You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
One of the more relevant issues on the college campus today is gender identification. A growing number of young men and women are wrestling with their gender. The recent repeal by Congress of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation for homosexuals in the U.S. military further clouds the issue for many. Even moral conservatives did not largely stand against the repeal of this legislation. Some young women say that they are not so sure about their sexuality, struggling with an attraction for other women. The same goes for some men. The post-modern world in which these Christian young people find themselves also works to undermine their confidence in the authority of Scripture. They tend, as Dick Keyes so lucidly states1, to live by sentiment rather than substance. Keyes says that sentimentality sees a world without sin, evil, brokenness, ugliness, cruelty, complexity, or confusion. These unpleasant things are denied, trivialized, or euphemized. It is a world of niceness, warmth, harmony, and simplicity. That is, the sentimentalist, for example, sees homosexual people all around him who seem so loving and, at times, so committed to one person relationships, and he wonders, ‘Can this really be sin? Maybe, after all, they are born with an attraction to the same sex. Why can’t they live as they wish in their committed relationships? Is that really so bad?’ In other words, the sentimentalist feels the one person, homosexual relationship is okay. The sentimentalist is not thinking. Instead he is only feeling.
What shall we say to such things? I suggest we take up this issue from two fronts. First is what we call natural revelation. Paul says that God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power, and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that man is without excuse (Rom. 1:20). God says that he made man male and female (Gen. 1:27). In other words a mere anatomical observation makes clear that two people of the same sex do not fit in sexual intercourse, they cannot ‘make’ babies, thus same sex unions cannot propagate the human race. That in itself ought to settle the question.
But then we can look at Scripture, or special revelation, which consistently calls any form of homosexuality an abomination that will bring God’s judgment (Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9, Gen. 19). It is also vital, in this discussion, to keep the sin of homosexuality in its proper biblical context. By this I mean all sexual activity of any stripe outside the bounds of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sin. The very context of Leviticus 18:22 makes this clear as it outlines all kinds of heinous, illicit, bestial, homosexual, and heterosexual relationships. And Paul constantly commands the people of God to abstain from every form of sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3-8, 1 Cor. 6:18). While it is true that God condemns all forms of sexual licentiousness, he is particularly strong in his condemnation of homosexuality, calling it an abomination. The Hebrew word for this means to hate or abhor, and the act is to be detested and to receive a strong condemnation and disapproval by God’s people.2 This wicked practice was observed by pagan priests and forbidden to the Jews (Deut. 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24). The godless Canaanites practiced homosexuality and God promised to annihilate them (Gen. 19:24-25, Josh. 3:10).
Therefore, as in so many other issues facing us today, we must decide – will we go with our sentiments, our feelings, with what our culture is telling us, or will we go with Holy Scripture? This is not the place to give an apologetic for the authority and inspiration of Scripture but the true believer has what theologians call the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. We just know that the Word of God is true. With that in mind, we must come to the issue of sincere, kind, and even one man men or one woman women homosexuals. We hear all the time that many are faithful to their partners, that they simply wish to live quietly. And then what about men who say that they have been attracted sexually to other men for as long as they can remember? Are people born homosexuals? To this we must ask, ‘What does God say?’ He cannot be clearer, contrary to what some who promote the so-called gay hermeneutic say.3 It is sin. It is an abomination. Now, we must of course befriend the homosexual and show them Christian love, acknowledging that they are the image of God. Submitting our minds to Scripture on this issue – as we must with submission by wives in marriage, our submission to ungodly governments, and a whole host of other issues – is the watershed issue. If we fail here, then what is to stop us from caving in on other issues which, at the present time, seem utterly reprehensible to us? If homosexual marriage is acceptable, if we choose to put sentiment above the clear teaching of Holy Scripture, then what is to stop us from condoning multiple partners in a homosexual marriage? What is to prevent polygamy or polyamory? Why should we be surprised or upset by paedophilia? What then could be so wrong about zoophilia or necrophilia? And what’s so wrong with a fifty year old man kidnapping a fourteen year old girl and making her his sex slave? Less than forty years ago the prevailing cultural view in America was that homosexuality was a deviant behaviour.4 Why should anyone be shocked in another forty years to find paedophilia, zoophilia, or necrophlia considered to be normal behaviour?
What are we to do on the issue? We must teach our teens and college age children to look first at Scripture for general principles of living. We must train them to think biblically on issues, to run everything through the grid work of God’s Word, urging them to lay aside the natural tendency toward sentiment, of allowing our feelings to dominate our minds, and to settle on objective authority – God’s holy, inerrant, and infallible Word. Perhaps some men are attracted to other men, but there is no indication of a so-called gay gene. What then? Can following through on one’s natural impulses be considered sin? The answer is ‘Yes,’ and that’s because a young unmarried man who is sexually attracted to a woman still is forbidden by God to act on his desire. The same is true with one who has homosexual tendencies. It’s time to lay aside sentiment and live by substance. It is time to jettison the tendency of our post-modern culture to reject the objective truth of Holy Scripture and submit our hearts and minds to it. We are always to love our neighbour, even the gender challenged and homosexual, but we always are to speak the truth in love.
- See his essay ‘Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics’ in Francis Schaeffer: A Mind and Heart for God.
- See John Currid’s Study Commentary on Leviticus, page 244.
- Among other things, they say that God condemns Sodom in Genesis 19, not for homosexuality but for lack of hospitality; that Adam’s sin in the garden was his failure to be whom God made him to be; that Paul is condemning homosexuality within the context of pagan cultic acts but not normal homosexual relations.
- It was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association declassified ego-syntonic homosexuality (being content with one’s homosexuality). Article on ‘Homosexuality’ in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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