Sunday, June 30, 2019

Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming

Image result for john piippo affirm
Worship at Redeemer

(I am re-posting this for X.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer is: "Yes!"

And Buddhists and Hindus and atheists, too.

I would be thrilled if people of differing beliefs came to my church.

"If a Muslim came and asked you to affirm their belief that Jesus was merely a prophet (and not God the Son), and that Jesus did not die on a cross (the Koran says this), would you affirm this?"

My answer is: "Of course not." And, BTW, the serious, practicing Muslim would not affirm my belief that Jesus died on a cross to atone for the sins of humanity.

What does it mean to "affirm" something, or someone?" From my Christian point of view, I want to affirm what God affirms. As far as I can tell, God does not affirm the following statement: Jesus was only a prophet, and Jesus did not die on a cross.

This being the case, why would I affirm this? And why would anyone expect me to affirm it?

Over the years, as a result of my college philosophy classes, several atheists have checked out my church. When they come, do I welcome them? Yes. I am thrilled they came! Does this mean that I affirm their core belief that There is no God? Of course not. And, I don't expect that, as atheists, they affirm my core belief that There is a God.

Welcome and love people, even enemies? Yes.

Affirm every belief people have? No. To do that is neither loving nor truthful.

Is it loving to welcome but not affirm? Of course. To love someone is not equivalent to affirming every belief they bring with them. That would be disingenuous. I have had a few atheists over the years tell me they respect the fact that I can be gracious towards them while not affirming their beliefs. One atheist looked me square in the eye and said, "I respect you for not affirming my atheism. That's why I am interested in you."

The atheist Christopher Hitchens said the same, and castigated both Christians and atheists who mindlessly and hypocritically affirmed everything, no matter what. (See The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist.)

The philosopher skeptic David Hume said the same. There's the story of Hume getting up at 5 AM to travel to hear George Whitefield preach. Asked if he believed what the preacher preached, he replied, "No, but he does!"

No one affirms everything. Probably, people disaffirm more things than they affirm.

Much depends on a person's worldview. It is within a worldview that affirming and disaffirming find their place. Everyone has a worldview. Even the view that there are no worldviews is a worldview. The question becomes: Is my worldview true? That is, is my worldview the way things really are? This is not the special province of Christians. Everyone believes their worldview represents the way things really are.

Everyone affirms and disaffirms. It is unloving to expect, even force, someone who does not share your worldview to affirm it. But we can try to understand. And then, evaluate. And then, in a civil way, disaffirm. (Unlike life at American universities today, which mostly are disaffirming and not welcoming.)

"Could an atheist teach atheism in your church as something God affirms?" Of course not, for what seem to me to be obvious reasons.

"Could a Muslim be one of your youth leaders and teach your youth that Christ did not die on a cross?" Of course not.

"Would you, John, be allowed to be a youth leader at the Islamic Center of America, and tell Young Muslims that the Koran is wrong, and God is a Trinity of Persons, in One?" Definitely not!

The idea that we ought to love everyone, even our enemies, finds its most powerful formulation in Christianity.

The idea that we should affirm every belief is unloving, and pop-culture nonsense. If love meant affirming everything people believe, we would love no one, not even ourselves, not even God.


***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

With Janice Trigg - Encounters with the Holy Spirit  (June 2019) 

Addressing Same-Sex Marriage

Flowers in our back yard

(I'm re-posting and re-editing this, to keep the discussion out there among followers of Jesus.)


"We must acknowledge that when some American citizens are fearful of expressing their religious views, something new has snaked its way into the village square:
an insidious intolerance for religion 
that has no place in a country
founded on religious freedom."


For Christian theists concerned about the way the same-sex marriage discussion has gone in America, I suggest there are two issues: one legal, the other religious.


The Legal Issue
Regarding the legal matter, the issue is about the definition of “marriage.” Might we in America have a civil discourse about this? The truth or falsity of the statement We should allow for same-sex marriage rests heavily on the meaning of the term “marriage.” Some of us, myself included, feel like many of our government leaders have rushed forward to change the meaning of marriage, without discussion. 

The term "marriage equality" changes the definition of marriage, without discussion. Of course if "marriage" is defined as a union between consenting adults, irregardless of their gender, than same-sex marriages should be legally allowed. But that has not been the legally prevailing definition of marriage. If marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, anything outside those parameters is irrelevant, and no injustice is involved in disallowing gay unions to be called marriages. As Ryan T. Anderson has written, "A truth acknowledged for millennia has been overruled by five unelected judges." (Anderson, Ryan T. Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, Kindle Location 89) Without allowing for an extended, civil discourse. Any citizen ought to feel troubled by such an act of unrestrained power.


Read the editorial in CNN by Robert George (prof. of jurisprudence at Harvard and Princeton), Sherif Gergis (Princeton and Yale), and Ryan T. Anderson – “Gay Marriage, then Group Marriage?” They write:

“Of course, if marriage were simply about recognizing bonds of affection or romance, then two men or two women could form a marriage just as a man and woman can. But so could three or more in the increasingly common phenomenon of group (“polyamorous”) partnerships. In that case, to recognize opposite-sex unions but not same-sex or polyamorous ones would be unfair — a denial of equality.” Please read this entire editorial. 

For a more complete version see their recent, essentially non-religious book What is Marriage? Man and Woman – a Defense. As you read it jump off the cultural bandwagon and think your way through it.

The Religious Issue

There is a second debate going on, this one within religions, and within Christianity. (Irreligous people, of course, will be uninterested in this.) It is over the statement: Does the biblical text disaffirm same-sex unions? I believe it does. 

Stop here. I disagree with Christians who think that, somehow, the biblical text does not disaffirm same-sex unions. I can say this without hating anyone. Disagreement does not equal hatred. Even if I was not a Christian and was asked to look as objectively as I can at what the Bible says about same-sex unions, I would conclude: it does not affirm them; indeed, it speaks against them. One can surely admit this without hating anyone. Again, to disagree is not to hate.


If someone says they are a “Christian,” then I reason as follows.
1. We are obligated to follow God’s will.
2. God’s will is given to us in the Bible.
3. The Bible forbids same-sex unions.
4. Therefore, same-sex unions are against God’s will. 


On P1 (Premise 1): Virtually all Jesus-followers affirm this to be true.


On P2 – again, Jesus-followers will have little problem with this. There may be discussion on the nature of biblical authority. That is another, and important, discussion.
Note again: Let's say you are an atheist. As an atheist you see little or no authority in the Bible. But of course. Christian theism is not your worldview. The Bible means little or nothing to you as a life-guide, just as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion means nothing to me as a life-guide (and yes, I read it, and made about 45 posts in response to it).

But if you are and claim to be a follower of Jesus, then it follows that you place a high premium on the words of the Bible. The Bible is our metanarrative (everybody has a metanarrative, even post-modern theorists who reject metanarratives). For those few billion people in this camp, we can and should have discussions over the meaning of the biblical texts, their interpretation, and the nature of their authority. And, again, we can discuss without hating one another. (A good book on explaining the biblical text as metanarrative is N.T. Wright, The Last Word.)


Re. P3 – this is where the intra-Christian discussion lies. If you want to go straight to the heart of this discussion I can suggest nothing better than Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon. See, e.g., these reviews, which I copy to defend the scholarship contained therein.
“Christians challenged by questions surrounding Scripture on same-sex relations will find an invaluable chart for navigating these confusing waters.” — Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)
“Gagnon’s brilliant condensation of his arguments should be a significant asset for clergy and laity, while Via opens new challenges.” — Catherine Clark Kroeger, Associate Professor of Classical and Ministry Studies, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)
“I know of no finer presentation of all the main issues.” — Graham Stanton, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge (endorsement inside book)
“I know of no other work that so clearly illumines the biblical issues at the heart of the controversy.” — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School (endorsement inside book)
“Presents a vigorous, illuminating debate about the implications of scripture for contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality. I strongly recommend this book.” –James F. Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia

Via is pro-gay marriage, Gagnon is against gay marriage. Both are New Testament scholars. But note this. Via agrees that one cannot interpret the biblical text as supportive of same-sex marriage. So he gives us a principle that seems of God to him as a justification for allowing same-sex marriages today.

Note: I have extensively studied and been involved in this discussion since the 1970s. Yes, I have done all the contextual studies and word-studies relevant to the context, plus read everything available by Christians who disagree with me. (BTW - just because someone disagrees with me on this does not mean, in my mind, that they are not a Christian. Disagreement with a person's theology is not equivalent to judgment of a person.) 


For Gagnon’s more complete biblical argument against textual support of same-sex marriage see his The Bible and Homosexuality: Texts and Interpretation. Of this book reviews include:

“…In its learnedness, [Gagnon’s] book will…be in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored….” — Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)
“…the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position….expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly.” — I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)
“…the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological…perspectives on same-sex relations….a tour de force.” — Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)
“Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony….fair and compassionate…a major resource….” — Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)
“Gagnon’s book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate….I recommend this book wholeheartedly.” — C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)
“Gagnon’s incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate.” — Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)
“I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church’s…response to homosexuality.” — Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)
“I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior.” — Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)
“No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book.” — John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)
“This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,…indispensable even for those who disagree with the author.” — James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University

We have rushed over the cliff without a civil discussion. (Five white Ivy-league lawyers decided on the meaning of "marriage" for our nation. What if there had been a national discussion, and then a national vote?)

I think the area we should be most concerned to address is the legal issue, and not the religious issue. This is because, overwhelmingly, we don’t legislate biblical morality. For example, biblically, gossip and gluttony are sins. Engaged in, they mitigate against human flourishing. But I don't think we should legislate against them. I don’t think we should make a law against gossip, or a law against gluttony. 

Continue to address the meaning of “marriage.” 
Don’t be intellectually seduced by the bandwagon fallacy.

***

Character (Now For Something Completely Different)

Glen Arbor, Michigan

When I was a boy I remember being encouraged by my parents and teachers to watch the first presidential debate on TV. I don't remember what it was about. Probably, I was bored. Children were told this was an historic event. So, my family and I settled down in our living room and watched John F. Kennedy debate Richard Nixon.

That was September 26, 1960. Today things are different.  

We should pray for parents who have to figure out how to shield their kids from this amoral political catastrophe. We should, as Scripture tells us, pray for our government leaders, especially that they would have moral integrity and character. And, we should focus our hearts and minds on something even more important than "the issues."

Let me present you with something completely different. A different world. An alternative kingdom. Another path. It's given to us by New York Times writer David Brooks, in The Road to Character.

Character. 

Brooks begins by making a distinction between two opposing sides of human nature, He calls the two sides Adam 1 and Adam 2.

Adam 1 wants to do things that strengthen his résumé. Adam 1 strives to have high personal status and win victories.

Adam 2, on the other hand, wants to embody certain moral qualities. Adam 2 longs to have character. Adam 2 has a non-self-promoting sense of right and wrong. Adam 2 not only wants to do good, but to be good.

Adam 1 self-promotes; Adam 2 sacrifices self in the service of others.

Adam 2 lives in service to a transcendent truth that is bigger than himself.

Adam 1 wants to conquer the world; Adam 2 wants to serve the world.

Brooks writes:

"While Adam 1 is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam 2 sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose. While Adam 1 asks how things work, Adam 2 asks why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for. While Adam 1 wants to venture forth, Adam 2 wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal. While Adam 1’s motto is “Success,” Adam 2 experiences life as a moral drama. His motto is “Charity, love, and redemption.”" (Brooks, Kindle Locations 81-85)

Adam 1 lives by a utilitarian logic; viz., the logic of economics. Effort leads to reward. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world.

Adam 2 upside-downs the logic of Adam 1. Brooks writes:

"It’s a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave. Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.
To nurture your Adam 1 career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths. To nurture your Adam 2 moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses." (Kindle Locations 90-95)

Our narcissistic culture applauds and feeds Adam 1, while dismissing Adam 2. The media feeds on Adam 1 types. Adam 2 types were not made for consumption.

"We live," writes Brooks, "in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life." We live to satisfy our desires at the expense of developing a deep, moral life. "We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character."

Since our culture judges people by their abilities, and not their worth, Adam 2 increases, while Adam 2 decreases. Thus most people live with a self-satisfied moral mediocrity.

Adam 1 lives for "résumé virtues"; Adam 2 lives for "eulogy virtues." Brooks writes:

"The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being— whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed." (K63)

A eulogy-virtuous person has been freed from Facebook self-promotion. "Sometimes you don’t even notice these people, because while they seem kind and cheerful, they are also reserved. They possess the self-effacing virtues of people who are inclined to be useful but don’t need to prove anything to the world: humility, restraint, reticence, temperance, respect, and soft self-discipline." (K160-162)


Adam 1 is morally dis-integrated.


Adam 2 has character. This is important, isn't it?

(God is still working on my own spiritual character development.)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

An Infilling Today, an Outpouring Tomorrow

(Me, photographing the sunset, Ludington beach, Michigan - photo by Josh Piippo)

Linda and I return to Monroe today. We've been at the HSRM Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

I wanted to write a fresh blog post this morning but I can't. God poured so much freshness into me, and into us, that I just have to simmer in it. I am infilled.

Tomorrow morning, as I speak to my church family, it will be poured out. I will be outpoured.


SUMMER SEMINARY - Study Spirit Hermeneutics With Me


Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost by [Keener, Craig S.]

An invitation to Study Biblical Interpretation 
with me this summer.

WHEN: June-July- August 2019

CLASS: Spirit Hermeneutics

A discussion of New Testament scholar Craig Keener's Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost.

HOW:

June - purchase and read the book.

July/August - meet with me 4-5 times to discuss. Dates and location TBA.

Long-Distance - for any interested pastors: If you are a pastor or church leader and would like to study with me this summer, please contact me. We can schedule some conference calls in late July and August to discuss.

TEACHER:

John Piippo, PhD, Northwestern University
Visiting Professor, Faith Bible Seminary, New York City
Adjunct Professor, Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio

Former professor at...
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min. programs)
Palmer Theological Seminary (D. Min. program)
Asia Theological College (Singapore)
Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit)
Monroe County Community College (Adjunct Professor of Philosophy)
Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship Church, Monroe, MI

CONTACT ME at: johnpiippo@msn.com




Thursday, June 27, 2019

ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT now on Kindle!


Encounters with the Holy Spirit by [Piippo, John]

Encounters with the Holy Spirit  (co-edited with Janice Trigg) is now available on Kindle - $3.99.

This book is a collection of essays on the Holy Spirit from Christian leaders who are active in Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries. It is the story of a conference that became a family. The chapters present a biblical and theological understanding of the Holy Spirit, with stories of experiencing and encountering the Spirit. 

Like both wings of an airplane are needed to get off the ground and soar, soaring with God’s Spirit requires good thinking about the Spirit and encounters and experiences with the Spirit. We believe you will discover both in this collection of essays. You will gain deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s ways.

We pray this will culminate in a life of greater experience with God. May the Holy Spirit encourage, strengthen, illuminate, and empower you as you read this book!



The Presence-Driven Church Discerns, Not Decides

Pine forest, near Bozeman, Montana

Our leadership team at Redeemer is a discerning group, rather than a deciding group. Our questions are,

God, what would you have us do?

What is God doing in our church family?

What is God saying to us?

I assume God already knows the answers to these questions. Our task is to discern what God is saying, doing, and leading us towards.

Discernment is in direct proportion to familiarity. The more intimate we are with the Lord, the more we hear his voice.

Not everyone in a church family discerns. All are not committed to their ongoing spiritual formation. As a result, such people are unskilled in discerning God's plans and purposes. Don't expect to hear from God if you are not spending much time with him.

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"It is... important that we involve the right people. A prerequisite for community discernment is that the individuals involved are committed to the process of personal transformation. It is essential that these individuals are experienced in personal discernment as both habit and practice in their own decision-making. One very common leadership mistake is to think that we can take a group of undiscerning individuals and expect them to show up in a leadership setting and all of a sudden become discerning!" 
(Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 198)


***
My three books are:


Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I've begun working on three new books:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Relationships (co-writing with Linda)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Arsenokoitais" (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

I'm re-posting this for some friends. In response to this. The fallacy in this argument is that New Testament scholars pay far less attention to how a Greek word was translated historically (in various versions of the Bible) then how the word was understood in its first century context. We study words in their original context so as to understand their meaning. How, e.g., a particular German Bible translates a word is largely irrelevant. Or, how the King James translates a eord is largely irrelevant to the scholarly discussion of the meaning of the text.
The intra-Christian discussion on the acceptability of same-sex marriage inevitably goes to the meaning of the word arsenokoitais. Someone asked me about this, again, recently. It is, arguably, the intra-Christian dialogical issue. Because Jesus-followers value highly the biblical text. (Note: everyone has their sacred authoritative texts, even atheists. For Jesus-followers this means the words and ideas of Jesus.)

***

We read in 1 Tim. 1:9-11:

9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

The Greek word translated here as "homosexuality" is arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις). In the Christian theological discussion about homosexuality there is debate over the meaning of this word. This sends me running after commentaries and scholarly studies about this term. Here's what four of my most admired New Testament scholars say. But first, a few remarks.

1. My interest is: What does the biblical text say. My interest is not: What would I like the biblical text to say. I'll admit to often discovering things I wish the text did not say because, for example, it severely confronts or challenges me. So be it. This is not always easy. I wrestle with the biblical text every week preparing for Sunday mornings. Note also: My core interest is not what various Bible translations say (KJV, NIV, etc.). No New Testament scholar looks to (in the sense of dependence) on translations of the Bible, but to the original languages, and the socio-cultural, socio-rhetorical context.

2. It's easy to find persons who support what one might like the text to say. I know that there are scholars with contrary opinions. What, then, shall I do? My answer: look to scholars I have found credible over the years. I am not always in agreement with them. But when they speak, I am listening.

3. I also read scholars I admire who argue against what I think the text says. (See, e.g., the Gagnon-Via book below.) One must read the counter-arguments to one's position.

4. Remember that most (nearly all) words are polysemous; i.e., they have multiple meanings. For example, 'bear' can mean 1) to carry (a load); 2) to endure; 3) an animal (noun); et. al. That in itself does not make the word 'bear' exceptionally "tricky," or any "trickier" than translating a word like arsenokaitais.

5. I expect this discussion will only interest those who embrace Jesus and follow after him. For all of us in this camp, issues like this are important. And, of course, there's a whole lot more to following after Jesus than this issue. Over the years I have dialogued with many homosexually oriented Jesus-followers who want to know what the text says, more than what do others think it says. That, too, has always been my passion.

6. And... homophobia is a sin. Can we discuss, in love? 

Here we go...

Ben Witherington

"The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man... It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse." (Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198)   

Some want arsenokoitais to mean "pederasty." Witherington thinks that, while it can, in the Pauline context this is not what it means. Remember: words are polysemous, having mutliple context-dependent meanings.


Andreas Kostenberger

Kostenberger has a lengthy section on arsenokoitas in God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones). After summarizing various views on the meaning of arsenokoitas, Kostenberger concludes:
  1. "In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable." Arsenokoitas most likely refers to "the general practice of homosexuality."
  2. "It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone esle in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males "lying or sleeping with males" (Lev. 18:22...). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets  of homosexual behavior." This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.
  3. The argument that Paul's use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts: a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty, the term paiderastes; b) "The attempt to limit Paul's condemnation to pederasty... is contradicted by Paul's reference to the male partners' mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27"; c) "In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.";  d) "Even if (for argument's sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts). Hellenistic Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity."; e) "Not only is Paul's view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture." (See the entire text for much more on this); and f) "Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation." Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of "homosexuality" has changed, thus arsenokoitas should not be translated as "homosexuals."
For "these and many other reasons" Kostenberger concludes that attempts to limit arsenokoitas to "a narrower subset of aberrant homosexual behavior must be judged unconvincing."

Richard Hays

In The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, Pauline New Testament scholar Hays writes:

Arsenokoitai "is not found in any extant Greek text earlier than First Corinthians. Some scholars have suggested that its meaning is uncertain, but Robin Scroggs has shown that the word is a translation of the Hebrew mishkav zakur ("lying with a male"), derived directly from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and used in rabbinic texts to refer to homosexual intercourse. The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) of Leviticus 20:13 reads, "Whoever lies with a man as with a woman [meta arsenos koiten gynaikos], "they have both done an abomination." This is almost certainly the idiom from which the noun arsenokoitai was coined."

See also Hays's article "Homosexuality: Rebellion Against God." Hays tells the story of a homosexually oriented Jesus-follower named Gary. Gary was dying of AIDS and visited Hays while he was still able to travel. They discussed together, and Hays writes:


"[Gary] had read hopefully through the standard bibliography of the burgeoning movement advocating the acceptance of homosexuality in the church. In the end, he came away disappointed, believing that these authors, despite their good intentions, had imposed a wishful interpretation on the biblical passages. However much he wanted to believe that the Bible did not condemn homosexuality, he would not violate his own stubborn intellectual integrity by pretending to find their arguments persuasive.
The more we talked, the more we found our perspectives interlocking. Both of us had serious misgivings about the mounting pressure for the church to recognize homosexuality as a legitimate Christian lifestyle. As a New Testament scholar, I was concerned about certain questionable exegetical and theological strategies of the gay apologists. As a homosexual Christian, Gary believed that their writings did justice neither to the biblical texts nor to his own sobering experience of the gay community that he had moved in and out of for 20 years."

Note: I think Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality is an important text in the broader discussion. 

Craig Keener

"Scholars have disputed the meaning of the term translated "homosexuals," but it seems to mean those who engage in homosexual acts, which were a common feature of Greek male life in antiquity." (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 464) 

***
An important text to read, for any who are interested, is Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by NT scholars Robert Gagnon and Dan Via. Note that while Via takes the pro-gay marriage stance he agrees with Gagnon that if one simply took the biblical texts one could not arrive at that conclusion.

One result of reading this book is that I picked up Gagnon's massive study The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.  

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book. It's important to see these lest we think that Gagnon is just some uneducated spin-meister trying to force his own opinion down our throats.

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book:

"...In its learnedness, [Gagnon's] book will...be in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored...." -- Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)

"...the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position....expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly." -- I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)

"...the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological...perspectives on same-sex relations....a tour de force." -- Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)

"Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony....fair and compassionate...a major resource...." -- Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate....I recommend this book wholeheartedly." -- C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate." -- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)

"I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church's...response to homosexuality." -- Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)

"I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior." -- Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)

"No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book." -- John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)

"This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,...indispensable even for those who disagree with the author." -- James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University (From the Back Cover) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.