A Theology of Sexuality

Clearly, there are few contemporary issues more divisive than the issue of sexual orientation and how its viewed in light of Scripture.

Before I begin this particular essay, allow me to make three things clear:

  1. I have gay friends.  I love them deeply.  I have had them in my home, taken them to dinner, and told one young gay man that I wished he were my son.  Additionally, I have a close family member who is gay.  My love and respect for these precious people is no different from my love and respect for anyone else on the planet.
  2. I typically limit my blogs to 500-750 words (less than a page). This one is different and, as such, requires significantly more room to not only convey my convictions on this issue, but to also respond to common misuses of Scripture to support the homosexual lifestyle.
  3. This is a painful topic for me.  I have tried (on more than one occasion) to make homosexuality work biblically.  Frankly, it would make my life a lot easier as a pastor.  I desperately want to be able to read the Bible and say, “There it is!  I found the verse/passage!  God approves of homosexuality!” But it’s not there.  Nowhere.  In the end, I simply couldn’t make it work.  And neither can anyone else who researches the Bible honestly and without bias.  To do so would require us to re-write Scripture – which is exactly what some are doing.

Speaking out on this issue means one thing for certain:  you will be persecuted; you will be called names (homophobic, bigoted, etc.), you will be misunderstood.

NBC News once tweeted:

“A record percentage of Americans support gay marriage, new poll finds.”

NYT best-selling author, Eric Metaxas, retweeted NBC’s statement and replied,

“And this, of course, has nothing to do with their being told over & over for years that not to [support gay marriage] is unconscionably bigoted and despicable.”

Sadly, those who champion “tolerance” tend to be the most hatefully intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their worldviews.  The saying is true for those who fit this behavior:  “I want to hear your opinion, as long as it’s my opinion coming out of your mouth.” This vitriol toward those who choose to hold to biblical view of marriage is the most blatant example of hate, hypocrisy and bigotry in contemporary North America.

Rick Warren said it best:

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

But I am not afraid of the bullies.  The topic of “the Bible & Sexual Orientation” demands and deserves clarity where correctly handling the word of truth is concerned.  Here we go…

 

Introduction

I am, and have always been, a huge fan of Elton John – he is a brilliant pianist, and an extraordinary composer and song-writer.  Further, he is one of the pianists on whom I pattern my own playing style.  That said, in Feb. 2010, he made headlines by stating the following:

“I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.  On the cross he forgave the people who crucified him.  Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving.”

As much as I (still) love Elton John (and listen to his music), I couldn’t let that one go.

Making sweeping statements about Jesus being gay was a bad idea, blatantly contradictory to what Jesus, himself, teaches in Scripture.  Can you imagine if Elton John had made this careless comment about Muhammad? But Satan’s not one bit concerned with blemishing the name or reputation of just any man – only Jesus.

In sum, Elton John has never professed to having a saving faith in Christ.  So it’s easy to discount his reckless comment.

 

When professed Christians announce they’re gay.

In 2008, Christian singer/songwriter, Ray Boltz, announced he was gay.  And, according to him, God made him that way.  Bolts, writer of huge Christian hits like “Thank You”, “The Anchor Holds”, and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb”, announced to the world his decades-long struggle with his sexuality.

Mark Mooring, of Christianity Today, wrote of Boltz’ “coming out” in Sep. of 2008:

Ray Boltz, who sold about 4.5 million records before retiring from Christian music a few years ago, came out of the closet Friday to announce that he’s gay.

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid,” Boltz, 55 (at the time), told the magazine.  “I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am; and I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore…”

Boltz also told The Blade that he doesn’t want to get into debates about Scripture… For him, the decision to come out is much more personal.

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says.  “If this is the way God made me, then this is they way I’m going to live.  It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be… I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

I suspect there’s a reason Boltz didn’t want to get into debates about Scripture.  He would be forced to reconcile Scripture with his conviction that God made him gay, which is impossible.

In Oct., 2005, Texas Tech basketball superstar, Sheryl Swoopes, another professed Christian, announced that she was gay.  She told ESPN,

“I know there are going to be some negative things said, too.  But it doesn’t change who I am.”

So, what do you do when self-proclaimed “born again”, high profile Christians not only go public with their homosexuality, but then begin to state that that’s the way God made them?

We love them just like we would love anyone else.

 

Before I continue, allow me to offer two thoughts:

  1. Jesus Christ doesn’t need me to defend him.  My objective in this blog is to, hopefully, offer a theological framework regarding homosexuality i.e. what the Bible says; what the Bible doesn’t say, and how to respond to common arguments delivered from those who try and support homosexuality biblically.
  2. God hates heterosexual sin every bit as much as he hates homosexual sin.  Our modern Christian culture tends to ease up on the former while blasting the latter.  David Kinnaman, in his outstanding book, UnChristian, quotes Shayne Wheeler.  Wheeler writes, “The Bible is clear: homosexualt practice is inconsistent with Christian discipleship.  (It’s sin.) But there is not a special judgment for homosexuals, and there is not a special righteousness for heterosexuals.”  Kinnaman comments, “Rather than articulating a biblical perspective and living out a biblical response to homosexuals, [our] research demonstrates how inconsistent and un-compassionate we have been.”

 

The Gay Gene Debate

In 1993, Science Magazine published an article claiming that scientist, Dean Hamer, had discovered the “gay gene”, providing a “eureka!” moment for the LGBTQ community.  But, soon thereafter, the same publication, Science Magazine, printed an article stating the “gay gene” discovery was unfounded:

“Time and time again, scientists have claimed particular genes…are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings [when they later discover they were wrong]. Unfortunately, [these theories are] announced with great fanfare, all greeted [without argument] in the media, and now in [disgrace].  Dr. Joel Gelernter, Yale University;  Science Magazine, 1994

No Gay Gene! Case Closed! But it isn’t that easy…

  1. I’ve counseled Christian teens over the years with what psychologists call “gender confusion.”  In other words, they begin genuinely experiencing an attraction to the same gender.  This is a hugely fragile issue with which to deal.
  2. This begs the question: “Where does that attraction originate?”
    • On April 4, 2007, Dr. Francis Collins, one of the world’s leading scientists on the cutting edge of DNA research, published an article by The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.  Collins states:
      • “An area of particularly strong public interest is the genetic basis of homosexuality.  Evidence…indicates that sexual orientation is genetically influenced, but not hard-wired, by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.”

    • In other words – in regard to homosexuality – a person is gay not, as Ray Boltz advocates, “because God made me that way”, but rather because of very complex environmental, biological and psychological contexts.  There are a myriad of contextual factors that can work together to convince a person – child or adult – that he/she is gay.

 

Responding to Pro-Homosexual Interpretations of Scripture

General Comments:

Pro-homosexual clergy are forced not only to jump through theological hoops to make their interpretations work, they’re forced to outright ignore the clear teaching of scripture, their methods of interpretation being grossly irresponsible.

One attack on biblical integrity comes from a very intelligent, very kind, Harvard-trained young man named Matthew Vines.  Vines, in his book, God and the Gay Christian, claims he has a “high view of scripture.”  But, so does Satan or he wouldn’t have used it against Jesus in the temptation narratives.

Vines’, like others who hold to his worldview, pervasively ignores biblical context and principle.  And, as any intelligent person knows, when biblical context is ignored you are easily able to force-fit a cherry-picked verse or passage mean whatever you want it to mean.  Cult leaders do this all the time. Misrepresenting what God’s has said, historically, been a common enemy tactic, Satan giving a masterful performance in Eden deceiving even Adam and Eve.

Biblical Responses to Pro-Homosexual Arguments:

  1. Jesus never addressed homosexuality so who’s to say it’s wrong?Jesus most certainly addressed this topic.  Further, as God in the flesh, he is author of the entire Bible, not merely the gospels.
  2. David & Jonathan are examples of a God-approved gay relationship.Gay & lesbian religious leadership often cite David’s relationship with Jonathan in 1 Samuel, specifically 18:1, and 20:17, as an example of biblically approved homosexuality.
      • After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself... And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself. (1 Samuel 18:1, 20:17)
    • To pluck this out of scripture and create an entire doctrine for homosexuality is embarrassingly irresponsible.  Theologian/professor, Douglas Moo, rightly states about this passage:
      • “To cast the relationship between David and Jonathan in a homosexual light is to simply reach for something that isn’t there.”
  3. Your traditional interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 is inaccurate.Here’s the text:
  4. God didn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality.  He destroyed them for being inhospitable.Using Ezekiel 16:49 as a launching pad, of sorts, pro-homosexual groups claim that Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was “not aiding the poor and needy.”  Additionally, they point to the absence of any mention of homosexuality in other passages than mention the destruction of the two ancient cities (cf. Matthew 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-12).
    1. The problem with this argument, aside from a complete disregard for the totality of scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality, are the following:
      • Although the isolated gospel texts do not specifically mention homosexuality, the don’t exclude it either.
      • But, even aside from that, this argument is yet another example of using isolated passages to support one’s argument. In his second letter, Peter, building his case for a future divine judgment uses Sodom and Gomorrah as one example of “shameful immorality” – not being inhospitable.
      • Finally, Jude 7 leaves no doubt as to why they were judged:
        • 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.”
  5. Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 do not apply because the Old Testament Law no longer applies to New Testament Christians.This argument is common and usually begins something like this:  “Why do we still enforce Leviticus 18:22, which clearly prohibits homosexuality, and not, for instance, enforce Leviticus 19:28, which prohibits tattoos, or 19:30, which commands us to keep the Sabbath?”  This is actually a very good question.
    • Most Christians are ignorant of the relationship of the Old Testament Law to the new covenant of grace and salvation through Christ (the New Testament).  In a nutshell, Jesus fulfilled the Law – he satisfied the requirements to “be good enough” before a holy, righteous, just, terrifying God.  But, note Jesus’ words:
    • “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” 

    • What was the purpose of the OT Law? Paul spends some time answering this question in his letter to the Galatians.  In sum, it was given by God to “show people their sins,” i.e. to expose to us our desperate need for a Savior, to serve as a high-powered mirror, magnifying to us our sin and futile inability to save ourselves.
    • So, isn’t the OT Law null and void?  Part of it.  The Law comprised requirements in varying areas of everyday life.  Most theologians divide the Law up into three general areas:  civil/social, ceremonial and health.  While many of those Laws were fulfilled in Christ, the moral law is still in play (hatred, murder, gossip, lying, any sexual sin, etc.)  In fact, when Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment (in the Law),” he quoted Deuteronomy, part of the OT moral Law, making it crystal clear that the moral law will always apply.  With Jesus’ first coming, many aspects of the Law were brought to fruition.  However, other aspects of the Law were to remain in force until Christ’s return.  In sum, to claim the OT moral law is no longer applicable is, by the testimony of scripture itself, not true.  And to disregard the Old Testament is to disregard Holy scripture.
    • The agenda of the pro-homosexual clergy clouds their hermeneutic (principles of interpretation).  There is such a desperation to make the Bible say what they want it to say that sound scholarship is completely disregarded.
  6. Jesus never discriminate against anyone.In 2014, CNN printed the following about former president, Jimmy Carter:
      • “President Jimmy Carter – a lifelong Baptist and Sunday School teacher – spoke out for gay rights at a college in Michigan.  ‘I never knew of any word or action of Jesus Christ that discriminated against anyone,’ Carter said, provoking huge applause.”

    • I love Jimmy Carter.  Always have.  But that was a horribly irresponsible misrepresentation of the character of Christ and the purpose of his life on earth.  The word “discriminate” means “to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups.” Sure, Jesus never discriminated. Whether you were Jew, Roman, a woman, Samaritan, a leper, it didn’t matter – Jesus loved every person equally and without bias. But, given the context in which Carter uses the term “discriminate”, the implication is problematic on many biblical levels.  Although Jesus loves all people equally, he is clearly discriminatory when it comes to how we live our lives. Further, consider the following:
    • What was fair about God saving Noah’s family and drowning the rest of the world?  What was fair about God choosing Israel as his chosen people and not another tribe or nation?  What was fair about Jesus letting the rich young ruler walk away sad?  What was fair about Jesus healing some, but not others?  And, what is fair about Jesus clearly saying many will burn in an eternal hell if they don’t place their faith in him?
    • Do not the above biblical passages not sound unfair and discriminatory?
      • They do if we define “fair” using mere human logic, intellect and reason – which is largely subjective and fluid.
    • Is Jesus discriminating against people?  No.  But he is discriminating against sin.  President Carter’s words skewed the very foundation of the gospel.

 

No Third Way

In Oct., 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention terminated its relationship with New Heart Community Churh in La Mirada, CA.   Rather than choose between homosexuality being approved or condemned by God, Pastor Cortez settled on the “middle of the road/straddling the fence/who am I to judge?” position and decided there must be a “third way.”  This “third way” is found nowhere in scripture.

Southern Seminary president, Al Mohler:

Cortez cited Vineyard pastor, Ken Wilson’s, book, released earlier this year (2014), A Letter to my Congregation.  Wilson, who serves a Vineyard church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, describes his book as “an evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian, and transgender in the company of Jesus.”  Wilson argues that, even as he has come to affirm same-sex behaviors and relationships, the issue need not divide congregations or Christians.

Pastor Cortez cited Wilson’s argument as foundational to the position he and his church are now taking i.e. “agree to disagree and not cast judgment on one another.”

But, there is no third way.  A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them.  Eventually, every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue.  It is just a matter of time before every congregation in the nation faces this test.

 

Final Thoughts, Personal Convictions & a Story

In Brief

  1. Homosexuality is nothing new.  It’s as old as the book of Genesis.
  2. The Genesis 18-19 passages notwithstanding, the Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments – not only clearly categorize homosexuality as sin, but teach the biblical model for sexual relationships as being between male and female within the context of marriage.  (cf. Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; Romans 1:26-28, Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31)
  3. In reference to God’s design for marriage, the Bible is replete with examples of God’s abiding principle and plan for romantic relationships.  From Adam & Eve to Abraham & Sarah to Ruth & Boaz, Joseph & Mary, God’s biblical design for dating and marriage has, from the beginning, been male and female.  There is zero support for ,and/or approval of, same-sex marriage in the Bible.

 

The Body of Christ

  • Can you be gay and be a Christian?  Of course
  • Should gay individuals/couples be allowed to visit/attend your church?  Absolutely
  • How should a church approach homosexuals?  With love and respect – no differently than heterosexuals.
  • Should the presence of gay church attendees soften a church’s preaching or position on the topic of homosexuality?  No

 

Same-Sex Marriage

  • Do I believe same-sex marriage is prohibited in scripture?  Yes
  • Would I attend the wedding of a gay friend?  Yes
  • Would I enjoy myself and enjoy getting to know my gay friend’s community of friends?  Very much
  • Would I celebrate that union?  No

 

General

  • Would I have a gay individual/couple over to my house?  I have.  And I will again.
  • If asked, would I hide my conviction where homosexuality is concerned?  No
  • Will i ever stand silently when – over any topic – our culture attempts to re-write scripture?  Never

 

A Story – excerpt from Philip Yancey’s award-winning, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

I knew no one who lived with more verve and abandon. He was generous to a fault.  Mel had a devoted wife and two children.  He taught at Fuller Seminary, served as pastor of a local church and wrote best-selling books for Christians.  More than anyone my wife and I knew, Mel made us feel fully alive.

We had been friends for about five years when I got a call from Mel asking if we could meet.  During our meeting, Mel shut his eyes, breathed deeply a few times, and began our conversation with a sentence I will never forget. “Philip, you’ve probably already figured out that I’m gay.”

The thought had never once crossed my mind.

At that time, despite the neighborhood I lived in, I did not know one gay person. I knew nothing about the subculture. I joked about it and told stories about the Gay Pride Parade (which marched down my street) to my suburban friends, but I had no homosexual acquaintances, much less friends. The idea repulsed me.

Now I was hearing that one of my best friends had a secret side I knew nothing about. I sat back in my chair, took a few deep breaths of my own, and asked Mel to tell me his story.

I learned from Mel that homosexuality is not the casual lifestyle choice I had blithely assumed it to be. As Mel spells out in his book, Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America, he felt homosexual longings from adolescence, tried hard to repress those longings, and as an adult fervently sought a “cure.” He fasted, prayed, and was anointed with oil for healing. He went through exorcism rites led by Protestants and also by Catholics. He signed up for aversion therapy, which jolted his body with electricity every time he felt stimulated by photos of men.  Above all else, Mel wanted desperately not to be gay.

It occurred to me that my own life would be much simpler if I had never met Mel White. But he was my friend—how should I treat him? What would grace have me do? What would Jesus do?

At one point, a TV interviewer asked Mel’s parents on-camera, “You know what other Christians are saying about your son. They say he’s an abomination. What do you think that?

“Well,” the mother answered in a sweet, quavery voice, “he may be an abomination, but he’s still our pride and joy.” That line has stayed with me because I came to see it as a heartrending definition of grace. I came to see that Mel White’s mother expressed how God views every one of us. In some ways we are all abominations to God—All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God —and yet somehow, against all reason, God loves us anyhow. Grace declares that we are still God’s pride and joy.

My study of Jesus’ life convinces me that whatever barriers we must overcome in treating “different” people cannot compare to what a holy God—who dwelled in the Most Holy Place, and whose presence caused fire and smoke to belch from mountaintops, bringing death to any unclean person who wandered near—overcame when he descended to join us on planet Earth.

A prostitute, a wealthy exploiter, a demon-possessed woman, a Roman soldier, a Samaritan with running sores and another Samaritan with serial husbands—I marvel that Jesus gained the reputation as being a “friend of sinners” like these.

We may be abominations (all of us who have ever lived), but we are still God’s pride and joy. All of us in the church need “grace-healed eyes” to see the potential in others for the same grace that God has so lavishly bestowed on us. “To love a person,” said Dostoevsky, “means to see him as God intended him to be.”

To all my LGBTQ friends:  you are welcome at my table anytime.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick