A Fair Question On Homosexuality And The Bible

For a believer in God’s laws and moral standards, the contemporary and debased moral culture of our times is greatly provoking. Even sporting news feels the need to push an ungodly and unacceptable homosexual agenda on others by promoting endless interviews with athletes who have “come out” and gay pride products by such sports fashion clothing companies like Nike. Clearly our civilization is deeply corrupted by sin and showing little inclination to repent and change its ways. Indeed, in some countries it is even illegal to speak out against certain moral sins as it is considered a hate crime to talk about what God thinks about sin. Since this month is dedicated to promoting the sin of homosexuality, it is my intent to write a short series of posts dealing with the subject from a biblical perspective.

In doing so, I seek to place it in its proper context, as a sin that God condemns, but as a sin that may also be repented of and one that people in the early church of God had to deal with as well. Indeed, I have already dealt with this subject and its relation to a couple of biblical passages before, and so I will not repeat myself entirely here [1] [2]. Indeed, it ought not to be the purpose or motive of any godly person (or any person who strives to be godly, even without succeeding) to hate people, but the quest for godliness requires a hatred of sin, whether it is in ourselves, our loved ones, or our societies at large. It is lamentable that at times people are unable to distinguish between personal attacks and attacks on incorrect behavior. Indeed, the goal of a Christian ought not to be to provoke suicidal despair on the part of a sinner (for we are all sinners), but rather to provoke repentance. And since we are all sinners, we should all be repentant sinners struggling against whatever sins we have to deal with, and this is part of the larger context I wish to address.

Before we begin looking at specific biblical passages though (as this will be an exegetical study, examining passages that deal with the subject and bringing out their meaning in light of our present debased culture, as opposed to an eisegetical approach which attempts to force in a particular interpretation on a given subject from the outside, as with those who wrongly assume that being loving and Christian precludes a deep hatred against sin and corruption), I wish to answer a fair question that is a barrier to some in understanding what the Bible says about the sin of homosexuality. And that question is this: “Why does the Bible spend so much more time talking about heterosexual sexual immorality than homosexuality?”

Now, this question is often said with a bit of malicious intent, to assume that heterosexual sins are far more worse in the eyes of God than homosexual ones, but despite the fact that the question is often asked in a misleading way with a malicious ulterior motive, it is a fair question because the genuine answer to this question reveals a great deal about the nature of biblical law and law in general. Therefore, seeing as this blog deals a lot with the interpretation of biblical law, this is a natural place to find such an examination of the principles of biblical law in a particular context.

There are really two answers as to why the Bible talks to often about heterosexual sexual immorality as opposed to homosexuality. The first of those reasons is the frequency of those sins. Given that far more people are heterosexual than are homosexual or bisexual (even in these times), the greater frequency of some sins demands that they be dealt with more commonly. Given that maybe a few percentage of people are homosexual or bisexual, and that just about 100% of people in Western civilization have committed fornication or adultery, looked at pornography, or lusted someone else in their hearts (all of which are mortal sins according to scripture), it is clear that on a percentage basis dealing with heterosexual lust and its consequences is going to be far more common than dealing with homosexuality.

After all, and this is the blunt and unfortunate truth, homosexuality is a rather refined vice that requires a fair amount of sating with other types of vice and corruption first. The corruption of natural urges and longings long precedes and is vastly more common than the cultivation of unnatural urges (Romans 1:24-32). This is not to say that some sins are necessarily “worse” than others, as all unrepentant sin will lead surely to eternal death, but that because some sins are a lot more common, they have to be dealt with a lot more often because the cultivation of deeply unnatural sins like homosexuality require an immensely debased culture where godly sexuality is nearly entirely unknown and disrespected. And, sadly, that is true of our culture thanks to generations of deliberate and frequent perversion of our natural longings by cultural elites. We did not reach this point overnight, and our moral credibility to stand up against any kind of sin has been deeply eroded by the way in which all of us have cultivated ungodly and sinful longings in our corrupt and wicked civilization.

And this leads rather naturally into the second answer to the question of why the Bible focuses so much more on regulating heterosexuality than it does on condemning homosexuality. It is a lot more difficult to regulate what is good and permissible than it does to ban what is ungodly and unacceptable. To ban something outright does not require a great deal of length or effort. Because homosexuality is entirely unacceptable to God, it is frequently condemned entirely and briefly, in the same way that covetousness and lust in general are condemned. Any object to which lust is directed is a sin, and so it is not necessary to enumerate them all in detail every time the whole sin is itself condemned. Likewise, hatred of others and murder and adultery are condemned in whole because they are not permitted at all either to anyone. It does not require a great deal of time or length to condemn something that has no proper outlet.

On the other hand, that which is proper in certain boundaries but unacceptable across those lines takes considerably more time and effort. For example, since heterosexual longing is acceptable (even if lust and fornication and adultery are not), God’s word seeks to channel that natural longing into the boundaries of marriage [3]. Likewise, the Bible includes various laws that deal with how fornication is to be dealt with, by a marriage where there is no divorce and where there is a heavy fine for those who have sinned due to a longing that was itself not wrong [4]. Because heterosexual longing is a proper and acceptable urge, indeed one created by God Himself for his purposes of bringing people together and helping to avoid loneliness [5], it is not to be banned outright, but rather it must be regulated.

And because it must be regulated, the laws and regulation of normal sexual drives, which have their proper outlet in the marriage union between one man and one woman require substantially more length and effort than the simple and straightforward ban on homosexual sexual acts. We see this in our own laws in our own societies. The straightforward banning of slavery aside from as a penalty of crime takes a fairly short paragraph in the Constitution of the United States. The regulation of healthcare under Obamacare took about 2000 pages. Regulation of something requires a great deal more effort and space than outright prohibition of an act. Since heterosexual longing is natural and entirely proper, even if some of its consequences if not controlled are not proper, the Bible spends a lot of time regulating and dealing with these longings. Since there is no proper and godly outlet for homosexual longings, homosexuality (and bestiality) can be dealt with in a much more straightforward and direct manner.

So, having dealt with that fair question, what remains for us in the rest of this particular series is to examine other passages that deal with the sin of homosexuality but that place them within a larger context. We will do so in the knowledge that the Bible often deals very briefly with these sins because they have been less common and because they are not proper at all, and therefore do not require regulation, but only prohibition. Once we have that understanding we can avoid making false correlations between the amount of space that talks about some sins as referring to the severity of the sins, and we can deal with the passages for what they say directly without coming to any false conclusions about the Bible’s perspective of sexuality as a whole.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/lest-you-also-be-tempted/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/and-so-were-some-of-you-1-corinthians-6-9-11-focused-education-and-the-proclamation-of-the-gospel/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/do-not-stir-up-nor-awaken-love-until-it-pleases/

[4] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/the-price-of-honor-an-application-of-exodus-2216-17/

[5] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/it-is-not-good-that-man-should-be-alone-an-antidote-to-pre-celibacy-counseling/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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13 Responses to A Fair Question On Homosexuality And The Bible

  1. Michael says:

    Great topic. And having been immersed in my traditions debates on this issue (Lutheran), I have some recommendations and thoughts that might be helpful to your reflections.

    First, the biblical texts dealing with homosexuality are widely misunderstood. To keep from propagating the same misunderstandings I strongly recommend you consult Robert Gagnon’s, magisterial work, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice”. According to Gagnon (and I agree with him), the biblical witness disapproves of male homosexual practice because the act of male-male intercourse violates God’s basic human design of complementarity.

    Second, insofar as the Hebrew Bible is concerned, only male-male sexual intercourse is prohibited. Other forms of male homo-eroticism are not prohibited (however, see footnote). On this point, the biblical text is quite specific and exceptionally clear. For a fuller discussion you may want to start with my translation of the particular passages that speak to this issue:

    http://thussaidthelord.com/blog/what-the-bible-really-says-2/male-homosexual-intercourse-what-the-bible-really-says/

    Third, and again only insofar as the Hebrew Bible is concerned, lesbianism is nowhere prohibited. And, while lesbianism is explicitly called out in vice lists, St. Paul’s condemnation was not rooted in the holy Scriptures available to him at that time (the Septuagint).

    Fourth, the concept of sin is ill-defined. In both the Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures sin is used broadly and inconsistently. Sometimes it means a state of separation (as in being estranged from God, or one another), sometimes it is used as verb (as in “he sinned against…”). Again, insofar as the Hebrew scriptures are concerned, deviant sexual practices are NOT described as sin in either of these two contexts. Instead they are described as “to’evah” (usually translated as abominable or abhorrent). The Hebrew word “to’evah” can also take on a number of meanings. Now, as I read the Hebrew I understand to’evah to mean sinful. However, others argue that to’evah in its levitical context is better understood as disgusting, e.g., the emotion sustained when one steps in dog poo.

    I hope you take these comments as positive because I mean them to be helpful. Moreover, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. Good luck,

    Blessings to you and yours,

    Michael
    Footnote: Robert Alter (The Five Books of Moses) argues that any form of male homoeroticism is condemned. But, he argues from the Rabbinic tradition and does not appeal to the text itself. However, I am a Lutheran and a sola scriptura kind of guy so I do not find such arguments particularly convincing.

    • I do not have access that that magesterial work which you comment on, being rather isolated in Northern Thailand and far from a great deal of biblical texts. Also, I should note that I will be commenting on Romans 1 as well, and commenting on the reason why the Hebrew Bible does not comment at all on lesbianism while Paul does. That said, my interest is mainly to look at the larger biblical context, and comment somewhat on the historical context as well. I would say that those things viewed by the Bible as abhorrent would be beyond the normal levels of offensiveness, as offenses against God’s created order in general that go above and beyond the sins of excess or omission regarding what is natural and proper.

  2. Forrest Redd says:

    It saddens me that so many people assume, without studying Scripture carefully in it’s original and historical context, that same-sex relationships are abhorred by the Creator of the Universe. God created, including homosexuals, a diverse world in which everyone has purpose, meaning and worth. Read the so-called “clobber passages” carefully and you’ll find that God abhors things such as; temple prostitution, rape, pedophilia and idol worship. God does not abhor loving, committed, same-sex relationships. Only ignorant (of Scripture) people that insist on fueling their homophobic prejudices do. As well, I doubt these same people follow Scriptural legalistic rules that forbid mixing fibers, working on the Sabbath or women being in public without head coverings. Praise God for the diversity He has bestowed upon His wonderful creation. A final thought: God only asks us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind; and love each other. I think we all fall short of loving each other. We spend too much time and energy judging and condemning each other. The bottom line via the apostle Paul, “There are three things that will endure—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

    • The Bible does abhor same-sex relationships–whether committed or not. That said, God does not hate homosexuals, even if he does hate the sin, like all other kinds of sin. If people were able to openly admit God’s hatred of sin, recognize themselves as struggling against some type of sin or another, and openly confess their sins to God and desire His mercy rather than rebelliously deny their sin.

      • Forrest Redd says:

        Again, study Scripture carefully in it’s original & historical context. Don’t just read Scripture with it’s misguided English translations. Look up the actual meaning of the Greek text and the message’s intention. At any rate, if you indeed consider yourself a Christian (albeit a misguided one) God bless you and yours & I thank God that you are a follower of Christ our Lord. Take care 🙂

      • Indeed, I have looked up the original Greek and Hebrew, which is pretty blunt in considering sodomites (i.e. the ‘male’ partner in Greek or Roman homosexuality), catamites (the ‘receiving’ partner), as well as lesbians to be contrary to nature and God’s ways, a curse rather than a blessing. Perhaps you ought to pay more attention to God’s ways than trying to justify your own sins :).

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