Jonathan Dudley writes, Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

via CNN Belief Blog

Take a moment to read the whole article.

What do YOU think?  Does Jonathan make some valid points, or is he just a victim of liberal Yale Divinity School theology?

I’d love to hear what you think on this…


  • Jay Kelly June 23, 2011 Reply

    Accusing him of being a victim of liberal theology is an easy way to dismiss straightforward arguments based on extremely clear facts. Direct quotes from Augustine and Aquinas (which I’d never read before) require more of a response than just ‘Bah! Damn liberals!’

    You’re not accusing him of that, Todd. Hopefully no one thinks that’s a legitimate response . . .

  • Rick67 June 23, 2011 Reply

    Jay makes a fine point. Dudley’s article needs to be evaluated on its own merits. Although it is fair to ask to what extent Dudley is just absorbing and passing along what particular teachers feed him and whether *their* teaching/scholarship holds up to scrutiny. That’s the case with Dudley’s deeply flawed summary of the Jovian controversy and also his presentation of Augustine’s ruminations.

    In my estimation even if one agrees with Dudley’s positions/conclusions (insofar as one can clearly identify them – it has problems as an example of prose writing) it is not a very strong article in terms of its (1) logic/argumentation (2) quality and more importantly relevance of its evidence.

    In fairness to Dudley he does make a couple good points about (3) how well evangelicals truly understand “tradition” and (4) how consistently evangelicals apply what they think the Bible teaches. But this raises the question of (5) the article’s goals and motivations. Does Dudley really want evangelical Christians to be *consistent*? That is to oppose x, y, z as well as p, q, r, s? No. He wants them to *support* p, q, r and s and probably x, y, z. So what’s the article really trying to achieve?

  • Daniel June 24, 2011 Reply

    True, the arguments need to be taken on their own merits. Yes, there has been inconsistent application of the Bible and church fathers have been wrong.

    Rick67, you make good points about the logic and argumentation. Interesting that the author is doing what he complains evangelicals have done.

    The exegetical rigor is not evident in this article. Dan Via & Robert Gagnon debate each other in Homosexuality and the Bible (Via is pro, Gagnon con).

    In the end, the article does not argue for the viability of gay marriage. He does not address marriage except to say that Christians are getting divorced. Issues of marriage, sexuality, family, church and society all play into the gay-marriage debate. The author has a lot more work to do.

  • Jay Kelly June 24, 2011 Reply

    I take Dudley to be saying, ‘Those who oppose gay marriage argue that it is inconsistent with the Scripture and with church tradition. But gay marriage opponents almost certainly hold views that are inconsistent with the Scripture and tradition. It’s unfair to argue against something for violating Scripture and tradition without admitting you’re doing the same thing.’

    I don’t think he’s trying to do much more than this in the column. Based on that, I don’t see where he’s making mistakes. It’s pretty clear he is pro-gay marriage. But the article isn’t arguing for support of gay marriage. It’s arguing for anti-gay marriage people to be honest about the fact that they’re using arguments against a position that they don’t apply to their own positions.

    Daniel and Rick, I’m curious where you see him making mistakes in his argument. I don’t see them. They may well be there, but I can’t find them.

    Rick says Dudley misrepresents Augustian and the Jovian controversy. How so? (And that’s a sincere question. This column is the first time I’ve run across either of these.)

    It seems to me that gay marriage opponents who argue that it is wrong because it violates Scripture and tradition have three options.

    1. Show the Dudley is wrong. (And I confess that looks like a tall order.)

    2. Agree Dudley is right that gay marriage opponents hold views that violate Scripture and tradition, but show how those views should be treated differently.

    3. Stop arguing against gay marriage based on its violation of Scripture and tradition.

    I don’t think opponents can pull off (1). They won’t want to do (3). So (2) is where it seems opponents want to focus. I’m not sure how an argument for (2) would go. Seems like a tough job. But for opponents of gay marriage, that’s the best option.

  • steve miller June 24, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan stated, “I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin.”

    I totally agree with him, the Holy Spirit authored all of the New Testament and I’m guessing he knows what is and isn’t a sin. So that is a very good point.

    It is so helpful to read the Bible and know God set up the covenant of marriage (Genesis 2:24) early on. He made it pretty clear what the ideal for marriage was, one man and one woman for life. God also is the only one who has the right or vantage point to declare what the guidelines for proper sexual relationships are, and He confines them to marriage.

    It is also very helpful to read Jesus repeat the words of Genesis 2:24 when discussing marriage in the New Testament, that by doing so he holds up God’s original design and crushes the idea of Homosexual marriage and homosexual relations. It is also great to see this would also answer Dudley’s rabbit trail side objection to divorce by showing Jesus affirms the traditional Judaic view of marriage.

    Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” Matthew 19:8

    It may also interest Jonathan that God not only created the ideal for marriage of one man and one woman, but He also dealt with man’s fallen nature which created the problem of divorce. God also sets out guidelines for the social practice of polygamy (without clearly endorsing it); in all of God’s guidelines for marriage from the ideal to the problems man creates for himself, God never treats homosexuality as anything but perversion to be consistently avoided.

    I sure hope they are still teaching Biblical hermeneutics at Yale Divinity, and it isn’t now an elective course.

    • John Gordon July 11, 2011 Reply

      Let’s look at Biblical marriages….
      1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
      2) Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
      3) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. (Moses — Exodus 2:16-21)
      4) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Boaz — Ruth 4:5-10)
      5) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. (Benjaminites — Judges 21:19-25)
      6) Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you. (Adam — Genesis 2:19-24)
      7) Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife. (Jacob — Genesis 29:15-30)
      8) Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. (David — 1 Samuel 18:27)
      9) Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone. (It’s all relative, of course.) (Cain — Genesis 4:16-17)
      10) Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Xerxes or Ahasuerus — Esther 2:3-4)
      11) When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a … woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Samson — Judges 14:1-3)
      12) Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare to lose four sons, though). (David — 2 Samuel 11)
      13) Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.) (Onana and Boaz — Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)
      14) Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. (Solomon — 1 Kings 11:1-3)

      Or if we were to apply “biblical marriage” ideals to American laws, this something along the laws that we would end up with….

      Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5; Matthew 25:1)
      Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron11:21)
      A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)
      Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)
      Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)
      If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)
      In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)


      • steve miller July 11, 2011 Reply

        I too love the copy and paste feature, you can quickly and without much effort add a whole of text.

        The big drawback is it doesn’t usually communicate a whole lot of original information.

        I believe what your list helps us to see is we have to remember the Bible is not a book of all the “good” things God approves of. Parts of it are like a newspaper stating what happened, good and bad. Remember a lot of these stories are there to show us a need for a savior.

        It is good to every now and then look at a list like this to remind ourselves the importance of context when using Bible passages.

        We have to be careful so we just don’t grab a bunch of passages out of context, string them together, and try to create controversy.

  • Brittney June 24, 2011 Reply

    One thing that the author did not mention is that homosexuality is condemned in both the old and New Testaments. The reason the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are condemned is because of their evil- including homosexuality. (Check out the group that wanted to be involved in gang male rape.)One must also look at the original plan “two will become one flesh” that we see in the creation of both Adam and Eve. Roman Republic, historian Polybius wrote that preoccupation with luxury led to carnal indulgences- including homosexuality- which eventually led to the fall of that empire. While Jesus does complete the Old Testament law, when something is condemned in both New and Old Testament and additionally proven to hurt nations, we are best to avoid it for our own sake.

  • Daniel June 24, 2011 Reply

    Jay, my problem with his argument is along the point that Steve and Brittney are making. The big problem starts with the title, “The Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?” This is akin to a child complaining that even though they violated a house rule, because their sister did it too they should be blameless. The old saw, “two wrongs don’t make a right” comes to mind. I know, Dudley probably didn’t title the piece but it sets the stage for the article. And you are correct, his argument is against the inconsistencies of evangelicalism toward homosexuality in general and homosexual marriage in particular. It is ultimately a public rejection of the evangelicalism he grew up in. He does start his article with reference to homosexuality and ends it by calling evangelicals who oppose homosexual marriage hypocrites and dishonest.

    But his attempts at exegesis is what I guess I am disappointed in. He does not address marriage except to say that Christians are getting divorced. Issues of marriage, sexuality, family, church and society all play into the gay-marriage debate. The argument for homosexual marriage does not rest on Rom 1 and 1 Cor 11. He misses the points on which the argument turn by setting up the evangelical errors instead. If he is going to make a natural law argument he needs to read more Augustine. He cites him in reference to life beginning at conception. I wonder why he does not cite him with regard to sex, marriage and divorce? As Steve notes, Jesus had some input on how the church ought to view marriage.

    As to the Jovinian controversy, the issue was mainly of Jovinian’s statements that virgins held no special place, abstinence and fasting are not that big of a deal, there are no degrees of punishment and reward in the afterlife, etc. He also had a view that Jesus was not born like other human babies but miraculously passed through Mary’s womb into the world (like the passing through the tomb walls at the resurrection). The issue Jerome made was that, contra Jovinian, abstinence and virginity was akin to the first-fruits of sacrifice to God (Adv. Jov. 1.40). It was part of Christian discipline and self-sacrifice. In the end, the Jovinian controversy is more complex and serious than Dudley makes it out to be when he says, “Jovinianm challenged that hierarchy … merely by suggesting … he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated.” This is not fair to the historical situation and it is used to make the church petty, legalistic, and unloving. Furthermore, most evangelicals do not look to the Roman Catholic Church for the ecclesiastical examples of marriage, rather many (most?) look to the Reformation – when a former monk named Luther married a former nun. This was a paradigm shift in the church on the issue of marriage.

    If one looks at Dudley’s book linked at the top of the article one is directed to amazon. The first pages of his work there describes his spiritual journey which, for me, explains a lot of where he is coming from. He went to Calvin but it does not sound like he has had very good exposure to very much good evangelical scholarship (or maybe he was exposed to good scholarship but just didn’t interact with it). The evangelical world is larger than Moody Bible and Calvin College.

    There is a wealth of good work available if one really wants to read it. The book I cited earlier by Via & Gagnon is worth checking out. Gagnon has also written The Bible an Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2002) in which he addresses these issues.

  • Rick67 June 24, 2011 Reply

    @Jay – Thank you for the response and thoughtful feedback/comments.

    “I don’t think he’s trying to do much more than this in the column.”

    If one looks only at this column in isolation that’s a very reasonable conclusion. He just wants Christians to be consistent. However if you do some searching and look at his other op-eds, his articles at Yale, his book, it becomes clear that he wants Christians to embrace evolution, abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. And as an all-or-nothing package. You accept one you accept them all. Therefore he does have a larger agenda (which is perfectly fine) but which is not evident in the article (which is less fine).

    You ask great questions about Jovinian (not Jovian which is my mistake) and Augustine. Daniel has already addressed these. I would also add

    David Hunter, “Resistance to the Virginal Ideal in Late Fourth-Century Rome”, Theological Studies 48 (1987): 45-64.

    David Hunter (again sorry), “Sex, Sin and Salvation: What Augustine Really Said” at http://www.jknirp.com/aug3.htm (H/T credit to Opinionated Catholic for the references)

    Now I will concede that we may be dealing with a debate among scholars of history/theology and so I need to be more careful about accusing Dudley of bad scholarship. It might be scholarship which some dispute but that alone doesn’t make it bad. But this takes us back to the points which Daniel makes above. Even if the church’s stances on certain issues have changed over time… how does that lead to the positions he advocates?

  • Edmond Long June 27, 2011 Reply

    Dudley concluded his argument with the following comment. “Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.” Dudley never dealt with the biblical position on marriage or same-sex relations (and abortion and when life begins, for that matter). He only quoted a variety of theologians. The Bible is clear: marriage is for a man and a woman. Further, how many times must the Bible condemn something in order for the condemnation to be legitimate? We might observe the lack of a biblical prohibition against adult-child sexual relations. Yet, with full justification, we condemn child sex-abuse. Dudley is looking for justification for a sexual practice. He has not found it. Sex between persons of the same gender is not biblically acceptable for believers. Scripture is clear on that point.

  • melvin sensenig June 27, 2011 Reply

    I am also a Yale Div grad (MDiv, 1997). Reducing this issue to two passages of Scripture sounds like the proof-texting eisegesis we were taught to avoid. I was in the Common Room at YDS (when it still functioned as part of the refectory) when the late Brevad Childs, my advisor, gave an outstanding paper on the authority of Scripture and homosexuality that I think does more justice to the issue. He gave me his personal typewritten copy — if I can find it in my files, I’ll try to make it available.

    • Dan H. June 27, 2011 Reply

      I’d love to have a copy.

      • melvin sensenig July 7, 2011 Reply

        Alas, Dave, despite looking everywhere, I cannot find it. we have moved several times since those days and it likely got lost in the move. If I find it, I will get a copy to you. Are you familiar with Robert Gagnon’s (Pittsburgh Theol. Sem.) book “The Bible and Homosexual Practice”. This is also a nuanced, in-depth look.

  • Ken June 27, 2011 Reply

    Never in my life have I experienced people working so hard to “couch” their agendas in spiritual language. While the homosexual issue is complex, since any sexual relations (homosexual and heterosexual) outside of marriage are condemned, it’s not a leap in hermeneutics to say that practicing homosexuality is sin. Marriage (contrary to the pagan practices of the USA today) was always reserved for a man and a woman. A Yale degree and a high IQ doesn’t make him right.

  • rbud June 27, 2011 Reply

    Mr. Dudley’s remarks may fall short of comprehensive, but that is to be expected in such a short dissertation. I didn’t read anything “wrong” in his arguments, although some points seemed incomplete. Regardless of what other positions he may hold, his remarks here are right on target. And not only about homosexualism, Christians seem very quick to errantly throw around scriptural statements to support their personal views.

    I didn’t see Dudley’s argument here as being strongly in favor of one position or another, so much as against errant scriptural arguments. I agree with that. I haven’t read his other writings, so I might disagree in large part with his positions overall, but here I’m in agreement.

    It’s frivilous to argue that the Bible is clear on all points. It’s not. There’s no condemnation for multiple wives, for example, although now we eagerly preach one man one woman. Even whether to marry at all, for that matter. In various places, Paul writes that a man should not marry, a man should marry, and that a man should care for his wife. Which is it? The point is, when we fail to consider the context of the writing and writer, we loose a huge part of the message. I’m not advocating homosexualism or gay marriage, but the fact is that Jesus never condemned it, even when he had the perfect moment to do so.

    So, in view of Dudley’s article, I have to agree that however “right” or advantageous a particular position may be, it is not right to errantly use scripture to argue the point.

    • Keith June 28, 2011 Reply


      “it is not right to errantly use scripture to argue the point”
      I believe everyone here would agree with that statement.

      “It’s frivilous to argue that the Bible is clear on all points.”
      No one here has said that. Red herring.

      “Jesus never condemned it [homosexuality]”
      True, but he also never condemned abortion, child sacrifice, rape, incest, sloth, and a host of other bad things “even when he had the perfect moment to do so.” So we are to conclude what, exactly?

      “In various places, Paul writes that a man should not marry, a man should marry, and that a man should care for his wife. Which is it?”
      All of them, and you should know that. The application depends upon the individual and the circumstance.

      “Christians seem very quick to errantly throw around scriptural statements to support their personal views.”
      Like Mr. Dudley, for example.

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