Volume 14, Number 1
Homosexuality in the Church: Should This "Born-a-Gay" Lifestyle Be Baptized?
Biblical Arguments for Homosexuality
10. "Scriptural references to homosexual acts do not suffice to determine God's will for homosexuals today. They are 'culturally conditioned'"
Probably the major reason why Christian churches accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle is the sophisticated scriptural arguments many employ to justify the practice. Proponents either maintain that the Bible is "silent" on the issue or that scriptural passages which condemn homosexuality (Gen 19 [cf. Jude 7; 2 Pet 2:6-10]; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11), if "rightly" understood, are either ambiguous, irrelevant to contemporary homosexual practice, or refer to pederasty or cultic prostitution.
In short, advocates of gay theology argue that because Bible passages on homosexuality deal only with specific historical situations, these passages are "culturally conditioned" and are no longer relevant for Christian sexual ethics today.
Jesus refuted the "culturally conditioned" argument when He stated unequivocally that God's will for our moral life is the original ideal He instituted in the Garden of Eden.
Undergirding these new reformulations of biblical teaching on homosexuality is liberalism's unscriptural view of biblical inspiration, interpretation, and authority. One writer correctly noted: "There are only two ways one can neutralize the biblical witness against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of Scripture."16 Indeed, many of the homosexuals' biblical arguments are "strained, speculative and implausible, the product of wishful thinking and special pleading."17
Jesus refuted the "culturally conditioned" argument when He stated unequivocally that God's will for our moral life is the original ideal He instituted in the Garden of Eden. He asked the Pharisees, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" (Matt 19: 4, 5; cf. Mk 10:6-8). With the expression "at the beginning" or "from the beginning" (Matt 19:8; Mk 10:6), Christ teaches that all cultures must bow before the unchangeable standard He instituted at creation. That standard is that only "male and female" can legitimately "cleave" and become "one flesh." Indeed, as has often been said, if Christ had intended a homosexual relationship, He would have created "Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve."
11. "Jesus said nothing about homosexuality in any of the Gospels"
Proponents argue that, as followers of Christ, Christians should base their beliefs on the teachings of Christ. If Jesus Christ, the founder of biblical Christianity, was silent on the issue of homosexuality, why should we go beyond our Master by condemning the practice?
The lack of record in the Gospels of a statement from Christ on homosexuality does not mean that He never addressed it during His earthly ministry. According to John, if the Gospel writers had attempted to record all the works of Christ, the world could not contain all the books (Jn 21:25).
Moreover, the recorded teachings of Christ in the Gospels are not the Christian's only source of authority. "All Scripture"--from Genesis to Revelation--constitutes the normative authority. The fact that one section of the Bible says nothing explicitly on a subject does not mean the other sections are silent.
Furthermore, it is incorrect to say that Jesus is silent on homosexuality. As we pointed out earlier, Christ's statement in Matthew 19:3-8 and Mark 10:2-9 ("Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?") reveals that God's intention at Creation regarding human sexuality--namely, a monogamous, heterosexual relationship--is the only context for human sexual expression.
12. "The Bible writers did not know about homosexuality as we know it today"
Some argue that the kind of homosexuality the Bible writers condemned was that which was connected with rape, prostitution, or idolatry. They further claim that even if the Bible writers did condemn homosexuality as we know it today (i.e., the so-called loving, committed, and faithful homosexual relationships), this is not the first time Bible writers have been wrong. They were wrong on many things, including slavery, polygamy, and the subjugation of women. These practices were later allegedly corrected by the "Spirit's leading." If the Bible writers were wrong on these issues, they argue, why can't they be wrong on homosexuality? And if under the Spirit's leading the church came to embrace slave emancipation, monogamy, and women's equal rights, why should not the church, led by the same Spirit, accept homosexuality?
First, if we believe that the Bible is God's inspired Word and not simply the personal opinions of ancient writers, and if we believe that the Bible is the all-sufficient guide in doctrine and practice for all people living at all times (2 Tim 3:16, 17; cf. 2 Pet 1:20, 21), then "it is unthinkable that God--who is no respecter of persons--would be so careless as to offer no guidance in His revealed Word to the thousands of homosexuals He knew would exist throughout time, if indeed their relationships were legitimate in His sight."18
Second, it is without foundation to argue that the Bible writers (Moses and Paul) were ignorant of today's more "enlightened" scientific and theological view of homosexuality. These men were erudite in their intellectual training and discerning in their calling as God's prophets. The reason why they never made the fine distinctions cited by today's advocates of homosexuality is because there is no validity to recent distinctions between the homosexual act and the condition, the latter being something about which homosexuals allegedly have no choice. The Bible writers condemned homosexuality itself. They also offered God's miraculous transformation as the cure for this sin (1 Cor 6:9-11).
Third, the suggestion that the Bible writers were wrong on a number of issues arises from contemporary higher criticism, the so-called historical-critical method. In an earlier work I have challenged this discredited method of liberal interpretation as incompatible with the tenets of biblical Christianity.19
13. "Sodom was destroyed because of pride, inhospitality, and/or gang rape, not because of homosexuality"
Pro-gay advocates argue that when the men of Sodom demanded of Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them" (Gen 19:5), the men of Sodom were only violating the ancient rules of hospitality. Some assert that the Hebrew word yada`, which is translated "have sex with" (or "know" in KJV) appears 943 times in the Old Testament, and carries sexual meaning only about 10 times. They thus argue that the men of Sodom had no sexual intentions towards Lot's visitors; they only wanted to "get acquainted" with them or interrogate them, fearing that they were foreign spies being harbored by Lot, himself a foreigner. Furthermore, even if they had sexual intentions, the judgment on their action would condemn only homosexual gang rape, not a consensual homosexuality as such.
Indeed, Sodom was destroyed because of pride and inhospitality (cf. Ezek 16:49, 50; Jer 23:14; Lk 17:28, 29). But separating inhospitality from sexual sin makes a false distinction. What the men of Sodom sought to do was another form of inhospitality. Also, inhospitality and pride were not the only reasons the Bible gives for Sodom's destruction. The city was punished also because of its "abomination" (Ezek 16:50), a veiled reference to its sexual deviations. The Bible describes various things as "abomination," a word of strong disapproval, meaning literally something detestable and hated by God. But since the word is used in the so-called "inhospitality passages" of Ezekiel 16 to describe sexual sin (vv. 22, 58), and since the word refers to same-sex acts in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, the "abomination" of Sodom does not exclude sexual deviations.
Two New Testament passages make this point explicitly. The apostle Peter indicates that, among other things, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their "filthy conduct," "lawless deeds," and their "walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness" (2 Pet 2:6-10 NKJV), a reference that includes adultery, fornication, and other sexual perversions (cf. Gal 5:19-21). Jude specifically linked the destruction of these wicked cities to their sexual deviations: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). The "fornication and going after strange flesh" are obvious references to sexual perversions (so NIV, RSV, NRSV, Phillips, TEV).
Pro-gay advocates incorrectly assert that the Hebrew word yada` as used in Genesis 19 means "to get acquainted with," not "to have sex with." But Lot's reply to the men of Sodom shows that he understood their demand in sexual terms: "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing" (Gen 19:7). In fact, in the very next verse the word yada` is translated "slept with." Lot, acting out of sheer desperation and hopelessness, proposed: "Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with (yada`) a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them" (v. 8). Lot definitely had no reason to think that the men of Sodom merely wanted to question or get acquainted with his daughters! One Bible commentary puts it neatly: "It would be grotesquely inconsequent that Lot should reply to a demand for credentials by an offer of daughters."21 Lot's reference to his daughters' virginity also indicates he understood the sexual content of the request. Clearly, then, yada` in this passage refers to sexual intercourse.
This much can be said: The men of Sodom were not interested in Lot's desperate offer of his virgin daughters. They were proposing a homosexual rape. But for such rape to have involved "all the men of the city, both young and old" (Gen 19:4), homosexual activity must have been commonly practiced--one reason why Jude records that their "fornication, and going after strange flesh are set forth [in Scripture] for an example [and warning unto us]" (Jude 7). As we will see, other Bible passages condemn all homosexual activity, not just homosexual rape.
14. "The Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 passages, condemning homosexual activity as sinful, do not condemn homosexuality as we know it today"
In these passages, God forbids a man to "lie with" another man "as with a woman." Doing so is an "abomination." Advocates of gay theology, however, argue that the practices condemned as "abomination" (Heb. to`evah) in these passages of Leviticus have to do with the kind of homosexuality associated with pagan religious practices. In the view of pro-gay writers, God was not prohibiting the kind of homosexuality practiced today by Christians, but only the kind connected with idolatry. Even if the passages condemn homosexuality in general, they argue, these passages in Leviticus are part of the ceremonial holiness code that has no permanent binding obligation on Christians.
First, if these passages condemn homosexuality only because of its association with idolatry, then it would logically follow that other practices mentioned in these passages--incest, adultery, polygamy, bestiality, and child sacrifice--are also condemned as sinful only because of their association with idolatry. Conversely, if incest, adultery, polygamy, bestiality, etc., are morally objectionable regardless of their connection with pagan practices, then homosexuality is also morally wrong, regardless of the context in which it is practiced.
Second, in context, both Leviticus 18 and 20 deal primarily with morality, not idolatrous worship. When God wants specifically to mention the practices of cultic or idolatrous prostitutes, He does so, as in Deuteronomy 23:17: "No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute." The lack of such mention in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 indicates that God is dealing with homosexuality per se, not with any alleged specific form of Canaanite religious practice.
As for the contention that Scripture always connects the word "abomination" (Heb. to`evah) with idolatry or pagan ceremonies, one biblical example will discredit the claim. Proverbs 6:16-19 describes God as hating such "abominations" as a proud look, a lying tongue, murder, etc. Are we to believe that pride, lying, and murder are morally acceptable as long as they are not carried out in idolatrous pagan contexts? Certainly not.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 condemn homosexuality, alongside incest, adultery, polygamy, and bestiality, in the strongest terms. These moral concerns are still relevant today. Also, since the New Testament again denounces these sexual deviations, we may conclude that the moral content of these Leviticus passages is permanently normative, not part of the ceremonial holiness code's temporary provisions.22
15. "In Romans 1:26-27 Paul does not condemn individuals who are homosexuals by nature; rather, he refers to idolatrous heterosexuals who have `changed their nature' by committing homosexual acts"
According to this argument, the real sin condemned by Paul is two-fold: (i) the changing of what is natural to a person into what is unnatural, and (ii) homosexuality committed by people who worship images, not God.
Advocates of pro-gay theology often argue that if a person is homosexual, he or she can never become truly heterosexual. And yet they often quote the Romans 1 passage as an example of truly heterosexual people committing a sin by becoming truly homosexual. We may therefore ask: If a person who is a heterosexual can change and become a homosexual, why cannot a person who is a homosexual be changed and become a heterosexual? It appears, however, that advocates of the pro-gay viewpoint do not see the inconsistency of their position.
For a number of reasons, it seems inconceivable that Paul could be describing predominantly heterosexual people indulging in homosexual acts. First, he describes the men and women committing these homosexual acts as "burning in lust" for each other. Are we to understand this as heterosexuals who are simply experimenting with an alternate lifestyle?
Also, if verses 26 and 27 only condemn homosexual actions by people to whom they did not come naturally (i.e., heterosexuals who are practicing homosexual acts), but don't apply to individuals to whom those same actions allegedly do come naturally ("true homosexuals"), then consistency and intellectual integrity demand that the sinful practices mentioned in verses 29 and 30--fornication, backbiting, deceit, etc.--are permissible as long as the people who commit them are those to whom such things come naturally.
Finally, if we are to accept pro-gay arguments that Romans 1 condemns only homosexuality committed by people who worship idols, then consistency and honesty demand that we also argue that the other sins listed in that chapter--fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, pride, etc. (vv. 28-32)--are sinful only because they are committed by idol worshipers. Even the most strident advocates of homosexuality will not likely embrace this logic. The point is thus obvious: Homosexuality is unnatural, whether it is committed by idolaters or those who worship the true God.
16. "Paul's 'arsenokoitai' and 'malakoi' statements in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 and 1 Timothy 1:9, 10, denouncing the 'effeminate and them that defile themselves with mankind,' are actually a condemnation of an 'offensive kind of homosexuality,' not the 'offense of homosexuality.'"
In both passages, Paul lists those who engage in homosexual behavior among such lawless people as fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, kidnapers, etc. According to pro-gay advocates, the Greek terms arsenokoitai (translated in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 as "them that defile themselves with mankind") and malakoi (translated "effeminate" or "soft" in 1 Corinthians 6), which the apostle uses to denounce homosexual activity, refer to homosexual abuse, not its right use. Thus, these passages do not condemn today's "loving and committed" homosexual relationships, but rather offensive kinds of homosexual activity, such as homosexual prostitution.
For good reason the terms arsenokoitai and malakoi have been understood traditionally as a reference to the active and passive partners in a homosexual relationship. The first term (arsenokoitai, combining the Greek terms arsen [male] and koite [bed]) literally means "male bedders," referring to men who "bed" other men. The second term (malakoi [soft]) refers to "soft" or "effeminate" men, specifically males who play female sexual roles with the "male bedder." There is no hint in these words that Paul was condemning only a certain kind of homosexual abuse, as in prostitution, rape, or pagan ceremonies. He condemns homosexuality in itself--sexual contact between two men--as sin, regardless of the reason why it is practiced.
Note also that when Paul used the term arsenokoitai to condemn the sinful practice of homosexuality, he apparently derived it directly from the Greek translation of two verses in Leviticus, which read in part:
". . . kai meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gynaikos" ("and you shall not lie in bed with a man as with a woman," Lev 18:22);
" . . . kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos" ("and whoever may lie in bed with a man as with a woman," Lev 20:13).
Therefore, Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 and 1 Timothy 1:9, 10 presupposes Leviticus's condemnation of homosexual acts. Is it any wonder that Paul lists homosexuality among "lawless" deeds that would bar a person from the kingdom of God? Homosexuality in any form is sinful. To attempt to sanitize a sinful practice by describing it as "loving and committed" and to attempt to silence the Bible's categorical condemnation of the practice is an irresponsible exercise in biblical gamesmanship.
In summary, the Bible is not morally neutral on homosexuality. Paul's statements in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1, along with the Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 passages, clearly show that homosexuality in all of its various forms is sinful. Homosexual behavior, like heterosexual fornication, is sin, whether it results from one's orientation or from conscious choice. In other words, the Bible condemns all homosexual lust and behavior, including today's so-called loving and consensual homosexual relationships.