Volume 14, Number 1
by Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
All manner of sin can be forgiven, provided we admit our wrongdoing, repent, and turn away from it. But there can be no forgiveness when sinners are in denial--when they insist that their lustful desires and practices are not sinful, when they re-interpret Scripture to justify their sins, and when they defiantly maintain that they will not turn from their sinful ways.
Such is the case today with a sin called homosexuality.
Next to the issue of ordaining women as elders and pastors, homosexuality is the hottest "hot potato" item on today's theological menu. It is so "hot" that anyone attempting to touch it risks being "burned." To challenge the morality of homosexuality in today's climate of "enlightened" ethical sensitivity is considered "wrong-spirited and wrong." Those who dare to do so are often perceived as "uninformed," "un-compassionate," and "judgmental" (as in the case of Christ's disciples, who condemned a congenitally blind person as a sinner [Jn 9]).
Already, in certain quarters of our own church, those who forthrightly express their views on the twin ideological issues of women's ordination and homosexuality are considered "divisive," "controversial" and "extreme fundamentalists." These uncomplimentary labels have exerted powerful psychological pressure on some church leaders and scholars either to endorse the unbiblical practices, or at a minimum, to remain silent. But should Bible-believing Adventists be intimidated by these labels? Should they remain silent or neutral when established biblical doctrines are being undermined? The courage of biblical convictions requires that we "prove all things [and] hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess 5:21; cf. 2 Tim 4:1-5).
Homosexuality Has Come to Church
Almost two decades ago, a former dean of the Theological Seminary at Andrews University perceptively noted: "The gay crisis has come to church. Some homosexuals are coming to church not only for forgiveness and mercy but to say to the church, as they have to the world, `Homosexuality is not sinful; it is natural to me. God made me this way. He accepts me and my homosexuality as good. Therefore the time has come for the church to accept me as I am and join me in saying that gayness is good.'"1
The above statement aptly captures the essence of the "born-a-gay gospel" and its varied "ministries" or "support groups."2 Though advocates of this gospel employ the term "ministry" to describe their "outreach" to gay and lesbians, such "ministries" for the most part do not teach homosexuals to repent of their particular sin. Instead, they suggest that the church itself must be "educated" to own up to its "immoral" past, when it failed to "understand" and recognize homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle. Regrettably, an increasing number of Christians are uncritically embracing this new "gospel."
Even in our own Seventh-day Adventist church the attitudes of some are changing on the issue of homosexuality. We may find evidence for this change in Adventist discussions on the Internet, in written declarations by some scholars, in discussions at annual professional meetings of the church's Bible teachers, in some carefully written, yet troubling, articles in our church publications, and in the mumblings, if not deafening silence, from our pulpits. Discussions at the last two General Conference sessions (Indianapolis, Indiana, 1990, and Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1995) over the innocuous wording of certain portions of the Church Manual also reflect this shifting mood.3
The question before us is: Should we embrace the "born a gay" gospel as a morally legitimate part of the Christian lifestyle? This article is not about how we should relate to homosexuals who, like other sinners, come to church for God's help to overcome their sin. Rather, we are concerned here with the biblical soundness of the arguments undergirding the "born a gay" gospel.
The Changing Attitude Toward Homosexuality
Homosexuality is not a new sexual behavior that has suddenly burst upon our modern culture. The practice has been present in almost every human society. Not unexpectedly, the Bible also deals with the subject in such texts as Genesis 19 (cf. Jude 7; 2 Pet 2:6-10), Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:8-11. If there is anything new about the practice of homosexuality, it lies in the fact that contrary to the church's response in the past, many churches in our day are accepting homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle.
For example, in 1973 the American Bar Association called for the repeal of laws which in the past had placed homosexuality in the category of crime. That same year, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses, and the American Psychological Association also decided that homosexuality was no longer an abnormal behavior. With such influential actions to remove homosexuality from the categories of crime, illness, and abnormal behavior, it did not take long before Christian churches began to hear calls from pro-gay advocates, urging the church to remove homosexuality from the category of sin.
In their effort to remove homosexuality from the category of sin, advocates of gay theology have employed two major methods to silence or challenge the Bible's negative valuation of homosexuality. First, they argue that the Bible texts which have been understood historically as condemning homosexuality are either obscure or refer to the abuse of homosexuality in such practices as gang rape, idolatry, promiscuity, and prostitution, but not to genuine homosexual orientation as we know it today.
Second, they put forward some Bible characters as examples of allegedly healthy and loving homosexual relationships. For example, the friendship love (what the Greeks called philia) between biblical characters like Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1-4) and David and Jonathan (1 Sam 18-20) they interpret to mean sexual love (eros). Consequently, they present these Bible characters as Christian models of lesbian and gay relationships. Advocates often argue that Ruth and Naomi exchanged their lesbian marriage vows when Ruth said to Naomi: "Wherever you go, I will go with you, wherever you stay I will stay with you; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. . . . Till death do us part" (Ruth 1:16, 17, my adaptation).
Regarding David and Jonathan, advocates of gay theology string together the following interesting argument to suggest that they were two "male lovers": The Bible itself says Jonathan "loved" David (1 Sam18:3); David declared publicly that Jonathan's love was "wonderful," passing even "the love of women" (2 Sam 1:23); Jonathan allegedly "stripped" in David's presence (1 Sam 18:4), the two "kissed" each other (1 Sam 20:41), subsequently "wept together" and (David) "exceeded" (1 Sam 20:41)--terms advocates take to mean a sexual encounter! (Readers may wish to read the Scriptural account of the relationship between David and Jonathan to ascertain for themselves what the Bible actually says.) Other proponents of gay theology also consider Joseph and Potiphar (Gen 39), Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel (Dan 2, 4), as well as Jesus and John ("the disciple whom Jesus loved," Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:2) as genuine models of loving and committed homosexual relationship. Some even consider the virgin Mary as a lesbian, describing her as "one courageous woman who did not need a man to have a child."
Even though we may easily dismiss the above examples of allegedly healthy gay and lesbian relationships in the Bible as frivolous inventions, not all the arguments of pro-gay theology can be rebuffed so handily. Some of the arguments are quite sophisticated, often invoking scientific, philosophical, or logical arguments to show that (i) people are born homosexual (i.e., homosexuality is genetic or inborn); (ii) the sexual orientation of people "born gay" should be viewed as a natural or normal trait of their identity, like the color of the skin, eyes, or hair, or as a God-given gift; (iii) a person's "God-given" homosexual orientation is morally neutral and unchangeable; and (iv) the Bible is silent, or does not condemn, homosexuality as such, but only its abuse.
Sincere, Bible-believing Christians are often caught off-guard by the subtle and plausible-sounding arguments in favor of homosexuality today. In an effort to clear away the smoke-screen which often clouds this issue, I will list some of the arguments in circulation, following each with a response which I hope will make clear the fundamental issue at stake for the Christian. I believe that the reader will find in Scripture a clear and consistent guide to God's will in this highly-charged matter.
Because of space limitations I can only summarize and respond to some of the major arguments put forth by those attempting to reconcile the "born a gay" ideology with the Bible's "born again" theology. Those seeking a fuller discussion and documentation on the subject should consult my forthcoming book, Must We Be Silent? (see note 3).