[Disclaimer: This blog and the posts contained within it are solely the representation of my personal thoughts and beliefs. They are in no way representative of the thoughts or beliefs of communities or organizations I am involved in or discuss. Such communities would include, but not be limited to, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Pasadena International House of Prayer, the School of Supernatural Ministry, the Live Bones student prayer group, Christian Assembly Church, etc.]
When the question, “is homosexuality a sin?” arises I fear that most Christians actually do not turn to the Bible. They turn to whatever answer dominates their church’s culture and what their leaders have taught them. That answer is usually that homosexuality is always a sin. This, often coupled with an undercurrent of ignorance or outright homophobia in our culture, is usually as far as many Christians think about this issue.
When and where the Bible is actually consulted on this issue, it is usually approached as a Truth-mine because this is the most common approach to the Bible present in Christianity. The goal in this method is to find a timeless eternal truth from God that is then turned into the one true biblical or one true Christian answer to this question that ends all debate and discussion forever.
When seeking to answer this question, this approach leads to an examination of less than ten passages in the Bible. The following are the passages that have been traditionally associated with homosexuality, and a brief overview and any pertinent rationale, explanations, or arguments that are commonly associated with them.
Genesis 1-3 and “God’s Original Intent”: Many Christians would suggest that from Genesis 1-3, the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of humanity, that God’s intention was for humans to be heterosexual. Adam was not complete and Eve was created to be his perfect match. It is also from heterosexual unions that children come from. It is reasoned that the ideal that God put before us in Creation was monogamous, married heterosexual unions. This is summed up in the slogan “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” that abounded in the Prop 8 discussion in California. From this mindset, homosexuality is always regarded abnormal. It must have only existed after the Fall and if someone experiences homosexual attraction, this is a result of sin or abuse. They categorically reject that homosexuality might have arisen naturally or biologically. I have heard many Christians teach this mentality and explain that homosexuality is always the result of sexual abuse, broken relationships with one’s parents, a personal choice, etc. even if the homosexual person does not admit to any of these being part of their story. This is really shoddy logic as it creates a situation where this hypothesis cannot be disproved. If homosexual admits to some of these being part of their stories, that is used to explain their orientation, but if a does not have a story of abuse or personal choice, the homosexual must be lying.
Gen 19, Jude 1:5-7, and Sodom and Gomorrah: The biblical text most people think of when they think of homosexuality in the Bible is the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. The traditional reading of the text goes something like this: Two male angels from God visited Lot, the brother of Abraham, and the evil homosexual men of Sodom wanted to have sex with these male visitors. This sin was so abhorrent to the LORD that God called down fire and sulfur to destroy them. Jude recounts this later when warning of the judgment of God and talks about how Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them were judged because, “[they] indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.”
The Levitical Texts: Two verses from Leviticus appear to unambiguously condemn sex acts between two men. In reading these verses it should be noted that in the Hebrew language, “to lie with” is a euphemism for “to have sex with.”
Leviticus 18:22 reads, “22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
Leviticus 20:13 reads, “13 If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.”
These are two major passages that Christians turn to in condemning homosexuality. Sex between two men is directly called an abomination in the eyes of God, so clearly it is sin and incompatible with Christianity.
The “sodomite” passage in Deuteronomy: Deuteronomy 23:17 reads, “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute.”
Instead of cult prostitute some older translations have “sodomite” for the second half regarding the sons of Israel. While many newer translations of the Bible avoid this because of advances in Ancient Near Eastern studies and studies of the Hebrew language, a small minority of Christians still apply this passage to homosexuality.
Unnatural Relations in Romans: Romans 1:26-27 reads, “26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
This passage equates “degrading passion,” with same-sex attraction and “indecent acts” with same-gender sex-acts. The entire thrust of this passage is that such things would lead to punishment.
No Homosexuals in the Kingdom of God: In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul writes, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
In this passage homosexuals are identified as sinners along with a variety of other well-known sinners all of whom will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Many Christians would suggest that this is a clear sign that homosexuality is a sin alongside stealing, being covetous or committing adultery.
Lawless and Rebellious Homosexuals: In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 Paul writes, “8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
In this passage homosexuals are identified with a long list of other people who are “lawless and rebellious” including people who kill (not just disrespect) their parents and liars. Homosexuals are labeled as “contrary to sound teaching” and they are, in this passage, someone that the law is to be used on in order to instruct them.
So is homosexuality a sin?
The conclusion always reached, the conclusion that has to be reached when the Truth-mine approach is utilized on this issue, is that homosexuality is always a sin and is incompatible with Christianity. Christians cannot be homosexuals any more than they can be liars, murderers, people who kill their parents, etc. Homosexual attraction is a “degrading passion” that is an abomination before the LORD and something that He has declared is worthy of the death penalty. While some Christian churches are blatantly homophobic, many Christian churches that condemn homosexuality would still welcome homosexuals but on the condition that must change by either reorienting to heterosexuality or become celibate.
On a personal note, this is where I was at for most of my young life. This was the “eternal truth” I was taught from God’s infallible Word regarding homosexuality in various churches, youth groups and classes. As I got older my position on this issue has changed dramatically for two main reasons.
First, I grew up. As I experienced more of life, as I interacted with other Christian traditions, and as I befriended a number of homosexuals the black and white categories taught to me by the Christian Church regarding homosexuality (and just about everything else) rather naturally fell apart in the face of life experience that came with age.
Second, I started critically thinking about my theology and actually examined the verses used to condemn homosexuality and found that even within the Truth-mine approach to scripture, these arguments and conclusions are problematic.
In my next post I want to present some of my questions and concerns that came up about these verses as I read and studied them.