As of this writing (July 1991) five major denominations
have considered or are considering a revision of their traditional views on homosexuality. The General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) has overwhelmingly rejected a
committee report asking for, among other things, acceptance
of premarital sex, homosexual relationships and teenage
sexual activity. By a 534 to 31 vote the general assembly said
no to all of the above.
It remains to be seen whether the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - all of whom are currently involved in similar debates - will follow suit. Much depends on the influence of the more liberal factions in each group, and how much pressure they can apply to their denominations at large.
Although church groups supporting acceptance of homosexuality seem to be in the minority (a telephone poll of 100 adults taken for Time/CNN showed that 81% of the respondents who frequently attend church feel that sexual contact between men is always wrong),1they are a powerful minority indeed to have made such inroads that the subject is even under discussion!
The debate over homosexuality and the Bible - specifically, whether or not the Bible condemns homosexual acts in all cases - will do no less than rip the body of Christ apart within the next decade. It will force believers to declare, in black and white terms, where they stand on issues of sexuality and biblical interpretation. And the emotions generated during the debate will, as always, color and cloud the issue.
You are already participating in the battle. Whether you're a Fighter, a family member impacted by a loved one's homosexuality, or an interested party, at some point you'll be approached by someone who will claim that Scripture doesn't forbid homosexual practices. That person's argument will force you to give an answer for your beliefs, part of which should include a response to what I call the "Pro-Gay Theology."
In essence, Pro-Gay Theology argues that, while the Bible is authoritative, it is either not fully authoritative (it is subject to error in certain social issues) or it has been traditionally misinterpreted in the area of homosexuality. It is, as I see it, a system of beliefs based on objections to the traditional viewpoint of Scripture and sexuality.
"Our pews are empty and our outdated attitudes about sex have a great deal to do with it," complains Marvin Ellison, professor of Christian Ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine.2The good professor would have us believe that our attitudes toward sex should reflect those of our culture, that filling pews is more vital than objective truth. Yet Dr. Greg Bahnsen of the Southern California Center for Christian Studies insists that "when the church begins to look and sound like the world, there is no compelling rationale for its continued existence."3
The dilemma of homosexuality for many Christians also fuels the objections of many pro-gay advocates. They claim that their attraction to the same sex feels perfectly normal and natural. "If it seems natural," they say, "must it not therefore be God-given?"
While a specific scriptural response to this question is detailed later, a general look at the question and a bit of history will shed some light on the beliefs of the pro-gay apologist.
The advent of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), founded in 1968 sparked a new approach to homosexuality and religion. The UFMCC, attended largely but not exclusively by self-identified Gay Christians, claimed there was no conflict between homosexuality and Christianity. The initial precepts that the church (and the budding Gay Christian movement) was founded on were rather general: God loves gays as much as He loves anyone else, the gospel invitation is extended to everyone regardless of orientation, and since gays found little refuge in the Christian church at large, a new fellowship was needed to welcome them and affirm their total personhood, homosexuality included.
They were right in many ways. God indeed loves gays as much as anyone else, the gospel invitation is certainly open to them, and the church's response to them has generally been very poor and often hostile. Their interpretation of Scripture, however, causes many Christians, myself included, to take serious issue with their position. Their testimonies seem to show a pattern of placing personal experience above biblical standards. "If I'm still gay after trying not to be," they seem to say, "then God must have made me this way and so there must be a better way of looking at the Bible."
What lies behind such cavalier use of the Scriptures? Some would say rebellion, others would say a reprobate mind. I say it's deception.
Deception is an element of the end times which is seldom stressed, usually because turmoil in the Mideast or ecumenical trends steal the spotlight during discussions of Bible prophecy. Yet deception is a recurring theme in both Christ's and Paul's descriptions of the last days.
The disciples came to Him privately, saying... "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered . . . "Take heed that no one deceives you (Matthew 24:3-4).
Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many (Matthew 24:11).
So as to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11).
Evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (II Timothy 3:13).
The deception of the end times, which for many reasons I believe we're living in, has an easy target in those of us indoctrinated by the self-love philosophy promoted in the 1970's and solidified recently even in the church. This philosophy expresses itself through a variety of modern heresies, including the "Name it and claim it" teachings, the Positive Confession Movement, and the Pro-Gay Theology. Particularly vulnerable is the Christian with homosexual desires, who is often seduced into thinking that seemingly natural inclinations are in and of themselves justification for violating biblical standards.
When I was being interviewed by comedienne Joan Rivers on her talk show, this philosophy came through to me with new clarity. Regarding my stance on homosexuality, she asked me, "But if God gave us these feelings, how can it be wrong to express them?" She was sincere. Like many people, she assumed the very presence of a feeling indicates its divine origins. "If it feels good, do it," we used to say. Today's version goes several steps further. "If it feels good, sanctify it!"
Deception usually expresses itself in a challenge to God's Word. "Has God indeed said?" the serpent intoned in Genesis 3. "Does the Bible really say?" the liberal theorist asks. Same song, second verse. And the appeal of deception is usually to the area of life we are the least willing to yield to God's authority.
That, as I see it, is why we are in the midst of this debate. Below I've listed the most common points of pro-gay theology as "Objections," because they represent objections to common views on homosexuality and Christianity. "Responses" are also included. They will, I hope, be of help to you when your biblical position is challenged. As always, you'll need to include your own insights and observations.
Objection #1 – Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened," not just "Come unto me all you that are heterosexual." The gospel is for everyone, including gays.
Response – True, Christ's invitation is to everyone. Most Christians who believe homosexuality is unnatural do not believe that homosexuals cannot be saved - only that they, like all of us, are called on to repent of all aspects of life that are contrary to God's standards. (Remember that the first word of Christ's public ministry recorded in Matthew 4:17 is "Repent.") We are all called to repent just as surely as we are all called to salvation. Further, to say that no change in behavior or heart is necessary after conversion is to deny the very need for conversion in the first place. The Scriptures teach that Christ takes us as we are, then begins to bring all areas of our life, sexuality included, into subjection to Him, as modeled in His conversation with a woman taken in adultery:
Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you [I take you as you are]; go and sin no more"[repent] (John 8:11).
Objection #2 – If gays didn't ask for their orientation, then God must have created it, so how could He condemn it?
Response – There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that if a thing seems natural it is inevitably God-given. But there is much in Scripture which condemns many "natural" states and desires:
The natural man does not receive the things of . . . God (l Corinthians 2:14).
[You] were [before conversion] by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be (Romans 8:7).
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity (Psalm 51:5).
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).
Objection #3 – The church has shown condemnation, not love, to gays.
Response – True, in many respects. The problem here is not the church's adherence to biblical principles, but the harsh way that many Christians have promoted those principles (The Bible condemns homosexual acts, so gays are horrible people) and the church-sanctioned actions that have been taken against homosexuals. This once held true for other areas of behavior as well. For example, in Puritan times if a woman was found to have gossiped, she was tied to a stool, dunked in a lake, and held underwater for as long as a minute. Likewise, if a man neglected his attendance at church, he was put into wooden stocks for public humiliation. The problem was not the fact that the church denounced gossip or lack of fellowship, but the cruel treatment that people guilty of these things received. The answer is a balanced, compassionate method of promoting biblical truth, not a negating of that truth.
Objection #4 – People use Bible verses to justify violence against gays, so it's potentially harmful to quote the Bible when criticizing homosexual behavior.
Response – The perverse use of certain Scriptures to justify violence is nothing new, and is remedied by proper use, not banishment, of those Scriptures. We wouldn't consider (I hope) neglecting to teach the Scriptures in which Jesus claims to be the only way to salvation because certain groups have used that claim to persecute people of other faiths! If a book, like the Bible, is misused, the problem is the misuse and not the tool itself.
Objection #5 – People are saved on the basis of their faith in Christ, not their sexuality, be it homo or heterosexual.
Response – Affirming heterosexuality as the biblical norm is not an implication that heterosexuality saves people, any more than affirming the biblical injunctions against stealing does not imply that honesty saves people. Salvation through Christ and sexual morality are two distinct issues that should be kept separate.
Objection #6 – There are many openly gay Christians who love God, experience spiritual realities, and have specific gifts and callings just like other Christians.
Response – The presence of spiritual gifts, whether preaching, evangelism, or any other gifts, is never an indication that the person in whom those gifts are manifest is justified in all other areas of life. Nor is the presence of God's Spirit in a believer proof that the lifestyle of that believer is pleasing to God. A quick glance at the experience of Christians from New Testament times to the present shows that Christians can be subject to serious error in belief or behavior and still manifest a Christian testimony. The Galatian church had fallen into legalism, the Ephesian church had lost its primary love for Christ, and the Corinthian church had suffered schisms and disorder in its assembly. Yet when these disorders were addressed by Paul and by Christ Himself, there was no implication that these churches were filled with unregenerate people. Just as their error in no way nullified their salvation, so their salvation in no way nullified their error.
Objection #7 – Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged," so when you say that homosexuality is wrong, you're guilty of being judgmental.
Response – Then we had better do away with huge chunks of the Old and New Testaments, because they're both full of statements about right and wrong. Jesus did teach that we cannot accurately address someone else's sin without first addressing our own (Matthew 7:14). But then He turns right around in Matthew 7:5 and tells us that, having examined ourselves, we are to address their sin! Additional commandments that He gave His disciples could hardly be fulfilled without first discerning whether a person's behavior was right or wrong (Luke 9:5; Mark 8:15; Matthew 18:15-19), and statements by other New Testament writers require judgment on our part when dealing with church discipline, doctrinal error, and social contacts (Romans 16:17, I Corinthians 5:3-5; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 5:11; I Thessalonians 5:14; II Thessalonians 3:11-15; I John 4:1).
Objection #8 – The Bible teaches us that the main duty of man is to love God first and then to love his neighbor as himself. That's got nothing to do with our sex life.
Response – On the contrary, that has everything to do with our sex life, as it has everything to do with every other part of our life. The command to love God is not fulfilled just by feeling love and reverence for Him, but by expressing our love in very practical ways: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30 KJV). Body and soul, mind and strength - nothing less. If we are unwilling to conform to God's will in any of these areas, then we have no business saying that we love Him. The question isn't whether or not we claim to love God, but whether or not our actions are in harmony with His expressed will.
Objection #9 – The church used to believe that the Bible justified slavery, subjugation of women, and other heinous practices. If Christians were wrong about those issues, who's to say they aren't also wrong about homosexuality?
Response A – Using that same logic, we'll have to abandon all absolute views on anything for fear of being wrong.
Response B – Those who justified slavery by biblical passages misread the passages, quite likely to suit their own prejudice. Nowhere does the Bible commend slavery; rather, it acknowledges its existence. Additionally, not all passages translated "servants" mean literal "slaves," but often mean "house servants" or "employees."
Objection #10 – Writers of the Bible knew nothing about loving, committed relationships between homosexuals. All they knew of homosexuality was the kind that was practiced in temple prostitution or idolatrous ceremonies, so of course they condemned it in that context.
Response A – If the Bible was just another book of theories and allegories this argument might stand. But if it is indeed God-inspired, intended as a guide for belief and conduct, 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.
Response B – Even if it could be proven that there was no such thing as a "committed homosexual relationship" in biblical times, biblical authors such as David, Daniel, Ezekiel, and John were prophetically inspired to write about things that were to exist in the future as well as things that did exist at the time of their writings. Surely, if homosexuality was legitimate and natural, there would have been some reference to homosexual relationships in the future, if not the present.
Specific Scriptural Objections
But if I were a Christian homosexual, I think this one question would disturb me most: am I trying to interpret Scripture in the light of my proclivity, or should I interpret my proclivity in the light of Scripture?
- Paul Mooris,
Shadow of Sodom, 1978
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. . . . If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (Leviticus 18:22;20:13).
Objection #1 – Prohibitions against homosexuality in the Levitical code have no relevance to us today because Christians are not under the law (Romans 6:14).
Response – The fact that anything is forbidden in Mosaic law (which covers issues as diverse as ceremony, diet, sex, and clothing) does not make for a compelling argument for prohibiting it today if it is forbidden only under the law and nowhere else in Scripture. We are indeed under grace and not the law. But it is notable that God's commandments to abstain from homosexual acts are contained in chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, which deal primarily with behaviors that are condemned in both the Old and New Testaments (incest, idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, witchcraft).
Objection #2 – Jesus said nothing about homosexuality in any of the Gospels. We should base our beliefs on the teachings of Christ, not Paul or the other New Testament writers.
Response A – First, that doesn't mean He said nothing about homosexuals during His earthly ministry - only that we have no record of His doing so. John said that all the books in the world couldn't contain a full account of Christ's works (John 21:25).
Response B – There are several serious offenses Christ doesn't mention in the Gospels – child molestation, rape, spouse abuse – yet we wouldn't assume that any of these were acceptable simply because of their omission from Christ's teaching!
Response C – As important as they are, the teachings of Christ are not the only focus of the Gospels. His life, work, death, and resurrection are also accounted for in these books, with the Acts, Epistles, and Revelation giving more detailed instructions in areas of conduct and belief.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful (Romans 1:26-27).
Objection #3 – The people committing homosexual acts in Romans chapter 1 were idolaters who worshiped images, not God; therefore that passage does not condemn homosexuality, but only idolatry and the subsequent excesses that often go along with it.
Response A – The chapter condemns both idolatry and a variety of practices (not just homosexual) that sometimes stem from it, but which are condemned apart from idolatry. For instance, covetousness and fornication, listed in verse 29 of the same passage, may have also stemmed from the reprobate nature of the people described herein, but they are also named as sins in and of themselves throughout Scripture, as is homosexuality, whatever the origins.
Response B – Homosexual desires and actions are described in this passage, independent of idolatry, as being "vile affections," "against nature," and "unseemly," again, in and of themselves.
Objection #4 – Chapter 1 of Romans does not condemn homosexuality, but homosexual acts committed by people who are really heterosexual. They "changed their nature." Since homosexuality was not "natural" to them, they should not have indulged in it, but the passage does not condemn homosexual acts between people who are genuinely homosexual.
Response A – Paul's wording here is not nearly that vague. Had he meant to imply that homosexual attractions were unnatural only to heterosexuals, he could clearly have said so (as in "the men who were basically heterosexual became basically homosexual, thus changing their true nature"). Instead Paul uses wording that appears even stronger in the original Greek.
The Greek words he uses for "men" and "women" here are rare in the New Testament, being used only when the writer wishes to emphasize the gender of the subject. When we see the word "man" in the Gospels and Epistles, we are usually seeing a translation of anthropos which carries a more general meaning (much the way we use "men" or "fellows" to refer to men in general, and "male" when we want to emphasize gender status). Only when New Testament writers similarly wished to emphasize gender did they resort to the term for man Paul uses here in Romans 1: arseen, a word used only here and in Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6; Luke 2:23; and Galatians 3:28, all of which are Scriptures wanting to emphasize gender to make their point. The same is true of the term he uses here for "women," which is gune in lieu of more common theleia, which is usually used to refer to women. Gune, like arseen, emphasizes the gender of the subject and, like arseen, appears in the New Testament only in verses emphasizing "female."
These terms are crucial to the argument. Paul especially emphasizes in Romans 1 that homosexuality is unnatural to the man as a male (arseen) and to the woman as a female (gune), not because of what may or may not be natural to their personality, but because of what is unnatural to their gender.
Response B – If Paul in this chapter only criticizes homosexual acts committed by people to whom they did not come "naturally," shall we then assume that the rest of the sins listed in Romans 1 also are sins only if they are committed by those to whom they do not come "naturally"?
Response C – These people do not appear to have been heterosexual men and women committing homosexual acts, since Paul describes them as "burning in lust" for each other. "Burning in lust" is an intense phrase which hardly describes predominantly heterosexual people indulging in homosexual acts for convenience's sake (as often occurs in prisons).
Response D – If these people had truly been heterosexual and were now truly homosexual, thus changing their nature, the homosexuality itself is still described in clearly derogatory terms, with no clause stating that it would have been normal if they had always been homosexual.
Pro-gay apologists are prone to say that, if a person is truly homosexual, he can never become truly heterosexual, yet they often quote this passage as an example of truly heterosexual people committing a sin by becoming truly homosexual. Are we then to assume that a person who is heterosexual can become homosexual, but a person who is homosexual cannot become heterosexual? Something's wrong here.
Objection #5 – The activity described in Romans 1 is excessive, impersonal sex – pure lust without love. That, not homosexuality, is the problem here.
Response A – Romans 1 is not a description of a Roman orgy. Paul in no way indicates that the sexual activity here between men and men or women and women is highly promiscuous. It is the very nature of the sexual conduct itself that he considers unnatural.
Response B – When other Scriptures condemn heterosexual lust and indiscriminate heterosexual wantonness, this also provides clear guidelines for heterosexual behavior. No such guidelines exist for homosexual behavior.
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.
. . . knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate . . . for fornicators, for sodomites (1 Corinthians 6:9; I Timothy 1:9, 10).
Objection #6 – The Greek word arsenokoites, commonly translated "abusers of themselves with mankind" or "homosexuals," did not mean that at all, but meant "male prostitute."
Response A – The Greek word pornos, used by Paul and translated "fornicator" in the passages above and numerous other places, technically means "male prostitute" and would certainly be used by Paul when referring to one. (Although it is sometimes interchangeable with "fornicator," the meaning is clearly male prostitution, as the word pornos is the masculine counterpart to porne, which is without exception translated as "harlot" in the New Testament (e.g., Matthew 21:31; Luke 15:30; I Corinthians 6:15; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).
Response B – Arsenokoites is derived from two Greek words arseen, meaning "male," and koite, meaning "couch" or "bed," usually with a sexual connotation, as in Hebrews 13:4: "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed (koite) is undefiled" (KJV). The combination of the two terms does not even suggest prostitution - only sexual contact between two men.
"If people want to accept homosexuality as normal, that is their option, but they do so against the indisputable teaching of the Bible." So say Doctors Glenn Wood and John Dietrich in The AIDS Epidemic: Balancing Compassion andJustice.4I agree. To disregard traditional teaching is risky - it's even more foolish to disregard the obvious facts: Homosexuality is never mentioned in Scripture in anything but negative terms, both Old and New Testament writings contain prohibitions against not only homosexuality but sexual relations of all kinds outside heterosexual marriage, and there is nothing in the entire Bible offering any commendation of or instruction for homosexual relationships. The pro-gay theology is laid on a very shaky foundation indeed.
- "The Gospel on Sex," U.S. Naus and World Report,June 10, 1991, vol.
- Penpoint Joumal,June 1991, vol. 2, no. 3, p. 1.
- Glenn Wood and John Dietrich, The AIDS Epidemic: Balancing Compas-
sion and Justice (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1990), p.237.