Tuesday, June 10, 2014

There Is A Reason Paul Said "We All Sin...."

(Wikipedia): In Abrahamic contexts, sin is the act of violating God's will.

Last week, Jack Jenkins of Think Progress reported

The pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Los Angeles, California announced last month that he is now “gay affirming” and has accepted his son’s homosexuality, a declaration that is causing a rift in his local congregation and sparking controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jenkins, who should be applauded for specifying "Southern Baptist Convention" rather than the more general, misleading "Baptist," added

The finer details of Cortez’s new theological stance — particularly his exact feelings on whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful — were not immediately clear, although his insistence that LGBT couples should be accepted as they are is a notable departure from conservative Christian churches that refuse to condone the presence of same-sex couples in their pews.

The normally reliable (but if only "normally," could it be reliable?) Pew Research Center had conducted a poll (results, below) on the topic in March and May.  However, the article dated 6/9/14 on its website referred specifically to Reverend Cortez, suggesting the issue has gained increase salience among members of the SBC, which begins its annual convention today.

Pew asked respondents three questions:

- Do you personally believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or is not a moral issue?

- Do you think it is a sin or not to engage in homosexual behavior?

- Do you personally feel that there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and homosexuality, or not?

An obvious question immediately arises: if one believes, as most scientific research has found, that homosexuality is a matter of nature and not nurture, does that make it morally acceptable or  not a moral issue?

Beyond that obvious fault in the survey, however, lies a trap into which Jenkins also fell.Asking someone whether homosexual behavior is a sin is analogous to asking whether the earth is warming. People may choose to believe what they wish, but it is not an issue of values or perspective: the earth is warming, and homosexual behavior is a sin.

That is not to argue that gay behavior is immoral or wrong, only that it is a sin.   But the publisher of one respected Bible commentary stated "underlying Leviticus is the biblical doctrine of sin. This seems clear both from specific words used... and from the punishments prescribed for offenses committed."

And there certainly are a lot of offenses, or sins, at least 76 listed in Leviticus, according to this blogger. They include "bringing unauthorized fire before God;" ""picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard;"seeking revenge or bearing a grudge;" "trimming your beard;" "practicing divination or seeking omens;" "working on the Sabbath." And don't even think about eating shellfish or pork.

And this: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them" (Leviticus 20:13, ESV).    Sin (as opposed to evil, immoral, or bad behavior) has no meaning outside of a biblical context. Rarely does one say "it's a sin what Republicans are doing to President Obama" or "it's a sin what President Obama is doing to the country."

Sin is what the Bible says it is; otherwise, sin would not be sin.  It doesn't mean it's wrong, anymore than it's wrong to eat bacon, eating the fruit which has fallen off the tree in your backyard, or driving a city bus on Saturday or Sunday.   Though homosexual acts are forbidden by the Bible, abortion is more murky, and Scripture is silent on the matter of privatization of education, prisons, or other facilities or institutions, as reprehensible as the trend is.  What the Bible says on a matter need not be controlling, but let's be at least a little honest and acknowledge that certain things are "sin."  And then use the mind and the heart God gave you (if you so believe) and determine for yourself what is right and wrong, good or bad public policy.

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