Daily Archives: September 9, 2009
Homosexuality: Sin or Not?
In my posts on homosexuality, I merely assert that it is a sin without providing theological reasoning for why. Since I have been challenged on that point several times, I will now explain once and for all why I believe that homosexuality is a sin.
I have discussed the nature or nurture question and a theology of homosexuality. In this post, I am only considering the Scriptural evidence on whether or not homosexuality is a sin.
There are five passages of Scripture used to directly condemn homosexuality, and three that are used to indirectly condemn it. Let’s consider the direct condemnations first, then move on to the indirect ones.
The first direct condemnation is Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. This passage clearly has homosexual behavior in view, and it quite plainly condemns the practice by calling it an abomination.
Some argue that this passage is referring only to temple service. But look at the context — every other sexual prohibition listed in chapter 18 is meant as a universal moral precept. After explaining dozens of prohibitions that are still observed today (even by the most libertine among us), the passage concludes:
So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God. (Lev 18:30)
Clearly, all of the listed prohibitions were meant to be universally binding.
Next, we come to Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Again, clear as day.
It is important to note that the Levitical laws are part of a larger contract with God and the people of Israel. That contract has been breached by the people of Israel and is therefore no longer in force. Therefore, by bringing this passage up, I am not condoning violence against homosexuals. It is God’s domain to punish sinners, not ours. We should seek to bring them to repentance, not judgment.
Moving on, we find three New Testament passages often used to condemn the practice. First up is Romans 1:26-27:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
This passage condemns both gays and lesbians. Paul is here making an appeal to the original created order, one man and one woman, as described in Genesis 1-2. Homosexuality is described in this passage not only as a sin, but as a symptom of a deeper problem within society. The problem is described in verses 21-23 — worshiping creation rather than Creator. In all of the responses to blogs I’ve done on homosexuality, I see this time and time again. “God made me this way and I’m not going to change.” That pride is what Paul has in mind here — we are beholden to what we are instead of looking to what we ought to be.
Paul goes on to describe that the guilty are not just practitioners of homosexuality, but those who condone the practice (see Rom 1:32). That means that American society, becoming ever more tolerant of homosexual practice and allowing gay “marriage,” is under God’s judgment. And, as the letter to the Hebrews points out, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31).
The second passage in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
First Corinthians 6:18a says to flee sexual immorality. So far, I’ve built a very strong case that homosexuality is just that: sexual immorality. But God promises to deliver us:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)
The Corinthians that Paul was addressing were Christians; and God cleansed them. This promise is true for us today. God will wash us of our sins in the name of Jesus.
The final passage in the New Testament is 1 Timothy 1:8-11:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
Again, this passage speaks for itself. Homosexuality is a clear sin, and those who practice it are unrighteous along with the other people on the list.
The words translated “men who practice homosexuality” in the ESV are actually two Greek words. One literally means “soft” and the other is untranslatable (some think Paul coined it, but it isn’t unique to him).
Objectors say that since we don’t know what these words mean, then we can’t attribute them to homosexuality. Contemporary scholarship, however, does not side with these objectors. “Soft,” we think, refers to the passive partner in homosexuality (the “bottom” in today’s slang) and the other term refers to the active partner (the “top”). By using both terms, Paul meant to indicate both offenders sinned. He was trying to leave no doubt that homosexuality is a sin.
While the direct condemnations of homosexuality should be enough to prove the practice is sinful, it doesn’t convince everyone. So there are three indirect references that are usually mentioned. Let’s take a peek at those.
We’ve all heard “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” In the original created order, God created male and female in his image (Gen 1:26-27; see also Gen 2:24). From this, we can posit that he did so for a reason because God works everything after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11) and brings everything to a conclusion he has declared (Is 46:10). The most damning direct condmenation, Romans 1:26-27, assumes male and female as the original created order or it would have no force.
The next indirect condemnation is the story of Sodom (Gen 19:1-29). But the question is often raised, “Was the sin of Sodom really homosexuality?” Critics point to Ezekiel 16:49, which seems to suggest that the real sin of Sodom was unkindness to travelers in need. But that sin is mentioned nowhere in the Law, so it is doubtful that God destroyed the city for that reason. Sexual immorality in general is mentioned as the cause of the destruction of the city in Jude 7, but no specific mention of homosexuality.
Therefore, I would seriously caution Christians not use the story of Sodom to condemn homosexuality. That means the pro-homosexual party has batted down one passage out of seven (so far) to make their case. It doesn’t look good, but we still have one more to look at.
The third indirect condemnation comes from Jesus himself.
Well, true. But, in Mark 10:1-12 Jesus confirms that the archetype for marriage is one male and one female, as set forth in Genesis 2:24. Though he never made a direct condemnation of homosexuality, he did follow the Genesis teaching of marriage I set out above and that means that he would say marriage is between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
The overwhelming biblical evidence is on the side of homosexuality being a sin. Only a dismal one proof text out of eight is found wanting. The person who tries to say that homosexuality is no sin has to ignore an awful lot of Scripture to arrive at that conclusion.
Now we have to consider the obvious objection: These passages are talking about lust; what about homosexual love? To which I say: love is always encouraged in both the New and Old Testaments. The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18).
All references in the so-called “clobber passages” are references to the act of homosexual intercourse, not to homosexual love. Therefore, homosexual love is acceptable to, even encouraged by, God.
It is homosexual sex that is not accepted. Since it is the act of intercourse that consummates a marriage and homosexual persons can’t lawfully do that, homosexual marriage is not acceptable to God.
It requires ignoring much of the Bible’s passages and underlying assumptions to arrive at the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. Therefore, we conclude the act of homosexual intercourse is an abomination to God and homosexual “marriage” is not tolerated by him. The weight of the biblical evidence supports this conclusion. Love between a man and another man, or a woman and another woman, is accepted and encouraged. Leave the lust behind, like all other sins.