Thomas Hopko is a respected Orthodox theologian and scholar. This books hammers in a lot of nails very straight and true, in my estimation. In the last three years, while I haven’t studied this issue in any real depth, over the last three years I’ve skimmed through a half-dozen or so books on this topic. This one, thus far, is the best I’ve seen. It is laid out in a manner that bloggers (and especially blog readers) might like. It is written as 27 short 2-4 page chapters, each centered about a central idea which is presented clearly and succinctly backed up by footnotes (the book variant of links?). Inasmuch as this is just a single blog post, I’m struggling with a way to summarize 27 separate blog posts into one, for although there is a central theme there is no simple summary I think possible. I’ll try to hit some highlights (and perhaps “the” controversy) below the fold.
The first three chapters summarize quickly the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, Jesus, the church, and crucial for what follows, a three-fold description of the world. Those three points being, God made everything good. Secondly that everything has been corrupted by (human) sin. And finally, everything has been redeemed, sanctified, and glorified by Christ. We receive this view of reality via the sacramental life of the Church.
All creatures, including humans, are good by nature. Evil is a “parasite” on the good in and among us. Specifically, when humans engage in sexual activity whether or not they acknowledge it, it is in fact part of that urge, longing for the divine nature, peace, comfort, and happiness in God. When humans misuse their sexual desire in sinful lust, porneia, it can be addictive and enslaving. Orthodox teaching is that passions (sexual) which are not associated with love is always sinful. When they are acted on, that leads to personal sin. He writes:
Orthodox Christian Scriptures and saints universally testify that when the attraction between persons of the same sex is godly, genital sexual activiy is precluded, because divine love cannot be expressed in sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex. This is so because same sex intercourse … [ed: a bit trimmed here] … can never be complementary, unitive, life-creating, and life-enhancing in the ways that God intended sexual intercourse between a man and woman.
All this is not to say that all genital sexual activity between people of the same sex (as well as sexual acts between unmarried men and women, and even married men and women who have little or no relationship with God) are totally devoid of authentic elements of godly love. If that were the case, such actions would be totally demonic and totally destructive, which they obviously, by God’s grace and mercy, are not. But it is to say that while sexual intercourse between a man and a woman has the possibility of being a pure and proper actualization of divine love when enacted in a godly manner, homosexual intercourse does not.
This claim, which is amplified and supported in detail throughout the rest of the book, might be termed as half of the claims of the book. The other, and perhaps more important, is to describe how those who feel a primary sexual attraction to those of the same sex, fit into God’s church as well as the larger world (from the Orthodox perspective).
I could continue, but I’m not sure in which direction. I could amplify what he said above, or continue with pastoral direction of how those who feel same-sex sexual attraction enter into the Church (or on his advice toward civic issues, i.e., civil unions or SSM … in brief on that latter bit, Fr Hopko approves of the former but, if the latter word “marriage” means sacramental union … he’s against that).