device. He lists fruits of the Spirit in many different places and they are not identical lists. We should not assume he is being exhaustive or prescriptive in his lists. We should assume he is doing what preachers do and being illustrative.

Let us turn to the death penalty issue for a moment.  Every person who claims to uphold a "Biblical" (albeit highly selective) definition of sexual ethics derived from Leviticus should also support the death penalty for people they believe Leviticus describes, should they not?

“Ordaining LGBTQ people makes it harder to work with churches in the rest of the world.” The Two-Thirds World is a reminder to us that our rejection of Biblical sexual ethics is a heresy of Western white revisionists.
Is ordaining women also a heresy of western white revisionists?  How about not having a death penalty for homosexual acts?  Or a death penalty for dishonoring one's parents for that matter?  Or a death penalty for adultery?  Is giving women equal property rights western white revisionism? Is marrying out of love with an ideal of equality between spouses also revisionism? How about treating mental illness with counseling and medication instead of exorcism?  If we have to bring out the broad "western white revisionists" brush, we should paint everything with it, shouldn't we?  Is it 'revisionism' every time we improve upon the past, ethically or politically?

“Justification is by faith.” Here is where the writers, in the words of Jude, “twist the grace of God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4). “Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist” (1 John 2:4; see also 1 John 3:6). The issue is not pure sinlessness (1 John 1:10 says we make God a liar if we claim we are sinless), but the unrepentant persistence in sin. 35 years ago, I never thought I would find myself quoting James’ “Faith without works is dead” and insisting on repentance, but that’s because I never dreamed there would be such open rebellion against the will of Christ within the church.
Open rebellion?  Twisting into licentiousness? Throughout his reply Rev. Hobson has engaged in ad hominem attacks on our motive and uncharitable assertions about our intelligence. We are willing to chalk it up to writing passionately for his beliefs and an impersonal medium.  For the record, though this is at times a very frustrating interaction over a clumsy medium, we assume that Rev. Hobson is intelligent, well-intentioned...and wrong on a number of points.

Grace is always too profligate and mercy is always lawlessness to some. We believe Rev. Hobson has the order of things all backwards, but it is beyond the scope of our argument to get into a full-fledged debate about justification, repentance, faith and works here. Suffice to say grace conquers all - even the hearts of those still hindering the full inclusion of those whom Christ has chosen and called. 

“We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit and gifted for service.” Not without repentance! Sexual immorality “should not even be named among you” as an acceptable Christian form of behavior (Eph 5:3). The issue is not what we have done in our past, but whether it has stayed in our past, or remains part of our present lifestyle.
The Holy Spirit blows where it wills. It is at work in the lives of even those who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Various individuals were called righteous by Jesus without having ever accepted him as Lord and savior, decided on a life of discipleship to him, or announced their guilt and asked for forgiveness. Consider the rich young ruler who is called righteous by Jesus before he is even presented the opportunity to repent - and then refuses to do so. Does it negate what Jesus said about him before, that he was a righteous (sanctified) man? We don't want to read too much into very little room, but it seems to us by the theme of his replies to these first three positive arguments that Rev. Hobson has made it not about God's work for us, but about our own proper acceptance of that work.

The whole point is moot, furthermore, since as we have continually argued, homosexuality is not a sin.

“LGBTQ persons have clearly demonstrated spiritual gifts for ministry.” So have many heterosexual offenders, whom we rightly exclude from ministry if they cannot desist from their behavior. Powerful preachers and teachers who are living in defiance of God’s revealed will are a threat to the peace, unity, and purity of the church.
Nothing is a threat to the church of Jesus Christ which is already guaranteed the victory. We rightly exclude from ministry only those who are not fit because they lack the gifts, or those who are a danger to others. It seems Rev. Hobson is once again making a veiled reference to analogies of pedophilia which we have already thoroughly debunked. The continual inability or refusal to separate between mutually loving, consensual monogamous relationships between adults and situations where abuse of power, or inability to consent are a part of the arrangement is as troubling as it is, unfortunately, common.

“We call unclean what God calls clean.” Nowhere do the writers ever demonstrate that God calls same-sex intercourse clean.
God calls monogamous consensual same-sex relationships clean the same way God has always done it: in the hearts of believers and through the testimony of many individuals of faith proving that their way of life brings the fruits of the spirit. Reason, science, experience, and the inward conviction of the Holy Spirit all testify that homosexuality is not a sin.  Scripture itself prepares us, in many instances, to understand that what was previously seen as even an 'abomination' may at a later time be called 'clean'.

“We are made a community of equals in Christ.” Equality is not the issue.
Equality is never the issue for those in a position of privilege. It is always the issue for people on the margins - the ones Jesus says will come first into the Kingdom.  Equality in Christ, as revealed in scripture and in the slow march of justice in Christian history, is at the heart of this entire discussion, as well as at the heart of the gospel.

“Jesus is silent on homosexuality, and nowhere in the Bible are loving monogamous LGBTQ relationships dealt with at all.” False on both counts. Jesus says more about homosexuality than he does about the environment, health care, and numerous other issues. Aside from affirming the central teaching of the Torah on sexuality (quoted above), Jesus also names the sin of aselgeia on his sin list in Mark 7:22. Aselgeia is a term used by Jews for shocking violations of the sex laws of the Torah beyond adultery and fornication, and is likely to have been his term for homosexual behavior. The burden of proof is on those who claim that the Bible’s prohibitions of homosexual behavior do not deal with loving mutual LGBTQ behavior. The term Paul uses in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy is a generic masculine noun, “he who has koitos with a male.” There is no indication that the act is not loving and mutual.
See our response to Rev. Hobson's translation of [aselgeia] above.  We are not Biblical exegetes, but his is clearly one translation of many which are justified.

As for Jesus repetition of the "central" teaching of the Torah on sexuality, it is highly ironic that it occurs in the context of a screed against divorce and not in reference to homosexuality, though this is the purpose to which Rev. Hobson wants to put it.  It is also interesting that for the "central" teaching on sexuality, the Song of Solomon is never mentioned, even though it says more than the rest of the Bible combined about sexuality.

In 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul only makes mention of 'coitus' between two males, not mentioning 'coitus' between females at all.  Why is this?  This mistake on his part precludes support for complementarianism.  Perhaps it is similar to his concern with 'effeminate' men in both of these passages?  (Using a Greek word that can be taken to mean more broadly 'soft' - again, translator's bias - in this case, misogynistic bias).  Should we take the fullness of this list of 'sins' and begin booting men who wear pink shirts from the pews?  In short, no.

We accept the "burden of proof", and we carry it willingly as far as we are called to carry it.  It is a privilege to be part of the struggle for justice, equality and inclusion for our sisters and brothers who are called by God to serve; a privilege to be a tiny part of the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit.  Hence this document, and all the argument supporting it, and all of the argument of the many others who are making the same case all over the Church.

“Our first and most important ordination is baptism,” “The priesthood is composed of all believers,” “Exclusion LGBTQ of persons adds nothing of value to the ordination standards we already have. What a watering-down of ordination into meaninglessness! It ignores Paul’s teachings in 1 Timothy and Titus about the necessity of leaders sending the right message by their manner of life to those they lead and to outsiders. One gets the impression that as long as one has a baptismal certificate, one’s manner of life, calling, and gifts are irrelevant. The writers state that “chastity in singleness” does not begin to address the social reality of the average American who starts having sex at 16 and does not marry until 28. Apparently the crowd and the Gallup Poll determine God’s truth, and if 60% of pastors seduce their parishioners, then God had better get rid of our outdated standards. Seriously, we know we will never stamp out domestic violence and substance abuse among our people, but we rightly allow zero tolerance for them, no matter how prevalent they may become.
Watering-down ordination into meaninglessness is lifting up fidelity-chastity as the primary standard for ordained ministry. Our approach asks the church to take seriously the vows of Baptism and the Reformed commitment to a priesthood of all believers.

We do not ignore Paul's teachings.  We do not even reference Baptism certificates, and nowhere do we even imply to the slightest degree that manner of life, calling and gifts are irrelevant. (In fact, we make the opposite argument only a few paragraphs previous - that gifts are deeply important.)  Rev. Hobson contributes nothing on the issue of sexual ethics in a context which is entirely different from the Biblical context...and he ends with more false analogies, comparing homosexual love to domestic violence and, for the fourth or so time, substance abuse.

Gallup polls do not determine God's truth, but neither does simply ignoring massive changes in context, as if being celibate for an average of 12 years (from late adolescence to average age of marriage), nearly into one's fourth decade of life, was identical to being celibate until marriage in Biblical times...often by age 14, as was the case in the Bronze Age.  Ignoring context does not make it irrelevant.  

“LGBTQ persons already serve in other denominations and organizations, proving dire predictions false every day.” This claim ignores what’s going on in the Anglican communion and the ELCA at the moment. Give it time. Unlike the UCC, we are a connectional church, therefore we have yet to see what will happen when we overturn our standards. And if the Bible is merely a book full of fairy tales, then yes, a church with LGBTQ leaders will not be much different from a church without them.

We do not ignore what is going on in the Anglican communion and the ELCA.  Of course there will be conflict when injustice is overturned.  We're sure ordaining women was no picnic either, but it was the right thing to do, and we did it despite the historical practice of the Church, the biases of Paul, and so on.  What we are referring to is the fact that, in the pulpit, serving as Elders and Deacons, evidence will continually mount that LGBTQ persons are called by God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, and entirely as capable of ministry as any other believers.  

“No church that does not choose an LGBTQ minister, Elder, or Deacon will ever have to ordain one.” Nonsense! An empty, false promise if there ever was one. The movement for LGBTQ ordination is based on it being a fundamental issue of justice. Justice cannot allow injustice to coexist with it in the same house. The permission to ordain women, within 20 years became the requirement to ordain or else. Already the GA has voted to require local churches to pay for pension and medical benefits for gay partners, whether it violates local conscience or not. We know it will not stop there.
Due to the history of women's ordination in our denomination it is understandable why Rev. Hobson would react this way. There are substantial differences between that situation and this one. LGBTQ ordination has not been, and has no prospect of being raised to confessional status anytime soon, nor having the GAPJC declare it an essential of the Reformed tradition. The language of amendment 10-A doesn't even explicitly permit LGBTQ ordination, but merely restores the historic responsibility of the Presbytery to function as the examining and ordaining body.

Perhaps, one might argue, that language in the BoO for the committee on representation might force the issue when it comes to Elders and Deacons in a local congregation, but this is unrealistic. How many open and affirming LGBTQ individuals do you think are members of congregations that oppose their full inclusion? How many of those do you suppose might desire to seek ordination and have any chance of being elected by the congregation? Or of passing an examination for ordination by the session of that church? Inclusive ordination standards will have no effect on the life of churches that don't participate voluntarily. Even with ordination of women, there are plenty of churches that have never had a female pastor and no one is going to force them to change their minds soon.

“The church is currently lending tacit support to mocking, bullying, torment, and exclusion suffered by LGBTQ persons.” The people who practice bullying do not care what we in the church think about homosexuality or the use of violence, and they do not bother to bully or torment those who fornicate, abuse alcohol or drugs, or commit domestic violence, all of which we also oppose. And I will not be surprised if someday, those who support LGBTQ ordination will support the mocking, bullying, torment, and exclusion of those who hold the historic viewpoint on sexuality.
It is understandable why Rev. Hobson would want to disassociate from the bullying and torment going on in our culture, but it is unfortunately the truth that the people who practice bullying are very often one and the same as "we in the church." Religiously motivated hate speech and violence against LGBTQ persons is well documented. Recent surveys suggest that persons in the U.S. between 16-26 identify the church with "anti-gay ideology" more than any other subject. Conservative Christians have unfortunately made homosexual-exclusion a primary identifying issue. They do not oppose fornication, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or domestic violence to the same degree, and none of those issues involve an identifiable minority group to target for bullying. This argument by Rev. Hobson is a string of bad analogies.

Finally, we do not support the bullying or torment of anyone for any reason, but we do hope one day that the idea of arguing for the exclusion of LGBTQ persons will be as unthinkable as arguing from faith for the continuation of slavery, or the exclusion of women.  Sadly, this change will likely take a similarly long time.


Alan said...

Wow, you all have gone above and beyond in answering all this. And I commend you for being far kinder in your replies than I would have been.

1) You wrote: "A theological or ethical system where love, consent, commitment, intent and context don't matter at all is incoherent at best."

Um. Yeah. Frankly I couldn't even believe someone would have written what he wrote in the first place. Hard to follow anything else he says after that, frankly. I think you've been really kind here by calling that incoherent at best.

2) By the way, the "obvious" reading of the "sin of sodom" is so non-obvious that such a reading didn't occur to anyone for several hundred years. My understanding is that the hypothesis that equates the sin of sodom with homosexuality didn't appear until something like 600 AD. It cannot be found in the Bible.

3) TH wrote: "The Bible’s central teaching is stated three times, in the Torah, by Jesus, and by Paul: “The two [man and woman] shall become one flesh.”

This is not the Bible's central teaching. It isn't even the Bible's central teaching on marriage, but it most certainly is NOT the Bible's *central* teaching, which is about the creation, fall, and redemption of human beings. Anyone who thinks that the Bible's central teaching is about marriage and not about Jesus has elevated marriage to an idol. I would say that anyone who thinks that the Bible's central teaching is a marriage handbook should not be a Minister. Again, you are kinder to this guy than he deserves, in my opinion.

Alan said...

4) (BTW, you're also too kind to allow him to continue to get away with arguing about pedophilia instead of homosexuality. If he wants to argue about the unnaturalness of homosexuality then he should argue about the unnaturalness of homosexuality, not simply make his continued incorrect and hateful implications that homosexuality and pedophilia are equivalent, so that he can just interchange one when arguing against the other.)

5) Love to see the citation for that 70% "success" rate, and what constitutes success, and who they studied. Just out of curiosity, since I've never been in a seminary PhD program, just a chemistry one, but do seminaries teach students to critically analyze published reports of research, or are you taught to just swallow anything you're fed if it happens to coincide with you're prior biases? I'm not sure where Rev. Hobson got his degree, but perhaps he should get his money back. Because I'd wager if we get a citation on the 70% we'll see exactly what Rev. Hobson is doing.

6) Why is it when we use the issue of women's ordination as an analogy for LGBT ordination, anti-gay folks say it's an incorrect analogy. Then they go on to use the Kenyon case about the ordination of women as an analogy. Just curious. (BTW, there is no requirement to ordain women or anyone else for that matter. If you vote "No" during an ordination examination no one interrogates you about your reasons.)

TH wrote: "The people who practice bullying do not care what we in the church think about homosexuality or the use of violence,"

This is demonstrably false. Many examples exist of bullying in which the perpetrators specifically reference "what God says about homosexuality."

Anyway, well done. Your responses are thorough, thoughtful, and far kinder than necessary while showing the vacuousness of the arguments presented by Rev. Hobson. The fact that you respond so well gives me hope that all of our seminaries aren't such low quality as whatever diploma mill Dr. Hobson received his degree.

Doug Hagler said...

Thanks for the comments, Alan. We're trying, though this can be a really frustrating process sometimes, to be charitable to those who disagree with us while not feeling we have to be charitable toward their arguments themselves.

With any luck, our arguments will stand on their own merits. I have yet to encounter an anti-inclusion argument and think "Oh, no, that one's really convincing." I think these can all be readily dismantled - though I understand that this is in part because I do not share many of the preconceptions of the anti-inclusion crowd.

Nick.Larson said...

First I would like to extend my thanks to Rev. Hobson for engaging in this discussion. I think faithful engagement with those who disagree with you honor our christian fore-bearers and exactly what the world needs from the church.

To my fellow friars: Very well reasoned and faithfully presented guys! I'm continually impressed by the manner in which you conduct yourselves and the vigor with which you stand by your convictions.

Christine Kooi said...

You are to be commended for publishing this exchange, and for maintaining such a civil tone.

Doug Hagler said...

With Rev. Hobson's permission, his reply via email:

Here is my brief response (it is far from comprehensive):

The only case where to‘ebah is used to preserve Israel’s uniqueness is for the kosher food laws, which is explicitly not an abomination to God, but for “you” (Israel). All the other uses are to identify what turns God’s stomach, not cultural issues. Check the Hebrew text – to‘ebah is not used for cutting of hair or wearing mixed fabric.

The reason I mentioned the passive partner is to refute the notion that the Bible is only condemning abusive, exploitative behavior. The passive partner is not abusing or exploiting anyone, but is rather the victim. But the Bible does not exempt the victim. I never said that love, consent, and commitment are irrelevant to sexuality (far from it!) – that is twisting my words, intentionally or not. My point was that both Testaments rule out sex outside of heterosexual marriage, regardless of whether it is abusive or loving.

I know that no one else (other than Donald Wold) has argued that aselgeia was Jesus’ veiled term for homosexual behavior and similar behavior that was shocking to all first-century Jews. I am the first one to publish the evidence, in Filologia Neotestamentaria 21 (2008): 65-74 ( if you can’t find F.N. at your local drugstore, the article is also posted at

How can someone say that Paul disagrees with “the two [man and woman] shall become one flesh”? That’s Paul’s big argument in 1 Corinthians 6, where he is blasting heterosexual fornicators. Yes, he says in the next chapter it would be ideal if nobody needed sex, but to live without it, he says, is a gift from God. The only alternative, he says (same chapter), is marriage – by which he means man and woman.

I have written a chapter on the NT sin lists in my forthcoming book. (BTW, there is only 1 “fruits of the Spirit” list, although there are shorter lists of virtues.) These lists are not cherry-picking, nor are they contradictory. A number of the sins listed are reaffirmations of laws punished by death in the NT. For the sake of agreement, let’s allow the Jesus of John 8 (even if he is apocryphal, although I believe he is historical) to take the death penalty off the table as an option for us. The OT death penalties are signals that the laws to which they are attached are serious moral issues with God. Jesus has taken away the death penalty from the incorrigible teenager, but “Honor your father and mother” is still timeless and universal.

Jesus never said the rich young ruler was righteous (??). It does say Jesus “loved” him, but then he lets him walk away – the paradigm for what y’all call exclusivism. The rich young ruler excluded himself. And Jesus does not declare Zacchaeus to be saved until after he announces that he is walking away from his abusive lifestyle.

It’s interesting how the words of Jesus are called a “screed” (you say this to your Lord?), while Song of Solomon is converted from love poetry to a teaching document.

Some of us do oppose fornication to the same degree that we do same-sex intimacy, and the reason we do not say more about substance abuse or domestic violence is that neither of these is being advocated as a good gift from God. Imagine if this debate were about the right to smoke reefers around the table of the Lord, and that the same 33 years of effort was being put into defending that right.

roseblack said...

Speaking of the APA:

Figured I should toss in a psychologist's point of view, seeing as APA was brought in a bit.

Members of the APA have indeed theorized that acts of pedophilia are not intrinsically harmful, but the social context around them (i.e. wigged out parents) render them harmful. That said, I haven't seen any arguments that adults having sex with children isn't harmful. Any arguments are related to the derivation of the harmfulness, not its existence.

As long as I'm here, I wanted to toss in the fact that the APA has issued a clear statement (backed by a very long reference section) stating that there is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of "reparative therapy," and that there is a great deal of evidence that it causes psychological harm. I know that there are studies out there 'demonstrating' their efficacy, but on the occasions when I've sat down and read through them, their methodologies have been flawed to a degree that I have to believe any sane psychologist would consider both unethical and frankly pathetic.

Not that either of those points is terribly important to a religious debate, but I can resist tossing a word in.

Doug Hagler said...

Actually, they are very important to a religious debate - nothing about religion exists in a vacuum, and science informs religion all the time, even for those who might wish it did not. Take, for example, pro-life arguments made on the basis of when a fetus's nervous system develops, enabling it to feel pain.

What you said is what I found in my very limited digging around, prepping for this whole thing - lots of social-scientific professionals saying conversion/reparative therapy was bunk at best, and demonstratively harmful in some cases.

Alan said...

"The OT death penalties are signals that the laws to which they are attached are serious moral issues with God. Jesus has taken away the death penalty from the incorrigible teenager,"

And how about homosexuality?

Clearly using Rev. Hobson's reasoning, the death penalty for homosexuality (never mentioned in the 10 Commandments) must still be reasonable.

There is simply no way to decide that only HALF of Leviticus 20:13 is still law today.

Talk about picking and choosing.

Rev Hobson wrote, "Imagine if this debate were about the right to smoke reefers around the table of the Lord, and that the same 33 years of effort was being put into defending that right."

Again, he cannot argue the point so he makes a ridiculous analogy that even a child could see is stupid. Seriously, this is what he counts as reasonable argumentation? Pathetic.

Kattie W. Coon said...

I find it interesting that Rev. Hobson continues to refer to "the passive partner" in a sexual encounter. I wonder what his understanding of healthy sexual relationship is. As I understand it, a Passive-Active sexual pairing is the exception, not the rule, and could possibly be indicative of a need for marriage counseling. If Passive-Active sexual relationships really are the Biblical norm and the rule for our lives, then I guess Christian women need to learn how to be door mats, and Christian men need to learn how to be satisfied by that. Yuck!

Doug Hagler said...

I think that before any conversation about sexuality in the Bible, we should all read the Song of Songs, Hobson's opinion of it notwithstanding. I have never learned anything valuable about love from a list of rules, and I think poetry is an appropriate venue for theological instruction.

Alan said...

"I find it interesting that Rev. Hobson continues to refer to "the passive partner" in a sexual encounter."

I find it interesting that Rev. Hobson and other presumably straight guys pretend to be such authorities on the dynamics of gay male relationships.

But then, they're not thinking about relationships. They're clearly thinking only of sex, which is interesting in and of itself. But even in that case, their argument is foiled by their own lack of imagination. (Though clearly they are spending much time imagining something, which is also interesting in and of itself.)

In other words, folks like Hobson and Gagnon, etc. don't really know what's going on at all and are pretending an expertise they do not really have on either gay male relationships and gay male sex.

(Note their complete ignorance about lesbians. Or perhaps they simply don't care about lesbians.)


Of course, I could be wrong, and perhaps Rev. Hobson would like to claim an expertise in matters of gay relationships and gay sex that goes beyond his particular PhD?

Kattie W. Coon said...

What's worse Alan, is that neither one seems to express very much knowledge of real relationships whether gay or straight. They seem bent on reducing relationships into what part goes into what. They deserve our ridicule.

Alan said...

"They deserve our ridicule."

And their spouses deserve some sympathy.