Does the Bible condemn homosexual behavior? Part 7

Matthew Vine’s conclusion after studying Old and New Testament references to homosexuality (matthewvine.com) is quite simple:

The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships.

To reach that conclusion, he has examined – and, I believe, trivialized – six biblical passages. The story of the men of Sodom wanting to gang rape two males is only about violence and inhospitality, says Vine. The homosexual part of the story is incidental and irrelevant. The prohibitions about homosexual behavior in Leviticus are inapplicable to Christians, Vine argues, because we are no longer accountable to living by the Old Testament laws. In the New Testament, the passage in Romans that describes what God does to those who reject him (i.e., he lets them do awful things such as homosexual intercourse) only applies to those who are by nature heterosexual. Two Greek words used in Paul’s epistles – malakos and arsenokoites – are used too infrequently for us to know their precise meaning, so we might as well ignore them.

This is hermeneutics by evasion and is disreputable and irresponsible. The plain sense of each of these texts may not be as direct as some might like but it most certainly is clear enough in each case that, if we dismiss the homosexual element, we are left with utterly trivial texts. Simply erasing biblical texts which move in a direction we don’t like is not an honest way to deal with Scripture.

The website which first commended Vine to me has an entry on Gay Christians which begins with these words:

The Bible does not condemn gay people or gay relationships. If it did, I could ignore it.

That says directly what Vine spent 5,000 words saying. We know what we want to believe and will not let even the Bible contradict us.

Having noted that the Bible does indeed condemn homosexual behavior, we still must deal with two serious problems in our modern treatment of those in the LGBT community.

First, homosexuals are subjected to persecution, up to and including murder, for their sexual orientation. Hatred is never a mark of the Lord’s people. We are to treat others with respect and dignity and, when they suffer, with compassion. Instead, we have often contributed to the ill treatment given homosexuals. We must speak out against this very openly and forcefully. It is absolutely indefensible. And we must apologize for our part in stirring the fires of hatred.

Second, if we are expecting abstinence of homosexuals, we at least need to recognize that we are asking of them something few of us would want for ourselves. We live in a society which expends billions of dollars each year exploiting and encouraging sexual license. We do little to protest and little to demonstrate healthier and more fulfilling ways of dealing with our biology at one level and our loneliness at another.

In our day, the LBGTs have become more demanding and are sometimes quite offensive about it. We in the church need to acknowledge that their pent up frustration and pain is due in large part to the repression which we have enforced on them in our inability to face the issues directly and find ways for homosexuals to be treated as and to feel themselves to be persons of dignity and value.

There is a big log in our eye and we’re not in a position to deal with the speck in the eyes of our brothers and sisters.

A final question: Is the LBGT movement like the civil rights movement among the Blacks and the call for equality by the feminists? Yes and no. In their call to be treated as persons of dignity, all three movements are quite alike and quite right. Blacks and women were not calling for the right to be immoral, however, and the equality they sought simply enhanced the fabric of our social structure. What the homosexual activists seek is permission to be promiscuous (though Vine speaks only of loving, committed relationships) and to be what they in fact are not: married.

Imagine that I decide at age 70 that I really want to play football again. And I don’t want to go back merely to the flag football of my younger years but I want to play in the NFL. And so I mount a campaign to force the NFL to change it’s rules for me: No tackling or knocking each other down, no blocking or intercepting any errant passes I might throw, no more using a ball that is too big for my small hands, and so on. Would anyone take me seriously? Of course not. I have the same right as anyone to play in the NFL but I do not have the right to demand that they change the rules to suit my own particular situation.

We’re a long way from even understanding what is justice for homosexuals and we in the Evangelical community need to be among those at the forefront of those calling for that justice. We cannot let anyone tell us to dismiss the Bible because it does not suit his or her own particular situation but neither can we dismiss them for being different in some way from the majority.

We are all, each and every one of us, flawed and limited, yet in need of justice, freedom and dignity in the way we are treated. That means we need the grace of God, the love of God, the compassion of God, each and every one of us.

I recommend that you check out the videos found at the website Cause for Joy:
causeforjoy.com

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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2 Responses to Does the Bible condemn homosexual behavior? Part 7

  1. Ben says:

    I have been following and learning from this series that you have written. I’m glad that you have taken the time to do the research and the writing to make it available for people to read. As I acknowledged before, it can be a difficult subject that requires grace on our part. Especially these days in America. You observe that “the Bible does indeed condemn homosexual behavior” as a conclusion of your biblical research, and I also found this to be true in my reading of the Bible, although “condemn” may perhaps imply finality in a way that causes misunderstanding. As I understand it, if people are “homosexuals” (practicing homosexual behavior) and do not repent, then they “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). However, repentance and redemption can be found, thus the obvious emphasis on “behavior.” I can’t help but be confused though, when you use terms like “their sexual orientation”, perhaps implying that people can be created as homosexuals. It is a behavior that can be a powerful temptation for many, but as Christians I believe that we must refuse to acknowledge the argument that homosexuality is a part of who someone is and they have no choice but to accept their identity as homosexuals. We don’t say that someone has an adulterous orientation, do we? It seems wrong to identify someone with the sin they struggle with in a way that implies that they cannot change.
    -Ben

    • mthayes42 says:

      A couple of quick thoughts in response, Ben.

      First, morality is a matter of our responsible choices about what we believe
      and what we do. We cannot excuse our behavior by saying the devil made me do
      it or my nature made me do it or my brain neurons made me do it. We are
      responsible, accountable to our Creator for our choices, no matter what raw
      materials we’re working with.

      Second, simply “being true to oneself” is a very slippery idea, since there is so
      much difficulty in knowing who we “really are.” I believe that, having been
      created in the image of God and having that image most fully revealed to us in
      the person of Jesus Christ, we can know ourselves only by beholding Jesus Christ,
      not by any sort of introspection. Christlikeness of character is more fundamental
      than the Shakespearian idea that we are “to thine own self be true.” Within the
      context of our love for and responsibility to Jesus Christ, we of course must be
      true to ourselves rather than to the image other people want to impose upon us.

      Third, I am not competent to evaluate arguments about whether this person or that is
      genetically determined to be homosexual or not. I’ve read a number of articles
      but think that in the whole field of the relationship between genetics and
      behavior, we have yet to address the question of what is cause and what is effect.
      No matter what our genetics may be like, we are responsible for our choices.

      Fourth, we are to be persons of Christlike compassion and can withhold compassion
      from homosexuals only if we’re feeling superior to them. In truth, it is because
      I myself am a sinner that Christ died on the Cross. Having been the cause of such
      an atrocity, I cannot look down on anyone else and can only say with Paul that
      “I am the chief of all sinners.”

      Mike

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