Local Church Sports Ministry and Gender Issues
The blogs in this series are excerpts from Dr. Linville’s yet to be released book. They explore the realities occurring in local church Sports Outreach Ministries in relationship to an evolving culture and shifting trends within sport, The Church, and society in general. The end goal of this series of Biblical exegesis is to aide local church Sports & Recreation Ministers to comprehend, and proactively structure, their outreaches with theological clarity, relational love and cultural sensitivity to all involved. This blog specifically examines the teaching of Romans chapter 1 concerning homosexual activity and same gender marriage.
The process for this series of blogs consists primarily of reviewing the work of others (scholars, apologists, preachers, thinkers) in reference to the selected passages and articulating the relevant issues with an end goal of encouraging readers to study the resources listed and referenced and then draw conclusions that can assist them in conceptualizing and implementing a Christ-honoring sports outreach ministry that is relevant, sensitive and loving.
Romans Chapter One
The difference in opinion continues between the revisionist and traditionalist camps. This time it is focused on the interpretation of Chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
A Revisionist Perspective
The main hermeneutical point from the revisionist view rests upon the assumption that when Paul wrote this letter to 1st Century Romans, he was addressing a 1st Century issue. In specific, revisionists believe Paul addresses hedonistic activities carried out in conjunction with the worship of pagan goddesses such as Aphrodite. Thus, revisionists interpret this passage as not condemning biblical homosexual activity in general, only specific hedonistic, uncontrolled sexual passions which are not biblically defensible. For further contemplation, I refer readers to the writings of Mel White cited below.
A secondary set of revisionists arguments are offered by Louis Smedes. Smedes states that homosexuals he knows have not rejected God and thus are exempt from being associated with those being condemned in this passage. In addition, he states these same homosexuals cannot be condemned for exchanging their natural sexuality because they were born homosexual, not heterosexual, and thus, for them to exchange the natural would be to engage in heterosexual activity. The ultimate logical conclusion he makes is that if they are born homosexual they would only be condemned if they exchanged their natural homosexual activity for unnatural heterosexual activity.
A Traditionalist Perspective
The traditional view offers a decidedly different perspective. This difference begins with the belief that the ultimate author of Romans is The Holy Spirit who inspired Paul. It continues by stating The Holy Spirit is not referencing a 1st Century hedonistic culture as the basis for His condemnation of homosexual activity. Rather what He (the Holy Spirit) relates through Paul, is based on, assumes and affirms the Creation narratives of Genesis and all previous biblical condemnations of homosexual activity; not just a particular hedonistic variation of it. Therefore, traditionalists dismiss Smedes’s arguments as well. I refer readers to the work of Kevin DeYoung in regards to these matters in the 4th chapter of his book cited below.
Identifying the Issues
The crux of the disagreement comes down to two things: hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) & logic. Revisionist starting points in both areas weaken their arguments and traditionalists err in one key logical point.
Hermeneutics - By assuming: a) Paul to be the ultimate author of Romans, rather than the Holy Spirit; and b) that this passage refers to 1st century pagan temple hedonism; revisionists appear to be eisogeting (putting into scripture what they want it to say). At best, the 1st Century hedonism would represent a specific time and place for application of the historical Jewish (and thus Christian) ethic concerning human sexuality (including a condemnation of all homosexual activity); not a rebuttal of it. Smedes’s arguments however deserve deeper reflection.
Logic/Illogic/Logic/Illogic - The condemnations articulated in this passage clearly reference men (people) who are “un-Godly” and who “unrighteously suppress the truth” (v.18); those who “did not honor God” (v. 21); those who “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25); and those who did not “acknowledge God” (v.28). However, it does not logically follow that all who identify themselves as homosexual strive to be un-Godly or to worship the creature rather than acknowledging God. Put in a more positive way, it is logical to state some who claim to be homosexual sincerely love and strive to follow God. However, it would be illogical to state that just because they are Christians and love God, that they have a perfect theology when it comes to gender and human sexuality. Logically it follows that some of the Godliest people in the world; even those whose hearts desire God above everything else, including their sexuality; can misinterpret scripture and get it wrong.
The bottom line however is that Smedes’s argument is fallacious (illogical) in two primary ways: 1) his appeal to knowing homosexuals who have not left the true worship of the true God and therefore stating their homosexual activity is justified, is a fallacious argument technically known as an ad hominem argument…or an argument that appeals to a person rather than addressing the argument itself; and b) his second argument fails because one of its premises it is rooted in the unproven theory that homosexual orientation is rooted in biological fact rather than being a lifestyle choice.
At best, this particular passage would be a “draw” with the revisionist hermeneutic not properly acknowledging the Holy Spirit as the ultimate author of Romans and also needing a more convincing argument to support appealing to a 1st century rather than a centuries old ethic. Conversely, the traditionalist view is in need of a better perspective than to categorically condemn all people who consider themselves to be homosexual as not being Christians.
When this section of scripture is added to the previous passages the result remains in the traditionalist’s favor. Revisionists win a decisive point in stating people who claim to be homosexual can in fact be Christians (even if they err in their theology of human sexuality) but overall revisionists gain little if any ground in the overall debate and still face an “arduous uphill battle” in establishing that homosexual activity can be biblically defended.
The final conclusion awaits the exegesis of additional passages and the impact of the possibility of the afore-mentioned biblical a priori as potential “trump card.” Upon one’s final conclusion, there is the still further journey on how to apply the interpretations and assessments in sensitive and loving ways within a local church Sports Outreach Ministry.
Next week’s blog will begin to explore passages in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy.
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's yet to be released book. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. W. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville are archived at: www.csrm.org
A Plea For Grace
This set of blogs discusses the most socially charged issue of the current day. The author seeks truth; desires to provide both questions and answers to further the discussion; engage in civil discourse; and most importantly provide a haven for love and grace. I encourage all readers to: “know your mind, but not have your mind made up.” As Martin Luther stated, I believe we should be open to being persuaded by Holy Scripture and evident reason (logic). I start by asking for grace when I don’t use the right term to describe something or someone, and I plead for forgiveness when I offend someone due to my own fallen nature which may lead to unintentional insensitivity, ignorance or hurtful language. My intent is not to hurt or injure anyone, but rather, it is to seek Christ’s will for all of us who are attempting to follow Jesus as we travel this path together.
Recommended Books & References consulted for this series of Blogs – A select list…
Dr. Greg Linville was one of the founding members of CSRM and has served as the Executive Director since 2000. He served for 15 years as a local church sports and recreation minister and coached over 30 years at the junior high, high school and collegiate levels as well as 30 years in rec. leagues. Dr. Linville has consulted with churches from Australia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand and North America. He was awarded the world's first honorary Doctorate in Sports Ministry and holds an earned Doctorate as well. He is the author of Christmanship: The Theology of Competition & Sport. Dr. Greg has been married for over 35 years, is the father of two married children and the grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.