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My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?
June 21st, 2011
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics.

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

How does that sit with “family values” activism today?

Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.

The community opposed to gay marriage has also departed from the Christian tradition on another issue at the heart of its social agenda: abortion.

Unbeknownst to most lay Christians, the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.

Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint and a giant of mediaeval theology, argued: “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.”

American evangelicals, meanwhile, widely opposed the idea that life begins at conception until the 1970s, with some even advocating looser abortion laws based on their reading of the Bible before then.

It won’t do to oppose gay marriage because it’s not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional.

And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”

A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.

The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”

The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: “It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies.”

Indeed it is.

On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals.

Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.

Since graduating from seminary, I no longer identify with the evangelical community of my youth. The community gave me many fond memories and sound values but it also taught me to take the very human perspectives of its leaders and attribute them to God.

So let’s stop the charade and be honest.

Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (6,474 Responses)
  1. rr

    There are other verses in the Bible that speak against gay marriage. All through out the old Testament it is called an abomination. I guess this guy has never read Leviticus 20:13,. This person is twisting the Bible to justify his immoral behavior. I don't think he's ever read one or he would know where in the Bible God speaks against it.

    July 10, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • LOL

      Obviously you have never read a history book about that time period if you had you would know what is an abomination is Christians returning to paganism to worship a god using s-ex. Stop being so lazy and so some research.

      July 10, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Observer

      rr,

      Leviticus (20:9) also says “If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death”

      So what is your point?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Ralph

      "Yesterday you wrote that CNN had a Code of Forbidden Words. We recently learned of the CNN Belief Blog and have learned of their secret Code as well. They only report what they want you to hear. Anything that contains Spiritual Truth is automatically blocked (John 14:17)."

      LOL – actually it's a filter system, it's being blocked by the Holy Spirit because it's not the real truth.

      July 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Observer

      AvdBerg,

      "They only report what they want you to hear."

      Obviously, they WANTED us to hear you trash them. LOL.

      July 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Mike from Maine

      @AvdBerg "....remember that it was CNN that started all this hatred and bigotry and narrow-mindedness injustice and bias by posting the article by Jonathan Dudley."

      What CNN did was post Mr. Dudley opinion, in the opinion section of its own web site. I would challenge you to show me where in the article Mr. Dudley spewed hatred, bigotry, narrow-mindedness or injustice. you were right to say that it was biased because it was his opinion. It is biased towards his personal perspective just as your opinion is biased towards yours.

      Why is it that an opinion which contradicts yours is offensive? I see it all the time, You could put billboards up all across the United States that glorify god, but if I want one that says there is no god, Im offending you? Why is it that in a free society, you are free to express your opinion, yet I'm not free to express mine? Maybe we shouldn't get so easily offended by someones "opinions"? Just a thought.

      July 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Observer

      AvdBerg,
      "you trash anything that is Godly and that stands for Spiritual Truth"
      Wrong. I wholeheartedly support the Golden Rule and that is why I point out the HYPOCRISY of many Christians who prefer to ignor that so they can trash gays.

      "it is destroying your country". Same statement made for THOUSANDS of years. Read about it in Christ's days.
      I challenge you to point out ONE statement I have made that I can't back up with facts.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  2. David

    Why should people let a book control what they think about any issue anyways. Think outside the box in reality Christianity is not spiritual at all, its actually a distraction for the masses to keep us from Spiritual knowledge and the truth, issues like this are just a distraction, learn true freedom and think outside the box empower your soul, you can live in darkness or see and experience the truth for yourself.
    http://www.exposingchristianity.com

    July 10, 2011 at 5:33 am |
    • dawyag

      What's wrong with this picture – everything!!!! Duhhhh!!!!

      July 10, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  3. ruth takahashii

    Paul was not the only New Testament writer to deal with sodomy. The epistle of Jude written by the brother of Jesus also deals with this particular sin. So does Luke,in the Gospel of Luke, where He relates Jesus' comments on Sodom and Gomorrah. It's sin no matter how you cut it.

    July 10, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Observer

      Yes, being gay is an abomination in the Bible. So is shellfish.

      However, Christians commiting adultery commit a Ten Commandments sin.

      July 10, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • LOL

      Did you even bother to look up the word sodomy or you just believe your bias and prejudice preachers? It's about an-al and or-al s-ex with a member of the opposite s-ex. Plus the word ho-mo-s-exual was even invented it that time so it was about ra-pe. Pick up a history book and stop spreading lies.

      July 10, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Jason

      So just referencing Sodom and Gomorrah automatically means talking about sodomy? Even though it's sins are never identified in the Bible as sodomy?

      July 10, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Observer

      Since sodomy is practiced by MANY heteros too, why is this an issue ONLY for gays?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Peter

      "Since sodomy is practiced by MANY heteros too, why is this an issue ONLY for gays?"

      It's the only way Christians can justify their personal prejudice. 😉

      July 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  4. Jason

    Having relations while typing

    July 9, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  5. waylaid88

    Nothing good comes from drinking and commenting. Come back when your sober.

    July 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  6. Edvard

    Being gay is just all a feeling not your being.Like you could feel that you are a car(ex.Volkswagen beetle).which some one though so and ran to his death on a Hi-way which police though it was suicide, friends of the guy said that earlier he felt he's a VW beetle.And a California native indian feels he's a cat so he had surgery and tattooed like a cat.It's that "feel good" ensyme in our brains that rewards us to feel happy when we are "happy" for what we feel happy about.So we get addicted to doing it. So same with feeling you are a guy who feels he is a "girl" and a girl who feels she is a "boy".We know and conclude you are a male due the thing sticking out of you and a female when the absence of that male part in you. In the animal kingdom male goes for the female and the female goes for the male and any actions that go otherwise means there is something wrong with that animal. We are far better than the animals so why not act and feel better than them.Feeling is a feeling and its not what I could see what you are.I see a male when I see one and a female too and I will threat male as male and female as female not what they feel they are,or else I have to find nuts and bolts to feed you because you feel you are a 1970 Volkswagen beetle.

    July 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Observer

      Read what professional organizations say, like APA, that know far far more about it than you likely do. Arguing by using people who think they are cars just shows a total disconnect with the reality of this situation.

      July 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • LOL

      Being gay is not a choice, it can't be voluntarily changed and it's not a mental illness 154,000 expert scientist and psychologist don't agree with you.

      July 10, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  7. Jason

    Gay people are God's creation

    July 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  8. Hank

    In the mad rush to accept anything, everything and "whatever" opinions that are current which place themselves above God, please do not forget or overestimate the true worth of such "stuff", but DO FLUSH before you leave. There is after all the unmistakeable odor of toilet in this stupid argument to justify the unjustifiable.
    God is not attempting to get his creation's approval of any aspect of HIS WORD. Real wisdom, which certainly suggests to some that we did not create ourselves, the universe, etc, that an awesome intelligence DID. So what if 5.999B (dust-mites) refuse to accept their creator's word, that changes nothing at all. Unlike the so-called Greek (African, really) Gods who simply stopped existing because they lost their following and were (are) too busy with own incestuous behaviors to "rule" anymore, Jehovah is still intact and in charge and He has called the reality of this time of apostasy in his own Book. So CNN and all of the self-described Biblical Pundits are not making news, they are verifying Gods word, thus proving Him right in the first place, and especially since He perfectly called their current behavior of "calling right things wrong and wrong things right", way before Humanity became semi-literate.

    July 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Observer

      "Real wisdom, which certainly suggests to some that we did not create ourselves, the universe, etc, that an awesome intelligence DID."

      REAL wisdom, which certainly suggests to some that God did not create himself, etc, that an awesome intelligence DID."
      REAL wisdom would then ask: what awesome intelligence created God?

      July 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Jason

      I think you meant to say: "I don't know how to read."

      July 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • waylaid88

      Believe exactly the way I believe damn you!

      July 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  9. Budhist one

    does LOL do anything else but comment negatively with EVERYONE who disagrees with him? wow...

    July 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Peter

      I think what you have to ask yourself is it ok for christians to be calling gays and lesbians an abomination? I don't think so. It appears LOL is using facts that christians can't refute but still continue to use the word abomination to insult others. So, I think many other than just LOL are being insulting. It's all in how you look at it.

      July 10, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  10. bob

    Being gay is immoral and evil

    July 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • JW

      We are all immoral and evil in our own way. A gay person is no more immoral than a straight person.

      July 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jason

      AvdBerg: You find it MORE immoral for CNN to block your comments than for someone to be gay?

      Well, I guess being gay isn't that bad after all!!!!

      July 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Observer

      CNN has a set of "forbidden words" that apply to ANYONE.

      They also do not want this site being used as an advertizement.

      Being more upset with censorship of forbidden words is more important to some people than human rights. They need to wake up.

      July 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Observer

      Jason,
      Why should you be concerned about hypocrites that use the Bible as an excuse for their prejudices? It's obvious by their actions that they just pick and choose the "sins" they want to criticize.

      LIke other Christians, you are certainly free to decide for yourself what you think God is like. God certainly could be much more like Jesus in the Bible than the often arrogant, vain, mass-killing God of the Bible.

      July 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • LOL

      The experts disagree with you and the laws are changing to proving you are wrong.

      July 10, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  11. JW

    The Bible has some verses saying a man should not have se-x with another man. However, I do not believe that it specifically says that a man cannot love another man. I personally am pro gay marriage

    July 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • JW

      Sorry that was supposed to be in response to Jason

      July 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  12. Shakir

    This is a terrific Op-Ed. I'm going to forward it to several listservs

    July 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  13. Jason

    I'm gay and wondering if it's okay for me to get married as a result of reading Jonathan Dudley's op-ed. Can someone enlighten me?

    July 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Jason

      Does that mean I'm an abomination because I have a gay orientation?????

      July 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Observer

      Jason,

      Don't worry about Christians trying to trash you for an abomination. If they read their Bible, they'd know that the extremely highly praised three Kings, hypocritically called the Three Wise Men, are exalted for bringing baby Jesus incense. They ALWAYS ignor that incense is an abomination according to the Bible. Don't let them make you feel guilty for their hypocrisy.

      July 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Observer

      AvdBerg,

      Are you unwilling or just incapable of answering questions?.

      Peddle your website elsewhere. Jason is looking for answers, not an advertizement.

      July 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • LOL

      There are many christians here who have been brainwashed into reading the texts literally and haven't bothered to look at history to get the true meaning. Reading comprehension 101 is you put it into historical context, none of the men writing the bible knew or understood that gays are born gay. What they are talking about is pagan rituals worshiping a god using s=ex. God created you and loves you for who you are, you are not an abomination.

      July 10, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  14. Jason

    Would Jesus bless a gay marriage? That's the real question. What does your heart tell you, Jonathan?

    July 9, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • waylaid88

      but then again he might as Jesus never condemned ho-mo$exuality. Didn't say one negative word about it, nada, zilch. He did have some fairly negative things to say against the rich, however. Go Figure.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  15. Disciple Mikey

    @ Not inerrant---–

    you are absolutely right that POPULAR christianity differs from true christianty. Jesus said that not all who call on his name are his followers. Also there are lots of people who do listen to the Good news of God's Kingdom and have responded to it. These are not my interpretations of the Bible. I consider the whole thing and allow it to interpret itself. We dont have the exact copies of the inspired word but know that God's holy spirit has acted in ways to preserve his thoughts in an aid to save mankind. You say that its between a person and God and he will lead them but how do you think he does so if we cant trust any translation of the Bible? Is it a feeling? how do you distinguish between that feeling and your own selfish desires? All of what you say is an excuse to do what you want and it be ok with God. I'm not judging because youre right, it doesnt effect me......... its your right to do what you want. But for you to say it's ok with God without any proof is wrong and I would be wrong to not inform you otherwise.

    July 9, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Not inerrant

      This will be my last post due to the fact that it will just continue to go back and forth and I believe I have said all I can say. God's spirit is what draws a heart to his, not the bible. It is the work of his Spirit and that is what leads and guides us if we allow it to. If God is God he is able to touch hearts, transform them, and lead them without a person ever reading a bible. He is God and able to do things that are beyond our understanding. I am not sure of what sinful desires you are speaking of because I have never once said I was gay or that I believe that it is right or wrong. You are asuming a great deal. What I am saying is this, people on this thread are acting as if the hand of God itself wrote the bible and it is inerrant and in it's purest form but we know it isn't or else all of the manuscripts would match up. It boils down to this I don't understand what everyone is so upset about. If you believe it is wrong and state your belief you have to realize that others may not agree with you. You may feel the need to tell other people that it is wrong but at the same time understand that they do not have to agree with you. I am not attacking any person's beliefs just stating things that I think some people may not be aware of. That is all. It is not my place to judge anyone or try to force my beliefs on anyone. I was trying only to have an open conversation but I have no interest in debate back and forth day after day. Either people will hear and think about what I have to say or they won't but honestly either way it is ok by me.

      July 9, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Karin from Surrey

      "you are absolutely right that POPULAR christianity differs from true christianty."

      Now isn't that convenient, Disciple Mikey.

      Modern research and recent findings that show what you believe is misguided can't support "true Christianity".

      "True Christianity" is what the minority believe. Well which minority? George W Bush, Mel Gibson and those who believe what they believe, the Catholic Worker Movement, the Jesus Radicals, the Jesus Seminary. They are all minority groups who claim to be Christians and most adherents have studied the Bible very carefully to try to understand what Jesus was really saying.

      Remember a 'Christian' is a follower of Jesus Christ and should look carefully at what the gospels say he did and said to see how best to follow him.

      July 9, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  16. Disciple Mikey

    @ Karin and Karen-

    I notice that both of you use the phrases "I think" and "I believe". These are your views and not God's. I have not been misled by any man. I allow the bible to govern my life. Not my own selfish desires in an effort to live a life of comfort. The Bible says in many places that ho-mose-xuality is wrong. Yes LOL, even in the new testament in scenarios where pagan worship isnt the topis. The apostle paul has mentioned it in letters to CHRISTIAN congregations. I agree that none of us should hate, but plese dont believ that God approves of this.

    July 9, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • frank

      I think God was a homo, but since his own rules condemned him, he felt he had to assert his machismo, so he raped Mary. Then, when Jesus was born, he killed him to kill himself, because he was homophobic. Then he said he did it for us, to see if we'd fall for it. He was one seriously devious, conflicted son of a bitch. True story!

      July 9, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Not inerrant

      The truth of the matter is you have been mislead. There are no orignial manuscripts of the O.T or the N.T and the manuscripts that they do have, do not all say the same thing. You are believing a book that is not inerrant as if it were. It may be inspired but it is not without error. I have posted previously that give scripture and verse for poof. You may look those post up but I am not going to type them over and over and over again. So please before you write as if you are 100% correct, realize that you cannot be. There are no original manuscripts and as I stated above the ones that they do have do not all say the same thing.

      July 9, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Observer

      Disciple Mikey,
      Paul also says that people shouldn't marry, but you probably won't follow him on that. He says that should marry only if they can't control their lust. Not exactly an endorsement for marriage.

      The Bible is full of comments about sin and some get much more mention than others, especially when it comes to heteros. Don't expect any Christians on here trashing the much larger number of adulterous Christians than the number of gays. It's much more fun for them to ignor the Christian sinners and pick on gays.

      July 9, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Karin from Surrey

      Disciple Mikey, pray tell me how you can know the mind of God? I do not presume to share God's thoughts, so I am humble enough to say that this is my opinion, what I think or believe.

      Now you say Paul says ho.mose.xual acts are wrong. The author's very point is that in 1 Corinthians Paul says these acts are unnatural and that Paul also says it is unnatural for men to have long hair. Many of Paul's Jewish ancestors would have had long hair, but it was the custom of his day for men to have short hair. The Romans saw long hair on men as something for Barbarians.

      Seeing long hair on men as unnatural was a cultural thing.

      In a society where stable marriages helped to make a stable society family values were given a high value and anything that undermined family life was frowned up. Those people commintting 'unnatural' acts were probably married. The unnatural practices may have been for cultic purposes, i.e. for the worship of other gods and not because these people preferred partners of the opposite s.e.x.

      What we are talking about today are people who could not feel happy in a marriage, but who wish to have a loving partner.

      It has been shown that for these people the acts Paul considered 'unnatural' are more natural than what Paul would have thought of as natural. Our understanding has changed and most well-informed people now realise that calling being gay unnatural has been a cultural thing.

      July 9, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • LOL

      "The Bible says in many places that ho-mose-xuality is wrong. "

      What it is saying is wrong is men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men to have s-x, they did this to worship their god. Christians that went back to this practice was an abomination. It also is about male prost-ituion and using young boys for se-x (pedo-phile not gay). It would help if you actually did some historical research to get the true meaning of the scriptures. God created gays because they are born this way and they are NOT an abomination. It's not a choice, it's not a mental illness and it can't be voluntarily changed.

      July 10, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  17. Joe Blow from Idaho

    Why is all of my comments all of a sudden "awaiting moderation"? They were fine when I posted them, now suddenly they're not?

    July 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      I'm guessing someone out there can't handle the truth.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Not inerrant

      I wouldn't say people can't handle the truth, the same thing happened with a few of my posts as well.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      No need to guess, or think that someone is trying to stiffle you. It's just a lousy piece of software looking for partial words that might be part of a naughty word. For example, 'cum' could be used in 'document' or it could be used in a word that the software does not like. You should be able to find a list of naught bits in one of the articles.

      July 9, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  18. DM

    CNN. When will you put my posts up? It's been several hours??

    July 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  19. scott

    LOL... "the Pagans were whipped into such a state of s-exual frenzy that they went against their basic heteros-exual nature and started engaging in s-exual behavior with members of the same s-ex. It has nothing to do with what we now know about gays today."

    Have you heard of the law of non-contradiction? Two contradictory statements (which you just made) cannot both be true. How can this be about going against their basic heteros.exual nature, and still have nothing to do with hom-ose-xuality???

    July 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • LOL

      I am not going to continue to do your research for you because you are to lazy to do it. Try reading up on how these worship ceremonies were done. Then do some research on gays today. Wow are you one really lazy dude.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Disciple Mikey

      Your wasting your time Scott. His mind is made up. You will only go back and forth with him and get nowhere. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus "what is truth?" Jesus determined his motives and knew that answering him wouldnt make a difference so he refused to give a reply. It's best do do people like this the same way. At this point it's between him and God and you know like I do that all these loopholes will not be good enough for him. I only pray that his heart is able to be reached one day.

      July 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • LOL

      That was a direct quote about that time period. The problem you can't understand is how straights could do that but when you look through history you will find people who are strung out on a drug like shromes, peyote or even really drunk people do things they normally wouldn't do....even kill. So when a straight is having se-x with straights in this state it's NOT ho-mo-se-xuaitly. It's why you need to do research about that time period to get the true meaning of what is really the abomination. It was Christians returning to paganism and having s-ex in this manner worshiping another god.

      July 10, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • LOL

      "Your wasting your time Scott. His mind is made up."

      Mikey your the one who's mind is already made up which makes you a hypocrite.

      July 10, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  20. Steven

    Mr. Dudley,

    While we agree that Augustine was unsure about ensoulment, he was clear about abortion. "To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb...have never been alive, seems too audacious."

    But Tertullian, a 2nd and 3rd century Christian apologist, said, "We indeed maintain that both are conceived, and formed, and perfectly simultaneously, as well as born together; and that not a moment's interval occurs in their conception, so that a prior place can be assigned to either. As death is defined to be nothing else than the separation of body and soul, life, which is the opposite of death, is susceptible of no other definition than the conjunction of body and soul."

    July 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jason

      He didn't say all past Christian theologians denied life begins at conception, just that most did. Providing one counter-example (with Tertullian) doesn't negate that point. And as others have pointed out, Augustine objected to abortion the unformed fetus because it was a form of contraception, not because he thought it destoryed a human being.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.