What issues are the most hotly debated by members of the
by Kendra Hotz
are many hotly debated issues among Christians, including the morality
of abortion, environmentalism, the ordination of women, and the
relationship between faith and culture. Here we shall cover just
two of the most holy contested issues: the moral status of homosexuality
and styles of worship.
moral status of homosexuality is among the most hotly debated questions
among Christians today. The Bible says very little
about homosexuality and nothing at all about the moral status of
lifelong, monogamous same-sex partnerships. Christians disagree
about what the Bible means when it does speak of homosexuality and
about what theology of human sexuality is most faithful to the biblical
witness. Christians also disagree about what contributions natural
and social sciences might make to our understanding of this moral
are five biblical texts that mention sexual relations between two
men, and one additional text that includes a reference to lesbianism.
What these texts mean and how they bear on the question of same-sex
covenants remains under debate. The first text, Genesis 19:5, recalls
an incident in which the residents of Sodom demanded that Lot send
his houseguests out into the crowd so that they might be raped.
Lot refuses and sends his daughters instead. Although this account
becomes the basis for the term “sodomy,” most Christians
acknowledge that what is condemned in Sodom is not homosexual sex,
but rather rape and inhospitality.
second and third texts come from the book of Leviticus (18:22 and
20:13) and state that it is an “abomination” punishable
by death for a man to have sexual relations with another man as
he would with a woman. The meaning of these texts is unclear for
two reasons. First, they may refer to fertility rites associated
with the cult of Ba’al, and the primary sin condemned is idolatry
rather than homosexual acts. Second, these texts are surrounded
by laws prohibiting acts that Christians no longer regard as sinful
such as wearing clothing made from blended fabric.
remaining three texts come from the New Testament. Romans 1:26-27
argues that homosexual acts, including lesbianism, violate nature
and proceed from sinful lust. The meaning of this scripture is also
debated. Did Paul refer only to those who were naturally heterosexual,
but who abandoned their “nature” in favor of same-sex
encounters? Or does Paul categorize all homosexual sex as a violation
of nature? I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:9-10 are vice lists
that include the condemnation of homosexual sex along with other
sins such as murder, lying, and drunkenness. What is disputed in
these texts is whether the terms translated as “homosexual”
referred to all same-sex acts or not. The two terms employed may
have referred to male temple prostitutes and their customers.
about the meaning of these biblical texts along with information
gleaned from natural and social sciences and from experience have
led Christians to a variety of conclusions about homosexuality.
Here we briefly cover just three. Many Christians have concluded
that the Bible clearly teaches that heterosexuality is the natural
state for human beings, and that homosexuality is a tragic deviation
from God’s intentions. Though the biblical texts may sometimes
be ambiguous, every text that refers to homosexuality condemns it.
The only models for human sexual activity affirmed in the Bible
are marriage and celibacy. On this view, the church should welcome
and minister to homosexual persons, expecting them to live celibate
view holds that the Bible does provide a normative, heterosexual
vision for human sexuality, but that it does not condemn lifelong,
same-sex covenants because it does not address this question at
all. The Bible condemns idolatry, prostitution, and rape, but has
nothing to say about gay marriage. On this second view, ideal human
sexuality is ordered in a heterosexual way, but God graciously accommodates
those who find themselves with a homosexual orientation. These individuals
may fulfill the goods of marriage (see chapter 8) in lifelong same-sex
relationships modeled on Christian marriage.
view of the moral status of homosexuality finds that it is simply
a natural variation within with human sexuality. Gay men and lesbians
may marry one another, living in relationships that are true Christian
marriages, rather than in less-than-ideal relationships that represent
a divine accommodation for the tragedy of the fall.
second issue that is hotly debated among Christians concerns worship
practices. Most Christians, including Eastern Orthodox,
Roman Catholic, and Protestants, worship in a manner structured
according to an ancient pattern called the ordo. The ordo
revolves around practices of gathering, proclamation, the sacrament
of the Lord’s Supper, and rituals of sending. Within this
structure there are forms of prayer for confessing sin, praising
and thanking God, and bringing petitions before God. Likewise, there
are traditional forms for declaring that sin has been forgiven,
for exchanging signs of peace with one another, and for receiving
ancient patterns have sustained the church for centuries, and many
Christians find that joining with the church throughout the ages
in this form of worship helps them to become aware of God in their
midst and shapes them for Christian life.
other Christian congregations have found these traditional forms
to be rigid and staid; they find traditional worship does not make
them aware of the presence of God in their midst and feels alienating
for those new to Christianity. These congregations often employ
a more contemporary form of worship that might include performances
by a band with electric guitars and drum sets and congregationally-sung
praise songs as well as sermons and prayers. Such services would
typically not include the recitation of an ancient creed, the celebration
of the Lord’s Supper, or other traditional elements of worship.
This debate among Christians about what is the best way to worship
has sometimes been described as “the worship wars.”
©2006 Kendra Hotz
G. Hotz serves as Adjunct Professor of Theology at Memphis
Theological Seminary. She formerly taught at Calvin College. Hotz
is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and coauthor
(with Matthew T. Mathews) of Shaping
the Christian Life: Worship and the Religious Affections
(2006) and coauthor of Transforming
Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice (2005).
from What Do Our Neighbors Believe?: Questions and Answers on
Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Howard Greenstein, Kendra
Hotz, and John Kaltner are used by permission from Westminster John
Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. The book will be available for
purchase in December 2006.