What We're Reading
The periodical First Things offers a wealth of resources for reflecting on the meaning of sexuality and the shape that the public debate about sexuality has taken.
For a number of years, under the aupices of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Richard John Neuhaus convened a discussion group of a number of Christian and Jewish theologians, philosophers, and ethicists to discuss a variety of timely topics pertinent to the preservation of public morality. The group came to be known as the Ramsey Colloquium, in honor of the courageous example set by the late Paul Ramsey, whose ethical wrestling on matters from the justice of war to the hubris of biotechnology has aided thousands of people still confronting some of the same questions. Members of the Colloquium included Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Russell Hittinger, Gilbert Meilaender, Philip Turner, and Robert Wilken.
In 1994, the Ramsey Colloquium published (in First Things, March 1994) a brief summary of their reflection on some of the questions then publicly debated concerning the meaning of sexuality. Entitled "The Homosexual Movement: A Response by the Ramsey Colloquium," the brief document remains one of the most concise statements about what is at stake in the changes in public policy being recommended by advocates of public affirmation of the necessity of moral indifference toward homosexuality.
First Things has consistently published a number of helpful articles on this topic. Here are several to note:
In the same issue of First Things that contained the Ramsey Colloquium, the magazine's editor Richard John Neuhaus summarized the work of the many critics of historian and homosexual apologist John Boswell. Boswell's 1980 book, Christianity, Social Toleration, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago) had a remarkable influence in revising the perception of what the Bible and the Christian tradition had to say about homosexuality. Boswell's arguments were enthusiastically embraced by many in mainline churches who were eager to endorse the gay liberation movement. Neuhaus collects a number of the scholarly refutations of Boswell's revisionist book, including the remark of scholar David Wright: "The conclusion must be that for all its interest and stimulus Boswell's book provides in the end of the day not one firm piece of evidence that the teaching mind of the early Church countenanced Homosexual activity." [Posted November 2001, ALG]
In his book Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, professor William J. Webb explores the differences between the Church's historical stances on slavery, the subjugation of women, and homosexual practices.
Debate about the Church's historic stance on homosexuality has intensified with the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop in the Episcopal Church USA. Many who celebrate his consecration and welcome a change in the Church's teaching on homosexuality refer to the Church's refined positions on slavery and the subjugation of women to buoy their arguments for change. These two cultural phenomenon were renounced by the Church in subsequent cultural settings, they point out, and such should be the case with the restriction of homosexual practices; today's Church ought to lift those restrictions. William J. Webb, professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary, counters this assertion, however, cautioning that these three issues ought not be conflated. In his book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (InterVarsity Press, 2001), Webb demonstrates that the Church's restriction of homosexual practices acknowledges that the Bible's stance on homosexuality is a "transcultural" stance, unlike its stances on slavery and the role of women in society which are "culture-bound." His demonstration uses the criteria he recommends Christians enlist to determine which components of biblical text should apply today and which should not.
Since it is important that Christians live out the redemptive spirit of Scripture, they must be able to discern which values in Scripture are "kingdom values" (those that transcend culture and time) and which are "culture values" (those specific to a particular time and place). To assist his readers in this task, Webb uses the early chapters of Slaves, Women & Homosexuals to introduce a Redemptive-Movement framework for reading, interpreting, and applying Scripture. In his later chapters he uses the circumstances of slaves, women, and homosexuals in biblical times to develop the criteria of the framework. The book is divided into three sections, titled: "Toward a Hermeneutic of Cultural Analysis"; "Intrascriptural Criteria"; and "Extrascriptural Criteria."[Posted November 2003, ALG]
In the March 1997 issue of First Things, psychologist Elizabeth Moberly reviewed several then-recent books (most of which are still in print) on the causes and treatment of homosexuality.
In the March 1997 issue of First Things, psychologist Elizabeth Moberly reviewed several then-recent books (most of which are still in print) on the causes and treatment of homosexuality. The books were Strangers and Friends, by Michael Vasey, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, by Jeffrey Satinover, The Truth About Homosexuality, by John F. Harvey; Straight and Narrow? by Thomas E. Schmidt; Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far, by Charles W. Socarides; Unwanted Harvest? by Mona Riley and Brad Sargent; and Craving for Love, by Briar Whitehead. [Posted December 2003, KAM]
Theologian and author R. R. Reno offers an analysis of some of the deep disorders of contemporary culture that assail the Church in his essay "Sex and the Episcopal Church," a chapter in his book, In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity.
Few theologians have as perceptive a sense of the deep disorders of contemporary culture (and the challenges those disorders present to the Church) as R. R. Reno. So MARS HILL AUDIO is proud to be able to share with our friends one chapter from his recent book, In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity. "Sex in the Episcopal Church" was written before the current controversy concerning Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, but analyses many of the cultural dynamics at work in the Episcopal Church, drawing heavily from David Brooks's portrayal of Bourgeois Bohemians (in his book Bobos in Paradise). This essay is available for download for a limited time, thanks to the book's publisher, Brazos Press. [Posted February 2004, KAM]
For informative discussion about homosexuality, Christopher Wolfe?who discussed the subject on Volume 49?recommends several books and web sites.
For informative discussion about homosexuality, Christopher Wolfe—who discussed the subject on Volume 49—recommends the following websites: www.CourageRC.net; www.exodus-international.org; www.peoplecanchange.com; and www.narth.com.
For further reading he recommends the following books (quotes from Wolfe):
Fr. John F. Harvey, The Truth About Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful (Ignatius Press, 1996); David Morrison, Beyond Gay (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Co., 1999); and Christopher Wolfe, ed., Homosexuality and American Public Life (Spence, 2000). "These books contain chapters on a wide range of topics associated with this issue."
Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg, The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-) Therapy for Homosexuality (Ignatius Press, 1997) and On the Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Re-interpretation (Praeger, 1985). "Written by a psychiatrist with a great deal of clinical experience, it provides a kind of self-help manual for those dealing with same-sex attractions."
Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker Books, 1996). "Dr. Satinover is absolutely excellent on the genetic and biological aspects of homosexuality."
Elizabeth R. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (James Clark, 1983). "A very short book, written by a Christian psychiatrist."
George A. Rekers, ed., Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems (Lexington Books, 1995). "Written by a counselor with a great deal of experience in dealing with young people who experience tendencies toward homosexuality."