One of the key themes of this blog is to outline the Biblical case for Christians to affirm our LGBTQI friends, 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 nearly 30 years), none of my immediate family are LGBTQI (as far as I know and can ascertain), and all of my LGBTQI 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 fifteen 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, have engaged in numerous discussions and forums, and participated in public events and debates to try and hone my thinking. My position has developed over that time, 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, 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 LGBTQI 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 Not because we’re acquiescing to a changing culture, or because we should ignore outdated Bible verses, but very specifically because we can see God’s blessing on LGBTQI people and their marriages as we do on “straight” people and their marriages.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. God wasn’t mistaken, we were. The Bible is not wrong, our interpretation of it was.
What I Believe About the Bible
There are many ways to approach this issue, and my atheist friends will roll their eyes and wonder why I have not yet abandoned both an ancient book and an outdated God. But I have not. I consider myself to be an evangelical: I believe that God wrote the Bible, that the Bible is what God intended us to have and that it is His Word, and I believe that we must use it to guide and inform our lives. I don’t believe it is a constitution or a legal document to be parsed, and I think we need to work hard and carefully to interpret the Bible and apply it correctly today. But I don’t want to argue that it is not applicable today, nor that we can ignore it because it was so culturally conditioned that it is irrelevant or even tainted. I want to take it seriously as God’s Word. But I need to acknowledge that we may have been misinterpreting it for a few centuries.
What’s at Stake
The reason this topic is important, and the reason we cannot just “agree to disagree” on it is that eternal destinies and souls are at stake. I fully understand why those who oppose homosexuality are so determined about it. If their reading of the Bible is correct, then people who have homosexual sex are going to spend eternity apart from God (please note, that I am going to use “gay” and “homosexual” to refer to all and any LGBTQI orientations – this is simply for ease of reading and writing). This is indeed a dire consequence and should be taken seriously. We’re literally dealing with people’s lives here, and cannot afford to get this wrong.
On the other hand, if traditional Christians are wrong about this, they are contributing to the epidemic of depression, suicide and stress that many LGBTQI people experience. This is one of the key defining issues of our age.
What Did We Get Wrong
It’s not easy to know where to start with this topic, so let’s start by identifying the key arguments against homosexuality. I’ll deal with each of these in turn, and in varying levels of detail, over the next few months and years on this blog, and in the ALLin podcast. But right now, I’d be very interested to know if I have covered all the arguments. I don’t want to deal with the arguments themselves at this stage, and I am not providing comprehensive refutations right now – I just want to make sure I have all the arguments listed. Please let me know if you think I am missing any, and I’ll add them to my list.
The arguments against homosexuality typically fall into the following categories:
1. Yuck, that’s icky
- Maybe more charitably, some Christians argue that their consciences tell them that homosexuality is wrong, because they have such a visceral negative reaction to it. This argument is easy to counter, because our consciences are clearly not as finely tuned as we think they are. Many people, for example, would not eat dogs, although there’s nothing morally wrong with doing so. What we think of as our consciences are often cultural conditioning, and we need to be careful of this argument as a basis for moral judgements of this magnitude.
2. The very nature of things – It violates natural law
- Whether referencing Paul or not, this argument talks about the physiology of the human body, with an appeal to the obvious sexual fit of a male and female body, and sometimes a further appeal to the inability of gay couples to conceive children. I believe this argument is also easily countered. For instance, why are there no Biblical restrictions placed on what a male and female married couple can do sexually – if God has a problem with what appendage goes in which hole, you’d have expected this? Hopefully without being crude, we would need to explain why anal sex is not prohibited for everyone if this is the real problem with homosexuality. Or why we never talk about lesbians in this particular argument. It’s also fairly obvious to show that marriages are not obligated to produce children.
3. Homosexuality, specifically male homosexuality activity, is not healthy.
- This includes anal sex health issues, mental health issues such as co-morbidity with depression and suicide rates, emotional health indicators and the rates of breakdown of gay relationships compared to heterosexual ones. These arguments can go even further: Gays are evidently broken people. Girls become gay after they are raped by physically abusive fathers. Boys become gay after being dominated by emotionally abusive mothers. Lesbians cut their hair short and try to look and act like men. Gay boys try to act like women; soft and weak; lacking strength. The world has no good gay role models. They are all evidently broken people who either do not accept their masculinity / femininity, or are too weak and damaged to fulfil it, so they hide as emotional cripples under the skirts of being “victims”. Or they go completely overboard and dance in the street waving their junk around screaming gay pride. This is what some people believe. I believe that there is some truth to the brokenness of homosexuals, but mainly because of how society has treated them. There’s lots of research to look at on these issues, and I’ll do my best to make sense of all of it.
4. Research shows that sexuality is a binary issue: male and female only.
- LGBT is not just about homosexual and lesbian relationships, but also about transgender, transexual, bisexual, intersexual, asexual and other sexual expressions. Supporters often see gender and sexuality as different issues, and see sexuality expressed on a spectrum, rather than simply male and female. Arguments against this position see sexuality as a binary issue.
5. Nobody is born gay.
- It is a choice, and a moral choice with moral consequences. Many gays have been “cured” from their illness which proves it is a lifestyle choice.
6. The plain reading of the Bible is against homosexual practice
- God did not write the Bible for convoluted academics. He wrote it to be understood. And a cursory reading of the Bible makes it clear that God calls gay behaviour sinful. So let’s take the Bible at face value and call a spade what God calls a spade; gays are sinning because God clearly says so, whether we feel sorry for them or not. I will argue that on the first reading of the Bible it might seem so. But then, with a little bit of study (not deep academic study, just slightly more reading), holes begin to emerge in the seven verses that refer to homosexuality. The Bible itself interprets the OT stories of Sodom and Gomorrah for us, with no reference to homosexuality. New Testament Christians can find no consistent way to interpret OT Law, so we rightly have to abandon everything that is not explicitly renewed in the New Covenant. In the NT, Paul makes up new words to refer to homosexuals and some English translations are honest enough to translate the words as “homosexual offenders” – a specific class of homosexuals (it’s clear that accepting LGBT people is not the same as giving an “anything goes” carte blanche to homosexual practices). And Romans 1, even on a plain reading is clearly talking about sexual excess, rather than lifelong, committed same sex marriage. I’ll go into a lot more detail in future blog posts, but there are significant question marks over our traditional interpretation of these verses. I’ll also go further to show that when you do go into detailed academic study of the Bible, it’s almost impossible to continue holding the traditional view against homosexuality.
7. This isn’t what 2,000 years of Church history and 4,000 years of Jewish history has taught.
- Are we really so arrogant to believe that everyone who came before us was wrong? Surely we cannot just change our beliefs because the world around us is changing?
8. Even if you can show that the Bible does not explicitly condemn homosexuality, my conscience tells me it’s wrong.
- Does scripture need to be clear regarding what exactly constitutes as sin? If the law is written on our hearts does the Holy Spirit not ultimately then guide us via our conscience regarding whether or not this is sin?
9. It takes a man and a woman to make a child, and a father and mother to raise one properly
- This is the argument that talks of the family as the bedrock of society, and often appeals to either Genesis 2 or the Fifth Commandment to prove that God planned the family to be a man and woman and children only. I will argue that social science has disproved the social aspects of this argument. It also often relies on defining the purpose of marriage (and sex) as procreation. This is just not true. And I’ll show that it is bad logic and bad exegesis to use the Bible’s references to male-female marriage as normative and restrictive.
10. Marriage is a covenant designed by God to reflect His image and model His relationship with us, and it can only be between one male and one female (even Jesus said so)
- Most conservative Christians acknowledge enough question marks over the interpretation of the seven Biblical verses that specifically reference homosexuality that they’ve shifted the debate to this issue of the design of marriage, and are focusing their efforts on protecting the traditional definition of a marriage being between one man and one woman. Some are arguing that same sex marriage might not be spoken about as a sin in the Bible, but it is not God’s plan for society. This argument is based on Genesis 2:23,24. So it’s not saying that homosexuality is a sin, but that it is not ideal, and not what God intended. I will argue that the pattern of marriage that God wants preserved is the covenant bond, rather than the gender of the partners involved in the covenant. Same sex marriages are as wonderful a covenant model as heterosexual marriages, and we have idolised marriage and misunderstood the “creation order”. We also misuse Jesus’ answer to a question about divorce when we turn it into a normative statement for all marriages. It’s worth noting that we’ve redefined marriage many times over the past centuries – the male-female version is not as sacred as is made out.
11. God designed marriage partnerships to be complementary – with a man and his “help meet”.
- This is related to the previous argument, but specifically references the different roles, functions (and sometimes status) believed to be relevant to men and women. I don’t know of any person who affirms homosexuality and does not at the same time also believe in the complete equality of the sexes too, so these two issues are probably interlinked.
12. The slippery slope – it will lead to polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality and all manner of other marriage arrangements.
- When women were campaigning to get the vote a century ago, a counter argument was genuinely put forward that if women got the vote, then very soon animals would too. This didn’t happen. Two things are important here: consent, and orientation. And both of these mean that there’s no slippery slope.
13. Gays are anti society; anti establishment; anti rules.
- It’s like a “soft” gateway drug that makes you more open to breaking other rules and taking harder drugs. Society is against gays. Those who come out are effectively rejecting the rules of society – and so we don’t want them living in our society.
14. There are no positive or affirming examples of gay relationships in the Bible
- This is a significant argument against homosexuality, and certainly having a gay couple in one of the Bible stories would change the conversation. But I will show that this is a weak argument, and given that we can easily answer the other four arguments against homosexuality, this one holds no weight at all. I’ll also show you some gay people in the Bible and how God interacted with them.
As I said above, I don’t want to debate these arguments at this stage. All I want to know is have I missed any arguments against homosexuality. Over the next few months, I’ll go into these arguments in detail and show how the Bible affirms LGBTQI relationships. It’s time to change our views.
If you missed my previous post, you might be interested in a reading list of books on same sex marriage – it’s here.
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The full series of posts
- NOTE: Part 14 is also a good place to start, as it is a summary of the 7 “clobber passages” in the Bible; otherwise just read the blog posts in order below.
- Best books to read on the topic
- Websites and blogs affirming same sex marriage from the Bible
- Part 2: Do God and the Bible Change?
- Part 3: How we interpret the Bible
- Part 4: Sodomites in Genesis (and Judges)
- Part 5: Consistency, Punishments and The New Covenant
- Part 6: Leviticus: The Holiness Code, Ancient Sex Ethics and Abominations
- Part 7: Graeco-Roman culture and homosexuality
- Part 8: Male-Bedders – the meaning of ‘arsenokoitai‘
- Part 9: The ‘Soft’ in 1 Corinthians – the meaning of ‘malakos‘
- Part 10: Re-Read Romans 1 (updated on 15 October 2015)
- Part 11: Shameful Acts and Going Against Nature
- Part 12: What Romans 1 is Really All About
- Part 13: Other Interpretations of Romans 1
- *** Part 14: Start here: A summary of the Bible’s verses against same sex marriage
- Part 15: Dr David Gushee at the Reformation Project conference – Ending the Teaching of Contempt
- Part 16: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage (Part 1)
- Part 17: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage (slavery and women)
- Part 18: Ten Passages that point to a positive view of homosexuality
- COMING UP: But Why? The moral logic of the same sex marriage question
- COMING UP: Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Marriage
- COMING UP: The Meaning of “one flesh” and Marriage
- COMING UP: Have We Mythologised Marriage? Complementarity, Paternalism, Singleness and Homosexuality
- COMING NEXT: Dealing with Objections: We should stick to the historical interpretation of the Bible
- COMING UP: Dealing with Objections: You’re over-intellectualising the Bible, just read the plain words
- COMING UP: Dealing with Objections: The Bible says that marriage is between a man and woman only
- COMING UP: Covenants – How We Move Forward With Affirming Same Sex Marriages
- COMING UP: What we ignore and what we enforce – and why
- COMING UP: One more time: The Plain Reading of the Biblical Text
- COMING UP: What supporters of same sex marriage should NOT be saying
- COMING UP: Slaves, women and the moral arc of Scripture
- COMING UP: The Church and Homosexuality Through the Ages
- COMING UP: Design or Defect?
- COMING UP: God’s Judgement, AIDS and moral decay
- COMING UP: Why? IF it is sin, WHY is it sin? Why would God be against covenantal, monogamous same gender marriage?
- COMING UP: Is Celibacy Really An Option?
- COMING UP: A Slippery Slope?
- COMING UP: What about the ‘B’ and ‘T’ of LGBT from a Biblical perspective?
- COMING UP: A Biblical Sexual Ethic
- COMING UP: Dealing with Other Common Objections
- COMING UP: Further Evidence of the Positive Case from the Bible
- COMING UP: What Must Be Done
- COMING UP: Even If I Don’t Believe – how should we deal with gay people, even if we consider it a sin?
- COMING UP: Can We Just Agree to Disagree?
- Don’t Stop Now!