The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 9: The ‘Soft’ in 1 Corinthians – the meaning of ‘malakos’



Summary

  • Controversies in the Bible normally come down to issues of translation of certain words. Scholarship is often divided on these words, and we need to be open about the fact that we might have mistranslated and misinterpreted these words in the past.
  • In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul uses the words arsenokoitēs and malakos in a list of sinful behaviours. In the previous article in this series we saw that arsenokoitēs refers to men who paid to have sex with young boys as part of cultic temple prostitution, characterised by coercion, slavery and abuse.
  • Malakos literally means “soft”. When used metaphorically, as Paul uses it in 1 Cor. 6, it refers to any number of things, but most typically to people who are morally weak.
  • When paired with arsenokoitēs, the word may very well refer to young boys who voluntarily prostituted themselves, submitting themselves to being the passive recipient in temple sexual rituals and maintaining an effeminate, or “soft” appearance. It could similarly be applied to “catamites” – young boy sexual companions of Greek or Roman men, who deliberately kept themselves looking pre-pubescent or feminine in order to remain in the relationship.
  • Whatever the exact translation, it is clear that Paul has abusive and coercive, cultic sexual relationships in mind.
  • Neither arsenokoitēs nor malakos can in any way be made to refer to loving, consensual, monogamous same-gender sexual partners or to same-sex relationships in general. Paul knew of such relationships as they were common at the time, and says nothing about them in his letters.

  • This is part 9 of a series of blog posts looking at the issue of the Bible and how Christians should approach the issue of LGBT people and same sex relationships. You can find the full index of the series here.

    Words matter. The Bible wasn’t written in English. In fact, the languages it was written in are no longer used anywhere in the world. In order to understand the Bible, we therefore need to trust that the words we read today have been accurately translated for us, and that we understand their meaning and the meanings of idioms and phrases we find in the Bible. Sometimes the experts will argue – often at length – about the meanings of particular words and phrases. They do this so that we can be sure that we understand what God meant us to understand in the words of the Bible. They do this because words matter.

    My New Testament lecturer when I was at seminary, Prof. Jack Wiid, had written a Masters thesis of about 600 pages on the translation of just one word in the New Testament. He consulted with the NIV translation team on that particular word, convincing them of the correct interpretation. Words matter.

    Take for example two words we’re going to meet again later in this series: “helpmate” and “head”.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 9: The ‘Soft’ in 1 Corinthians – the meaning of ‘malakos’

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 8: Male-Bedders – the meaning of ‘arsenokoitai’



    Summary

  • In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, the Apostle Paul lists sins, and includes a word that is difficult to translate.
  • In fact, it appears that Paul actually made this word up himself. There is no known use of it in the Greek language before he uses it.
  • When an author has a number of well-known terms to use, but chooses to create a new word instead, he must have a specific meaning in mind, and we need to take him seriously in ensuring we understand what he really wanted to say.
  • Most scholars agree that when Paul coins the term arsenokoitēs he is consciously referencing Leviticus and the Holiness Code prohibitions on cultic shrine prostitution.
  • The literary context reinforces the view that Paul has an abusive form of sexual exploitation in mind when he uses this word. This is what his original readers would have understood. And it still applies to us today.
  • It has nothing to do with lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships.
  • So far, we have seen that we cannot look to the specific Old Testament references to homosexuality nor to OT stories usually associated with homosexuality for assistance in our primary goal of discovering whether monogamous LGBT relationships are acceptable to God. As we move to the New Testament, three things immediately strike the reader: (1) none of the NT authors quote or refer to the OT laws about homosexuality; (2) there are no stories of the church dealing with homosexual individuals, even though we know it was absolutely pervasive in the prevailing culture; and (3) Jesus himself has nothing directly to say on the topic.

    There are, in fact, only three verses that refer directly to homosexuality in the New Testament: Romans 1:18-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Most scholars agree that 1 Cor. 6 and 1 Tim. 1 are ambiguous at best, and it is to these that we now turn.

    Why Did Paul Make Up a Word – and What Does It Mean?

    In both of these passages, the author, Paul, uses a particular word to describe people who engaged in activities he considers to be sinful. The Greek word is arsenokoitēs and scholars agree that Paul actually made this word up. Consider this carefully. In a cultural context where homosexuality was considered acceptable and was commonplace, Paul had a number of options for the words he could have used to describe whatever was in his mind. These included, for example, paiderastēs, pallakos, kinaidos, arrenomanēs, and paidophthoros. There are also technical terms, such as the lover (erastēs), the beloved (erōmenos, paidika), to give the body for purposes of intercourse (charis, charidzesthai), as well as slang terms that could have been used to indicate various forms of culturally accepted homosexuality, or even homosexuality in general. Paul doesn’t use any of these.

    We saw in the previous section of this study that homosexuality was referenced extensively in ancient literature. Greek and Roman writers such as Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle and Plutarch all talk about homosexuality, discussing it’s merits and demerits, and none use arsenokoitēs. First-century Jewish writers, Josephus and Philo, wrote about homosexuality, including the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but did not use arsenokoitēs in their works. Early Christian writers like Tatian, Justin Martyr, Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom all wrote negatively about homosexuality, but they used different words and phrases.

    If it was Paul’s intention to deal with general homosexuality or any of these specific activities, he would surely have selected one of the more common and less ambiguous terms available to him. Instead, he chooses to make up a word that previously did not exist in the language. He clearly had something specific in mind. We need to be clear what that is.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 8: Male-Bedders – the meaning of ‘arsenokoitai’

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 7: Graeco-Roman culture and homosexuality



    Summary

  • The sexual ethics prevailing at the time of the New Testament are very different to those we accept as normal today
  • Homosexuality was legal, commonplace and considered normal.
  • In fact, male-male love was considered the highest form of human love.
  • Pederasty (an adult man taking a young boy as a lover) was the most common expression of male sexuality in Graeco-Roman culture.
  • The opposition to homosexual activity at the time was almost exclusively an opposition to exploitation of young boys in pederastic relationships.

  • We’re at part 7 of this series, and we arrive now at the New Testament. There are three verses that reference same-gender sexual activity directly, and some references by Jesus to the form of marriage (made in response to a question about divorce). Before we deal with each of these verses in turn, we need to understand the prevailing culture of the Graeco-Roman world in which the NT was written. This context is vital to our own understanding of the Biblical texts we will look at.

    Some people use this cultural context to say that Paul’s commands to us today can safely be ignored. They put these in the same category as the length of men’s hair, women wearing jewellery or the repeated commands to greet each with “a holy kiss”. While it is important to understand how Biblical instructions and principles should be applied today – and we will see when we look at Romans 1 in a few posts from now that we cannot avoid the question of applicability in one key area of Paul’s “argument against nature” – I don’t rely on this line of argument to make my point. I don’t think Paul was anti-women, and I don’t think Paul was anti-gay. I think we’ve misunderstood his instructions, and in some cases even mistranslated his words.

    So, to understand Paul – and Jesus – better, we need to get an understanding of how the world they lived in treated homosexuality and homosexuals – and dispel some myths in this regard. This will help us understand what they were saying when they talked about it.

    The Graeco-Roman world

    A few years before Jesus was born, in 27BC, Octavian became sole ruler of Rome, ended the Roman Republic and began the Roman Empire. He became Augustus Caesar, and ruled until 14AD, rapidly expanding the Roman Empire. Judaea and the Middle East were conquered in 6BC, becoming Roman provinces. In 54AD, Nero became Emperor, and he waged a brutal assault on both Jews and Christians, culminating in the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70AD.

    Throughout Jesus’ lifetime and the period of the writing of the New Testament (commonly held to have been completed towards the end of the first century AD), the Roman Empire, with it’s amalgam of Greek traditions and language with Roman culture and law, was the dominant cultural backdrop. The most significant issue for the early followers of Christ, who were all Jewish, was how to take the message of Jesus – a Judaean-based Jew – and make it relevant and accessible to “the Gentiles”. Paul, a Jewish scholar, trained in Greek and a religious leader held in high esteem yet also a Roman citizen, was the ideal “Apostle to the Gentiles”. Many of his writings address this specific issue, with the books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews (who’s author is unattributed) almost entirely devoted to this topic.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 7: Graeco-Roman culture and homosexuality

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 6: Leviticus: The Holiness Code, Ancient Sex Ethics and Abominations



    Summary

  • The Laws of the Old Testament don’t apply to us today, but even if they did they say nothing about homosexuality as we know it today.
  • The laws that talk of same-gender male sexual activity in the Old Testament are embedded in the context of idolatry and male shrine prostitution.
  • The “abomination” that God detests is idolatry.
  • Leviticus 18-20 are still valuable today, as a reminder that we should not allow our worship of God to be sullied by idolatry. Paul is going to pick this theme up in Romans 1.

  • In the previous post in this series, I showed that Christians should not look to the Old Testament Law to make moral judgements today. That does not mean the Old Testament Law should be ignored. Jesus and the Apostles relied on it to show the character of God, the nature of sin and as a symbol that pointed to Christ. So, although it is not binding on us today, we should nevertheless still study and understand it.

    We therefore turn to Leviticus 18 and 20, and the two verses that talk about male same-gender sexual activity (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13). Lev. 18 – 20 form a unit, with various prohibitions laid out in Lev. 18 and 19, and then a selection of these repeated in Lev. 20 with specific punishments prescribed.

    Progressive Christians have explained why these verses do not apply to homosexuality today in a number of ways. I don’t agree with all of these, but they are worth considering briefly to show you that the interpretation is not quite as straightforward as our English translations suggest:

    • We ignore other laws in Leviticus and the Old Testament, so on what basis do we apply these laws on homosexuality? This was dealt with in depth in the previous section. Note that it is really just the laws about tattoos, having sex with a women during menstruation, cross breeding animals, planting different seeds in a field and wearing a garment made of different materials that are relevant for this discussion, as they appear in the same chapters of Leviticus. They do cause problems for the traditional interpretation, as does the death penalty punishment for homosexuality. We shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we apply and which we don’t without very clear principles.
    • In the NIV translation, the law says: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman. That is detestable.” The actual translation of the Hebrew however says: “With a male you shall not lie lyings of a woman; it is taboo.” This was a strange phraseology, even in ancient Hebrew, and indicates that the author had something specific in mind. There are two additional translation problems here: the Hebrew language does not actually have a word for ‘homosexual’, and the translation of ‘abomination’ (KJV) or ‘detestable’ in many Bible versions is an incredibly bad translation of the original Hebrew word. We’ll look at these in detail below.
    • Though there are many laws in Leviticus that limit female sexual behaviour, female same-sex activity is never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. This seems a significant oversight if indeed the intention is to prohibit homosexuality and lesbianism in general. These verses must therefore be about some specific form of homosexual activity.
    • Jewish scholar and rabbi, Jacob Milgrom adds that the lack of female-female references could also be that the issue was the male “spilling of the seed” (see the sexual ethics section below) that was the primary motivation for this law. Uneasiness about non-procreative sexuality was a factor in Old Testament – and perhaps also the New Testament – treatments of homosexuality.
    • The prohibition in both Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 talks of not having sex with a man as one does with a woman. This extra phrase would seem to be redundant. Surely the law – written to men – could just have been “don’t have sex with a man”? “As one does with woman” adds a qualifier, which can be understood only in the context of the treatment and status of women in ancient culture. Women were property of men, and subservient to them. They had to do what the men commanded them to, and this included sexual activity. This is the reason why there is no corresponding law prohibiting women from having lesbian sex with other women – the thought that women would have sex for their own pleasure was inconceivable. These verses might therefore better be translated: “You shall not sexually use a man as property, nor may you sexually subjugate another man as you would do a woman”. This would then be a restriction on a particular form of same-gender sexuality, and not a prohibition against homosexuality in general.
    • Matthew Vines, in “God and the Gay Christian” argues that the the moral logic for the homosexual prohibitions in Lev 18:22 and 20:13 is because of a cultural, assumed male hierarchy. That is, men were valued above women, and when men have sex with other men they treat the passive partner as a mere woman, and this is unacceptable. Although this was undoubtedly true culturally, I don’t think this is a good way to interpret the meaning of these verses.
    • These prohibitions against male same-gender sexual activity have to do with temple prostitution, and not homosexuality in general. This is the most compelling view for me, and we’ll look at it in detail below.
    • These verses are only prohibiting anal sex. Homosexuals who engage in other sexual activities or who remain celibate would be free to be in lifelong, covenantal relationships.
    • Most scholars argue that some laws in the Old Testament were specifically for Israel and others were for everyone everywhere. This is obviously true of the civil laws applying to Israel’s nationhood and of dietary laws, which were for Israel only. It’s argued that since Leviticus 18:2 (the heading for this section of laws) starts with, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God'”, that the laws that follow applied only to Israel back then, and not today.

    From the above brief comments, it should be immediately obvious that “the simple reading” of the verses is not quite what they might seem. At very least, there are significant question marks over what the verses might mean and how we could apply them today, and we should therefore be very careful of building a theology which sentences homosexuals to hell on the basis of these verses.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 6: Leviticus: The Holiness Code, Ancient Sex Ethics and Abominations

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 5: Consistency, Punishments and the New Covenant



    Summary

  • There are different categories of the Old Testament Law. Each category should be understood and applied in different ways today.
  • None of the Old Testament Law is binding on Christians today.
  • Only commands given in the New Testament, under the New Covenant are binding today.
  • We cannot use Leviticus 18 and 20 to inform our present day discussions about LGBT issues.

  • Before we move on to look at the two verses in Leviticus that talk of male same-gender sexual acts, we need to look again at how we deal with the Bible, especially the Old Testament Law. Many of these laws are still in place today, but many are not. We need to know what principles are used to determine which laws apply and which do not. We need to look at three specific issues: consistency, punishments and the New Covenant.

    Being Consistent with the Old Testament Law

    In his book, “A Year of Living Biblically”, Esquire magazine writer, AJ Jacobs, attempted to follow every law laid out in the Old Testament for a full year. Similarly, Christian author, Rachel Held Evans chronicles her attempts to live out the laws and commands for women in the Bible in “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master'”. Neither succeeded in their quests – often hilariously so – because the lists of laws in the Bible (not forgetting that Jewish and Christian traditions add hundreds more) are literally impossible to follow in their entirety. This should give us a clue as to their nature and purpose.

    It is fairly simple to see that some of the laws of the Old Testament have fallen away. The most obvious are the dietary and food laws, and the system of sacrifices and offerings. The reason these no longer apply is because they were pointing to what Jesus would do. They showed us that God was holy and that we were not, and they showed us our need for God. When Jesus came, He became the ultimate expression of these truths. We do not need these laws anymore, and we can safely leave them as a historical record that is no longer binding on us. There are also laws related to Israel as a nation. These too have fallen away, as the New Covenant is no longer for a specific nation-state.

    But there are some laws that feel universal and eternal. Like “do not kill” and “do not lie”. These are often referred to as the “moral laws” and it is claimed that we can ignore all other laws, but not these.

    In theory this sounds good and reasonable. In reality, it’s not as easy to work out which laws are the laws that are strictly moral, and therefore still applicable, and which were only meant for Israel and for a time. Add to this the fact that “The Law” is usually spoken about in the singular. It was a unit, and meant to be treated as such, as James 2:10, for example, tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” This is how Jesus referenced it too (e.g. Matthew 22:40) – it is meant to be taken as a whole.

    So, how do we as Christians deal with a set of instructions that include prohibitions against things that are considered completely acceptable today? Do we abandon it all? Or embrace it all? Or are there some principles we can use to distinguish which we abandon and which we apply? The biggest issue we have in determining which parts of the Old Testament Law we should apply today is consistency.

    The only possible way to do this is by creating categories of laws, claiming that some categories are still in force while others have fallen away or been superseded. This has been the approach of traditional interpreters of the Law. And they claim that the two laws against homosexual behaviour fall into the the “moral” category, which is universal and eternal.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 5: Consistency, Punishments and the New Covenant

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 4: Sodomites in Genesis (and Judges)



    Summary

  • The sins for which Sodom, Gomorrah and Gibeah were destroyed were not related to loving, covenantal same sex relationships.
  • The Bible tells us what the sins of Sodom were, and they do not include any sexual sins. We must let the Bible interpret the Bible.
  • Even if we focus on just the one night of violence in these stories, the sin of the men of these cities was inhospitability, murder, rape and abuse.
  • We cannot use these Old Testament stories to inform our decisions about loving, covenantal, monogamous same sex relationships.

  • The Old Testament contains two stories that are very similar, in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 – 20. For those who see the Bible opposing homosexuality, these stories show God’s disgust and punishment of ‘sodomy’. Both stories are truly disturbing, and do indeed detail disgusting acts of homosexual and heterosexual violence. But the Bible itself interprets these stories for us, giving very specific reasons why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, and it has nothing to do with covenantal, monogamous same sex relationships.

    Biblical scholar, Mark Jordan in his book, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology sums it up best: “Even if the story were about lust, it is about rape, not homosexuality. The Sodomites were not ‘gay’. They were rapists. This is why Lot could offer his daughters in replacement, why the Judges version of the tale actually has a female substitute, and why those few Biblical references to Sodom as being sexually-related speak in general terms rather than specific ones” (my emphasis).

    Let’s look at the evidence in detail.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 4: Sodomites in Genesis (and Judges)

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 3: How we interpret the Bible



    Summary

  • The “plain reading” of the Bible is impossible, if you’re not reading it in the original language and cultural context it was written in.
  • My approach to Biblical interpretation is informed by conservative, evangelical exegesis and hermeneutic traditions.
  • The Bible is God’s Word.
  • The Bible is not a Constitution or legal document.


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    For Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s Word, and therefore key to guiding their lives, the issues of homosexuality and same sex marriage are almost entirely issues of Biblical interpretation.

    I realise that some people reading this series of articles on homosexuality may find it strange that the debate revolves around an ancient set of books. For those who don’t see the Bible as inspired by God, it’s easy to explain away the references to homosexuality as outdated, mere cultural artefacts and/or irrelevant for us today. I do not take this view. I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and that it is God’s Word for us today. But, as I stated in the previous section of this discussion, I believe that it is possible for us to have been wrong in our interpretation of God’s Word, and also possible for God to adjust His requirements for us over time.

    My approach in seeking answers on any life issue is always to go back to Scripture and what God has already said to His people and the principles He has laid out for our lives. And so we now focus attention on the Bible as we attempt to find out what Christians should believe about homosexuality and same sex marriage today.

    What ‘The Word’ Is

    The Bible has been different things to different people over many centuries. There are many different ways that Christians have interpreted the Bible – and continue to do so even to this day. From completely allegorical approaches to completely literalist interpretations, no tradition has ever been able to definitively “prove” their tradition to be without fault – each has some element that is open to debate and causes people to attempt to study further and try and refine it. Or replace it with something else.

    I believe that part of the reason for this is that only in Jesus Himself is complete Truth to be found. Jesus claimed this for Himself, when He claimed to be The Truth, and John especially refers to Him as The Word. Finding truth then is about having a relationship with a person and a deity, not merely about putting a series of facts in the right order. And, as I said in the previous entry, it might be that the whole point of our faith journey is that we continue to develop and grow throughout each of our lifetimes.

    Let’s be honest, if God really wanted to write a rule book or Constitution which would have very little room for negotiation, He could have done so. But He didn’t do that. Or, to be slightly irreverent, if God intended to give us such a rule book, He really hasn’t done a good job at all.

    What I Believe About ‘The Word’

    I know that people can be God-honouring Christians and have a variety of different views on the Bible. I also know that you don’t have to be a conservative evangelical in order to take the Bible seriously. But that is my tradition. It is also the tradition out of which much of the Biblical opposition arises. It is therefore the approach to the Bible that I am going to follow. I consider myself to be an evangelical.

    To be very specific about what I believe the Bible to be:
    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 3: How we interpret the Bible

    The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 2: Do God and the Bible Change?



    Summary

  • God may or may not change over time, but our understanding of Him definitely does.
  • God’s instructions to His people have adapted over time, and will continue to do so.
  • There is a redemptive arc to history, as God keeps pushing His people to be ahead of, and counter-cultural to, the contexts they live in.
  • Change is not bad. In fact, it is an essential element of Christian life.

  • For over two thousands years the majority of Christians have believed the Bible to be very clear in its teachings on homosexuality (although the Bible says nothing about bisexual or transgender people, this has always been implied). It hasn’t been unanimous (as we’ll see in later posts), but it has been the accepted position. If Christians are going to change their position, we have to first deal with whether God’s instructions can change.

    There are two ways to respond to this. The first is that it is possible for us to misunderstand God’s instructions and then adjust our views as we learn more or gain more insights. The second is that God might not change in principle, but His instructions to us can adapt over time.

    Note: There is debate in Christian circles about a so-called open view of God, which claims that God Himself changes and adapts over time. This is an interesting conversation, but not a prerequisite for the view I am proposing. An open view of God is not required in order to accept that God’s instructions to us can change over time.

    Adjustments Required

    There are many examples through history of our misreading Scripture, or of imposing a deficient knowledge of the world onto Scripture. For example, ancient societies thought of the world as flat. They were able to point to the Bible to back this up. Genesis tells us that the sky is a dome that stretches to the edges of the earth. We read in Job and Psalms and elsewhere that the sky is held up by pillars. And we read in many places that the sun rises and sets (rather than the earth rotating). It was on the basis of these verses and the related theological belief that we must clearly be the centre of God’s creation that led the church to so vehemently oppose Galileo and Copernicus. Both scientists were essentially forced to recant their heliocentric worldviews. Galileo was condemned and lived under house arrest, and an apology and “release” only issued in 1991.

    We’ve had to make similar adjustments to our beliefs on all sorts of issues, including the divine right of kings, the validity of war, preferred economic systems, the morality of child labour, female leadership, evolution, young earth creationism and women’s suffrage. Most of these changes have come due to advances in physical and social sciences, and advances in our knowledge of the world.

    In each of these cases (not all of which have been resolved nor are universally accepted by Christians even to this day), we have realised that it was not God or the Scriptures that have changed. Rather, as our own understanding of the world we live in has advanced, we realise we had misinterpreted or just misrepresented what Scripture had been saying all along. It most typically boils down to a misuse of a particular Biblical genre – for example, reading a poem as if it was intended to be science or history.

    God Engages Us Where We Are

    More controversially for some, there are examples of God updating and adjusting His instructions to different people over time. Reading the Bible in chronological order, you can’t help but see these progressions in many issues.

    The easiest example, possibly, is in worship practices.

    Continue reading The Bible and Same Sex Relationships, Part 2: Do God and the Bible Change?

    List of resources affirming same sex marriage from the Bible

    I recently started a series in which I am going to work through the case for affirming same sex marriage from the Bible. I am not the only one doing this, and I’d like to list other resources that can assist you on this journey, as we change our view of what the Bible demands of us as Christians. I already have a list of books you can read.

    I will keep an updated list of websites and blogs here. If you’d like to something to this list, please email me or put the details in a comment below.

    Resources supporting the affirmation of same sex marriages from the Bible

    Other recommended resources



    I will be posting my own theological study on this blog over the next few months. The first part of that series is now available here.

    The Biblical case for Christians affirming same sex marriage, Part 1: The arguments against

    Over the next few months, I will use this blog to outline the Biblical case for Christians to affirm our LGBT brothers and sisters, and to affirm same sex marriages that align to the Biblical standard of faithfulness, monogamy and covenant relationship. I have not always believed this, having grown up in the home of a conservative Baptist pastor. I have no personal reason to take this stand: I am not gay (I have been happily married for 24 years), none of my immediate family are LGBT (as far as I know and can ascertain), and all of my LGBT friends are perfectly capable of defending themselves (if they even feel they need to). If you want to know more about who I am, see the About tab on this blog.

    I have spent over ten years studying this topic, and reading almost everything written about it from a Biblical and Christian perspective. I have done in depth Biblical studies, and Greek and Hebrew analysis, and have engaged in numerous discussions and forums to try and hone my thinking. My position has developed over that decade, and for much of it, I was very tentative about making a change to 2,000 years of church teachings on the topic (although I will show later that this is not quite as clear or unanimous as you might think). But now, in 2015, I am prepared to be clear and unequivocal: I believe that God has created human beings with a range of sexual expressions, and these are to be celebrated (not just “accepted” or “affirmed”). I believe that the Bible, as God’s Word, does not speak against LGBT people who are seeking monogamous, faithful, lifelong marriage with a same sex partner – in fact, it invites them to covenant to each other in the eyes of God and the community, and encourages them to enjoy all aspects of their married relationships including sexual activity.

    I do believe we’ve been wrong on this issue. And I believe it’s time to change. Not because we’re acquiescing to a changing culture, or because we should ignore outdated Bible verses, but very specifically because we can see God’s blessing on LGBT people and their marriages as we do on “straight” people and their marriages. There is no distinction to be made. And we can say this while confidently claiming that God’s Word is as relevant today as it ever was.

    Continue reading The Biblical case for Christians affirming same sex marriage, Part 1: The arguments against

    Graeme Codrington's musings on a new kind of Christianity