Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Räisänen on Christianity and homosexuality

A tip of the biretta to Karl for this excellent posting.

Räisänen on Christianity and homosexuality

Heikki Räisänen (born 1941) was Professor of New Testament Exegetics at the University of Helsinki in the years 1975-2006. He was - is! - a scholar with world-wide renown, and is abhorred in many conservative circles, which (of course) is a point in his favour. I had the privilege of doing my Masters thesis under his tutelage.
Last week, Professor Räisänen was interviewed by the news agency STT (FNB in Swedish) when he made an appearance at a symposium. The following is my own translation from the Finnish:
According to former professor Heikki Räisänen, Christianity has changed during the whole of its existence. At the moment, Christians are considering gender equality in religion and the nature of sexual disposition.
- The relationship of Christians to homosexuality has changed much, on the one hand in the light of new scientific findings, on the other, and perhaps more importantly, because heterosexual Christians know homosexuals better. They have been able to see that they are ordinary people, who haven't chosen their sexuality, but to whom it has been “given”, so to speak, Räisänen said on “Tieteen päivät” (“The Days of Science”).
As a comparison, Räisänen mentioned bigger changes than female priesthood or blessings of [same-sex] partnerships, that have occurred in the history of Christianity. One example happened in the times of the apostle Peter, when the Jesus-movement still was a part of the Jewish community. When Peter had witnessed to his gentile listeners, they were ecstatic and started to speak in tongues.
According to Räisänen, this was interpreted as a sign that God accepted the gentiles and that they could become members of the congregation without the rite of circumcision, that God according to the Bible had decreed should be eternal.
- This was a very drastic change in the religious tradition. Today's [issues with] female priesthood and gay marriage are child's play in comparison.
According to the story, Peter gave the motivation for his decision by stating, that he cannot stop God, if God has given the gentiles the same gift as to us.
- It is hard not to see similarities between Peter's experience and the experiences that many modern heterosexual Christians have had when meeting homosexual brothers and sisters, Räisänen added.
The interview was published by Ilta-Sanomat 8.1.09.

1 comment:

sattvicwarrior said...

there was a time in the late 16th or 17th century that the church DID indeed sanction same sex marriages. Regrettably i lost the article. TO bad as it was quite brilliant, so same sex marriages in the church are nothing new. . its just that fear and self loathing seems to be the philosophy du jour in contemporary religious society. Maybe you have come across such theological history in your career . IT DID make for interesting reading