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HOMOSEXUALITY – A Biblical Approach

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Category Articles
Date July 22, 2002

HOMOSEXUALITY – A Biblical Approach

[This is the skeleton of the courageous lecture Paul Mallard gave at the Easter FIEC Conference at Pwllheli in 2002. It was heard with great profit.]

I. Introduction

Some would prefer not to study this subject

(I) A Matter of Taste – traditional Christian reticence to deal
with this subject
(II) A Matter of Need – "isn’t the Biblical view clear any way?"

In response to this:

(I) It is understandable that Christians feel reticent – Homosexuality is against Nature (Romans 1:26). It is usually presented in a sanitized form (e.g. Tom Cruise in the Academy Award winning film, "Philadelphia").

However we cannot afford to avoid it. There is them overwhelming presence of homosexuality in our culture and its challenge to the Church. Our need is to:
Answer critics – the Evangelical position is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
Minister to homosexuals, both those outside Church in evangelism and those inside the church, struggling with temptation

(ii) Change in Society

1948- Kinsey Report
1957- Wolfenden Report – Homosexuality should be decriminalized 1967-Liberalization of Laws Sexual Offences Act Power of Media – seeing homsexulaity as positive and normal, the same as left handedness or having red hair. In the Universities are "Lesbian & Gay & Bisexual Groups (L.G.B) Post Modernism has left us in a Moral Maize and there are other factors:- Outrage Stonewall Section 28 Age Consent Armed Forces Equal Rights for Gay Couples European Convention of Human Rights

(iii) The Traditional Biblical View has been challenged by a REVISIONIST view.

1955 – "Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition"
by Derrick Sherwin Bailey
1976- "The Gay Christian Movement" was launched.
1994- John Boswell published "The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modem Europe"

December 1995 – Michael Vasey produced "Strangers and Friends" First book written in G.B. by a professing Evangelical to advocate recognizing same sex relationships. It was an attack on the "idolatrous violence" of the Evangelical Christian Church which has sold out to "the robust heterosexual masculinity of the culture".

(iv) The Confusion in the wider Church:

1963- "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" in which they said "one should no more deplore homosexuality than left handedness" "Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters"

1979 – Methodist published their "Division Social Responsibility" "homosexual activities are not intrinsically wrong" and "since we should judge the quality of homosexual relationships by the same basic criteria we have applied to heterosexual relationships."

Norman Pittenger – "must accept that the only absolute is Love." Jack Spong 1995-St Andrew’s Day Statement C of E Evangelical Council affirms Classical Position
1st Nov 1996- in Southwark Cathedral was the 20th Anniversary Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement 1996 – "Reform" Surveyed Bishops asking Are you willing to affirm Traditional View?
Yes-11 No-27 Refuse to reply -50
An Evangelical Fellowship was announced within Gay Christian Movement
1998 Anglican Churches of Third Wodd – Kuala Lumper Statement deplores Homosexual Practice as "Dishonouring to God and an Abuse of Human Dignity"

The Aim of this paper is twofold:

(i) BIBLICAL and EXEGETICAL – To examine the traditional view.

(ii) PRACTICAL and PASTORAL – What should be our attitude to homosexuals and how should we minister to them?

II BIBLICAL TEACHING ON HOMOSEXUALITY

A. THE REVISIONIST VIEW OR "NEW APPROACH"

They dismiss the Traditional view on the basis of HERMENEUTICS or Biblical Interpretation. Up to 50 years ago – no question about traditional view – but now a great body of literature against it which is sometimes referred to as "The New Approach".

They distinguish:

(i) Illicit homosexual practices. The indulgence in such practices by non-homosexuals or by homosexuals in a casual or violent way.
(ii) The long term commitment of two genuine homosexuals within the context of a faithful homosexual "marriage".

Bishop of Newcastle Martin Wharton – "Homosexuality within a loving, permanent relationship is no sin" The man likely to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has the same opinion adding that the couple should have a counsellor for personal responsibility.

Revisionists argue that the Bible condemns illicit homosexual practices but says nothing about long-term faithful homosexual couples.. "The Courage Trust" March 2002 "New Approach" "while homo-erotic sexual practices cannot be actively commended there are certain circumstances in which it would be inappropriate overtly to condemn them. In such circumstances, the New Approach holds that the acceptability or otherwise of homo-erotic sexual practice should be left to people’s private judgment and conscience."

"Courage takes the view that the Biblical condemnations and prohibitions of homosexual practices were not written with the pastoral care of Christians who are homosexuals in mind".

They deal with each of the texts and argue that they condemn illicit homosexual liaisons in the following way:

(i) SODOM and GIBEAH

Sodom (Genesis 19:1-13), and Gibeah (Judges 19)

The men of Sodom were wicked (Genesis 13:13) and God determined to investigate this (Genesis 18:20-21). The men of Sodom demanded to "know’ the angels God had sent (Genesis 19:5). This wickedness was so great that God destroyed the city (Genesis 19:25). We find a similar story in the Gibeah incident.

The Revisionists adopt two interpretations of the story which deny that it refers directly to homosexuality.

(a) The Sin was INHOSPITALITY

Anger with Lot, a resident alien, for allowing two spies into the city. In a culture which honoured hospitality above almost everything else, these men wanted to violate the protection of Lot’s roof.

To support this argument:

(i) "KNOW’ – v.5 – YADA. Used 943 times in O.T. Only on ten occasions does it refer to sexual relations.
(ii) Nowhere in the Bible is the sin of SODOM identified as
homosexuality.
Isaiah 1 10ff Hypocrisy and Social Inlustice
Jeremiah 23:14 – General Sin
Ezekiel 16:49-50 – Arrogance, Greed and Self
Indulgence
Vasey – ‘Sin was pride and greed’
(iii) Jesus referred to Sodom three times: (Matthew 10:15; 11:24: Luke 10:12). No reference to homosexuality. Christ associated it with inhospitality.

(iv) Hebrews 13:2- Hospitality – Angels unaware

(b) The sin was homosexual rape

Even if we allow that the sin was sexual, it refers to rape, not a committed relationship.

(ii) LEVITICUS

Leviticus 18.22; 20:13. These Laws are in the context of the "Holiness code" (Leviticus 17-26). This exhorts Israel to separate from the surrounding nations with their ritual impurity. It includes a condemnation of child sacrifice, idolatry and sexual deviation.

Revisionists argue that the prohibition here is against involvement in Homosexual Cultic Prostitution (1 Kings 14:22ff; 15:12; 22:46). It has nothing to say about sex between consenting adults in the context of a homosexual "marriage".

(iii) ROMANS I

Paul attacks the idolatrous practices of the Graeco Roman World (v 19-20, 25). As a result of their perversion of the truth they know by General Revelation, God has handed them over to decadent practices (v 24, 26-28), which includes "unnatural sex",

Revisionists get round this in two ways :-

(a) The Sin is PERVERSION not INVERSION

Inverts are homosexuals who have a homosexual disposition. Same gender sex is natural for them. Perverts are heterosexuals who experiment and indulge in homosexual relations. The former is natural, the latter is unnatural and sinful.

(b) The Sin is PROMISCUOUS Behaviour

We know that all sorts of shameless behaviour went on in the Roman world, such as homosexual prostitution and pederasty (sex with children). Such practices are degrading (V 26). Paul is condemning those kinds of practices.

(iv)1 COR6:9-10; 1 TIM 1:9-10

We find two lists with homosexual sins included. We can identify two words:
MALAKOI – I Corinthians 6:9
– Literally "Soft to the touch"
– often referred to male child prostitutes
ARSENOKOITAIS – 1 Timothy 1:9-10/1 Corinthians
6:9
– literally "Male in bed"

Revisionists see these words as referring to Prostitution

SUMMARY OF REVISIONIST POSITION

To summarise, Revisionists argue that the Bible condemns: Homosexual Rape (Genesis 19) Homosexual Cultic Relations (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) Heterosexuals who engage in homosexual practices (Romans 1) Promiscuous homosexual behaviour (Romans 1:26) Homosexual prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:~10: 1 Timothy 1:9-10) But it does not condemn a committed love relationship between two persons with a homosexual orientation. Just as the Bible condemns adultery and fomication but affirms marriage, so Revisionists argue that the Bible condemns the sins listed above, but endorses, or at the very least, has nothing to say about homosexual "marriages". A homosexual is "not an abnormal person with unnatural desires and habits" (N. Pittenger).

B. RESPONSE TO THE REVISIONIST VIEW

(a) INTERPRETATION OF THE TRADITIONAL TEXTS

The Revisionist interpretations we have looked at above will not hold water.

(i) SODOM AND GIBEAH

In response to the revisionists’ interpretation:

(a) In the context YADA (Know) does refer to sexual relations (19:8). There is no change of meaning between v 5 and v. 8.

(b) In the ancient near eastern culture homosexual rape was an active and aggressive form of inhospitality. We do not need to argue that if inhospitality was the sin, it could not have also included homosexuality.

(c) The Jews were naturally modest and therefore the fact that they do not refer to the sin of Sodom in sexual terms should not surprise us. Having said this, the "abominable things" of Ezekiel 16:49 are in the context of sexual sin (v22, 50, 58). The word "detestable" is the same as that used in Leviticus 18:22 to describe homosexual sin.

(d) Jude 7 clearly tells us that the sin was homosexual. They went after "other/strange flesh" (2 Peter 2:6-7)

(ii) LEVITICUS

The Holiness Code does not only deal with ritual sins or with idolatry. It condemns all sort of sins, including sexual ones (Lev 18:7-20, 23; 20:10-12,14-21). The emphasis is on moral evil not ritual impurity. There is nothing in the context to suggest that the command: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" is anything other than a condemnation of homosexuality. Both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 deal with sexual taboos, incest, bestiality and pederasty, not ceremonial sins.

(iii) ROMANS I

Romans 1:18-32 forms one unit. The wrath of God is seen in His giving men up "to things that should not be done" (v 28-32). These men have rejected and rebelled against God, as seen in their substitution of idols for reality (v 24-25).

This spills over into their very humanity so that even this is perverted. Homosexuality is a vivid example of their primal rejection of the sovereignty of God the Creator. If we worship something less than God we will do things that are less than human. To reinterpret this as just a condemnation of certain forms of perversion is wrong on two counts. Homosexuality is "against nature" (v.26). Nature here means "in accordance with the intention of the Creator" (C.E.B. Cranfleld).

First, it smuggles into the text something that is not there. Romans I condemns homosexuality as such, not some perversion of it. Secondly, Paul and his contemporaries knew nothing of the modem distinction between perverts and inverts. Romans 1-3 must be taken as a whole – Paul’s aim is to prove that all have sinned (3:23).

(iv) I CORINTHIANS 6:9-10/ 1 TIMOTHY 1:9-10

Once again the exegetical basis is too flimsy to support the revisionist view. It is not clear that these verses are a condemnation of homosexual prostitution or pederasty. There are words Paul could use if this was what he had in mind. ‘Arsenokoitai’ is a general word which covers all homosexual sin. It seems to me that Paul is using a host of words to cover every aspect of homosexuality. Even if prostitution is in mind, there is enough evidence else where to prove that the NT condemns homosexuality as such (2 Pet2:6-7; Jude7).

The Revisionists are guilty of CUMULATIVE CARELESSNESS. They attempt to isolate each text and give it an interpretation which is:

(i) Not suggested by the context

(ii) Has not occurred before in the history of interpretation

(iii) Is driven by a clear desire to get round the obvious statements of Scripture

Vasey refers to the work of Anthony Thiselton and argues that we must take into account the writer’s horizons. However he reads into the text rather than reading out of it. The result is some bizarre exegesis.

David and Jonathan – Strong "Homo-erotic strand in the story"
Friendship of Jesus – "Resonate for Gay People"

If you read scripture with a gay agenda and a gay hermeneutic you will find what you want.

(b) THE POSITIVE TEACHING OF GENESIS 1-2

The strongest argument against homosexuality is found in the clear and positive teaching on the nature of men and women in Genesis 1-2. These chapters give us two distinct accounts of creation.

(i) In Genesis 1 the Bible stresses the EQUALITY of the sexes. Men and women are equally created in the Image of God (v 27). Neither of them bear the image of God in a unique way.

(ii) In Genesis 2 the Bible stresses the COMPLEMENTARITY of the sexes. Men and women are DIFFERENT physiologically and psychologically. The man is incomplete without the woman (v 19), the helper who is suitable for him.

(iii) In the Old Testament marriage is "to take a woman" (Genesis 4:19; 6:2:11:29). It is never one option among many. It is God’s way (Genesis 1-2- Matthew 19:4-6). Calvin reminds us that God could have chosen to fill the world with people in another way – but He chose to do it this way.

As we look at the chapters we discover that man was created as a SOCIAL being – in need of human companionship. It is not good for him to be alone (v.18 – this is qualified by I Corinthians 7:1 – in certain circumstances singleness can be a divine gift). Man needed a companion "suitable to him". Animals were not suitable (v 20), and this necessitated a special creative act. In this situation God created the woman (vv. 21-22). The woman comes from the man but is different from him (v. 23).

On the basis of this Moses draws a conclusion (v 24) which is endorsed by Christ (Mark 10:4-9) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Ephesians 5:31). This verse is the basis of HETEROSEXUAL MONOGAMY. Stott sees three elements – the marriage is to be:

PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGED – leave parents
PERMANENTLY SEALED – cleave to wife
PHYSICALLY CONSUMMATED – one flesh.

It is an exclusive and permanent relationship between one MAN and one WOMAN so long as they both live. All sexual relationships outside of marriage, including POLYGAMY, ADULTERY, FORNICATION and HOMOSEXUALITY are condemned in this verse. This section is before the Fall and is therefore not the result of the Fall, but is a permanent divine ordinance. Marriage involves COMPLEMENTARITY – the union of two opposites – male and female. Only such a marriage can be the basis of a healthy society, because God ordained it should be so. In the final analysis homosexuality would destroy a healthy society – as we see clearly in our society today.

After the Fall we observe many examples of sexual sin which spoil the ideal, including bigamy (Genesis 4:19-24), lust (6:1-3), indecent exposure (9:20-27) and homosexuality (Genesis 19).

On this basis it must be abundantly clear that there can be so such thing as a "homosexual marriage". Homosexual sexual activity of any kind is condemned by the Word of God.

III PRACTICAL AND PASTORAL IMPLICATIONS

Two extremes are to be avoided.

(i) We cannot have any sympathy with the REVISIONIST position of the Gay Christian Movement. As we have seen, the Bible condemns any expression of homosexuality. We can be of no help to those who fall into this sin unless we recognise it for what it is.

(ii) We must not dehumanize homosexuals. Those who fall into this sin are still human beings made in the image of God and yet fallen. We are all sinners and not a single one of us can honestly say we have never had a lusiful thought (Matt 5:27-30). The majority of sexual sins are committed by heterosexuals males. Only Christ was sexually sinless. We must be careful of cold judgementalism. Homosexuals can be saved. 1 Cor 6:9-11 gives us the perfect balance.

Homosexuals cannot inherit the Kingdom of God but neither can thieves, greedy, drunkards or slanderers. Homosexuals, like other sinners, can be washed, sanctified and justified.

So how should this effect the way in which we approach homosexuals?

May I suggest the following guidelines

(a) WE MUST BE HONEST

We must tell the homosexual that the only altemative to heterosexual marriage is sexual abstinence. Norman Pittenger has called this "inhuman and inhumane", but this reflects modern thinking not Biblical reality. Christ was single and yet perfectly human. We must therefore teach that sexual intercourse is not essential to human fulfilment. Celibacy is possible by God’s grace (I Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 7:1-7; 2 Corinthians 12:9). We ought to be clear in both preaching and counselling that homosexuality is sinful.

(b) WE MUST BE HUMBLE

Some Christians are very dogmatic in this area. They teach that since homosexuality is a sin there should be total deliverance and a reversal of "sex bias", which is only a learned behaviour pattem. I believe that this is a simplistic view of the origin and nature of homosexuality. Theories abound conceming the origin of homosexuality. The most common theories are that it is:

i) Biological Causes

There may be a genetic factor, the so called "Gay Gene" which inclines some people to same-sexual attraction. This view sees homosexuality as having a biological causation. In the past hormonal imbalance was suggested,. More recently reaearch into brain structure or genetics. There is no overwhelming evidence of biological causes.

(ii) A Result of Early Childhood Experience

Some suggest that if early childhood experiences are not "normal" then a person can be inclined to homosexuality. The usual theory conceming male homosexuality is that the father is distant and rejecting while the mother is intensely affectionate and domineering. Such a situation could result from the death of a parent.

(iii) A Result of Environmental Conditioning

A series of Environmental conditions may lead to and reinforce homosexual behaviour. Adolescents confined to a single sex environment may be drawn to such activity.

(iv) Deliberate Choice

There may be no long-term deeply felt desire but a deliberate choice. Such behaviour is often found in prisons. Feminists often adopt homosexuality as a form of protest. Lesbianism is sometimes a response to sexual abuse as a child.

Which view is most Biblical? Some would stress the final position. If the others have an element of truth then they might be used as an excuse by homosexuals – "God made me this way or God put me in an environment that made me like this – I cannot be blamed." If only the last position is true, it can then be treated like any sin – repent and you will be delivered.

I think that this is far too simplistic. We can never blame God for our sin (James 1:13-15). However there may be some biblical support for the other positions.

(I) Our whole genetic make up has been effected by the Fall – the whole creation is frustrated (Romans 8:19-21). There is never complete deliverance from the old nature in this life (Romans 7:14-25). A Christian may find himself having to struggle for the whole of his life against the inbuilt inclination to homosexual behaviour. Having said this, there is NO undisputed scientific evidence for the gay gene. Even if there is a biological cause, this is still no excuse for sin.

(ii) In addition God has ordained the nature of marriage and home relations (Ephesians 5:22-33). The modem attempt to replace traditional male and female roles in the home runs the risk of damaging children brought up in such an environment.

(iii) In its teaching on the influence of the world, the
Bible wams about environmental factors. The influence of the world might strongly induce some to homosexuality.

Therefore I am inclined to the view that there are a number of related causes to homosexuality – biological, cultural, environmental, behavioural and volitional.

In counselling the homosexual we must insist on celibacy and self-mastery. We should not offer easy answers. A pamphlet from the ‘True Freedom Trust", which helps to bring homosexuals to Christ, contains the testimonies of a number of converted homosexuals. Many of them tell of a new identity in Christ and a deliverance from guilt and shame. However not all develop heterosexual inclinations. Some converted homosexuals will become happily married and know complete deliverance from homosexual inclinations. Qthers will have to remain celebrate.

(c) WE MUST BE COMPASSIONATE

Gay propaganda presents Homosexuality as a happy altemative to heterosexuality. This is far from the case. There is a very heavy cost in this life style. In his book "Straight and Narrow" Tom Schmidt gives the following statistical analysis. Using recent research and the lowest statistics, among a group of TEN randomly selected homosexual men you would
find:-

(i) 4 out of 10 are currently in a relationship but only one of these is faithful to his partner

(ii) 4 out of 10 have never had a relationship lasting more than a year. Only one has ever had a relationship over three years.

(iii) 6 out of 10 are regularly having sex with strangers

(iv) The group averages two partners per person per month.

(v) 3 out of 10 are Alcoholics and 5 have a history of Alcoholic abuse

(vi) 4 out of 10 are heavily into drug abuse

(vii) 4 out of 10 have suffered acute depression, 3 out of 10 have contemplated suicide

(viii) 8 out of 10 will have experienced some sexually
transmitted disease other than HIV

(ix) 3 out of 10 have been HIV infected and one has Aids

A report of the Free Church of Scotland has shown that there is a higher incidence of promiscuity among homosexuals and it is very difficult to establish faithful same sex relationships.

The wages of sin is very heavy indeed. It is easy to condemn, but we must have compassion. We have generally reacted with scom, insult and prejudice. The homosexual is almost the modem equivalent of the leper. At the heart of much homosexuality there is a deep loneliness. Converted homosexuals need same sex non-sexual friendships. Even discipline should be gentle (Galatians 6:1-2).

We should repudiate homophobia insofar as it denotes an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals. We do not accept, however, that to reject homoerotic sexual practice as sinful is in itself homophobic.

(c) WE MUST GIVE HOPE

There is hope for forgiveness (1 John 1:5-2:2), maturity (Ephesians 2:1-20; 1 Peter 4:1-6) and for final deliverance in the future (Romans 8:22-24, 28-30). We must dearly distinguish between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and homosexual temptation, which is not (Luke 4:1-2). We must encourage those tempted to this sin, as we would encourage all who are tempted, to flee sinful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22) and not conform to this world (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:17-22). We could encourage ACCOUNTABILITY to a mature and stable Christian (James 5:16). In Christ we are a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) and there is real hope of genuine change.

The Bible puts great emphasis on the importance of friendship and fellowship (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9,10). Same sex friendships are healthy and important; think of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16-18; 2:11-12; 4:15) or Paul and his companions. Many of the groups which are working with converted gay people stress the importance of a good support structure involving friendship and encouragement.

Some converted gay people may find such a measure of deliverance that they feel free to marry and raise a family. Others may remain celibate and struggle with temptation, as we all struggle.

CHRISTIAN ORGANISATIONS

TRUE FREEDOM TRUST
P0 Box 3, Upton, Wirral, Merseyside L49 6NY
Phone 0151 653 0773

EXODUS INTERNATIONAL EUROPE
P0 Box 407, Watford, England WDI 5DU
Phone 181 420 1066

U-TURN ANGLIA TRUST
P0 Box 138, Ipswich, 1P4 4RY
Phone 01473 785129 (Counselling)
01440 820594 (Family Support)

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Homosexuality: The Straight Agenda"
Ed. Brian Edwards
Day One Publications 1998 (263 pages)

Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate Thomas E. Schmidt Leicester -IVP 1995 (240 pages)

Homosexuality and the Bible
Mark Bonnington & Bob Ryall
Grove 1996 (28 pages)

The Christian
Faith and Homosexuality
David F Wright
Rutherford House 1997 (33 pages)

Debating Homosexuality
David Leal
Grove Ethical Studies 101
Cambridge: Grove Books, 1996

Faith, Hope and Homosexuality Acute Report (1998)

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