The Los Angeles Times has this story the other day on the religious debates surrounding same-sex marriage. I want to engage some of the ideas found in the article.

Nonsense [speaking against the idea that moderns must be bound by the literal message of the text] , says the Rev. Mel White, a former Fuller professor and evangelical author who married his partner of 27 years in a ceremony Wednesday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

White calls the Bible a living document that must be understood in its historical context -- a view shared by reform-minded clergy and theologians from other faiths.

A major issue in the religious debate over homosexual practice is the interpretation of the Bible, specifically, how the Bible is to be interpretted and implemented. The two sides in the issue correspond roughly to the political debates over the U.S. Constitution and its interpretation. On one side are those who think we are bound to follow the text as written, on the other are those who think the Bible is a "living document" whose meaning and application must change as circumstances change. The problem for biblical conservatives is that few are truly conservative in their reading and application of Scripture: witness the NT teachings that women are not to have authority over men, that we are to be content with what we have, are not to remarry after divorce, or that charging interest on loans is a sin. Small wonder that polls show that for young evangelicals, homosexuality is just not an issue. The problem for biblical liberals is the danger that a person or group can make Scripture appear to bless any sort of behavior or practice. One could argue, I suppose, that due to the current situation of world overpopulation we should reexamine those passages that state we should feed the hungry, etc.

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"The Bible says as much about sexual orientation as it does about toasters or nuclear reactors," White said. "We have to grow with the times."

Other clergy reject the scientific argument and say homosexuality is a choice.

First, to White: your statement is both true and misleading. The Bible writers indeed do not work with the concept of "sexual orientation" in a modern psychological sense because modern psychology is less than 200 years old (and, I would add, a dubious "science"). That much of his statement is true. However, what he omits is that the Bible writers do have a lot to say about sex and its practice. They are clear that sex, as intended to be practiced by God, is between a man and a woman in marriage. So it is misleading to imply that the Bible does not have anything to say about same-sex practice, including "gay marriage."

Second, to the "other clergy": your statement is inexact and shallow. Speaking as someone with historical perspective, it does seem that sexual practice varies somewhat by culture; that is, in some cultures we observe a greater, in some a lesser, fraction of the population engaging in same-sex practice. In other words, circumstances can and do influence many people's choice to engage in same-sex sex or not. (If there were no "Girls Gone Wild" video series, would all of those drunken coeds have made out with another girl, or would they have lived their lives without that experience?) But, there is a lot of very good evidence that some people are wired to be attracted to the same sex. This evidence cannot be ignored. So, your statement is inexact.

Your statement is shallow in that you seem to assume that "sin" refers only to choices made, that is, that the word sin applies only to behavior. In traditional Christian thought, the word sin had two applications. One, referring to actions of thought, word, or deed, that disobeyed God. Second, referring to the current condition of human nature. Whether spoken of as depravity, fallenness, sinfulness, or some other term, there has been the belief that human nature is not exactly as God created it because of the past actions of the species. This is "sin" as it refers to our condition, not just to our actions. Therefore, homosexuality can be judged biblically as sin in the sense of a fallen condition.

Those who argue that "God made homosexuals the way they are," also are ignoring the ancient Christian position. In a fallen world bad things happen, and not everyone is born "normal." Not every condition we are born with is good. We do not say to those born with cleft-palate that we affirm them as they are. We have developed surgical techniques to change the way these people are born.