I know this is a hot topic issue. And I know this for several reasons. First, I know this is a hot topic because I have friends who are homosexual. I also know this because I watch various news broadcasts and read blogs from time to time regarding the LBGT movement (i.e., I’m aware of the fact that this issue often takes center stage in the public arena). Finally, I know this because my affirmation of the perspective on homosexuality that I’ll present to you below almost resulted in an act of physical violence against me… by another youth pastor!
Where This Study Is Going And Why It’s Going There.
With the awareness that this a hot topic issue, my prayerful hope is to speak to this issue with loving sensitivity from a distinctly biblical, Jesus-centered perspective. And I want to speak to the issue in two ways. First, I want to expose what the Bible says about homosexuality and why the Gospel demands that we believe that. In my next post, we’ll consider how the Gospel affects the way we relate to homosexuals.
As a note, the reason I want to approach this from a “distinctly biblical” standpoint is because human opinions (including mine!) have no bearing on reality. What does have bearing on reality, however, is God’s Word, the Bible, which was revealed without error in its original manuscripts, is sufficient to make God’s people everything He intends for them to be, and is ultimately authoritative on every matter to which it speaks. As such, particularly for those who ultimately adhere to an authority other than the Bible, some of my perspectives may offend you, but my hope is that it will point you to the greatness and beauty and worth of Jesus.
On that note, I do have one request for you, the reader: please stick with me to the end of the essay (i.e., don’t abandon ship the first time you read something here that offends you). And of course, if you have issues, comments or questions, I would love the opportunity to dialogue with you in the comments section below.
Homosexuality Is Sinful.
“Did God Really Say?”
“Does the Bible say that homosexuality is sinful?” Some (at least allegedly) Christian denominations, ministries and commentators/bloggers make the answer to this question seem “muddy,” as if the Bible is unclear, while other denominations, ministries and commentators/bloggersÂ suggest that the Bible answers the question with a very clear, “No.” Despite the debate, the Bible actually answers the question with a clear, “Yes.” While there are various biblical passages that speak to the sinfulness of homosexuality (see Gen. 19:1-13, Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, 1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10), perhaps none is more clear than Romans 1:18-32, particularly verses 25-27. Paul writes,
“ThereforeÂ God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, toÂ the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,Â because they exchanged the truth about God forÂ a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,Â who is blessed forever! Amen.Â For this reasonÂ God gave them up toÂ dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;Â and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,Â men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
In an effort to encourage the church to “be brave enough to say with Paul, ‘in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female,’ gay or straight,”Â Rev. Michael Piazza suggests,
A complete reading of these passages, in their original context, clearly shows that what Paul was actually referring to was homosexual temple prostitution, which was performed by various cults (though far more cults used heterosexual prostitution). Again, Paul is not referring to same-sex love, and he clearly has no concept of persons for whom this lifestyle is â€œnatural.â€
Despite Piazza’s assertions, I cannot find in this passage or its context even the slightest hint that certain types of homosexual behavior (i.e., that performed in temple prostitution) are sinful while others are acceptable. The plain reading of the text teaches that the “impurity” mentioned in verse 24 expresses itself in “dishonorable passions,” which include “women exchang[ing] natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise [giving] up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.” The issue, therefore, is not a matter of who exchanges natural relations for unnatural ones (i.e., temple prostitutes or others), butÂ that natural relations are exchanged for unnatural ones.
Still others argue that the biblical prohibition of homosexuality was unique to biblical culture. In response, I would first ask, “To which biblical culture was it unique?” There are prohibitions of homosexuality running from Genesis to the New Testament. People sometimes speak of “biblical culture” as though it were one culture in one place at one time, but “biblical culture” covers more than 1500 years of varying cultures, ranging from grossly oppressed and impoverished to free and abundantly wealthy, from periods of heavy Egyptian influence to periods of heavy Babylonian influence, and from drawing near to God in worship to rejecting God entirely.
I would next ask, “If the prohibition of homosexuality is cultural, how does that affect the other prohibitions in those same passages?” Consider, for example, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
Or do you not know that the unrighteousÂ will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Â neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,Â nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.Â AndÂ such were some of you. ButÂ you were washed,Â you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Of course, no professing Christian would argue that the prohibition of idolatry, for example, is cultural. The exclusive worship of God is demanded from Genesis to Revelation (actually, Romans 1:18-32, part of which we looked at earlier, makes plain the wickedness of idolatry), and is at the very essence of what it is to be Christian. Given that idolatry is mentioned in the same list with sexual immorality, adultery, homosexual practice, stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling, how can one rightly argue that these sins are cultural? Upon what firm basis could one determine which are cultural and which are binding for all people in all places in all times? Is it not all or nothing, so that affirming the sinfulness of idolatry in every culture everywhere for all time requires affirming the sinfulness of homosexuality in every culture everywhere for all time? Homosexuality and idolatry are, in fact, connected, as Paul argues in Romans 1:22-27 that homosexuality is actually the result of idolatry.
But here’s the deal. Yes, there are hosts of exegetical reasons why homosexuality is sinful, but, though vitally important, I’m not most concerned with proper exegesis. I’m most concerned with what honors God and what is best for people, which raises the question, “Why would a professing Christian argue that the sinfulness of homosexuality is cultural, and then turn to encourage and celebrate homosexuality, when the 1 Corinthians passage concludes by saying that those people ‘will [not] inherit the kingdom of God?'” What depth of hatred would make a person say to Â people, “Keep it up! You’re doing great!”, just so they can feel better about their lives in the here and now?
Despite the existence of debate, the testimony of Scripture is nonetheless clear:Â homosexuality is sinful.
Why Is Homosexuality Sinful?
This is an important question. When dealing with the God who is ultimately concerned with our hearts, knowing why God does what He does and why God requires of us what He requires is priceless. Andreas KÃ¶stenberger gives several reasons why homosexuality is sinful in his book God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, which I have summarized below:
a) “Homosexuality is at odds with God’s design for marriage and the family at its most foundational level” (Gen. 2:24).
b) Homosexuality violates the complementary roles of husbands and wives in marriage (Gen. 2:18, 20, 3:16-19, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
c) Homosexuality does not fulfill God’s procreative purpose for marriage (Gen. 1:28).
d) Homosexuality is known by all to be unnatural, and is, therefore, an act of willful rebellion against God (Rom. 1:26).
I know that I may have lost some of you simply by calling homosexuality sinful, but please stay with me. I want to invite you to hear me out as I complete my thoughts on this in part 2 and part 3 of this series. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.