Steve Chalke makes the argument that “Idolatry, promiscuity and shrine prostitution are what Paul is addressing [here] in Romans 1 — not same-sex relationships between faithful and committed partners.”
There’s a couple of comments to be made here that is appropriate to the exegesis of any sacred Scripture, be it Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.
We all know that sacred texts tend to be difficult to understand, for various reasons. There are translational issue (going from Greek, Latin, or Arabic to English is not easy and often imprecise), time related issues (what was the meaning that people heard THEN, and is that different than NOW), issues of bias, of conflicting manuscripts (a particular problem with the New Testament), etc, etc, etc. Not to mention that the writers were, for the most part, just flat out smarter than the people reading the texts, and wrote in what today we find to be an obtuse style using analogies and examples that are not part of our experience.
What we often therefore depend on is the traditional understanding of our religious traditions. So, we look to the commentaries of religious leaders back closer to those times to provide deeper understanding. That’s only logical; if you want to understand better what Aristotle wrote, you might first look to an interpretation of what he wrote by one of his students, rather than someone 2500 years ex post facto.
So, let’s look at that sort of exegesis applied to Romans 1:
Some modern readers argue that verses 26 — 27 do not refer to homosexuality, but instead refer to prostitution or ritual sexual activity in pagan religious ceremonies. Such people therefore believe the Epistle to the Romans cannot be used as evidence that God disapproves of committed homosexual relationships. In reality, however, one of the words used by St. Paul to describe this activity “uncleanness,” or akatharsia, is usually used by the Apostle to describe sexual immorality.
Furthermore, the Church Fathers understood these passages to refer to homosexual activity: such early Christians as St. Cyprian of Carthage (third century), St. John Chrysostom and Ambrosiaster (fourth century) commented on the passage’s condemnation of homosexual activity.
Lessee…….so, if I were a Christian….I’d be thinking “Hm, textual evidence on THIS side, some guy named “Steve Chalke” who doesn’t have a deep theological background, no serious creds, and an social agenda on THAT side. Then, on this side, St. Cyprian, St. John Chrysostom (one of the heaviest theological hitters in Christianity, a Doctor of the Church!), some guy named “Steve Chalke” who doesn’t have a deep theological background, no serious creds, and an social agenda on THAT side.
A little googling shows that St. Basil the Great and St. Augustine added similar commentary, along with St. John Chrystosom. Geez. That’s like…..the Christian theological All-Star team. It’s like 1992 US Olympic Men’s Basketball.
Yea, I’d be going with what St. John Chrystosom taught, I think. Not even close. :-)
Christians, believe otherwise at your peril. :-)