License

I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Homosexuality: Questions and Answers

Christians often make one of two mistakes about homosexuality. Some say that there is nothing wrong with homosexual activity, and some say that it is the worst (or the only) sin. Neither of these is consistent with the Bible. The most important question related to homosexuality is the authority of the Bible.There are only a few direct scriptural references to homosexuality: Genesis 19:1-5, 12; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; I Corinthians 6:9-20; I Timothy 1:10; Jude 1:7. (Deuteronomy 23:17-18 probably refers to homosexual prostitution.) Some, who mostly fall into the first error above, say that Genesis 19 is about gang rape, not homosexuality (Ezekiel 16:48-50 says that homosexuality was not the primary sin of the inhabitants of Sodom -- but see Jude 1:7.); that the passages in Leviticus and Romans aren't relevant for today's practices, because they condemn unnatural acts by heterosexuals, while today's homosexuals are doing what is natural for them; that I Corinthians and I Timothy are against pederasty, not the homosexuality of today.

These arguments may have some validity, but there is a strong biblical argument against homosexual activity. It is not from the texts cited above (although they are part of the evidence) but from the scriptural portrayal of heterosexual fidelity as God's ideal for humans, from the earliest parts of Genesis to the portrayal of the church as the bride of Christ in Revelation. (See Genesis 2:18-24, Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 5, The Song of Solomon, Ezekiel 16, Hosea 1-3, Matthew 19:4-6, John 2:1-11, Revelation 19:6-8, and elsewhere.)

1. Is homosexuality wrong? Yes and no. Based on scripture, homosexual activity is wrong. Homosexual tendencies are not wrong, any more than heterosexual ones, unless those tendencies are due to wrong choices. If I am attracted to someone other than my wife, because I have heterosexual tendencies, and act on it, that's wrong. Having the tendencies isn't wrong. (Acting on it doesn't mean just adultery or fornication--deliberately exposing myself to pornography, or lusting after movie stars, etc., are ways of acting on heterosexual tendency, and acting sinfully.) It isn't wrong to have heterosexual tendencies, unless those tendencies are due to wrong choices, so why should it be wrong to have homosexual tendencies?

2. Is homosexual tendency built in? In some cases. Recent evidence indicates that pre-natal hormonal exposure is important. There is probably some genetic influence. But some people choose homosexuality over heterosexuality. (James Dobson believes that homosexuality is due to how a child was raised, which is probably part of the story. If it were all of the story, the cause would be neither a choice by the person or some built-in factor.)

3. Isn't having homosexual tendencies, but not being able to act on them without sinning, unfair? God is not ever unfair. He may demand more of some than others, in certain aspects of their lives. All of us are born with tendencies that we must control in order to live Christian lives. It isn't just homosexuals that are called to life-long celibacy -- some heterosexuals are. All heterosexuals are, until they are married.

4. Can homosexuals form long-lasting same-sex relationships? Apparently. However, especially with males, this often doesn't happen. (It often doesn't happen with heterosexual marriage relationships, either, but that's another sad story.) Are such relationships identical to stable Christian heterosexual marriages, in God's sight? No. They aren't God's plan. You could have a long-lasting sexual relationship with a prostitute, or even a dog, but the fact that it's long-lasting doesn't make it right. 

5. Can homosexuals become happy heterosexuals? At least some of the time. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) Probably not all of the time.

6. What should be the Christian attitude toward homosexuals? Practicing homosexuals, like practicing gossips, gluttons or thieves, are sinners. We should love them, but not love their sin. Overt sinners should not be leaders in churches, and certainly not pastors.

7. Is homosexuality the worst threat to marriage in North America?
No. If there were no homosexuals at all, marriage would still be under continuing and violent attack from its real worst enemy, namely that a woman and a man don't make Jesus Christ Lord of their relationship.


8. Is homosexual activity the worst sin? No. See what Jesus said in comparing Sodom to the people of his day, in Matthew 11:20-24, and Luke 10:1-12. Romans 1 indicates that homosexual behavior is a symptom of a worse sin, idolatry or unbelief.

Homosexual activity is not even the worst sexual sin -- it's not part of the 10 commandments. There's a list of curses for sinful activity in Deuteronomy 27:15-26. Four such were curses for sexual misconduct, and they didn't include homosexual activity. (That does not, of course, make homosexual activity acceptable for Christians.)

The above is a re-do of a previous post, done, I believe, in 2009. On January 24, 2013, I added the reference to Deuteronomy 23, and made an editorial change to the statement in bold at the beginning of this post. On March 6, 2013, I edited the post, cleaning up some errors.

There are some other topics that I wish to mention briefly.

Intersexuality, or ambiguous anatomical sexual anatomy
(See Wikipedia article.) There is controversy over classification issues, but it seems that from 0.05% to as many as 1.7% of babies born have genital anatomy that is not normal. What does that have to do with homosexuality? This -- not everyone is born "normal." People do not choose to be born with ambiguous external genitals, nor do they become this way because of the way that their parents raised them, which relates, at least somewhat, to the questions of how people become homosexual, and God's fairness to them. So far as I know, Christian thinkers have not considered this phenomenon at all, let alone in depth.

Civil Unions
Should Christians oppose civil unions? A civil union would give homosexual couples some legal rights, such as joint ownership of property, and hospital visitation rights, but would not have the same type of recognition as a marriage. This is a difficult question, and I haven't resolved it in my own mind. If I am offered the chance to vote on the issue, I will try to make up my mind, God helping me. On the one hand, it seems unfair to deny a person, who has been a caregiver, hospital visitation rights for the person he or she has cared for, regardless of their sexual preferences. On the other hand, this might be a step toward full recognition of marriage between homosexuals, on the same basis as between heterosexuals, and, as indicated above, I do not believe that a homosexual couple can have God-approved marriage.

A church-approved marriage does not need to be the same as a state-approved marriage, although, often, it is. Couples, even totally unchurched couples, often seem to believe that they have a right to a church wedding, and churches often comply, sometimes even without any pre-marital counseling. Probably many churches, including my own, have, occasionally, had marriage ceremonies between a man and a woman performed within them that united couples that God really didn't want together.

Should Homosexuals be allowed to join churches?
I would draw upon the example of the early church, except that I am not clear as to whether the early church had membership in the same way that many churches do today. Let me stipulate that a church member is someone that the congregation, or its leaders, believes is a converted Christian, who is in agreement with basic Bible doctrine, and Christian practice, as understood by that church.

I don't see any reason to deny membership to a person with homosexual tendencies, as indicated above. Based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, persons engaged in homosexual activity should not be taken into membership, any more than greedy people, or swindlers, should be. They are mentioned in the same list as homosexuals. The good news is that the same passage states that some of the current members of the Corinthian church used to do some of these things, but had been redeemed from such activities, presumably including homosexuality.

Thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *  *

Added Jan 26, 2013: Here's a later post, on adultery and fornication

Added July 29, 2014: Here's a later post, on the idea that Jesus referred to homosexuality without condemning it.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

You've given me additional insight in how to best deal with my niece. I do love her and I've told her that, but I don't condone her lifestyle. When I pray for her I ask for God to free her from the bondage she doesn't know she's in.
Lizabeth

groovyoldlady said...

Excellent post. Well reasoned and thoroughly Biblical.

However, I do take exception to your statement, "God is not ever unfair." He is BLESSEDLY unfair, or else He would allow us all to suffer the due penalty of our own sin. Instead, He most unfairly paid the penalty for our sin and just as unfairly imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

:-D

Martin LaBar said...

You are right, groovyoldlady. I should have said that God does not punish us unfairly, I guess.

superrustyfly said...

I like this post. I noticed you put the two extreme views of homosexuality in the first paragraph. It's funny that neither of those takes scripture seriously. Both would end up being uber liberal theology. Kudos.

ClassyChassy said...

Good post. I have come across some bloggers who post in favor of homosexuality - that it is fine with God, blah blah blah --I have trouble with that, and you have written all of the reasons right here. Since I do not know these people, I simply say nothing, and leave no comment if I finish reading what they have to say. Congrats on your boldness here today.

Keetha Broyles said...

Appears that TWO of my blog regulars made their way over here AND commented (several others have told me they came) and ONE of my blog regulars became a follower!!

Now you have more readers!!!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous.

Yes, that was my point, superrustyfly.

ClassyChassy, I wasn't bold. I doubt seriously if anyone who believes homosexual activity is compatible with God's will will even read this blog. I hope I did put forward the main scriptural reason why it is sinful, as well as some stern admonishment for those who believe that, as some say, "God hates fags," except that they won't read this, either. Oh, well.

Thanks, Keetha!

Daniel Smith said...

Great post. You've compiled the most comprehensive collection of information on this topic that I have ever seen - and you even included information on intersexuality. I didn't think there was any information on this topic and you have confirmed that.

I most definitely want to hear more on this topic as you have time to research and think through this complicated issue. I have a close friend that is openly gay who I grew up with. He is still a friend and a good one at that, but I question how to deal with and accept his sexual preference choices. Your guidelines are informative and I appreciate them.

I'd also like to add that I completely disagree with the notion that there is a genetic basis for homosexuality. Much research has been done on this for years and nothing has come of it. The only bit of supporting evidence I've ever heard is the information you presented regarding prenatal hormones - and I doubt that will make much of an impact compared to upbringing and personal choices.

Oh, and you might explicitly include the David and Jonathan verses where David loves Jonathan that some include as a depiction of homosexuality. It's the passage where Jonathan shoots arrows and what says is code for David to flee or stay.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Daniel Smith.

I didn't include the passages about David and Jonathan, or the one where John is described as the disciple Jesus loved, or the one on the rich young ruler. In the first place, I was looking only for verses that are against homosexual activity, not those that might support it. In the second place, I don't think any of these incidents were related to sexual activity at all -- as C. S. Lewis pointed out, there's more than one Greek word for "love," and it's too bad that that isn't true of English, also. Only one of those words has to do with sexual attraction, as I understand it, where, in English, we seem to have moved to where "love" means "sex," often without much love, in our minds.

David, of course, had several wives, and children, and his most glaring sin was related to his lusting after Bathsheba's body. He certainly wasn't an exclusive homosexual, and I don't believe that he was a homosexual at all.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I've read a few of your blogs and believe that you are well-studied, fair, and open-minded in your posts as well as comment responses.

I am a homosexual male. I feel like I was born like this, but I suppose I'll never know for sure... I am also a practicing Catholic and come from a very conservative background. It should then be no surprise that when I discovered this about me, I did everything in my power to "change" myself. I believed there was something wrong with me. Everything I did to fight it led to more pain, and as a result, anger - especially with God. (This anger is no more... I understand that God gives everyone different challenges and trials through which to work.)

My entire story would be a book so I'll summarize here. I became aware of my homosexuality at 16, fought it for approximately 8 years, and began dating and learning about the "gay lifestyle" at 24. I'm 31 now.

As I stated earlier, I believe you to be fair. I also believe you well-intentioned. So I wanted to ask you to pray and reflect on this question - After much reflection on my part, I believe with all my heart that two men or two women together in a loving relationship is not morally wrong. I believe God loves those couples and does not disaprove. If I am wrong, why do I still feel with all my heart that I am not? Wouldn't God find a way to convince me I am wrong?

I believe I can speak fairly objectively in my belief. Though I am gay, currently, I am not dating. After much reflection, I feel relationships are not good for me. I seem to be happiest being single. This fact, however, does not impact my belief about homosexual relationships...

I am a teacher so I will refrain from posting my full name. I trust you understand. Also, if there is anything you would like to know about me or just wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on the topic, I am willing. It would just have to be outside of a public blog. Thank you for your time.

David

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, David.

I will try to pray for you and your situation. Let me try to respond.

Unfortunately, our hearts can mislead us. as Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 11:8, and many other Bible verses indicate. As Jeremiah 17:9 put it: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (KJV) As I indicated in my post, I believe that the Bible has enough on this, especially the emphasis throughout it on heterosexual marriage as the norm, and blessed by God, to convince us of God's ideas on the subject, regardless of our own hearts.
As I understand the Bible, you should not be in a sexual relationship with someone, regardless of your homosexual tendencies.

I sympathize with you, and understand that I may be wrong in anything I have said about this issue. Also, I know that I am not looking at this in the same way you do, that is, from the standpoint of a person who is sexually attracted to a person of their own sex.

I'm sorry, but I don't think I have any special expertise in this area, and don't think that I could be of more help in this.

God help you. He loves you.

Thanks for your comment.

Andrew Ryan said...

Martin, 1) what is your opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's views on homosexuality? He said words to the affect that he doesn't see gays in loving, long-term relationships as being any more sinful than straight couples. His position can't be put down to ignorance of scripture - he's renowned as a biblical scholar.

2) Gay men are generally characterised as being more promiscuous then heterosexual men. I don't know much about gay culture, but I gather that the characterisation is probably true.

However, isn't this more down to the fact that men in general are more promiscuous than women? Straight men's promiscuity is limited by the women they can hook up with. Gay men don't have this limitation.

The evidence for this is that when straight men get rich or famous, they find it a lot easier to get women, and they tend to become as promiscuous as gay men.

The other factor is that gay men cannot marry. We're always being told that marriage stabilises people, encourages them to stick out relationships. I don't know if this is true, but if it is, would it not follow that denying gays the ability to marry would effectively be encouraging promiscuity?

This is similar to the fallacy that pigs are dirty creatures, therefore we keep them in muddy styes, which makes them dirty, reinforcing our original misconception. In other words, people say gays are too promiscuous to marry (an institution we believe discourages promiscuity), and then the same people point to all the promiscuous unmarried gay people as evidence.

Andrew - ar@wlv.ac.uk

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Andrew.

My reaction to the Archbishop is that it is possible to be a Biblical scholar and still deny what the Bible says. Whether that's what the Archbishop is doing, I don't know. It is possible, of course, that I am mis-reading the Bible. But I read it as indicating that homosexual sexual activity, even within a long-term relationship, is not God's best plan for humans, and is sinful.

In the US, and probably elsewhere, churches have sanctioned heterosexual marriages when not all such should be sanctioned, for any number of reasons, including immaturity of the partners, lack of real commitment to each other, and the partners not having any other relationship with the church. Ideally, I think the church should sanction a lot fewer marriages than the state allows, and that would be true if there were no such thing as homosexuality. However, that's not the way we do it, and I think the church sanctions a lot of heterosexual marriages that God doesn't.

I'm not sure that I oppose state-sanctioned marriage between homosexual partners, for some of the reasons you give, and for fairness -- why should a homosexual caregiver who would have been a spouse if homosexual marriage were allowed, be denied hospital visiting rights, for example?

But a God-sanctioned marriage has to be between a man and a woman, who are committed to each other, and to God, as I understand the Bible. Therefore, I oppose church-sanctioned marriages between homosexual partners.

Thanks for your comment.

Andrew Ryan said...

Martin, thanks for taking the time to reply. I've one other question. Some of the Christians I know who have no problem with homosexuality, I've asked them how they reconcile the 'anti-gay' passages in the bible with their stance.

A reply I've heard a couple of times is that those are OT passages, and that if they took such passages literally they'd also have to also take literally all the passages that condoned slavery. (Googling 'bible condones slavery' brings up many examples).

Is it not special pleading to reject those 'pro-slavery' passages, but not do the same for the 'anti-gay' parts?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Andrew Ryan.

It is, indeed, dangerous to specially plead for something. Perhaps I, and other Christians, have done so in the matter of homosexuality.

It is also dangerous to say that we know better than the Bible.

As I read the New Testament, it isn't pro-slavery, but it accepts slavery, and some other things, such as the inferior status of women in Jewish society, as part of the culture. Christ didn't come so much to re-make culture (He didn't defeat the Romans!) as to re-make people, one at a time. Some Roman soldiers became His followers. A long time later, Christians led the fight to defeat slavery, relying, I guess, on their sense that it was wrong. They had some Biblical support. There's the Golden Rule -- they didn't want to be slaves, so why should anyone else have to be? There are also as admonitions, in both Testaments, to be just to the poor, and slaves were (and are) as poor as you can get.

My response to your question about the Old Testament is two-fold.

First, the Bible is much more a pro-heterosexuality book than it is an anti-homosexuality book, and this includes the New Testament, through Revelation.

Second, saying that the New Testament doesn't touch on homosexuality is just plain wrong. I referenced either five or six (depending on how you count) passages that deal with it in my post.

Thanks again.

Andrew Ryan said...

Martin, thanks again for taking the time to respond to my post. It is much appreciated. Thanks also for your Intelligent Design post.
Andrew, UK.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Andrew Ryan.

Anonymous said...

I am the "David" that wrote the Jan 15th post. Sorry I've not thanked you for your response earlier, but it's been a busy month to say the least. Thank you again for your prayers and words. I think God will find a way to answer the questions I have. Peace be with you.

David

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your response, anonymous. God help us all.

Anon said...

"It doesn't make sense to put a church member with known homosexual tendencies in charge of children or youth groups"

Evil.
I don't have the energy at the moment to fully argue this article, and although I do think you are ignorant of what exactly you're saying, and so I forgive you; it is evil and it is bigotry.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment, Anon, whoever you are.

If what I said was evil, I'm sorry. It is also true that heterosexuals have done some nasty things to children who were their responsibility in church children's work.

Megan said...

Thanks for this Dr. LaBar, It is obvious that your post has gotten people to think. Could you clarify homosexual tendencies? Do you mean someone who tends to be tempted in that area? I recently saw an interesting hypothetical on another blog that i will pose to you. Say a man is in a now legal marriage relationship with another man and gets saved. He might feel that to "divorce" would be sinful. The first thing that came to my mind was that since homosexual behavior is sin and homosexual marriage not recognized by God then it is not divorce but that is coming from a heterosexual female! What would be your take on this?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Megan.

Homosexual tendencies mean that a person is sexually attracted to someone, or several someones, of the same sex as they are. And, yes, this is a form of temptation.

As to your hypothetical question, that's a tough one. I guess I'd agree with you that homosexual marriage is not recognized by God, so this wouldn't be the same as divorce. And I would further state that it is important to get out of a relationship or situation that is sinful right away. But I can also see that there might be legal or moral ties between a homosexual couple, for example they might own a house jointly, or they might have agreed to share expenses, or a pet, in some way. In such cases, just as with a divorce between heterosexuals, more than a mere sexual relationship is involved, and separating might involve temptations to deceive or be greedy or slanderous in the process.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. LaBar!

Thank you for your blog posts! They are very insightful!
I recently wrote a blog comment in response to your entry on homosexuality last year (the one on June 12, 2009). I am a "newbie" when it comes to arguments on homosexuality. If you have the time, please read it over--it would be greatly appreciated!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are.

I read and commented on the other comment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dr. LaBar, for your words! (I finally got around to reading this post!). It was truly a relief to hear someone comment on the many aspects of the homosexuality issue in a cohearrent, unbiased way!.
I replied back to your comment from the June 12, 2009 comment. I also wanted to you know that from here on out, I will post to this more recent blog post if I want to reply back.

Thanks again,
Callie (that is my online pen name)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous/Callie.

By the way, Blogger (this is a Blogger blog) sends any comments to the blog author as e-mail, so it doesn't matter where you comment.

Anonymous said...

Not all homosexual people are paedophiles, and not all paedophiles are homosexual.

I find your implication that a homosexual person should not be trusted with young people to be offensive and inaccurate.

I am sure your words were well-intentioned, but remarks such as those you made about this subject undermine your credibility.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous.

I stand corrected. Not all people with homosexual tendencies are paedophiles.

Some are, if I understand recent tragic scandals in the Roman Catholic church.

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

The loving "inspiration" of your responses to the commenters is as good as the "information" in the post, maybe better. Many have forgotten that speaking the truth in Love is what makes Truth believable. God bless you brother.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kerry i am. I hope I've had the right attitude.

vanessa said...

Hello, I was looking up more info on Athaliah and found this blog along side :) would you Please clarify #5'sanswer: 5)Can homosexuals become happy heterosexuals? At least some of the time. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.)Probably not all of the time.
Do you mean with our without receiving the redemptive work of the cross in their lives.For I have heard testamony of men who are now happily married and living lives sold out for Christ. could you please clarify your answer?

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Vanessa.

As you have indicated, there have been cases of practicing homosexuals who have become apparently happy practicing heterosexuals. I'm sure that the redemptive power of God was involved, as well as their own choice.

However, I doubt if that would be possible for all individuals. At least some people seem to be homosexual because their hormones make them so. You have probably had the same experience that I have, while watching TV. I have heard some men speak, and said to myself, something like "That sounds like a homosexual," and, it turned out that the person was, indeed, a homosexual. There seems to be a strong biological tendency, in some people, to be homosexual. God could overcome that, but, just as He doesn't choose to make all believers with Down syndrome into college professors, or all blind believers sighted, He doesn't seem to choose to change everyone's sexual orientation.

I believe that a Christian can be a fulfilled, happy, celibate. There are seem to be many examples of such, such as, for example, many protestant female missionaries, and Catholic nuns (most of whom would not have chosen to be homosexual, if such a choice were somehow allowable under God). This can be true whether the person's biological inclination is to be homosexual or heterosexual. I am thankful that, for most of my life, I have not been so called -- I have been happily married to a good woman -- and I hope I have some appreciation for those who have been called to celibacy for a significant portion of their lives, or all of them.

As I say, I'm not convinced that all practicing homosexuals can become satisfied practicing heterosexuals. I have no statistics on this, and no Biblical proof, but I still believe it, based on what I know of biology, and of how God deals with various other types of infirmity. I am convinced that, with the help of God, both heterosexuals and homosexuals can become, or remain, celibate.