Is Homosexuality a Sin?: Approaching the Issue and the Bible through the “Truth mine” Approach

[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.

Advertisements

About Speakfaithfully

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
This entry was posted in Faith, Personal Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is Homosexuality a Sin?: Approaching the Issue and the Bible through the “Truth mine” Approach

  1. Owen says:

    This seems to lead to a question, can a devoted Christian gay couple be acceptable to God?

    I say yes, based on how I’ve experienced God’s acceptance of me. This is clear to me by how He’s healed me but not altered my imperfect sexuality, and seemingly not required me to pretend I’m not a horndog. This could be extrapolated to gay Christians who aren’t convicted to pretend they’re hetero.

  2. telson7 says:

    Nowadays, it is going on conversations about homosexuality; some are against it and some on behalf of it. The right answer we can find from the word of God (the Bible).

    The Lord Jesus is the Messiah, Redeemer from sins and the Saviour. Jesus’ must fulfill the whole law of God and believe all what the Old Testament teaches, that He could be the Saviour. In the Old Testament were commandments, which teach that homosexuality is a sin. Because the Lord Jesus had to believe all commandments of the Old Testament, so He also believed that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible teaches that homosexuality was a sin in the order of the Old Covenant and is valid in the order of the New Covenant. Like this way Jesus also believed that homosexuality is a sin, and He also condemned homosexuality by this way.

    For the sake of sodomites’ abomination acts, God destroyed Sodom as Ezekiel 16:49,50 shows for us. Ezekiel uses 16:50 Hebrew word towebah, which is the same Hebrew word in Lev 18:22 (and Lev 20:13) that describes homosexuality as abomination. It is very clear that in Ezekiel 16:50, abomination means homosexuality acts as the reason for destroying of Sodom. Sodomites pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness and hardened hearts towards poor and needy were sins, but destruction came for the sake of homosexuality, and the New Testament confirms this:

    Jude1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    Apostle Paul wrote very clearly that homosexuality (men having sex with other men; women having sex with other women) is a sin. Ro 1:27 is word error, which is in Greek plane, which means error, to deceive, deceit, one led astray from the right way, error which shows itself in action, a wrong mode of acting. In this place, the Bible in the New Testament shows very clearly that same-gender sex is a sin and aberration from the right way. Apostle Paul taught very clearly that homosexuality is unnatural sin.

    Many scientists believe that homosexuality is congenital, a matter and orientation that can’t be changed as heterosexual. Paradoxical is that many scientists don’t believe in God of the Bible, and they proclaim that God of the Bible is not existed. Nevertheless, God of the Bible is capable of change homosexuals individuals to be as heterosexuals.

    Arsenos means male and koiten means bed. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 teach that a man cannot lie (sexual act) with another man as he lies with a woman. The origin of the word arsenokoites means homosexual activity and homosexual. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 prove very clearly that arsenos koitenmeans homosexuality sex, because the Jews scribes translated words’ arsenos koiten to describe men who have sex with another men (homosexuality), which is a sin and against the will of God. Apostle Paul didn’t make up the word arsenokoites, but it was already as the concept in the Old Testament, where it meant homosexuality.

    It is very clear that the words’ arsenos koiten meant homosexuality (man who had sex with another man) to Jews of the Old Covenant era. In the same way arsenokoites meant homosexuality (man who had sex with another man) to Jesus’ disciples in the New Covenant era.

    Jewish philosopher Philo lived in the same time as Jesus Christ and Philo has said that arsenokoites meant shrine prostitute (male temple prostitute), and not homosexual. Some people have made from this a conclusion that the word arsenokoites meant a male temple prostitute. Philo’s interpretation was totally wrong, because the Bible proves this undisputedly and shows that Philo erred.

    Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13 doesn’t use temple prostitute word, but words in which is denied that a man can’t lie sexually with another man. Always when the Bible speaks for temple prostitutes, so the Bible uses words gedeshah and gadesh. If Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13 told for temple prostitutes, so verses would mention them, but there isn’t, because in those verses, the Bible forbids homosexuality. It is very clear and undisputable in the light of the testimony of the Bible, that arsenokoites means homosexuality.

    According to words of the Lord Jesus, Jesus’ disciples can judge righteous judgement. If somebody is stealing, living in adultery or is lying, so we have the right to say sin as a sin. According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin and so Jesus’ disciples have the right to say what the Bible teaches. Jesus’ disciple has a right to say that living in sins lead people to eternal damnation. Jesus’ disciple doesn’t judge to damnation, but tells that God shall judge sin maker to hell.

    God loves also gay-people, but not sinful act of homosexuality, and therefore, God calls gay-people repentance and receives salvation by believing in the Lord Jesus. In other words, God loves sinners, but not sins. The gospel and its changing power is meant also for gay-people, because the Lord Jesus can set you free you from your sins.

    I don’t condemn homosexuals, but love them by the love of God. The love of God also holds on from the truth, and therefore, I must say that homosexuality is a sin, it is not condemning, but telling the truth. God has authority to judge, not a man. God judges in His word homosexuality as a sin. I can tell about judgements that what God does, and I don’t condemn, but tell who judge.

    I don’t support discrimination of homosexuals, because they are valuable as my neighbors. However, homosexuality is a sin. It is possible to integrate from homosexuality and get rid of it. The Lord Jesus can save and give freedom to you. I recommend for you to read the Bible, because there God teaches for natural sexuality and salvation by believing in the Lord Jesus.

    Reference: http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/homosexual.html

    • Kevin says:

      Telson,

      Thank you for your willingness to engage with me on this topic. Your comment made me press even further into my study of the scriptures. I appreciate your closing words that your heart is not to judge or discriminate against homosexuals and your desire is to love them as your neighbor.

      That being said, your argument contains a number of assumptions and problems that I want to invite you to explain or think about more.

      First, you are correct that Ezekiel 16:50 uses the Hebrew word for abomination and this most likely refers to the sexual sin present in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, you completely dodge my entire argument regarding the fact that this sexual sin at the center of this passage in Genesis was not two adults of homosexual orientation but violent same-sex rape. I do not see how one can connect these two without making a lot of unspoken assumptions that have nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with homophobia. Honestly, most homosexuals I know are not knocking on my door looking to rape my guests.

      Also, Ezekiel 16:49-50, as a whole, lay out why Sodom was judged. Ezekiel is not suggesting “They had some other sins, but what they were *really* punished for was the sexual sin.” All of the sins they committed led to their punishment. I make this a point because many Christians (I’m not saying you) like to point fingers at the homosexual community to avoid dealing with the sins that are rife within the church which include heterosexual sin, pride, greed, etc. We should recognize that God does punish *all* of these things.

      Second, you appear to assume science and faith are completely at odds and I do not agree. Science has led us to a deeper understanding of God’s creation and the vast majority of scientific discoveries in no way contradict scripture or faith. The Bible does contain examples of incorrect or bad science, such as when Jesus uses an ancient and wrong understanding of how eye’s work in one of His parables. This does not mean the Bible is wrong and Science is right, or that Science is disproving the Bible, it just means the Bible was not meant to be an exhaustive scientific work that explained everything about the physical and natural world.

      Continuing on that point, I agree that God can do anything, include change the orientation of a person’s sexuality, however, from my limited experience with the homosexual community the vast majority attempt to reorient. Both Christian and non-Christian homosexuals try not to be gay because of the stigma associated with this orientation. Honestly, who would choose to be gay when this will mean so much hatred, condemnation, and discrimination, even from family. The vast majority, even those praying earnestly to Jesus Christ for years, even those who attempt reorientation therapy or exorcisms never reorient. One person who runs a orientation ministry recently admitted at a conference in Washington D.C. that 99% do not experience reorientation. This is not just what some scientists say but what many homosexuals experience. What do you make of this? If God wanted people to be sanctified of homosexuality, shouldn’t he have better success rates?

      Third, your discussion of aresenkoites is incorrect. Again, you dodge my entire argument. Biblical scholars should seek to understand the Hebrew and Greek words by how they are used in the scripture and in the ancient contexts, not by our contemporary understanding of English words. When Philo uses arsenokoites he is describing something directly connected to cultic worship to a fertility God. Later this word is used to describe a variety of sexual sins and perversions, including heterosexual sex acts. There are no known uses of this word that directly connect it to the modern concept of homosexuality. You suggest, “Philo is wrong and the Bible is right” but you are really saying is “Philo is wrong because it disrupts my pre-conceived notions about homosexuality.” In other words you are coming to the Bible with pre-conceived notions and the belief that you have the answers on this issue, so you dismiss anything that upsets these beliefs out of hand.

      I highly value God’s teaching and what God has revealed in the Bible. I put these things over what culture teaches and promotes. For example, our culture promotes consumerism and greed but these are pitfalls the scripture warns about many times so I do whatever I can to avoid them and eradicate these things from my life. In the same way the Scriptures are above even the teachings that existed in the days that they were written. So for example I am going to follow Jesus’ path of non-violence and lead from example instead of the Roman Empire’s desire to bring peace through violence and rule through coercion. However, one of the paradox’s at this point is that the Scriptures are not written in contemporary English but in ancient Hebrew and Greek. We must use resources like Philo to understand what words mean instead of simply reading the English and assuming the contemporary understanding behind them is what the Scripture is talking about.

      Fourth, and finally, you reference the use of “gedeshah” in Deuteronomy 23. This scripture was written centuries after Leviticus and this may have reflected an increasing sophistication of the language as the Hebrew language came into its own. Just as English has more words today than it did several hundred years ago, so the Hebrew language increased and evolved. I would suggest the same concept is being referenced though a new word is being used.

      Even if I am wrong, you again dodge another one of my arguments. For the sake of argument, let us say that the passages in Leviticus could be conclusively proved to be referring to a homosexual orientation and lifestyle as we understand it today (which it does not). Why does that one passage apply today and the others do not? In other words, why is being homosexual a sin, but eating shell-fish not?

      -Kevin

      Ref: http://www.gaychristian101.com/Arsenokoites.html (This contains Philo’s text in question as well as other resources.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s