Another Look at Homosexuality and Christianity
I have a confession to make. I am a red-blooded, heterosexual male. Like most men, I love attractive women. I have never had what I would consider homosexual temptations, or any other attractions to the male gender. I know only a couple openly gay men, I don’t understand the lifestyle or mindset of the gay man, and I cannot conceive of how any man could be sexually attracted to any other man. I just don’t get it.
But that is not my confession.
My confession is, even when I was a Christian, I did not condemn homosexuality. Yes, I knew what the Bible said, and I remember how all my former pastors told us to ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’. I know that by and large Christians view homosexuality as major sin, and I was expected to agree with God on this issue and condemn it just as he did. But the truth of it is, I just never cared about that. I never told any of my fellow Christians at the time, but I am now telling you, the random internet surfer. As a Christian, homosexuality just never bothered me. Nope. Never did.
I looked at it like this. Jesus, when asked by a lawyer, basically summed up the entirety of the Mosaic Law into two basic, simple commands: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27). Do not murder? Yeah, that one is covered. Keep the Sabbath holy? Sure, that law honors God. But condemn the homosexuality of my neighbor? How does that fall under ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, or ‘Love God with all you can muster’? It seems the odd command out because I could never see how it fit under either category.
And besides, it simply never personally offended me. I just didn’t care who people were attracted to. If two adults of the same gender are attracted to each other, well, I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, but I could not see what harm was being done to anyone. I could not see how condemning homosexuality enabled me to love my neighbor with any greater love, or allow me to love God more than I did.
So it never bothered me. And I knew what the Bible said about the matter, but I guess I kept myself far enough removed from the issue that it very rarely affected me.
So, if Jesus managed to summarize the Mosaic Law into two simple, basic commands, and never once discussed homosexuality in any of his many discourses, where does that leave homosexuality? And why do Christians seem so hell-bent to condemn the ‘Sin’ and cure the ‘Sinner’?
Consider a recent comment to our humble De-Conversion website from Britt, concerning homosexuality:
In light of the recent controversy regarding homosexuality, there has been a continual, reoccurring, and common argument presented in a vain attempt to undermine God’s law and its obvious condemnation of this behavior. As I’ve preached and witnessed to sodomites on the streets and at college campuses for the past 20 years this is one of the first questions posed. The argument goes something like this…
“Doesn’t the Old Testament ‘holiness code’ also condemn eating shellfish and pork, and it says you must wear a certain type of clothing, etc. If you are going to condemn homosexuality, you should also condemn these things! If these things are acceptable, then so is homosexuality! …
…Now, bear with me as I expose the error of this common argument. The Bible contains two covenants, commonly referred to as the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are differences in purpose and content between these two covenants (which could be extensively elaborated on). Therefore, in discussing matters regarding the distinction between the “covenant of law” and the “covenant of grace” there are certain absolutes that we must recognize and understand:”
Next, Britt divides the Mosaic Law into three categories.
 The law of God is divided into three spheres: civil, ceremonial, and moral.
 Christ came to fulfill the law.…
 The ceremonial law has been fulfilled by Christ and is no longer applicable for believers under the covenant of grace – rituals, dietary, circumcision, animal sacrifice, etc…
So far, I am with Britt. Note that the categories which Britt divides the Law into, civil, ceremonial, and moral are not explicitly defined in Scripture, yet I think Britt’s divisions are fair. And I also agree with Britt, that according to Christian Doctrine and Scripture, a fair case can be made that Christ did indeed fulfill the ceremonial law (and I would say the civil law too, unless we want to continue stoning children for dishonoring their parents). The problem is that, it is up to us exegetes of Scripture to rightly decide which Law falls into what category. And it is here that I think Britt misses the Levitical boat.
 On the other hand, the moral law of God was likewise fulfilled in Christ but is still in effect under this covenant. Every moral commandment expressed in the O.T. has been reiterated in the New Testament (this includes laws and commandments forbidding fornication, adultery, incest, bestiality, and sodomy).
So Britt, you are saying that sodomy, however that is defined in Scripture, is a moral law under the Torah? Britt, if I may be so blunt, how do you know that? How do you know that Christ did not abolish that as part of the ceremonial law too? How can you so easily deem eating shellfish and pork as ceremonial and homosexual acts as moral ? Does eating a yummy pork chop break Christ’s command to Love God with all our being and also Love our neighbor? How about Adam loving Steve? How does that break Christ’s command to us?
Let’s look at this issue in some more detail. Buckle down, this is going to be a fairly long read – but I hope it will be worth it. Homosexuality in the Bible is very misunderstood, even by me since I consider it ambiguous at best, but it needs to be dealt with.
First, notice that Britt uses the term sodomy for homosexuality. Where does this come from? Turn with me in your Bibles to the 19th chapter of Genesis. Sorry about that. Old Bible Study catch phrases still haunt me from time to time.
Two angels have been sent to Sodom to rescue Lot and his daughters, and to see if there is anyone in the city of enough righteousness to keep YHVH from destroying the entire city. We all know the story from here. Then we get to the key passage:
And they [the men of Sodom] 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. (Gen 19:5)
That word know is the whole problem in this passage. What does it mean? The NKJV gratuitously adds ‘carnally’ to the end of the verse. The NLT and NIV state explicitly that the men want to have sex with the strangers. Is this correct? Honestly, I am not so sure. The Hebrew word yada is rendered as ‘to know’, and is used very rarely in a sexual sense in the Old Testament. In fact, of the 943 times yada is used, only 10 of those cases are used in a sexual manner and none in a homosexual context except Gen 19:5. In fact, when sexual relations are described later in the story between Lot and his daughters, different Hebrew words are used to describe the dirty deed. In this case, yada could just as easily mean ‘beat up’, or ‘abuse’. Why is such an ambiguous term used for this instance, and how can we be so certain what it really means?
Another clue to the meaning of yada comes from the commentary of other Biblical writers. Why did these people think Sodom was destroyed by God? It is true that the Old Testament uses Sodom as an example of evil in numerous places (i.e. Deut 29:23, Deut 32:32, Isa 3:9, Isa 13:19, Lam 4:6, etc, etc,) but never once does it mention the sin being homosexuality. In fact, Ezekiel 16:48-49 lists the sins of Sodom as “pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness…neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy”. No mention of homosexuality. Anywhere. Jesus seems to think that the sin that destroyed Sodom was lack of hospitality, for if strangers were not hospitable to his disciples, they were commanded by Jesus to, “shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mark 11:24).
Do I know the certain answer here? No. But it is just one of those things that is too ambiguous to be sure about. It is surely too ambiguous to use as God’s ‘Holy standard of morality’, or as an indictment to ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’.
Let’s now look directly at Britt’s claim that homosexuality falls under the category of ‘moral law’ in the Mosaic Law Code. The clearest charges against homosexuality are in the following two passages of Leviticus:
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. (Lev 18:22)
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Lev 20:13)
The key word here, and the word I that I think separates moral from certain ceremonial laws, is abomination, here translated from the Hebrew word toevah (another word for abomonation, sheqets, is also occassionally used). In the Mosaic holiness code, homosexuality is an abomination, right along with eating shellfish, wearing clothing of two types of material, or eating pork. Notice that abominations do not include lying, murdering, rape, incest, or anything that clearly harms a fellow human and thus falls under the moral category. Is it morally wrong for a Jew to eat pork? No, morality is not the point here. Rather, eating pork is ceremonially unclean, it is a way to keep their race distinct from the masses, it is, Levitically speaking, unclean or an abomination. Abominations seem to deal with ritual laws like eating pork or engaging in sexual intercourse during menstruation, or condemnations of idolatry. Abominations never deal with moral or civil tort law, unless one is willing to make the sole exception to be the abomination of homosexuality (or bestiality, which is also regarded as abomination) . But such a designation seems wholly arbitrary after considering the categorical designation of toevah that has been provided for us in the very text of the Torah!
If Christ did away with laws of ritual ceremony, he did away with the law of homosexuality.
But what about Paul? Didn’t he condemn homosexuality? Well, let’s take a look…
There are three passages in Paul’s epistles which have been supposed to deal with homosexual relations.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators,…nor effeminate [Greek – malakos], nor abusers of themselves with mankind [Greek – arsenokoitai]…shall inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10)
The Greek word here, malakos, is translated literally as ‘soft’, but given wide meaning in ancient Greek writings. Aristotle used the word to mean unrestraint with respect to bodily pleasures. A slight variation, malakia means ‘disease’ in Matthew. In other Greek writings, it is given such varied meanings as ‘cowardly’, ‘weak willed’, ‘delicate’ and ‘gentle’. More interesting is that these passages were universally interpreted to mean, not homosexuality, but masturbation by Catholic and Protestant churches well into the 20th century, and only very recently came to be interpreted as a condemnation against homosexuality. Indeed, only the most modern translations (i.e. NKJV, NASB, NIV, etc) interpret these passages as an indictment against homosexuality.
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind [Greek – arsenokoitai], for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine (1Tim 1:10)
The Greek word arsenokoitai is very rare in ancient writings, so rare in fact that a a precise translation is very difficult. However, the best evidence suggests very strongly that the word means, not ‘homosexual’, but ‘boy prostitute’. Pederasty, or the sexual relationship between older men and boys was part of normal Greek and Roman culture, but seems to be condemned in these passages by Paul’s Jewish Christian culture. They likely have nothing to do with homosexuality outside of that context.
One more folks. Bare with me a little longer.
The last scriptural passage which Christians use to condemn homosexuals is Romans 1:26-27.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 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 recompence of their error which was meet. (Rom 1:26-27)
What does Paul mean by ‘that which against nature’? It does not seem that a philosophy of an overriding natural law was formulated at the time Paul wrote Romans, but in fact that came hundreds of years later. ‘Nature’, in this case, is not a sense of overriding morality, but a sense of personal character. For instance, referencing Paul, Jews are Jews ‘by nature’ (Gal 2:15), and Gentiles are Gentiles (uncircumcised) ‘by nature’ (Rom 2:27). ‘Nature’ is not a sense of morality, but a sense of personality. What Paul seems to be discussing in Romans 1:26-27 is indeed homosexuality, but homosexuality committed by otherwise heterosexual persons, thus persons who are defying their own ‘nature’. Taken in context, the whole point of Romans 1 is to condemn people who have rejected and left their true calling. What caused the Romans to sin was not that they lacked what Paul considered a proper understanding of morality, but rather that they did have it, yet denied it (Rom 1:21). Paul briefly uses the analogy of a straight man committing homosexual acts to make the point, then continues with his main theme – enumerating the sins of those who have rejected the knowledge of God.
So does the Bible condemn homosexuality as a moral evil? Not as far as I can tell, but even if it does, it is ambiguous at best. But I bring all this up, not because I base my morality on anything the Bible has to say about the matter. Indeed, I do not. And as I confessed earlier, even as a Christian, I did not condemn homosexuality. Rather, I bring this up because Christians, by and large, continue to use the ambiguous Biblical passages that I referenced in this article to condemn Homosexuals. Christians claim that they base their own morality on the Scriptures, thus they condemn homosexuality without considering the ambiguity in their interpretations. The Christian Savior and Redeemer, Jesus of Nazareth, had absolutely nothing to say about homosexuality, yet homosexuality is condemned in the Christian mindset. Yet, by and large, these same Christians have largely ignored many of Jesus’ very clear commands concerning money (Matt 6:19), public piety (Matt 6:3) and divorce (Matt 5:31). What Bible are Christians basing their morality on? Not the one I am reading.
Britt finishes his comment with this:
Needless to say, the O.T., as well as the N.T., clearly condemns homosexuality. An honest handling and interpretation of Scripture will yield nothing otherwise.
Britt, in all seriousness, are you sure about that? I have handled these passages as honestly as I could in this article, and I must say that regarding homosexuality, Scripture, at the very least, quite ambiguous. And I echo all my fellow Christian apostates by crying:
Enough with the Christian bashing of homosexuality already!!
Required reading: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, by John Boswell