Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

A few days ago, Kevin DeYoung, author and senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, wrote an excellent article for the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “Five Questions For Christians Who Believe The Bible Supports Gay Marriage” (read it here). It is exactly the type of contribution we should be having on this important issue: clear, calm, reasonable, rational and inviting engagement. This is typical of Kevin’s style and contribution.

His five questions are really important. And they are addressed to Christians precisely like me: God-fearing, Jesus-following, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians who have become convinced “that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship.” This is a topic I have spent over a decade researching, discussing and praying through, and am convinced that the traditional view on homosexuality is incorrect.

Here then are some answers, hopefully offered in the same tone as the original questions. For reasons that will become apparent, I’ll answer them in reverse order:




5. How have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long?

Answer: Easily. Christians have a long record of doing this on many issues.

Kevin is a good scholar of church history and I am sure is aware of how many issues Christians have had to change their orthodox views on throughout history.

As Kevin himself said, one of the principles established in the Bible and reiterated strongly during the Reformation was the concept of “always reforming”. God is continuing to work with us through history, unfolding His plan for His Kingdom “to come on earth as it is in heaven”. This is not because God is changing His mind, but because we continue to develop as people and society, and God continues to work with us. We see this progression through history. To pick a few examples: Christians had to adjust their cosmology when Galileo confronted our view of our place in space. Christians had to confront their view of slavery two centuries ago. We could talk about the divine rights of kings, the role of women in society (and the church), evolutionary theory and the age of the earth, the role of the Holy Spirit, support of apartheid and racial segregation, and many other issues to prove that what Christians once took as right, good and godly has later been changed and overturned as we develop a new understanding of how to read and interpret certain Scripture verses. Not all of these issues are resolved (although I assume that flat earth thinking and slave ownership are now settled at least), but they prove the point.

And the point is this: We must take very seriously the “cloud of witnesses” from church history. To change the traditional view of the church is a very serious thing indeed. It should be done with due care and consideration. But there is ample proof from history that to do this is both possible and desirable.

To answer Kevin’s actual question directly: God, in His wisdom, decided to leave the issue of homosexuality to us and our generation to engage with. Like He asked the 19th century Christians to deal with slavery, and the 17th century Christians to deal with flat earth cosmology and 16th century Protestants to deal with Roman Catholic excess. Different generations are asked to do different things by God. The issue of gay marriage is our issue.

I believe that within fifty years, we will all be as comfortable explaining homosexuality in the Bible as we all now are with slavery (or warfare or brutality or the treatment of women or most of the OT laws). Even those who claim to take the Bible literally know how to explain how to read the Bible appropriately on these issues. Homosexuality will be on that list too, and it will feel comfortable, obvious, right, Biblical and godly.



4. What will you say about anal intercourse?

Answer: I will say as much as the Bible says on it. And then a bit more.

This is not an issue the Bible deals with. It’s a matter on which we can exercise our personal discretion and choice. We could leave it there. But to be fair, let me give more of an answer, because I actually think this is a very important question and I am glad Kevin asked it. One of the reasons some people don’t like gays is because they’re culturally conditioned to be squeamish about issues related to sexual mechanics. But we cannot talk about homosexuality without talking about sexual behaviour.

In fact, as a quick aside, I’d argue that this question gets to the heart of the issue for Christians. Regardless of whether you accept homosexuality as a “nature” or a “condition” or an “orientation” or a “choice”, the Bible makes it clear that if there is an issue of sin at stake here, the sin resides in the acting out (or thinking) of homosexuality. In other words, God will not judge someone for their orientation. He will judge actions. Even if you believe homosexuality to be sinful, it is the acting out of your homosexuality that would be sinful. Therefore, it is the acts of homosexual sex that is where we need to address our discussions.

Kevin’s question interestingly focuses the attention on male homosexuals (I have been using the phrase “homosexual” to cover all LGBT orientations thus far). If the issue has to do with the actual mechanics of sex, what would we say to lesbians? I think this illustrates the problem. The Bible does not mandate any specific sexual positions, and has very little to say on the actual mechanics of sex. Well, actually it does tell men not to “spill their seed” and for women not to have sex during their menstrual period or for a few days thereafter (it also tells them to live in a tent at the bottom of the garden during this time). But I think we know enough about Biblical interpretation to know that these instructions are not for us today.

But there are some Biblical principles to take account of. Our bodies are “temples” and must be respected and looked after. All activity to do with our bodies and the bodies of others must be beneficial, respectful and consensual. This is what we should be teaching to homosexuals about their sexual habits. The Bible nowhere mandates anything about sexual positions. Anal sex is something that heterosexual couples can engage in, as is oral sex. So too the use of sexual toys, roleplaying, and even bondage. If Kevin is this concerned about homosexuals, then I’d like to hear him talk about these sexual activities for heterosexual couples too. He may want to, but it wouldn’t be Biblical. Just practical.

With regard to the specific points that Kevin makes about health and safety concerns, he references a much quoted study by J. R. Daling et.al, “Correlates of Homosexual Behavior and the Incidence of Anal Cancer,” which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association 247, no.14, 9 April 1982. This study is quoted in many conservative statements on this issue, especially the statistic of a 4000% increase in likelihood to contract anal cancer. The original study is available here (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=370939), and it is interesting to note that it is based on the study of just 47 men in western Washington between 1974 and 1979. Not entirely normative. I think this study has entered the realms of urban legend, to be honest. More recent research has conclusively linked anal cancer to HPV (human papillomavirus – see for example http://www.uptodate.com/contents/classification-and-epidemiology-of-anal-cancer and http://f1000.com/prime/reports/m/2/85/). People who are unhygienic are at higher risk of HPV, and anal intercourse that is done without due hygiene or care is a higher risk factor (but between 20% and 50% higher, not the ridiculous 4000% quoted by Kevin and many others). These issues are fairly well known in the homosexual community, and can easily be taught, and damage prevented.

So how do we respond as Christians? I think the Bible does provide a framework for dealing with sexual practice. The instructions in the Bible about not having sex during a woman’s menstrual period (when last did you hear a sermon about THAT, by the way?) was largely a hygiene consideration (this is how it is typically explained by people who need to take everything in the Bible literally). The principle is that homosexuals need to be taught about these issues, and helped to have sexual relationships that are enjoyable, consensual and loving. But this is true for heterosexuals (and lesbians) as well. And is especially true for the practice of anal sex for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Frankly, if it hurts or if it is unhygienic or if it is medically unsafe, you’re doing it wrong. But that does not make it immoral, ungodly or abhorrent to God.

So, what would I say about anal sex? Enjoy it. Don’t overdo it. Be safe. Be clean. Be consensual. Be loving. But that’s what I would say to anyone about any form of sex. I’d also say it is only for marriage, but we’ll get to that in question 2 below.



3. Are you prepared to say moms and dads are interchangeable?

Answer: Of course not. But this is the wrong question.

This is a really important question, but the intent behind the question does indicate a slight bias towards a Western, suburban picture of a family. The Biblical picture of a family is not the “father, mother and 2.4 children” in a discrete family unit we know in the West these days. There’s an African proverb which says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. That’s still true. All children need a variety of adult influences in their lives. In their teenage years, non-parental adults can be most important. So, the question is slightly biased towards a particular view of family and community which is not Biblical. As such, I could ignore the question, or at least query the worldview from which it arises. But let me try to do more than this, in the spirit in which Kevin is attempting to engage.

Men and women are not interchangeable. But neither are introverts and extroverts, by the way. What I mean by that is that all children need an environment in which they receive inputs from adults with different worldviews, approaches and profiles. The smallest such unit is a father and mother unit. This may be the “normal” unit, in the sense that most children in the world have this as their family foundation. But there are a significant number who do not. Children of single parents make up a significant proportion of the population. This may be through divorce, bereavement or just through pressures of work and migration. Research shows that there is no direct correlation between the psychological and physical well being of children and the number or gender of their adult primary caregivers. The correlation is to the level of care they receive, not from whom it is received.

Let me rephrase the question to try and make my point: Would you prefer a child to be adopted by a heterosexual couple who neglect and abuse the child, or a homosexual couple who provide loving, nurturing, but single gender care of the child? Only the most hardened conservative Christian might prefer the first choice.

Every child needs adult male inputs. Every child needs adult female inputs. I don’t see these as interchangeable, but I also don’t see this as a limiting factor in the conversation about homosexual marriage. Gay couples who choose to have children (by whatever means) must ensure that their children receive these varied inputs. So must single parents. So must all parents, actually. That’s why the church community is such a wonderful place to raise a child.



2. Will you maintain the same biblical sexual ethic in the church now that you think the church should solemnize gay marriages?

Answer: Unequivocably, absolutely and without embarrassment, YES.

This is an important point for the supporters of homosexual marriage. We often don’t take enough time to lay out what we believe the message should be to homosexual Christians once we’ve got through the debate about their acceptance. And Kevin’s point is important. The Bible teaches that God designed sex to be something special – not just a nice feeling and a pleasurable activity. Something spiritual happens during sexual intercourse that binds two people together in more ways than just the physical. Sex was designed by God for pleasure and for connection (and, of course, very rarely, for procreation – but I am glad Kevin is beyond raising this as one of his questions). But it was designed to be used in a certain context: lifelong, committed, monogamous relationship. Once we have ensured that gay couples have access to this relationship, our voices need to be as loud and clear to them as it is to heterosexuals. By the way, this should not just be on sexual issues, but on all issues related to both the rights and responsibilities of marriage. We know, for example, that God hates divorce. He will hate homosexual divorce just as much.

This message is going to be really tough for homosexual young men to hear. Most heterosexual men would probably have had sex before marriage if their girlfriend had been keen on it. This is a dangerous statement to make, and I do not at all mean to say that it is the woman who must say no, and it is her responsibility to manage sexual contact before marriage. By no means. But it is simple biology and chemistry that men are wired for sex in ways that women are not. So when a sexual relationship involves two men, the danger of going too far too fast is definitely higher. This should in no way give license to Christian homosexual men. They must be held to the sexual ethic laid out in the Bible. Not because God is a spoil sport, but because God designed sex to be something special and significant in a specific type of relationship. And that is still true.



1. On what basis do you still insist that marriage must be monogamous?

Answer: On what basis do you ignore the multitude of godly, spiritual, holy men and women in the Bible and history who were not in monogamous marriages? And what do you do with all the other forms of marriage condoned and commanded in the Bible?

So, I’ve shown my colours in my answer above. But let me try, again, to engage with Kevin in the spirit he has posed these questions. The reason I left this question to last is because it is a really tough one for me to answer. Personally, I think marriage (heterosexual and homosexual) should be monogamous, but I must be honest and admit that I am not entirely sure this is a properly Biblical position. I think it’s more cultural.

Before I go further, let me just address the typical over reaction of some conservatives to a “slippery slope” argument. From gay marriage, they often jump to the question of why we wouldn’t marry animals in the future. The answer is simple: sex – and marriage – must be consensual (at minimum – it should also be loving, caring, etc). Animals, children, the dead, severely mentally handicapped people and inanimate objects cannot properly consent to sex or marriage. On this basis, I believe, a Biblical ethic is obvious and clear.

On the issue of marrying relatives, I believe we can properly prohibit this on the basis of health issues (genetics). This falls into the same Biblical category as many of the health laws given in the OT. Some would argue these are merely health issues and not moral ones. I am not sure I could argue against that. Either way, though, I don’t think we should stone these people (or burn them to death, as Lev 20:14 says).

So, what then about polygamy and Kevin’s question? This is a valid question, because if we move away from the traditional “one man-one woman” definition of marriage, we potentially open the door to any and all forms of consensual relationship. Firstly, let’s say that the issue here again is specifically related to sex. There’s nothing stopping any group of people forming a partnership to share their lives, their assets and their futures. We do this all the time: they’re called private companies. The issue is whether there is sex – that’s the difference between a marriage and any other formal relationship partnership.

Can more than two people form a marriage bond that entitles them to have sinless sex with each other? The answer to this question, from a Biblical perspective, is that yes they can. I say this because they actually did – throughout the Bible. Regardless of what Genesis 2 says, there really is no normative marriage form in the Bible (and note that Genesis 2:24 does not imply that this is required, normative or the only model available). In fact, if we’re looking for specifically normative statements about marriage, we should also take very seriously Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 that it is better to be single than married (again, I doubt you’ve ever heard a sermon on this).

This may be a statement that is misunderstood, but I think it must be made: we have mythologised marriage in a way the Bible does not. The Bible does not require marriage of anyone (in fact, possibly the opposite). The Bible does not provide a consistent example of one type of marriage. The Bible even tells us that marriage is only a temporary institution – there will be no marriage in heaven. It is not part of the very fabric of creation.

Might it be then, that we have misinterpreted Genesis 2:24 to make it normative, whereas in fact it functions as something else in the narrative? When Jesus and Paul refer back to Genesis 2, both are making other points rather than specific points about marriage. Maybe everything else we read about marriage in the Bible should alert us to a misinterpretation of Genesis 2 as a normative, prohibitive structure. The rest of Scripture just doesn’t bear this out.

But back to Kevin’s question. It is the one I find most difficult to answer, because I would be personally uncomfortable with polygamy. I’d also, by the way, be very uncomfortable with levirate marriages that are actually commanded (rather than merely exhibited) in Scripture. Since you’ve probably never heard a sermon about this form of marriage, let me briefly explain: if a man dies without producing a male heir, his brother must have sex with his wife until she produces that male heir. As the father of three daughters with a brother, I can tell you that none of us are keen to follow this Biblical mandate (it’s an OT law, Deut 25:5-10, and also reiterated by Jesus in the NT in Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40).

I am not trying to muddy the waters of this conversation, but I want to add one more contentious issue. If marriage is supposed to be only between a man and a woman, it is also supposed to be between ONE man and ONE woman for a lifetime. The Bible does speak against divorce, and for many centuries the church has seen this as a real issue. Many still do. My own father was excluded from Baptist ministry after his divorce. And yet, both of my parents have remarried, each finding their own justification for going against the literal reading of Matthew 19:9. It seems to me that we’re finding more compassionate, loving, contextual and helpful ways of dealing with divorce. We should follow that same path with the issue of homosexuality. Even if that path leads onto polygamy.

Final thoughts

Kevin’s first question and my final answer highlights the heart of the issue of being an evangelical, Bible believer. We don’t take our beliefs from history. We don’t take our beliefs from the culture around us. We don’t take our beliefs from our personal preferences. We don’t take our beliefs from our family experiences (I am horrified at the number of conservative evangelicals who are now changing their views on homosexual marriage based mainly on the fact that one of their children has come out as gay. This is unhelpful, in my opinion, and sends many wrong messages as well meaning as they’re trying to be). We don’t take our beliefs from our church tradition. Our beliefs, our mindsets and our practices should all be based on our understanding of God’s Word – regardless of history, tradition, preference or experience. However, each of those factors has an impact on how we interpret Scripture and creates lenses through which we view Scripture and the world. We need to become much more aware of these lenses.

And that is precisely what I and many other Bible-believing Christians are trying to do with homosexuality: we’re trying to be as true as we can be to the Bible, without giving precedence to these other factors. We cannot believe that the way in which homosexuals are being treated by the church can possibly flow from the God we know and love and serve and fear. We believe the Bible has been incorrectly interpreted on this issue. But we don’t change the traditional view because we don’t like it. We change our view precisely because we have gone back to Scripture – not to twist it to our new understanding, but to look again and see that maybe we have misunderstood it as a church.

Thank you, Kevin, not just for the content of your article but its tone as well. Your questions are important and good, and we must have these conversations. Truth is at stake here, and we must work together as God’s community to make sure we get this right. Your questions aid conversation. I hope you see that there are answers. I hope we can continue the conversation.

58 thoughts on “Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage”

  1. Have you considered shifting your view on monogamous marriage in a similar fashion to the church’s shift on slavery, etc… It seems hard to square your answer to Q5 with you answer to Q1.

    I think your answer to Q1 is a good retoricle point as to what the Bible literally says. But I don’t find it hard to abandon based on psychology, a form of science.

  2. You say that you base your views completely on the Bible; not on personal preferences, family experiences, culture, history, and presumably technology.

    Imagine you taught someone from the Amazon rainforest to read English, and then got them to read the Bible. Would they really say that the Bible supports homosexuality? The clearest interpretation is that it does not support it, which is why it has historically been interpreted in that way.

    You say that marrying a relative is wrong because of health (genetic) issues. That view is based on technology and science, not on scripture.

    Only by taking into account technology (an improved understanding of the universe), personal preferences, family experiences, culture, and history can the Bible be interpreted in a moral way.

  3. David, I agree with you completely. In order to interpret the Bible correctly, we have to use many different lenses. And we need to be aware of these lenses to do the job properly. You can see my approach to exegesis elsewhere on this blog. In this piece, I was simply making the point that where our preferences, or experiences contradict Scripture, we must bow to Scripture.

  4. David S.: The ideal is not to drop a Bible into someone’s hands and expect them to figure it out for themselves. It isn’t a Magic 8 Ball. The ideal is that the Bible be taught in a thoughtful, contextual manner and wrestled with in community.

  5. This is a *fantastic* response in every way I can think of. I made a note to myself to answer DeYoung’s questions at some point, and I’m so glad someone has done it and done it so well. Thank you.

  6. Setting aside that the author never really addresses what the scripture says on the subject, there is some spurious reasoning here. One example: “the multitude of godly, spiritual, holy men and women in the Bible and history who were not in monogamous marriage.” Where, might I ask, are “the multitude of godly, spiritual, holy men and women in the Bible and history whose IN HOMOSEXUAL marriage”? Not living up to a standard does not validate the opposite of the standard, any more than me eating at McDonald’s justifies eating dirt.

  7. When we move past homosexuality – what will our response be to pedophiles?

  8. This is the same David who asked the first question, not to be confused with David S.

    I share you progressive evangelical outlook, so this critique is as about word-smithing as anything.

    You say in the one hand that experience and preference must bow to Scripture, but on the other, that we as Christians have wrestled with various issues over the centuries, and rightly reached conclusions that are at odds with a literal interpretation of scripture.

    I agree with your conclusion, but some may find either your communication or your logic tortured.

    Science is experience.

    Almost nothing in scripture suggests slavery is wrong. Sure Christ came to set the captives free, but Paul implied it was fine.

    I think conservatives are disengenuious or confused about how they actually interpret scripture. Allowing Women to speak in church and what not.

    You and I should simply be direct and to the point. We continue to give high regard to Scripture. It is our most important single authority. But it is not what it has been perported to be. It was culturally conditioned, written to various audiences, and we are culturally conditioned. Experience maters. The Black man’s experience maters. The woman’s experience of abuse in a polyamorious relationship maters.

    We can’t do ethics and science without experience.

    Both/And.

    Scripture and Experience. They can’t be separated.

  9. What I mean is, I think it is circular to say experience bows to scripture, but scripture bows to science , because science requires experience.

    On the other hand, I would agree that our momentary and fleeting feelings that are based on limited experiences should bow to Scripture, so yah, it’s hard to communicate what we are thinking.

    Blessings. Good piece, just offering small critiques.

  10. So,

    What about the the scriptures that clearly and directly condemn homosexuality? I don’t think this one is up for interpretation.

    Patrick

  11. Interesting and thoughtful essay. I do, however, question your statement that we don’t acquire/develop our beliefs from our experiences. Many of the stories I have read or heard directly from conservative families whose understanding of and position on homosexuality has changed when a family member’s homosexuality becomes known, have done so because they realize that that family member is as “wonderfully and fearfully made” by God, including his/her orientation, as any heterosexual who fits normative cultural patterns of behavior. I perceive that as God working in and through the family and individuals to grow them in love based on God’s love (unconditional, full of grace, calling each into maturing into the image of God).

  12. What a respectful, thoughtful response. Thank you for not only answering his 5 questions, but even exposing the tensions you find in your own argument. Excellent.

  13. To understand God’s view on human sexuality, one must first understand why God created humans..,.

    Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;

    Mankind was created to reflect a natural image of a spiriual God. Everything about the family, father, mother, children, human anatomy, marriage, etc. depicts a spiritual truth that we can ascertain from scripture. The marriage being a cornerstone institution, because the bride & groom are a typology of Christ and the church.

    Genesis 2:18, And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

    God created woman (church) because He wanted man (Christ) to have compainionship. Said another way, it was not good for God to be alone, so he created a spiritual church that he could love and cherish. The natural manifestation of this spiritual reality is demonstrated thru man and woman.

    God also instructed Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth. In the spirit, Christ wants intimacy with the church, that she might bear his offspring. New believers are born in the spirit when the church spends time before Christ. Again, this spiritual reality has a natural parallel that speaks to the heart of sexuality. Christ is able to produce spiritual life, so humanity was created to produce natural life. Marriage was indeed designed with purpose. It is the means by which God will colonize the earth with His children. The Kingdom of heaven is coming to earth, is already here and will be expanding, as the seed of God is sown into the womb of His bride (there will be a conception).

    If the world is going to see a natural typology of a spiritual truth, a man will be married to a woman, they will be fruitful and they will multiply. This picture of the family directly corresponds to a spiritual truth (Christ is married to the church and the offspring our children of the father). When a man “knows” his wife and she conceives, this is analagous to the spirit of Christ becoming one with the soul of man. Our soul (mind) is growing in the knowledge (“know”) of Christ. When the spiritual seed reaches to the egg of the soul, there will be a conception. This is what it means for a man to “know” his wife — there is a knowledge transfer from the spirit to the soul.

    So what does bible say about homosexulality? Clearly same sex relationships do not reflect the natural typology of why God created humans. That said, the natural is only a picture of spiritual truth (it is not the truth itself, but only a shadow). As a father, my son looks like me, because God the Father has a Son that looks like Him. Another natural/spiritual parallel, which provides evidence that God is real and the creator of the universe. His fingerprint is all over creation, with mankind painting the most accurate picture of who He is. Homosexualty is not a problem for God, but it is a problem for humans. Deep in our pysche we know that man and woman are designed to be together. Science bears witness to this (pro-creation), but there’s also an emotional tie that we can’t quite explain. God put it there to bear witness to see spiritual truth. Unfortunately, the spiritual truth has gotten lost in our carnal perspective. Nevertheless, whenever humanity functions outside the purpose that God established, mankind will naturally fight tooth and nail against the anti-typology. Homosexuality is high on the list.

    Conclusion: God knows humanity will never accept homosexuality as good, thus bible warns homosexuals to stay away from such lifestyle as a means of protection from the homophobics. But gay/lesbians chose to ignore God’s advice, then they are free to live a life that is oftentimes persecuted. And because God is the saviour, this dynamic provides an opportunity to show Himself strong through the weakness of man. My advice to all homosexuals: Ask God to save you from the pending judgment that the ruler of this world is about to try to inflict, using humans (even some christians) as his executers. You’re going to need all the salvation that you can get because of the evilness of man.

    Homosexuality is just like all other imperfections in humanity. None of us reflect the full glory of God except the man Jesus. Everyone else has shortcomings, which are those attributes of fallen man (nakedness) that do not align with the spiritual truth of who God is. These shortcomings are weaknesses that God wants to help us with. The self righteous will assess homosexualty as a big weaknesses, while perhaps being oblivious to their own weaknesses. We’re all in the same boat. We all need God to deal with our weaknesses. Again, homosexuals are no different. But if one says that homosexuality reflects the nature of God, one simply doesn’t understand God’s purpose for creation (Rom 1:20).

  14. Graeme,
    I no longer identify as Christian (I am a de-coverted fundamentalist). I still find the teachings on the law of love, that are attributed to Jesus, to be compelling as a paradigm for living.
    With that qualifier, I wrestled with these questions for most of my life as a gay person… without remedy. People like Kevin are keen on attributing their beliefs to their personal relationship with God. They typically conclude that anyone who disagrees with them must not have that personal relationship. Maybe they are right, though it is not from a lack of desire or trying. I wanted and tried to have their kind of relationship with God for over 35 years. Their God did not provide me with a means to change my orientation or supply a similar ability as that (apparently) given to the apostle Paul (i.e., the ability to live a celibate life).
    According to the apostle Paul, that relegates me (and those like me) to a life of continuous “burning,” which seems curiously a lot like the biblical description of hell. It sure felt like it.
    In the absence of a “…demonstration of power…” that would support their claim that God is with them, people like Kevin offer instead their rules and doctrines, empowered only by their flesh and blood.

  15. The two biggest road blocks for me agreeing with same sex relationships is this: God made man and woman perfectly for each other in HIS image. Putting two men together or two women together to me, defiles God’s image. Second, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. This is impossible for 2 men together or two women together.

  16. ” In order to interpret the Bible correctly, we have to use many different lenses.”

    We all have lenses…and the ones we choose to use and not to use with a given subject can lead us closer to the truth or further from it…closer to what we want to believe or further from it…closer to what the Bible actually says and means…or further from it. Yes, we all have lenses and we all have to make choices in how we interpret scripture…it is imperative that we choose our lenses wisely and come to our conclusions fully aware of the biases and presuppositions that can very easily influence our final interpretation.

  17. David S wrote:
    “Only by taking into account technology (an improved understanding of the universe), personal preferences, family experiences, culture, and history can the Bible be interpreted in a moral way.”

    One might argue that there is scriptural precedent for this approach considering the changes in Jewish dietary laws and the practice of circumcision. Both of these were changed to allow for (dare I say “accommodate?”) gentile believers.

    Re your note about marrying a relative… funny that Kevin references the Genesis story as support for one man and one woman comprising the definitive marriage, yet that particular scenario would have left only sisters for Cain and Abel to marry.

  18. “But it is simple biology and chemistry that men are wired for sex in ways that women are not.”

    Could you go into detail on this? I’ve always thought it was society that wires men to behave in a certain way.

    For instance, testosterone makes men more aggressive but that doesn’t have to naturally lead to sexual aggressiveness. And one could make the argument that estrogen makes women more nuturing and thus more likely to want an intimate sexual connection.

    You say “this is a dangerous statement” in reference to men wanting sex but woman maybe not – so you know you’re making a controvertial statement. Women’s access to sex has been controlled and restricted for centuries in a way that men’s access hasn’t. I can see why this topic might not be topical for this article but only slightly alluding to the pressures women are under without further reference doesn’t seem fair. I wanted to mention it.

  19. It is all about conversation. .not conversion…Thank you for your fantastic THINKING on such a risky conversation. GOD has a lot of work to do getting through our think skulls….your writings are a great chisel.

  20. David S.: The problem with your example is you would have them read the bible in English. But if you were to teach them to read Greek, the issue would not be so simple. The terms commonly translated in English having to do with homosexuality are for the most part not so clear. They reference (often endorsing or critiquing) a vision of sexuality that is built on power and honor rather than love and intimacy. In that case our amazonian Bible reader might not see the issue as clearly as they would if they were taught to read the venerable KJV. Graeme’s post rightly points out that a “Biblical” theology of marriage might be much more difficult and pluriform that has been imagined by Evangelical churches.

  21. Graeme and Kevin, thank you for the tone of your arguments. As a mom of a gay child, I have spent countless hours digging into the Bible, praying, trying to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and reading different arguments. I agree with both of you that we cannot base our beliefs on history, culture, or personal preference. I agree with you that these conversations are really important. I agree that tone matters, and I grieve most days at the lack of love in the tone of too many Christians’ arguments.

    So when you write, “I am horrified at the number of conservative evangelicals who are now changing their views on homosexual marriage based mainly on the fact that one of their children has come out as gay,” it strikes me as a judgmental assumption. I–and many, many other Christian parents–are very aware that we will be tempted to change our views simply to quiet the tension in our hearts, and we devote far more effort into study and prayer because of that awareness.

    I consider different perspectives on marriage not out of preference or convenience or wanting to be a nice, supportive parent. I consider different perspectives because trying to reconcile the good Samaritan story / the command to love our neighbors as ourselves / the sense that the traditional view places heavy burdens on gay people that straight people are unwilling to help bear—trying to reconcile all that with a defense that the evangelical reading is the only “Christian” one—makes my head and my heart explode.

    I am not changing my views because I have a gay child. But having a gay child requires me to look seriously into an area I wouldn’t otherwise care much about. Most days, I throw up my hands and cry out to God because I just don’t know, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t require all of us to have PhDs in ancient near east culture, theology, and Greek and Hebrew translation in order to do the “right” thing. I totally understand why many Christian parents of gay children stop going to church and even step away from their faith altogether. When you are shunned by formerly close Christian friends simply for being honest about how hard this journey is, when the church forces you to walk alone unless you try to make your gay kid straight or disown them, it makes it very hard to want anything to do with church people. Or the God they represent.

    Unless you have a gay child, please don’t assume we’re all changing our views out of convenience. There’s a whole lot more to our stories.

  22. The bother of a typed reply is trying to convey courtesy in one’s question, so let me know if it’s more accusing than wondering.
    What do you think of Jesus’ telling the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more”? That it probably wasn’t consensual, so it was sinful?
    Is that the final litmus test for sexual sin: if it’s consensual and doesn’t damage genetics or health, it’s not sinful?

  23. I don’t know how the Bible could be any more clear that homosexuality is a sin. It’s not “our generations issue to wrestle with”. The answer has been plainly given to us, and all generations, in Scripture.

  24. Thanks for those who questioned my conclusion, and pointed that none of us can escape our contexts. I have updated the conclusion to be more clear about what I mean, and the role of tradition, history, experience, etc in interpreting Scripture.

  25. Graeme-very interesting perspective-thank you so much for all the work it has taken. You challenge me to dig deeper into relationship with God,the Trinity. One aspect I would like your thoughts on, is that of ‘covenant’. A previous reader mentioned Christ and the bride/church. The evidence of covenant i.e. blood shed, name change, exchange of possessions. How does this all tie in to your teachings?

  26. God’s covenants with us as humans are one-sided. God covenants with himself to our benefit. The marriage covenant is merely a symbol of these covenants God has with us. There would be no difference if the marriage covenant is between a man and woman, or a man and man. Or indeed multiple parties. It is merely a picture of God’s covenant with us.

  27. Graeme, why is Genesis 2:24 not normative? Why wouldn’t you see what God created in perfection as normative? (I’m sure you understand stories can state normatives within narratives)

  28. Many responders have asked about the Creation Order issue, and why Gen 2:24 is not normative. I do believe that this is what the argument comes down to, and is therefore the right question and the right issue to focus attention on. I am still working on a complete response to this issue, but here are some initial questions/concerns that place a big question mark over the “creation order” argument:

    * The image of God is not ONLY represented in marriage. I would argue very strongly that the image of God is diplayed in individuals, regardless of gender.
    * What do we make of Paul’s instructions for us to prefer to be single?
    * God is genderless. He has revealed Himself in human form as a male, and is most often referred to using masculine terms (though not exclusively), but God stands outside of gender distinctions in the sense that we use “man” and “woman”.
    * Therefore, marriage is not something NECESSARY within creation.
    * Marriage appears to have three main purposes: companionship, procreation and an analogy of the covenants between God and His people. Procreation is not a requirement of marriage, just a by-product. And there would be nothing about homosexual relationships that would necessarily stop them being a good analogy for a covenant.
    * The Bible does not take monogamous marriage as normative. There are many examples of polygamy approved by God in the Bible. This is probably the most significant point we can make with regard to this issue. The Bible itself does not see the so-called “creation order” as normative for marriage. It might be the norm, but that’s not the same as being normative.
    * Let’s assume that there were no other verses in the Bible that talked about homosexuality. I don’t think we’d read Genesis 2:24 as a restrictive passage. It would simply be saying: “men and women can get married, and it’s a wonderful thing”. It’s not restricting other forms of marriage by saying that.
    * Genesis 1-11 has a distinctive genre to it. It’s not law, it’s not commandment, it’s not gospel, it’s not oracle, it’s not prophecy, it’s not even history (it may be historical, but it isn’t written in the genre of history). We must therefore be very careful of taking something which is written in a specific form (poetry, narrative, myth) and make it normative in any way.
    * God declared creation perfect BEFORE he created Eve (this is the implication if we read Genesis 1 and 2 together). Marriage is not part of the perfection of Creation. Not a necessary part anyway.
    * There will be no marriage in heaven. It’s not an essential part of creation.

    That’s not a complete answer. It’s not any answer, actually. It’s just a list of concerns I have with making Genesis 2:24 normative. I think there are enough question marks there to say it probably doesn’t say what we think it says.

  29. Graeme, thanks for the answer. A quick synopsis so the main issue can be focused on

    *Yes people are made in God’s image regardless of marriage
    *Paul’s comment is really secondary here, though something for discussion. Paul also says for those in 1 Cor. 7 it is better to marry than burn with passion so we can see a call to marriage here. Again, secondary to this point however.
    *God being genderless has no implication on homosexuality – there is no direct correlation to apply to marriage here
    *I contend marriage is not a necessity for creation

    –Key points of discussion
    *The Bible DOES make marriage normative – see Genesis 2. God prohibits polygamy, see Deuteronomy 17:17 – David’s polygamous lifestyle that leads to issues with Absalom see below the punishment God has for him.

    2 Samuel 11-12
    Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
    (2 Samuel 12:11-12 ESV)

    –We would read Genesis 2:24 as restrict
    –Genesis 1-11 is taken has historical, Jesus refers to a real Adam, and this would make marriage to Eve normative.
    –Genesis 36:2 Esau takes two wives and is noted as rebellious before God – he is breaking the covenant of one man and one woman, established in Genesis.

    *Whether or not there is marriage in heaven is a side issue

  30. I appreciate your respectfulness when approaching this issue. Oh, and your lack of reliance on the word “bigot” which has been used to absurd proportions when discussing this topic elsewhere. However, I must strongly disagree with you.

    First, much of Western Society’s current moral thought stems from such great atheist thinkers as Freud and Nietzsche. We now live in a “Post-Christian” West, where many of the Bible’s teachings on sexuality are no longer embraced by most of society. Don’t you think it’s odd that only now, during this decline in biblical teaching, that we would find out the true meaning of the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality (which happens to coincide much with secular atheist thought on the subject) and not say during any of the previous 2,000 years? Don’t you think perhaps you are experiencing some confirmation bias?

    If not, then this suggests a failure of the communicative power of both the Holy Spirit and the scriptures of absurd proportions. Virtually every Christian who ever lived before the 20th century was COMPLETELY wrong on this issue. If every Christian could be so entirely wrong for so long, can we be sure of anything we think we know about the scriptures? The divinity of Christ? The Trinity? Do you find it odd that, according to your view, God approves of consensual homosexual intercourse, and yet the act is exclusively discussed in the negative throughout all of scripture? Without giving preference to current secular thought, how could any other interpretation be reached?

    Now, you bring up other issues that were resolved during church history such as the abuse of the Catholic Church, slavery, cosmology, etc. But you are comparing apples and oranges here. Many of the issues you bring up were hot topics for centuries, with many who argued on both sides before they were resolved. Not so with homosexuality. Other issues, such as cosmology, were about trending societal thought that had worked its way into church dogma; changing the Church’s stand on the issue had an extremely minute change on the meaning of the scriptures. Our faith in the veracity of the Bible was not at stake because these beliefs did not stem from the Bible. Again, not so with the topic of homosexuality.

    You suggest that the lack of a father or mother can be mitigated by other church members. I must strongly disagree. I have been close to many women in the churches I have attended over the years and none of them could replace the role my mother has had in my life. The same could be said of my father.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughtfulness on this issue. I also respect your desire to see homosexuals practice the abstinence and the same respect for marriage as is taught in the Bible. This is something that is entirely absent from “your side” of the debate. I’ve witnessed Christians come out as gay because they interpreted the Bible differently on this matter, but then entirely ignore the other teachings on sexuality present in the Bible. This exposes the fundamental flaw in the left side of the debate. For most, it’s not a matter of interpretation, though they may say so, but it’s a matter of a desire to embrace modern secular sexual trends and somehow be a Christian at the same time.

    I also appreciate your awareness of the cultural lens that affects this issue. Many Christians on both sides of the issue are still completely unaware of this factor. You state that you do not want to give preference to this lens, but I believe that is what you have done.

  31. A marriage is consummated when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse

    Even secular law recognizes this:

    In England and Wales, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 specifically excludes non-consummation as a ground for the annulment of a same-sex marriage.[5] This is because there is no generally accepted legal definition of consummation for same-sex couples.

    In Christian speak we would refer to this as the covenant of marriage.

    This brings Into question the issue of “fornication” and adultery” which the bible clearly identifies as sin, hence sexual activities is forbidden out of wedlock

    If the above is true then the covenant of marriage cannot exist in a same sex relationship as it cannot be consummated in the biblical sense or for that matter in secular legal terms

  32. It is precisely because of the never-ending debate on this very subject, which is actually ripping the church apart, that has caused me to question if I even want to attend ANY church again. So I just want to say “Congratulations, my fellow believers, for driving people away from the church – and for doing it in ways you most likely never even considered.”

  33. HI everyone

    As a pentecostal pastor and leader, this is an issue which is very much alive in my world as the possibility of being asked to conduct a gay wedding is very much distinct. I know Graeme – he has preached in my church within the past 4 years and I have enjoyed his seminar sessions when I have had the opportunity. But I respectfully agree to disagree on certain issues here.

    1. If people find themselves in a same-sex attraction state of being, so be it, but marriage was always intended to be a reflection of the male and female attributes of God bound together to be a reflection of Him to society.

    2. The act of homosexual sex is unnatural – that’s actually Paul’s sole comment on it. And that means it goes against the nature of things and the way the human body was set up for specific functions and use. God is a God of order and gay sex goes against that Divine order and causes the body to be used in a way for which it was not designed.

    3. Joe Dallas, author of the Gay Gospel, a book exposing how gay Christians misinterpret the Bible to justify their actions, and a former homosexual himself says that the exact same stance taken today against pedophilia was taken against gay relationships in the 1960’s. The sixties love revolution was largely heterosexual. Slowly the arguments for homosexuality started gaining momentum and acceptance, and reached it’s apex now with the acceptance of gay marriage. He then points out that the pro-pedophilia lobby is now gaining momentum and starting to speak just like the pro-gay lobby did 30 to 40 years ago. And they are gaining notoriety and credibility in certain circles, even having recent statements made by academics and others that there is a possibility that adult-child sexual relationships can be very positive and consensual.
    So, where will we be on the subject of pedophilia n 30-40 years? Where does this train stop? What will be next?

    I would, and have, welcomed gay people into my church but I will not marry them.

  34. Paddy,

    Just two quick responses:

    On your second point about something being “against the nature of things”, Paul uses this exact same phrase when talking about men having long hair. I hope you are as particular and focused in helping young men in your church to wear short hair as you might be in helping them avoid homosexuality.

    You and others have mentioned paedophilia. In my response to Kevin, I indicated that I felt this would always be wrong since it would not be consensual. There needs to be an age of consent – which different countries currently set at different levels. Until a child becomes an adult, they should not be allowed to marry. I don’t see a slippery slope here.

  35. Robert, my heart breaks for people who are being driven away from the church because of its response to this issue. But there are two comments to make.

    1. If homosexuality is indeed a set of attitudes and behaviours that can keep someone from experiencing God’s love and eternal presence, then it is correct for the church to say something and to make a stand on this issue.

    2. If the church has got this wrong, then we are condemning people whom God loves to a lifetime of trauma and unnecessary emotional angst.

    Either way, it’s worth fighting for. And therefore the debates will continue. I am hoping that we can do so in such a way that shows Christ-likeness. I hope the tone of my response, and the tone of Kevin’s original questions, indicate that. The tone of some of the responses here, sadly, do not.

  36. Graeme, I re-read my quick response and realize it likely came off colder than what I wanted it too. I agree with you that this issue is worth fighting for. My bulleted list was meant to get down to brass tacks as to what constitutes acceptable behavior and what does not before God, which is important. If you’d like to reply I’d be happy to dialogue, if not I understand that too. I do appreciate you willingness to engage in discussion on this topic in general.

    Grace and Peace.

  37. The Bible consistently tells us that homosexual activity is a sin (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9). Romans 1:26-27 teaches specifically that homosexuality is a result of denying and disobeying God. When people continue in sin and unbelief, God “gives them over” to even more wicked and depraved sin in order to show them the futility and hopelessness of life apart from God. 1 Corinthians 6:9 proclaims that homosexual “offenders” will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    God does not create a person with homosexual desires. The Bible tells us that people become homosexuals because of sin (Romans 1:24-27) and ultimately because of their own choice. A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as some people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person’s choosing to sin by giving in to sinful desires. If a person is born with a greater susceptibility to anger/rage, does that make it right for him to give into those desires? Of course not! The same is true with homosexuality.

    However, the Bible does not describe homosexuality as a “greater” sin than any other. All sin is offensive to God. Homosexuality is just one of the many things listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that will keep a person from the kingdom of God. According to the Bible, God’s forgiveness is just as available to a homosexual as it is to an adulterer, idol worshipper, murderer, thief, etc. God also promises the strength for victory over sin, including homosexuality, to all those who will believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13).

    Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/homosexuality-Bible.html#ixzz35fcVSlVV

  38. Some observations on each of Graeme’s answers;

    Question 5:
    None of the issues here are in any place within Scripture listed as a sin. Cosmology is not a moral or sin issue; slavery is never presented as a sin issue; etc.
    But the point Kevin makes about homosexuality is that is has always been regarded as a sin from the very first time it is mentioned in scripture it is regarded in this way. None of the examples you have listed are in the same category.

    Question 4:
    Kevin does not bring scripture to bear on this but develops his argument from a medical and health perspective.

    Only if we set aside the Bible clear statements regarding homosexual practice as sinful.

    “Therefore, it is the acts of homosexual sex that is where we need to address our discussions.”
    Yes this is true. Jewish culture and therefore part of the consideration we must bring to scriptural interpretation, is that they were concerned with what a person did rather than what a person thought.

    “All activity to do with our bodies and the bodies of others must be beneficial, respectful and consensual.”
    I’m interested in your choice of words here. Are you advocating that these three principles are the starting point for making moral decisions? In what way is a homosexual relationship benefitial? To whom, apart from the couple themselves, is the homosexual relationship beneficial? Respecting someone is to act in a way towards them whereby their life is enhanced. Does this mean that Scripture would have us encourage people to live by their emotions because this is being respectful towards them? I’d point you to the story of David who, made choices sometimes against his emotions. Does this mean that something being consensual is the main reason for something being acceptable? Surely “all activity to do with our bodies and the bodies of others” must first be subject to the dictates of Scripture?

    “…was largely a hygiene consideration (this is how it is typically explained by people who need to take everything in the Bible literally).”
    That may be but the real reason has to do with ceremonial purity. Blood was seen as something that made a person unclean and to engage in intercourse while a woman was menstruating had to do with becoming ceremonially unclean.
    And yes Scripture does not say anything about anal sex, so it may be that it comes down to a couples’ choice. This however has little bearing on the gay marriage issue.

    Question 3:
    Actually most research done on the history of pair-bonding (marriage) suggests that father, mother children is exactly what has been the norm down through human history. (See Maynes and Waltner The Family: A World History or Tucker Marriage and Civilisation: How Monogamy made us Human

    “The correlation is to the level of care they receive, not from whom it is received.”
    No actually research shows just the opposite. See 21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters published in 2004 by the Fatherhood Foundation in cooperation with the National Marriage Coalition (Australia) for a list of well over 20 different research studies showing the advantages that children gain from being brought up in father/mother families. Yes the type of care children receive is important but from whom they receive it also correlates strongly with the child’s success over a range of fields. In fact the UN Charter on the Child goes so far as to say that children should be raised by a father/mother family.

    more to follow….

  39. Some comments on Graeme’s answers to Kevin’s Questions
    Question 2
    “Answer: Unequivocably, absolutely and without embarrassment, YES”
    Why? Surely if gay marriage is the theological question the 21st century church has to wrestle with (“decided to leave the issue of homosexuality to us and our generation to engage with”) and to move away from the ‘old’ outmoded position then it is just as relevant to argue that sexual promiscuity can be the new accepted behavior as we move on from the ‘old’ outmoded theological position of the past.

    “we’ve got through the debate about their acceptance”
    Not sure what you mean by ‘their acceptance. The Church has much to answer for in its treatment of homosexuals over the centuries. It has rarely ‘loved them as neighbours’, to its utter shame. Just as you pointed out above, scripture is more concerned with action than with gender attraction, so the Church’s job is to love these people as our selves. To treat them with respect and kindness, acting towards them as examples of Kingdom people but sometimes acting towards them just as Jesus did towards the religious leaders of his day.

    “They must be held to the sexual ethic laid out in the Bible.”
    Again I am unclear how you can hold this position in light of your willingness to bypass the clear statements of scripture in regards to homosexual practice. If you are going to be consistent with your hermeneutic then surely ‘beneficial, respectful and consensual’ behavior is the way to interpret scripture.

    Question 1
    “And what do you do with all the other forms of marriage condoned and commanded in the Bible?”
    Please show me what ‘other forms of marriage’ are condoned or commanded in scripture? Jesus quoted Genesis when describing marriage and said that it was because of our sinfulness that God allowed divorce. He did not condone or command polygamy that I am aware of. (Matt. 19:8)

    “On this basis, I believe, a Biblical ethic is obvious and clear.”
    What is your basis for consensual sex? If the basis for what marriage is, is founded on the fact that two people love each other strongly and wish to live together then this does open the door for all sort of ‘marriages’ that are not monogamous or permanent. What if three people loved and cared for each other and their behavour showed they respected one another and they argued that their being together was beneficial to each of them and they agreed to live together and to share each other’s bodies sexually, would not this be OK according to the standard you have established?

    “The issue is whether there is sex – that’s the difference between a marriage and any other formal relationship partnership.”
    No actually sex is only one of the factors that make marriage different. Marriage is permanent and exclusive. The bond in marriage is only possible with a couple because it is only possible to bond permanently and exclusively with one other person, to the exclusion of all others. (See What is Marriage by By Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson and Robert George)

    “finding more compassionate, loving, contextual and helpful ways of dealing with divorce. We should follow that same path with the issue of homosexuality. ”
    But again divorce is not listed as a sin by either Jesus, the Old Testament or Paul, unlike homosexual practice.

    Final Thoughts
    “We cannot believe that the way in which homosexuals are being treated by the church can possibly flow from the God we know and love and serve and fear.”
    True but this in itself is against the biblical command to love one another. The Church’s shameful treatment of people does not negate the biblical imperative against homosexual practice.

    As you can probably gather I find Graeme’s answers rather unsatisfactory and if you are looking for what I would suggest is the definitive study of this issue in scripture you would be hard pressed to go past “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics” by Robert A Gagnon

  40. 5. You misunderstand DeYoung’s point that though topics have been wrong, yes, the idea that so many have gotten it so wrong for so long seems far-fetched. DeYoung did not say any such comment about “always reforming.” What he did say was that “the church must always be reformed by the word of God.” Do not miss the difference. What your argument implies is that the body of Christ needs to be constantly changing, whereas DeYoung’s point is that the body of Christ needs to be constantly going back to the word of God. These are two very different points, and for you to skip over the difference and say that DeYoung’s argument is what you want it to be. That’s either lazy or nefarious.

    What will be a common theme in exposing your arguments is this: Scriptures, both in the OT and in the NT, and both by NT writers like Paul and Jesus himself, were fairly explicit on homosexuality being a sin. To compare homosexuality to slavery on this topic is again lazy. While I agree that addressing slavery in the Bible requires looking at how God never condones it but teaches His people with the understanding it is going on, this is the cases with homosexuality, which is outright condemned as a sinful act. While you say that homosexuality will be on that list with slavery and the treatment of women, you give no explanation as to why so much scripture says it’s wrong and why that scripture should be ignored. Saying it’s okay doesn’t make it so.

    4. I agree that it’s the sinful act or thinking of a sinful act that becomes sin. Being a murderer isn’t sinful, the murder was sinful. Being an alcoholic isn’t sinful, but drinking to excess and placing the importance of something before God is sinful. Same with homosexuality. Being gay isn’t a sin, but having sex with someone of the same gender or fantasizing about it is. Overall I think this argument is less concerning about the others in regards to whether it is a sin or not. However, homosexual or heterosexual, there are risks involved, and while if a married couple wishes to engage in it in a consensual manner that’s their choice, but clearly the plumbing wasn’t designed for that.

    3. It’s not the wrong question. And similar to what I said earlier, just because you say it is or isn’t so doesn’t make it so or not so. From the creation of Adam and Eve we see what was physically designed as a man and a woman and that such a union is created partially for procreation. If you are going to claim that there is a “western bias” I suggest that you explain how the mother, father, children model that is prevalent in the west is not Biblically sound. I reject your African proverb as irrelevant. Of course a mother and a father will need outside help from family, or from doctors, or from pastors to raise their children as best as possible. But scripture is repeated gives instruction to fathers and mothers on how to raise up their children. Once again, if you are going to claim something as “not Biblical” you are going to need to explain why it’s not Biblical. You saying so doesn’t make it so. Just like if you’re going to say “research shows” I expect some sort of citation. Because research (http://depts.washington.edu/wcpc/Family) makes it clear that single parents are more likely to be impoverished. And being in poverty is more likely to lead to depression and other health risks (http://www.gallup.com/poll/158417/poverty-comes-depression-illness.aspx).

    Your abusive heterosexual couple and loving homosexual couple is a trap of an argument. It attempts to ignore the ideal of a loving heterosexual couple, as if it’s impossible or irrelevant.

    Your arguments also make a false assumption, that a woman is the same as a mother and that a man is the same as a father. Yes, there are great women who can be great role models for a child who is not their own. And yes, there are great men who can be great role models for a child who is not their own. But this doesn’t make them the mother, and this doesn’t make them the father.

    2. I don’t understand how you can believe “that God designed sex for something special” but not believe that it was designed for a husband and wife. Why do you select certain scripture on the topic to believe but reject other scripture? Why do you agree with the Bible on the topic of divorce, but not on homosexual acts? At best, this is inconsistent teaching. At worst, this is false teaching (which is what this is).

    1. I’m glad to hear you say you don’t know what is Biblical and what is cultural. It’s a shame you don’t recognize this, then, as something to provoke you to reexamine your position.

    While attacking the slippery slope argument, you immediately skip over polygamy and incest. While you do address it later, you do so apart from your discussion on the slippery slope. I tend to think you do this so you can try to distance the two. Because when conservative Christians bring up the topic, it goes from homosexual marriage, to polygamy, to incest (which we are already seeing, as many people have come out of the woodwork demanding polygamy be allowed (http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/04/legalize_polygamy_marriage_equality_for_all.html).

    But you do eventually address incest. And your reasoning to prohibit it is incredibly flawed. You address it as a health issue, not a moral issue. By this reasoning, you would imply that those with HIV should not marry, and even worse, imply those with genetics predisposed to certain illnesses should not marry (a type of eugenics). And I have no doubt you do not support such a ban, but your reasoning in preventing incest unions it is easily applied to other situations. It’s good to know you wouldn’t stone anyone, but thanks for mentioning that in order to imply that those of us who see the Bible clearly on the topic of homosexuality would, in fact, stone someone.

    I don’t follow your argument that polygamy would be fine because Paul says it would be better not to marry at all (and yes, I have heard sermons on that topic). Just like pointing out that marriage is a temporary institution means we do not have to be selective on what marriage actually is. By that logic, there is no need to treat our bodies as a temple, since ash to ash and dust to dust. Of course, we do teach to treat our bodies as a temple because that’s what God tells us through the Bible, just like He tells us through the Bible that marriage, if pursued, is between one man and one woman. Again, you say that the Bible does not proclaim marriage is one man and one woman, but give little to no argument why. Your reasoning of Paul teaching that it’s better not to marry and that marriage is temporary have nothing to do with what marriage is when it happens.

    Unlike your discussion of a levirate marriage, homosexuality is addressed not only in the law of the OT, but also in Paul’s letters and by Jesus himself (in Matthew 19 when he defines marriage as one man and one woman, and in the many times he condemns “sexual immorality”; sexual immorality would need to be placed in context for a better understanding. Since he was speaking to the Jews 2,000 years ago, we would need to understand what they would find to be sexually immoral. It is not a stretch by any means to believe they would have found homosexual acts to be immoral. Therefore, sexual immorality would include homosexual acts).

    My Final Thoughts:
    You equate the issue of homosexual marriage with the issue of how the Christian church has treated those in the gay community. I can only believe this is done to guilt Bible-believing Christians, because the two issues stand separately, and neither are okay. While you attempt to justify homosexuality in the church you use little to no scripture to make your point. At least not scripture related to the topic at hand. Homosexual acts are a sin. Just like hating or simply not loving those who are gay is a sin.

    I believe that the government should not stand in the way of same sex marriages. It is not up to the state to define such legal contracts. Yet the church is to stand by the Word of God. Too many Christians have chosen to ignore tough scripture in order to seem more loving to their friends. It is not loving to tell a sinful dying world it is not sinful and not dying. Others in order to hold their political power, much like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, have ignored what God requires of them. The church fails when it mistreats the marginalized in our society, whether it’s not loving them, not caring for them, not providing for them, or not telling them to “go and sin no more” after such love, care, and provisions have been offered.

  41. I am glad that calm and respectful conversations can take place over such issues. However, I think there is a fundamental flaw in your understanding of what the Bible condones as marriage. The number of godly men that took multiple wives for themselves was never condoned at all. It was culturally practiced with the surrounding nations and Israel went after the other nations’ practices. The story Scripture tells of all of these men and women depicts them as they are, warts and all. When men did take multiple wives for themselves the Scripture records the numerous troubles that resulted from it. Just because it is recorded in Scripture does not mean that it was necessarily condoned by God.

    Deuteronomy 17:17 gives the prohibition to the king to not accumulate wives for himself. As the leader of the nation he was to set the example for the people. This law is in place long before Israel even had a king. Simply put, this law reflects the original monogamous relationship between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden established by God. Therefore, to assume that the Bible condoned the actions of men that disobeyed God’s command for marriage is unfounded. The bible recording it as something godly men had done is no more condoning it than condoning Abraham or Isaac telling lies, or Jacob deceiving people, or rash actions taken by King Saul, or Peter’s hypocrisy of eating pork with gentile believer’s and then not doing so when the jewish believers were around. These and taking multiple wives are all illustrating the moral failings of these godly men. It shows that God was working with real people like you and myself in their fallen state as they were and moving them towards His plan of redemption. To assume God condoned godly men taking multiple wives for themselves would by logical consistency then say that God condones lying, deceiving, rash actions, and hypocrisy to name a few of the moral failings of these godly men. To do this would essentially destroy any attempt or working out of ethical behavior of all Christians. It would be all the more absurd to say that those things are only condemned outside of loving, consensual relationships apart from sex. God would no more condone lying from a single person than He would lying in heterosexual marriage out of love.

    I think it is a great to have these discussions to work out these issues as it pertains to the Christian faith. However, I think the Scriptures are clear that marriage is to be between one man and one woman and not one man and multiple wives any more than it is between consenting men, consenting women, or polygamous relationships.

  42. Christopher, I agree with your points and they’re well made. However, my point was not whether there are commands in the Bible about monogamous marriage or not (there clearly are), nor whether there are some condemnations of other forms of marriage (again, you can find those too). My point is that the Bible presents an ambiguous record on the subject.

    For example, the King is commanded not to collect wives. I doubt there is an example of a Jewish king who obeyed this. But let’s look just at David and Solomon. Both are considered great men of God, examples to be followed, and we’ll definitely find them in heaven. Yet both went overboard in the multiple wives department. If God is as obsessed with the monogamous heterosexual marriage as some make Him out to be, then why did He allow this to go unpunished? Why are these two men lifted up as examples of what is good and right in humanity? Why is David a “man after God’s own heart”? And if so, why could the same “exceptions” or “explanations” (or whatever will be offered on their behalf) not available to be applied to homosexuals?

    That’s the question I am asking.

    The statement I am asserting is that the Bible does NOT have a clear sexual ethic. And we are pushing people away from the Kingdom in the way we’re treating homosexuals.

  43. I am grateful for the many thoughtful, loving and Scriptural expressions on this very controversial subject.

    I agree that the teaching of Scripture condemns homosexual behavior and that marriage is a relationship
    between a man and a woman.

    I believe we should teach this in the church, At the same time we should find ways to love homosexuals
    and others who differ with us, and show them in considerate ways that the teaching of the Bible against
    gay marriage is the best and most healthy life-style for us and all mankind.

  44. Graeme, You stated: “Both are considered great men of God, examples to be followed”
    I must take issue with this as both David and Solomon in their actions proved to be scoundrels. David was an adulterer and a murderer and he was a lousy father. The ONLY reason that he was a “man after God’s own heart” was that he was obedient as a king and repentant as a believer. Solomon started well but he quickly went away from following God. If fact, his son lost most of the kingdom due to his (Solomon) sin.
    These are NOT examples that we need to follow. The only right example to follow with a repentant heart as in obedience to Jesus Christ, the God and Creator of all things. Jesus called marriage between a man and a woman (Matthew 19).

  45. Andy, I might or might not agree with your assessment of David and Solomon. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s God’s assessment of them that matters. That’s the point of having a Bible – it’s not up to us. And THAT actually IS my point. These men, as flawed as they are, are affirmed by God and venerated by church history. Your, or my, opinion is not the issue.

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