What is Paul saying about sex in Romans 1

You might have noticed all the talk in the church these days about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Many people (on both sides of the issue) focus on what are sometimes called “clobber texts” because those who cite them are accused of trying to “clobber” gay people. Several such passages are discussed in a recent article in the New York Times. But understanding those passages can be trickier than it might seem. Joel Hoffman recently blogged about some of the difficulties in translating Romans 1.

(Personally, I’m more interested in discussing marriage than homosexuality per se. God’s intention for marriage touches everyone, gay and straight, young and old, married and formerly married and never married, fertile and infertile. That’s because, if nothing else, everyone has biological parents, and because the relationship between Christ and his Church is so frequently described in terms of marriage. The theology around sexual expression is less interesting to me. I don’t think that homosexuality represents God’s desire for human sexual expression — there’s a side debate about when the Bible is descriptive and when it’s prescriptive — but neither do I know anyone who has fully attained what I believe is God’s desire for sexual intimacy: naked and unashamed. I like the Confession of 1967 §9.47 on this, by the way. If we accept that none of us have found our way back to the Garden, are we going to go to the mattresses over who’s starting point is better, or who’s closer to the goal?)


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