Reply 3: The Relevance of the Bible’s Teachings
“SHOULD WE STILL LIVE BY O.T. LAWS?”
“THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE OF THE N.T. ACTUALLY REFERS TO MALE PROSTITUTION, MOLESTATION OR PROMISCUITY, NOT COMMITTED SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS. PAUL MAY HAVE SPOKEN AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY, BUT HE ALSO SAID THAT WOMEN SHOULD BE SILENT AND NEVER ASSUME AUTHORITY OVER A MAN.”
“SHALL MODERN CHURCHES LIVE BY ALL OF PAUL’S VALUES?”
In response, consider the following broader quotation from Chapter 16 of Facing the Facts:
What Does the Bible Teach about Homosexual Relationships?
The Bible has much more to say about heterosexual sin in all its varieties than it does about the sins of gay people <<i.e., the specifically sexual sins of gay people>>. But it’s not silent on this topic.
Despite forceful claims to the contrary, sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex is never praised and is strongly condemned in every place it’s mentioned in the Scriptures. The clearest passages are the four on these pages: two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. (All quotations are from the English Standard Version.)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. Leviticus 20:13
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26-27
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Much could be and has been said about these verses, but we will cut to the core of what they say and what they don’t say.
These verses say clearly that God does not approve of sexual intercourse between people of the same sex. Further, the Romans passage tells us that the desire for same-sex intercourse or intimacy isn’t what God designed us to experience (it’s “unnatural,” which means it’s a result of sin and brokenness). The Corinthians passage clarifies that people who once practiced such things can repent (turn away from former sinful behavior) and be washed, forgiven, sanctified, and justified so that they’re in full fellowship with Christ.
What do these verses not say? They don’t say that God despises same-sex sinners, nor do they say it’s ever right for any Christian to despise them. They don’t say that same-sex intercourse is unforgivable. Rather, the sin of homosexual sex is just one of many ways in which people disobey God and need to be rescued by him. And these verses don’t promise that all same-sex attractions can be converted to attractions to the other sex.
How, then, can some people claim the Bible teaches acceptance of same-sex love?
What Would Jesus Do?
Some argue that Jesus is the champion of the outcasts and rejects from mainstream society and, therefore, that he loves and accepts LGBTQ persons exactly as they are, including accepting any loving behavior consistent with the desires of their hearts. This is a flawed argument. Jesus indeed loves the outcasts exactly as they are, but he doesn’t accept their sins—he calls sinners to forsake their sinful lives and follow him, just as he did with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11 (Jesus said, “Go, and from now on sin no more”), the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19, and the Samaritan woman in John 4.
Some argue that since there’s no record in the Gospels of Jesus directly saying anything about same-sex relationships, we can conclude he has no problem with such relationships. This is a bad argument for three reasons: First, while Jesus challenged religious practices that were based on misinterpretations of Old Testament laws, he said clearly that he came not to “abolish the Law or the Prophets . . . but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Second, on those few occasions in Jesus’ ministry when he talked about sexual morality, he always tightened rather than loosened the law. He went beyond adultery to condemn lust (Matthew 5:27-30), and when he talked about divorce (Matthew 19:1-12), he tightened the bonds of marriage compared to the practice of the time. Third, if you believe that having no direct statement from Jesus on a certain behavior means it’s okay, what about his silence on rape or incest?
Other Common Arguments
Individuals who oppose biblical truth have written thousands and thousands of pages arguing that the Bible approves of same-sex relationships, often using the following kinds of arguments:
“Paul used Greek words with unknown or unusual meanings.”
“What Paul condemned was only specific kinds of same-sex acts, such as gay prostitution, adult abuse of children or youth who were slaves, or sexual acts performed with pagan priests. Modern same-sex love was unknown in the ancient world and never discussed.”
“The highest ethical principle is love, and love for LGBTQ people overrules condemnation, making these biblical passages irrelevant.”
Prominent scholars, however, have discredited all such arguments. Paul’s language clearly includes all gay sex. Archaeologists and historians have documented awareness of homosexual orientation in the ancient Roman world. As a result, it’s clear that the Bible’s condemnations of same-sex love include consensual adult relationships rather than just abusive relationships. And God’s commandments not to sin are an expression of his love—not the opposite.
There are quite a number of scholars and theologians who simply say the Bible is wrong. For instance, a well-known New Testament scholar admits that the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. He says, “I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture.”[i] He calls on biblical scholars to stop their efforts to twist the Bible to say that it approves of same-sex love.
Rejection of these clear commands in the Bible is spiritually disastrous. Jesus says that if we love him, we will do as he commands. It’s okay to question whether we have interpreted the Bible correctly, but it’s spiritually disloyal to “reject the straightforward commands of Scripture.” To do that is to put our judgments above those of God and his inspired Word—this is rebellion against God.
<<Jesus said,>> “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
We must conclude that the Bible—God’s Word—condemns sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex. And all sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and woman is contrary to God’s will.
As we say this, however, we want to make one important clarification: Full same-sex intimacy is sinful, but feelings of attraction to people of the same sex are not sinful. The strong words of Romans 1 tell us that the origins or causes of same-sex attractions lie in the broken state of our world (here “world” means everything, including our own bodies, minds, and souls—all of which have been damaged by sin). A desire to do what is sinful is not in itself wrong. A desire to have sex with someone you’re attracted to is natural—it’s acting upon it by either doing it or by taking steps toward doing it that would be wrong.
Christ calls us to follow him with radical devotion, putting him first in all things. We are to hear and obey God’s Word and will as revealed in the Scriptures.”
[i] Luke Timothy Johnson, “Homosexuality & the Church: Scripture and Experience,” Commonweal CXXXIV, no. 12 (June 15, 2007).