In the weeks following the SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex “marriage” across all 50 states of the U.S., a host of articles, blogs, and other media have been circulating the internet both defending and critiquing the judicial fiat which redefined marriage. Within the Christian community, the issue of whether or not homosexual behavior is consistent with biblical teaching has once again become a hot topic of conversation, though in recent years it has never been too far from the forefront. Indeed, American churches have been split over this issue and the Supreme Court decision promises to ensure this matter is not going to go away any time soon.
Amongst the flurry of articles and blogs addressing this topic, of most interest to me have been those which attempt to defend the compatibility of homosexual behavior with Biblical teaching. This should be of interest to all Christians considering that for nearly 2,000 years the historical and consistent position of the Church has been that homosexual behavior is sinful and prohibited by Scripture. And prior to Christianity, this was also the historical position of the Jewish people which they based on the teachings of the Old Testament.
There is a reason of course that both Jews and Christians have been in agreement on this point, and it is not because of bigotry, intolerance, or hatred. It is because the univocal teaching of Scripture on homosexuality leads to this conclusion, and one must try very hard to deny or twist numerous verses addressing this topic in order to avoid their force. Unfortunately this is exactly what you see within the “gay Christian” movement. Given the clear teaching of Scripture and the historic position of the Church, I was shocked and dismayed to see the number of self-professing Christians who supported and celebrated this landmark decision of the Court.
One popular article from a “gay Christian” perspective was written by Whitney Kay Bacon of the Huffington Post. It is entitled “So Gay Marriage Biblically Offends You? Then You Should Read This…” The title piqued my curiosity, but as I explain below, the content was very disappointing. I encourage you to read it. There is nothing new presented here. The substance (or lack thereof) and rhetoric of this article demonstrate the intellectual bankruptcy that pervades much of the “gay Christian” movement.
Despite this, I think it is important to respond to, and hopefully beneficial to those reading, because it contains some of the more common pop-culture talking points you’ll hear in discussions on this issue. These need to be addressed due to their prevalence and sometimes unfortunate effect of leaving Christians speechless. Even worse has been to see the number of self-identifying Christians who are taken in by a piece such as this, to the point that they find it persuasive and credible. Let’s look at the first problem with this article.
Problem #1: Lack of Substance
The title of this article reads, “So Gay Marriage Biblically Offends You? Then You Should Read This…” Given the title, one would expect to hear a biblical defense of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage”. Maybe an exegetical and expository look at some of the most well-known passages which specifically deal with the issue of homosexuality, such as Genesis 18 & 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah), Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:8-10. Or what about Jesus’ own teaching on marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6, which itself is a patent approval of God’s original design for marriage as between one man and one woman found in the Creation account. Given the title of this piece, shouldn’t we expect some sort of biblical defense of the author’s position? For example, shouldn’t we see at least an attempt to meaningfully address some of the following passages?
Leviticus 18:22: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Romans 1:26-27: 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.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10: 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, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers 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 Timothy: 1:8-10: Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
Unfortunately you’ll find nothing of the sort, only vague references to the Levitical Law and eating bacon. No evidence, exegesis, or argumentation is given for the compatibility of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” with Scripture. This compatibility is assumed from the beginning and continually asserted throughout the article.
Rather than a biblical defense of same-sex “marriage” or homosexuality, what you find instead are emotional appeals and story-telling. Indeed, Miss Bacon starts the article out by saying,
I want to start by saying that I am a Christian. I always have been and always will be… and I’m also a gay woman who is happily married to a beautiful British Woman named Megan.
In other words, her first line of defense is not to look at what Scripture says regarding this issue but rather to tell her own personal story, which essentially boils down to this: “Here I am. I’m a gay Christian. I am proof that you can be both gay and Christian.” The implication is that by making this proclamation, nothing else is needed. The debate has been resolved in effect, and her pronouncement trumps any Bible verse you may quote as well as the historic Biblical understanding of homosexual behavior. The problem is that anyone can make an assertion such as this regarding the compatibility of any behavior with Scripture. Anyone can tell a story. But stories are not substitutes for substance.
The question that needs to be answered is this: What does the Bible teach about homosexual behavior and marriage? Unfortunately you won’t find that addressed here. In fact, there are zero Scripture references in Miss Bacon’s piece.
Problem #2: Poor Reasoning
The fundamental error of this entire article is that the writer is begging the question, assuming the very thing that needs to be proved. The issue being debated is whether or not there can be such a thing as a “gay Christian,” whether homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” is compatible with the teaching of the Bible or not. The writer assumes her own conclusion without addressing any relevant Biblical data.
To help illustrate this, suppose a self-professing Christian was living as an adulterer, and that this “Christian” saw no incompatibility between adultery and the teaching of the Bible. As a defense, he simply states, “Here I am. I’m an adulterous Christian. I am proof that you can be both an adulterer and a Christian.” There, you see? That proves adultery is God-ordained.
That would be ridiculous, to say the least. But what is the difference between this example and what Miss Bacon is doing? There is no difference in the reasoning or logic used, only a different example of sin. Both are begging the question. The “gay Christian” who ignores what Scripture has to say regarding homosexual behavior is just as misguided as the “adulterous Christian” who ignores what Scripture has to say regarding adultery. She goes on to say,
As a Christian, I wholeheartedly believe that God does not make mistakes and he would not have accidentally made millions of people (and animals) gay by chance. We are all who we are for a reason and no one should ever make you feel bad for that.
One wonders why homosexual activists appeal to the animal kingdom in order to morally justify their own sexual practices. Has animal behavior become the standard for human behavior? Many animals are inherently violent and dangerous and engage in behaviors considered immoral when committed by humans. For example, some animals eat their young and others kill their mates after sex. Should we adopt these practices as well because they occur in nature? Don’t we hold human beings to a moral standard and prosecute them for crimes precisely because we are not mere animals? In addition, animals often behave and react on instinct. But as humans we have the capacity for rational thought and the ability to make sound moral judgments when faced with ethical dilemmas. We often realize that following our initial instincts or desires would not be the best moral course of action and so we exercise self-restraint, unlike animals. This is at least a partial account of what it means to be created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), an honor bestowed on human beings alone.
Furthermore, to compare animal homosexual behavior with human is a false analogy. There is no evidence that animals in nature possess a sort of “homosexual orientation” as humans do. How could there be? As we study animal behavior we only have access to external data and observations, we have no insight into the internal experiences of animals as they engage in sexual activity (or any other activity). Moreover, we know animals engage in sexual activity for a variety of reasons, including displays of dominance, aggression, conflict resolution, or simple stimulation. For example, when my male dog humps my sofa this doesn’t mean he is “sofa-sexual”. He is not physically attracted to my couch nor does he possess a sexual orientation directed toward it. The same is true for when this dog humps my other male dog, i.e., there is no reason to think he is attracted to the gender of the other male dog. This is why it is often naïve for humans to interpret motivations or project their own understandings and feelings of sexual behavior (or any behavior for that matter) onto animals.
Next, Miss Bacon implies that since God made her this way (with a homosexual orientation), and God doesn’t make mistakes, her actions (homosexual behavior) are morally justified. This is a common claim of the “gay Christian” movement and other homosexual activists who have been in search for the illusive “gay gene” to bolster their position. The problem is this: supposing science did discover some sort of “gay gene” (which it hasn’t) that predisposed an individual toward a homosexual orientation, this would only prove what is, not what ought to be. This argument commits what is known as the is-ought or naturalistic fallacy.
To put it another way, science can only tell us what is, it cannot tell us what ought to be. Science can describe, it cannot prescribe. Finding a “gay gene” would not serve as moral justification for homosexual behavior any more than finding a “pedophile gene” would morally justify pedophilia. In fact, any behavior could be morally justified based on this reasoning if only we could find a gene to match. Perhaps there is a “homophobic gene” which predisposes certain individuals to homophobia. If this were the case, the pedophile and homophobe could join with Miss Bacon in repeating her own words: “God does not make mistakes…We are all who we are for a reason and no one should ever make you feel bad for that.”
Finally, Miss Bacon is theologically mistaken because she fails to take into account the Biblical doctrine of Original Sin. The idea that “God made me this way” doesn’t square with Scripture’s teaching that all human beings are born dead in sin and by nature are children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). In our unregenerate state we are alienated from God (Eph. 4:18) and slaves to sin (John 8:34). This is Creation and the Fall 101. God made Adam and Eve and everything was good. But Adam and Eve rebelled against God bringing sin, corruption and death into the world. Since then, all individuals are born spiritually dead, affected by that sin and corruption in every part of their being. In short, God didn’t make us this way.
Problem #3: Biblical Illiteracy
As mentioned above, the debate over homosexuality, same-sex “marriage”, and the Bible boils down to one essential and obvious question: What does the Bible teach about homosexual behavior and marriage? This entails that we are going to have to do some homework. We become systematic theologians, gathering all of the relevant data, looking at all the pertinent passages that deal with these issues, and taking into consideration context and historical background.
Unfortunately, reading this article makes clear that Miss Bacon has not done her homework. This is ironic considering at one point in the article she condescendingly states,
…and don’t even try to the quote the Bible at me; you may want to actually read it first.
Not to return the favor, but perhaps Miss Bacon needs to take her own advice. And not just read the Bible, but study it too. She says,
If the sole reason you feel that gay marriage is wrong because it’s a sin, and the Bible tells you this is wrong, then I sure as hell hope you don’t have bacon with your eggs or indulge in shrimp.
I call this the “Levitical Law” tactic and it is quite common to see in social media. Much of the time I hear it from internet atheists who are attempting to mock or undermine the Bible. But more recently it has been used by revisionists within the “gay Christian” movement in an effort to undermine and essentially do away with the Old Testament teaching on homosexual behavior. The argument here is that since Christians do not abide by all of the Levitical Law (e.g., dietary laws such as eating bacon and shrimp), they shouldn’t be arbitrarily picking and choosing to enforce certain prohibitions such as those against homosexuality. In other words, it’s all or nothing. There are several things to say in response.
First, even if this line of argumentation held water, what would it prove? At most it would prove that Christians are inconsistent in emphasizing and following some verses and not others. It does nothing to get to the heart of the matter, which is, “What does the Bible teach about homosexual behavior and marriage?” And even if we did throw out the Old Testament (which we shouldn’t), we still have New Testament prohibitions against homosexual behavior as well (Rom. 1:26:27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-10). Again, we find no meaningful exegesis in this article or even a cursory look at the relevant biblical passages.
Second, it is clear from the New Testament that Christians are not at liberty to throw out or ignore the Old Testament, including the Levitical Law. Jesus specifically said he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18). The Old Testament canon functioned as the Bible for the New Testament Church, which Paul specifically refers to as God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Further, Jesus and the apostles quote from the book of Leviticus as authoritative (Matt. 22:39; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Pet. 1:16). True, New Testament Christians don’t practice everything in the Law. But there are reasons for this. For example, we don’t follow the dietary law because Jesus declared all foods to be clean (Mark 7:19). We don’t have temples, priests, or animal sacrifices because the entire Old Testament sacrificial system has been superseded by the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ who functions as our eternal high priest continually making intercession for us (Heb. 7:22-28, 9:11-12, 9:25-28, 10:10-14). But there is continuity between the Old and New Testaments as well. And within the Old Testament we also find universal moral laws which apply to all people in all places and which carry over into the New Testament, such as those prohibiting murder, adultery, theft and yes, homosexuality.
Finally, the main problem with this “Levitical Law” tactic is a failure to distinguish between different types of law in the Old Testament. Biblical scholars and theologians commonly make these distinctions, referencing dietary law, ceremonial law, civil law, and universal moral law. Sometimes these laws are grouped into two main categories: ceremonial and moral. Regardless of how you classify them, a distinction does exist and this is going to affect our interpretation and application as New Testament Christians.
Certain ordinances and regulations were only given to Israel because it was a Theocratic nation, set apart and governed by God, serving as an example to all surrounding people groups. These ceremonial laws helped to govern their worship of the One True God as well as keep Israel distinct and separate from pagan influence. Included in this category would be regulations and ordinances for temple worship and sacrifice, festivals and celebrations, as well as dietary laws.
However, other laws were universal moral laws meant to apply to all people and nations, such as prohibitions against murder, adultery, theft and yes, homosexuality. Unlike ceremonial laws given only to Israel, God holds all nations and people accountable to these universal moral laws as demonstrated in His judgment on pagan nations for committing these very acts.
With this background knowledge we are ready to ask the relevant question: How do we know that prohibitions against homosexual behavior belong in the category of universal moral law? Let’s look at a couple reasons.
First, we know because these prohibitions against homosexual behavior are repeated in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-10). In other words, they apply to all people, including Christians, and were not only given to Israel.
Second, we know by examining the context of Leviticus 18. Notice that in 18:21-23 the prohibition against homosexuality is placed between two other universal moral laws, i.e., the law against child sacrifice and the law against bestiality:
You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.
We can all (hopefully) agree that prohibitions against child sacrifice and bestiality are universal moral laws which apply to all people in all places. It would be strange then (and out of context) that God would include a universal moral law against child sacrifice, then switch to some sort of “ceremonial law” against homosexuality, then add another universal moral law against bestiality. Even more troublesome, if homosexual activists within the “gay Christian” movement want to get rid of homosexuality as a moral sin, wouldn’t consistency demand they get rid of prohibitions against child sacrifice and bestiality as well? After all, those sins aren’t even mentioned in the New Testament.
But there is more contextual evidence to consider in Leviticus 18. Notice what God says in summary of this chapter in verses 24-30:
Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.
God makes it clear in this passage that He is bringing judgment on the nations currently living in the land because of their sins which He listed in Leviticus 18, including homosexuality. In other words, the Canaanites, who did not have access to the Mosaic Law, were still held accountable to these universal moral laws (including homosexuality) because knowledge of them is evident within, i.e., they can be recognized as true apart from any form of special revelation.
The important point is this: there is not a single example of God condemning or bringing judgment upon the surrounding nations in the Old Testament because of eating shrimp, sewing two different kinds of fabrics together, or planting two different kinds of seed in the same field. Those laws had purpose for Israel and were given to Israel only. But God does condemn and bring judgment on pagan nations for breaking universal moral laws, including murder, adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality, as evidenced in Leviticus 18. Therefore, we can say with confidence that these prohibitions against homosexual behavior belong in the category of universal moral law and still apply today.
When it comes to the issue of the Bible and homosexuality, the truth of the matter is that Scripture says nothing positive regarding homosexual behavior, in either the Old or New Testament. Those within the “gay Christian” movement have been unable to make a positive case for homosexuality from the Bible and, as exampled here, have failed to show that the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual behavior can be ignored.
In Part 2, I hope to address some additional problems in Miss Bacon’s article as well as respond to more of her comments.Click here
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