Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, with genuine concern highlights an important and timely subject:
As the issues of ‘gay marriage’ and ‘LGBT rights’ are occupying so much news media space, homosexuality and its associated sexual abnormalities are actively promoted in movies and television shows, and celebrities, sports personalities and politicians are rushing to show how broadminded, compassionate and ‘up to date’ they are. Some Christians are being made to feel that perhaps they too should jump on this bandwagon.
But should they? Has the Christian position that has held fast for 2000 years been wrong? Is it time for a ‘Christianity makeover’ that will bring it more into the 21st century and be more relevant to these days?
The tide of homosexual propaganda has reached such proportions and has been so effective in gaining support throughout the world that many countries that have had a Christian ethos for many hundreds of years, are now capitulating to the pressure. Recently Pope Francis described the homosexual agenda as ‘ideological colonisation’ and said, ‘It is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same. Think of the Fascist Youth under Mussolini, think of the Hitler youth.’
The purpose of this article is to examine the subject of homosexuality from a biblical perspective and also to consider the charges that are often made against Christianity to see if there is any validity in those charges.
1. The biblical position
Despite the misleading claims of some homosexuals that the Bible, rightly interpreted, does not oppose homosexuality, only ignorance of the Bible’s teaching or deliberate self-deception or deceitfulness, could lead to such a conclusion.
While the Bible does not appear to speak about the homosexual condition (what is now called ‘same sex attraction’), it quite clearly condemns homosexual practice. It is sometimes argued that to make such a statement shows a lack of compassion and love for homosexuals. However, we are not expected to choose between the two positions as if they were in opposition to one another. In fact the same Bible that condemns homosexuality as a sin also requires Christians to love all sinners – for such also are we!
It is unloving …
• Not to affirm what God says about homosexuality.
• To condone a practice that is morally wrong and spiritually destructive and socially destabilising.
• Not to warn those who are trapped in this sin of its consequences.
But it is loving to do as Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15, that is, to speak the truth in the spirit of love.
By affirming biblical teaching on the subject Christians are sometimes accused of using the Bible to ‘clobber’ homosexuals. Some possibly do, but that sweeping accusation does not represent the considered Christian position. In actuality we cannot simply ignore parts of the Bible – or modify them – because they do not fit into a current politically correct position.
So what does the Bible actually say on the subject?
We must start at the beginning, in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. ‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” … The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:18, 23-24).
In Pulpit Commentary this observation is made, ‘All that Adam’s nature demanded for its completion, physically, intellectually, socially, was to be included in this altera ego who was soon to stand by his side. Thus in man’s need, and woman’s power to satisfy that need, is laid the foundation for the divine institution of marriage.’
Homosexual unions can never fulfil the divine purpose for humanity that only heterosexual unions may accomplish. Indeed the Genesis 2 account clearly makes known that homosexual relationships are an aberration and a defiant declaration against God’s perfect purposes.
Furthermore there are various statements in the Bible that substantiate this early revelation. Rather than listing all the biblical references I shall mention just a few from both the Old and New Testaments.
‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.’
In Leviticus 18, which contains God’s call to holiness, we find a list of forbidden sexual behaviours. Five times in this one chapter we find the strong Hebrew word ‘to‛ebah’ which means ‘abomination’, ‘disgusting thing’ or ‘detestable thing.’ (It is used again in Leviticus, in chapter 20:13, which also refers to homosexuality.) There is nothing ambiguous about this verse. Quite categorically it denounces the homosexual act in the strongest possible way.
‘Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”’
Some claim that to identify the sin of the people in Sodom as homosexuality is to give a narrow interpretation of the text and that the sin of the Sodomites was principally one of inhospitality. This claim is based partly on Ezekiel 16:49, ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’ But the following verse goes on to say, ‘They were haughty and did detestable things (to‛ebah) before me’ (v. 50).
The prevalence of evil and perversions in their many forms was characteristic of Sodom and, as Genesis 19:4-5 indicate, homosexual practice was one such evil. This is made quite clear in the fact that ‘all the men’ in Sodom were determined to have homosexual sex with Lot’s two visitors.
The incident is also referred to in this New testament verse: ‘In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.’
‘God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’
The Greek scholar and theologian, J B Phillips, translated these verses as follows, ‘God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged the normal practices of sexual intercourse for something which is abnormal and unnatural. Similarly the men, turning from natural intercourse with women, were swept into lustful passions for one another. Men with men performed these shameful horrors, receiving, of course, in their own personalities the consequences of sexual perversity.’
There can be no misunderstanding about what Paul was referring to here. The idea has been floated that we must not totally accept what Paul has written as he would have been unfamiliar with the concept of committed and loving same-sex relationships as we understand it today. But this assertion, even if it were conceivably true, is quite irrelevant. If the Bible is truly God’s word and written under the influence of the Holy Spirit, then we are not here dealing with the personal opinions of one man. What Paul has written is God’s verdict on human sexuality.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’
The Greek word Paul used here for ‘homosexual offenders’ is arsenokoites (he also used the same word in 1 Timothy 1:10 which is translated by the NIV as ‘perverts’). It is a compound word that literally means ‘a man who goes to bed with a male.’
The Bible unequivocally condemns all homosexual sex regardless of whether or not it takes place with mutual consent.
2. Arguments in support of homosexuality
There are essentially three (and differing) arguments that many homosexuals make regarding the biblical teaching on the homosexual act:
First, the Bible promotes hatred against homosexuals and should be banned. It has been argued that there is no mention of homosexuality in the Bible before 1946 when the Revised Standard Version first used the word. This assertion, frankly, is devious and dishonest. While the word ‘homosexual’ actually was first used in the RSV in 1946 as stated, nevertheless as we have already seen, the homosexual act was clearly mentioned in the Bible thousands of years ago using different words – on occasions, for example, the word sodomites was used.
Secondly, homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible and this, therefore, indicates that it was of little importance to the writers of the Old and New Testaments. As we have seen, homosexuality was roundly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments on a number of occasions. Furthermore, the ‘importance’ of any issue cannot logically be measured by the number of references made to it.
The argument that, because specific words are not frequently used in the Bible concerning certain practices, those practices must therefore be acceptable is absurd! Note that the word ‘paedophilia’ is not used in the Bible, nor is ‘bestiality’, nor is the phrase ‘wife bashing’, and so on. But this does not mean that the Bible endorses any of these acts.
Thirdly, rightly interpreted the Bible actually supports homosexuality. To substantiate this proposition various false arguments are made.
(i). Some friendships and committed relationships mentioned in the Bible are quoted as examples of homosexual relationships. For example:
(a) The friendship between David and Jonathan. ‘Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself’ (1 Samuel 18:3). And on hearing of the death of his friend Jonathan, David said, ‘I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women’ (2 Samuel 1:26).
There is no suggestion in these words that David and Jonathan had a sexual relationship. The love they shared was in the context of a profound friendship that was unaffected, unselfish and unswerving, and it was a blessing to both men. Same sex friendships do not inevitably include a sexual dimension.
(b) The loving mother/daughter-in-law relationship between Naomi and Ruth. Following the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided to return home from Moab to Judah. She said farewell to her Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi said, ‘”Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?” … Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. … Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me”’ (Ruth 1:11, 14, 16-17).
Only a mind preconditioned in a certain way could see a sexual implication in this beautiful declaration of loving commitment.
(c) The relationship between Jesus and John. In John’s Gospel there are five references to ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ ((John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2 21:7, 21:20) and, although he was not specifically named historically he has been identified as John. The phrase may simply be a kind of ‘signature’ of the author who humbly did not want to use his own name. The writer certainly had the assurance of Jesus’ love. But there is no suggestion in the texts or the contexts that there was anything homosexual in the relationship.
Such a sordid and unfounded conclusion is blasphemous! Furthermore, the Greek word used for the love that Jesus had for John is agape which refers to goodwill, compassion and self-giving and it is wholly different from the Greek word eros which was used in reference to sexual love.
(ii). The texts that appear to oppose it, have been misinterpreted
Some of the texts in the Bible that unambiguously denounced homosexual practice have been challenged by those who encourage a revisionist interpretation of the Bible to support their homosexual viewpoint. For example, Mark Jordan, a Roman Catholic philosopher, has written, ‘The Bible never links the story of Sodom with homosexuality’ (The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, 1997).
On the back of this and similar outlandish claims, a ‘homosexual friendly’ Bible was produced in 2012 called the Queen James Bible. Its editors state, ‘Most English Bible translations that actively condemn homosexuality have based themselves on the King James Version and have erroneously adapted its words to support their own agenda. We wanted to return to the clean source and start there.’
The QJV is not a new translation nor to it return to some ‘clean source’; essentially it is the 1769 edition of the KJV with a rewriting of, essentially, eight verses that homosexuals particularly object to. The anonymous ‘scholars’ behind this publication claim that there is ‘longstanding interpretive ambiguity in key Bible passages regarding homosexuality’ and that the QJV ‘edits them slightly for interpretative clarity.’ In fact there has not been a ‘long-standing interpretive ambiguity’ about those verses. It is their very lack of ambiguity that has offended those who do not agree with what those verses state! So they have changed those with which they disagree – and then claim that this is the correct interpretation!
Let us consider a few of these verses that have been changed.
Genesis 19:5 (KJV): ‘And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them’” (The Hebrew word translated as ‘know’ in this context means ‘sexual intercourse’, (for example, Genesis 4:1, ‘And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…’)
Genesis 19:5 (QJV): ‘And they called out unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.”’ The context shows that the men of Sodom wanted to engage in homosexual rape but the addition of the word ‘humiliate’ is not found in the original Hebrew text. It is included in the QJV in order to substantiate an invalid conclusion, that is, that the real crime committed was not one of homosexual sex but one of abusive inhospitality. As the anonymous editors of the QJB state, ‘We side with most Bible scholars who understand the story of Sodom and Gomorra to be about bullying strangers.’ This statement compounds the lie contained in their misinterpretation as ‘most scholars’ definitely would not make that claim.
Leviticus 18:22 (KJV): ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.’
Leviticus 18:22 (QJV): ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination.’ The words I have placed in bold type do not appear in the Hebrew text and they are included in the QJV, not in order to clarify what the text actually says, but to corrupt totally its interpretation. Quite without justification the editors of this ‘version’ insert the idea that this verse (and also Leviticus 20:13) refers to the worship of the Canaanite God Molech who is mentioned in verse 21 in reference to child sacrifice. The QJV editors inexcusably insert Molech’s name in verse 22 in order to argue that homosexual sex is not abominable in itself but it becomes abominable if it is performed in the worship of Molech.
Romans 1:27 (KJV): ‘And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.’
Romans 1:27 (QJV): ‘And likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another; men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolaters up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.’ The QJV modifications are included here in bold type. One may ask what textual source was used to arrive at this ‘translation.’ The answer is that no such source exists – the editors simply made it up in order to imply that the homosexual act referred to and condemned was that which was used in pagan and idolatrous worship. The editors make this wholly false claim, ‘Most scholars (us included), agree that the sin in Romans 1 isn’t being gay or lesbian or having gay sex. The sin was worshipping pagan idols instead of God, as it was in Leviticus, as it is everywhere in the Bible.’
Other verses, that we will not examine here, have also been subjected to revision in the QJV in the same way order to justify and affirm a practice that the Bible roundly condemns. It is wholly lacking in integrity and its appeal to the opinion of ‘most scholars’ is deliberately deceptive.
I am amazed at the theological, linguistic and exegetical contortions of some revisionist interpreters who try to make the Bible say the opposite to what it actually does say!
(iii). Jesus never condemned homosexuality
It is quite true that Jesus did not condemn homosexuality in so many words. But nor did he say anything that showed his approval of it! Jesus also did not specifically say anything about paedophilia, bestiality, or necrophilia, but his seeming silence on these sexual deviations, does not mean that he approved of them. However, in what Jesus said about marriage, he affirmed it as a union between a man and a woman. In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus said, ‘… at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”’
According to biblical teaching marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Recently Southern Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage. After the decision was made, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) made this statement, ‘With today’s vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people. Yes to inclusion. Yes to generosity. Yes to love. Yes to equal marriage.’
However neither democratic vote nor political correctness nor legal edict can trump God’s decrees nor make a moral evil into a moral good. No sexually deviant act that contradicts the clear teaching of the Scripture is a harmless thing – much less a good and loving thing.
(3). The danger of syncretism
The acceptance of homosexual practice and lifestyle, which has not only been increasingly promoted in many Western nations and affirmed by legislation, has often been described as ‘progressive’.
If those who use that word mean that the acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle is a modern and advanced way of looking at the issue, they fail to recognise that it was a problem that troubled the ancient world. William Barclay, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, has written, ‘This sin had swept like a cancer through Greek life and from Greece, invaded Rome. We can scarcely realise how riddled the ancient world was with it.’ There is, therefore, nothing ‘modern and advanced’ about a practice that had ‘riddled the ancient world’!
However, the word ‘progressive’ may also be used to describe an illness that gradually gets worse. Sadly history has shown that this definition better fits the description of the influence of homosexual promotion.
I have noticed with regret that, while the voice of the homosexual lobby has become louder and more stringent, the challenge of sound biblical teaching on the subject has been largely absent from many churches. Rather than having the courage to state and explain the God-given moral values that are plainly stated in the Bible, many pastors have chosen either to avoid the matter altogether, or to fall into line with the current politically correct position. Consequently, many church people, uninformed of clear biblical teaching, lack understanding of this vital subject.
Accommodating secular morality and bringing Christian ethics into line with secular views does not make the church more relevant to secular society. Merely going with the flow of current social values and practices does not make a church more meaningful and attractive to secular people. Rather it diminishes the relevance of the church and makes it an object of ridicule – and rightly so! Not for a long time has the voice of the church, which has lost so much of its credibility, been so disregarded.
The scriptures clearly make us aware of the danger of accommodation to social values and practices.
After the people of Israel left their captivity in Egypt and settled in the land of Canaan, they were strongly influenced by the morals and customs of the people of that land. Eventually they began to accept many of the pagan beliefs and rituals of the Canaanites and incorporated them into their own religion and worship of Yahweh. In denial of the covenant that God had established with them, they incorporated the worship of Canaanite gods into their religion. Gradually the people of Israel were seduced to accept the sexual practices of the Canaanite fertility cult. Eventually their compromise led them further and further from the God who had made a loving covenant with them. Continually the prophets warned them of the consequences of their unfaithfulness and called on them to forsake their pagan gods and their sinful ways and to turn again to Yahweh.
During the days of Amos, for example, the people of Israel were relatively prosperous and materialistically minded. Their religion was a syncretistic blend of paganism and the worship of God and their prosperous lifestyle had seduced them to think that all was well. But all was not well! Amos declared that God was concerned about their ethical behaviour. Despite their religious practices, they were displeasing to God – ‘I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me?’ (Amos 5:21-23, Message).
Also, through the prophet Hosea God expresses his disappointment, ‘”… the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord … I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewellery, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the Lord’ (Hosea 1:2 and 2:13, emphasis mine).
Maintaining the Christian faith
The point is that Christians today are not immune from the appeal of syncretism. When we depart from God’s standards as revealed in the Bible and take on board the secular standards and values of society, we are surrendering to the appeal of syncretism. When we reject, revise or reinterpret the clear and obvious meaning of biblical teaching in order to make ourselves – or our message – more acceptable to our pagan neighbours and friends, we are deliberately declaring that God’s way is not the right way.
Failure to affirm homosexuality or any of the sexually aberrant acts as practised by those of the LGBT community inevitably leads to intimidation and charges of bigotry, narrow-mindedness and hatred. Sadly even some Christian leaders have capitulated to the pressure and, despite knowing the truth of God’s Word, are now supporting such deviant sexual practices as homosexuality, bisexualism, and transgenderism.
Paul has cautioned, ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.’ (Ephesians 5:6-7) He also warned about those who, ‘… approve of those who practise them’ (Romans 1:32).
The gospel declares that ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16. That means that, although he hates the sexually aberrant acts that people perform, he nevertheless loves the people who perform them. As someone has said, ‘God loves us just as we are but he loves us too much to leave us that way!’ In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul commented on the depraved Corinthian society that was corrupted by the vile sins which people were committing. Paul then said to the Corinthian church, ‘And that is what some of you were. 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 6:11, emphasis mine).
Never lose Christian compassion and love
While we must not allow ourselves to surrender to intimidation, we must nonetheless never lose our compassion for those who are psychologically or emotionally confused or those who are biologically ambiguous. Nor can we refuse to love those who deliberately shake their fist in God’s face. We also need to remember that, as no one has attained the high standards of righteousness that God requires, we too are dependent on God’s unfailing love, great mercy and abundant forgiveness. We are, therefore, required by God to love all people regardless of their sin. St Augustine in the 5th century coined the phrase, ‘With love for mankind and hatred of sin.’ This saying is better known as, ‘Love the sinner but hate the sin.’
Repeatedly Paul told the early Christians, who were trying to maintain their Christian faith, sound moral behaviour and a God-honouring lifestyle in a decadent world in which purity, chastity, modesty and self-control were of little relevance – and who were often persecuted because of their relationship with Christ – to stand firm. For example, he wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place’ (Ephesians 6:14).
Paul gave a concise and challenging warning about syncretism – ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within …’ (Romans 12:2 JBP).
Dr Jim McClure has authored several books and Bible study series.
In his well-researched Grace Revisited he reveals grace as having a strong active meaning and is like a many faceted diamond out of which shines a greater understanding of the great God we worship. Normally $35 but obtainable from the author for $25 (plus postage). Link/orders/enquiries: email@example.com.