Saturday, May 12, 2012

What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?

1)  Jesus loves homosexuals.

The Bible teaches that Jesus loved every person, both homosexual and heterosexual, to the point of death.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Eph. 5:2)
2) Homosexual orientation is not sin.

The Bible defines sin as action (both physical and mental), not desire. As James explains, "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (James 1:14-15). Sin occurs after temptation; therefore temptation is not sin. Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Furthermore, the Bible nowhere lists heterosexual orientation as a prerequisite for leadership in the church and nowhere forbids the ordination of bishops/elders with homosexual orientations. (See Ravi Zacharias' discussion of Father Henri Nouwen below.)

3) Homosexual acts are sin.

The Biblical condemnation of homosexual activity is severe and unequivocal. It is listed alongside other sins such as greed, adultery, and lying:
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God. (1 Tim. 1:9-11)
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him...Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another....Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  (Rom. 1:21-27)
(The word translated "those practicing homosexuality" in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 is defined by BAGD, the definitive Greek-English lexicon, as "a male who practices homosexuality."  The word is not limited to pedophilia or prostitution.  The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in conjunction with another word which BAGD defines as "men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually."  Again, this word is not limited to pedophilia or prostitution.)

4) Homosexual sin is no worse than heterosexual sin.

The Bible does not teach that all sins are equal, but the Bible does teach that the severity of a sin is determined by the disposition of the sinner, not merely by the act itself (Luke 12:47-48). Therefore, a heterosexually oriented individual who carelessly views pornography has likely committed a worse sin than a homosexually oriented individual who momentarily fails while diligently striving to be chaste.

5) Homosexual sin is 100% forgivable.

Some of the first Christians were formerly practicing homosexuals:
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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. 6:9-11)
This cleansing is not restricted to sins committed prior to conversion. In a letter to Christians, John states, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

6) Jesus calls both homosexuals and heterosexuals to deny themselves and follow him.

Jesus demands everything from us; there is nothing we possess which he will allow us to keep. He demands the dreams we have for our future, the desires we have for sexual intimacy, and even the love we have for our families:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:25-27)
Do not miss what Jesus is saying. People who carry crosses are on a one way journey. The call to carry a cross is the call to follow Jesus to the place of execution. The entire Christian life can be summed up in two words: death and resurrection. We are called to die with Christ so that we can share in His new life, the eternal life of God himself.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
Paul is willing to join Jesus in death because he knows that Jesus loves him. God takes from us only in order to transform us into people who can experience infinite happiness. There is nothing we own which he does not demand of us, but there is nothing he owns which he will not give us.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)


Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the points that you make. I cannot say definitively that the Bible irrefutably says homosexual acts are sinful. There may be other arguments for why homosexual acts are sinful but let's limit the discussion to those based on scripture as that's really what it comes down to. Most Biblical references to homosexuality in English translations can be argued with except for those in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians. I have read several similar well-cited arguments for the inaccuracy of the translation of the word arsenokoitai in those passages to "homosexual". Can you comment on that?

Anonymous said...

I know you didn't ask my opinion Anonymous, but I have done some work on that very question. Let me first say that there is very good evidence that Rom 1 and Leviticus 18:22 with 18:27 proclaim homosexuality to be a sin beyond the Israelites and covering all humanity.

But more specifically, the best argument for arsenokoitai meaning "homosexual" rather than "male prostitute" (or whatever) is that it is language borrowed directly from the Septuagint's translation of Lev 18:22. Secondly, many commentators (if not most I've read) see the pairing of arsenokoitai with "effeminate" as a reference to both roles of a homosexual relationship.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response. I don't see the evidence in Romans as irrefutable. At least the English translation refers to "shameful acts" and doesn't make it clear exactly what that is. That may have been clear to people at the time, or the original Greek has more specific meanings, but it doesn't come across in English (NIV).

While I do not believe that we can just throw out all Old Testament commandments based on Matthew 22, I think it would be wrong to hang an argument for this topic on Leviticus.

I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "pairing of arsenokoitai with 'effeminate' as a reference to both roles of a homosexual relationship." Which language was borrowed and how is does it influence the reading of that word?

I hope you can appreciate that I am not out to make one point or another. I would just like to see if there is empirical irrefutable evidence for God's stance on homosexuality based on scripture. To do that, I would need to understand your last argument.

Anonymous said...

"Shameful acts" or "Vile Affections" or "Degrading passions" are all pretty good translations (the third being the most literal). If you can degrade someone with your passions, that seems to be sinful to me. I can't make sense of Paul's argument in Romans 1:18-32 if the following are not true: 1) Homosexuality is an unnatural sin and 2) It is particularly bad, worse than equivalent heterosexual sin.

As for throwing out Leviticus on this issue, I think that would be a mistake. In Lev 18:27, God says He is judging ANOTHER nation for sins like homosexuality. Are we to think that it was a sin for the Canaanites but not for modern people, all of which never lived under the law?

In reference to arsenokoitai, keep in mind that Paul's usage is the first we find in history (he may have invented it). And Paul often "crunched" words together to make other words. The Septuagint (the translation he often quoted) uses the phrase uses remarkably similar language to describe homosexuality in Lev 18:22, so the best evidence we have points to it meaning "man who lies with man." (I could put out the Greek phrase but I'm not sure how much that would help you)

As for the pairing with "effeminate," this literally was used of young boys kept for pederasty as well as other things. Without getting too graphic, we have a term "arsenokoitai" which broken down refers to "male sexual layer" paired with a term that refers to a so called "receiver" gives us good reason to suppose Paul had homosexuality as a whole in mind in 1 Cor 6:9.

I hope that helps. It's difficult to explain the language sometimes. Let me also offer this as you sort through this issue: As you ask for "irrefutable" evidence of the meaning for the word, ask yourself if you (or others) are demanding the same kind of lexical certainty for any other sin in the NT.

Anonymous said...

I only look for irrefutable biblical evidence on this issue because it's one that so many people use as an excuse to hate the church. People don't seem to do the same for lying, stealing, or really any other sin where there is a clear damaging consequence to someone else. So, yes, I will accept all the other things are sins on very little evidence because most of those things are evident to everyone. I've leaned more toward the "it's a sin" side in the past but lately I'm moving more toward the "I don't know" side, with a little bit of "I don't care any more" since there doesn't seem to be a clear answer and we are to treat everyone the same regardless of the answer. Thanks anyway! On a personal note, it helps me to know that someone as well versed on the issue as yourself can't provide the sort of evidence that I'm looking for. I say that seriously, accepting that you did have good arguments... just not as irrefutable as I was looking for. God bless.

Anonymous said...

I think the overall biblical case is irrefutable. What kind of evidence are you looking for? It sounds like you want a math equation or something? Remember, we have more evidence against homosexuality than for incest and bestiality. Yet everyone is clear on those even though they don't hurt anyone else.

And just an encouragement, this issue does matter. Paul says homosexuals won't inherit the kingdom of heaven. If there were a gay person in your church, then it would be unloving to withhold the message of repentance from them and we would be disobedient to Christ in not practicing church discipline. God bless.