A little Evangelical “inside baseball…”
USA Today had an op-ed yesterday by a minister named Oliver Thomas taking the position that the morality of homosexuality depends on what science learns about the factors which may cause it.
I suppose that is the first topic for discussion here.
I have resisted this argument. One, because I do not like the idea that what one values or chooses to do is solely determined by private inclinations. As a matter of principle, there are numerous reasons to hope for restraint of private inclinations in behavior. Values and beliefs ought to guide such decisions. Two, as one who holds to an authority outside of myself, I reserve for myself the value of living by wisdom that may not comport with my private inclinations. So I do not agree with the idea that inclinations to do certain things are themselves enough to make them reliable guides to moral action. This is my brief take on things and I think many in Evangelical circles would agree.
Now for others, personal experience is the determiner of truth. For example, it was for Carl Rogers who said: “Experience is, for me, the highest authority…Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience.”
Now, let that quote from Rogers segue into a controversy involving Bart Campolo, son of prominent evangelical, Tony Campolo. Recently, he wrote an article suggesting in a Jethro Tull-like fashion that he could not believe in a God that did not compare favorably to his view of fairness and compassion. The article is a passionate and interesting read; here is a quote that provoked me to include it in this post: “I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.”
Bringing these two articles together, they testify to the powerful forces within Christianity broadly-speaking and to an increasing degree, within Evangelicalism as well, to allow science and compassion to decide the “gay issue.” If science determines that being attracted to same sex is hardwired (although I am not sure how much is enough – 40%, 60%, 90%?), then how could a compassionate god consider homoerotic behavior to be immoral? Science becomes the delimiting factor for what can, and cannot be moral.
We have a similar discussion before on this blog. Some people come to gay-affirming theology due to their study of the Scripture and not science nor subjectivity. And so there can be a discussion based on a foundation – what does Scripture teach?
However, for those following the lead of USA Today’s Thomas, we should take a leap of faith in the promises of the biological determinists regarding homosexuality. If we follow Campolo’s lead, human compassion, individually determined, is the test of godness and by extension what god prefers.
These are tough times for those who value primary guidance from Scripture and tradition and I suspect the status of homosexuality as a matter of ecclesiastical contention is safe for the forseeable future.
(Hat tip: No Kool Aid Zone for the Campolo article…)