Homosexuality: Arguments Opposed, Part 4

gay christianWe are thinking through additional counter-arguments to those in favor of gay marriage proposed by Richard Beck in his blog.

How can it be loving for God to prohibit homosexuals from engaging in homosexual sex?

Well, the reasons given in the scriptures are largely theological and often quite profound, but the question is never, to my knowledge, answered in this way — with one exception. Listen carefully to what Paul is saying in Romans 1 —

 (Rom 1:18-20 ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

First point: Even when God has not revealed his will through special revelation, such as the Law of Moses, the Creation itself reveals enough about God to make certain things very clear — clear enough that even those who’ve never heard of God or his Law can be fairly held accountable for their sins (as Paul explains further in Rom 5).

(Rom 1:21-23 ESV) 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Paul’s first particular accusation against the Gentiles is that they left him, who made them, and preferred to worship idols. They preferred to worship “man and birds and animals and creeping things,” that is, the things that God himself made in Gen 1. They confused the created things with the Creator. And isn’t it obvious that these are created things? And doesn’t creation imply a Creator?

(Rom 1:24-25 ESV) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,  25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

Paul declares that God eventually abandoned mankind so that fallen, broken mankind would reveal their fallen condition through their behavior. That is, we become like what we worship. Worship a transcendent, holy God, and you’ll become more and more holy. Worship Pan and you’ll become more and more like a goat — even engaging in bestiality to please your goat god (as the Greeks quite literally did).

Paul has not yet defined “dishonoring their bodies,” but already we see that our bodies are part of who we are, and the way we treat our bodies reflects that nature of the god/God we worship. Worship the wrong god, and your treatment of your own body will reveal that fact because, contrary to many an assumption, our body is a part of who we are.

(Rom 1:26-27 ESV) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 

“God gave them up” is taken from the OT, when God finally gave up begging Israel and Judah to repent, eventually allowing the Assyrians and Babylonians to destroy their nations and carry them off into captivity.

It’s not that God caused them to sin or to suffer, but that God withdrew his protection, and so their sin led to its natural conclusion.

This passage is obviously referring to homosexual conduct, and Paul finds homosexual activity to reveal hearts far removed from God because God’s will for sexuality is revealed in our bodies. We are plainly designed to marry and to reproduce male with female — or else to remain single.

Remember, Paul began by declaring that God reveals himself as Creator through his Creation — part of which is our bodies, including our sexuality.

N.T. Wright (an Anglican bishop at the time) comments —

The point of Romans 1 as a whole is that when humans refuse to worship or honour God, the God in whose image they are made, their humanness goes into self-destruct mode; and Paul clearly sees homosexual behaviour as ultimately a form of human deconstruction. He is not saying that everyone who discovers homosexual instincts has chosen to commit idolatry and has chosen homosexual behaviour as a part of that; rather, he is saying that in a world where men and women have refused to honour God this is the kind of thing you will find.

The fascinating thing is what Paul then does with this analysis of the plight of humankind. In Romans 4:18–22, when describing the way in which Abraham believed God and so was reckoned as righteous, Paul carefully reverses what has happened in Romans 1:18–23. Abraham believed that God had power to give life to the dead; he honoured God and did not waver in unbelief. That is why he is reckoned within the covenant, as ‘righteous’. And the result, of course, is that Abraham and Sarah become fruitful. Romans 1 is not a detached denunciation of wickedness in general. It is carefully integrated into the flow of thought of the letter. (See too 7:4–6 for the contrast between sinful lives which do not bear fruit, and life under the new covenant which does.) In particular, we may note the strong ethical imperatives of chapters 6, 8 and 12, in each of which, but particularly in 6:1–11 and 12:1–2, there are echoes both of Romans 1 and Genesis 1–3 which underlies it. Paul clearly believes that the application of the gospel to human lives produces new behaviour, renewed human behaviour, newly image-bearing behaviour. It is not using Romans 1 as a proof text, but as part of the tightly woven fabric of Paul’s greatest letter, to say that he certainly regards same-sex genital behaviour as dehumanized and dehumanizing.

A footnote on sexual behaviour in Paul’s world. If one looks at the ancient world there is of course evidence of same-sex behaviour in many contexts and settings. But it is noticeable that the best-known evidence comes from the high imperial days of Athens on the one hand and the high imperial days of Rome on the other (think of Nero, and indeed Paul may have been thinking of Nero).

I have argued elsewhere against the view that Paul was quiescent politically, that he held a strong implicit and sometimes explicit critique of pagan empire in general and of Rome in particular; and clearly denunciation of pagan sexual behaviour was part of that (e.g. Philippians 3:19–21). I just wonder if there is any mileage in cultural analysis of homosexual behaviour as a feature of cultures which themselves multiply and degenerate in the way that great empires are multiply degenerate, with money flowing in, arrogance and power flowing out, systemic violence on the borders and systematic luxury at the centre.

Part of that imperial arrogance in our own day, I believe, is the insistence that we, the empire, the West, America, or wherever, are in a position to tell the societies that we are already exploiting in a thousand different ways that they should alter their deep-rooted moralities to accommodate our newly invented ones. There is something worryingly imperial about the practice itself and about the insistence on everybody else endorsing it. It is often said that the poor want justice while the rich want peace. We now have a situation where two-thirds of the world wants debt relief and one-third wants sex. That is, I think, a tell-tale sign that something is wrong at a deep structural level.

N. T. Wright, Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978–2013, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 266–267.

And so, Paul clearly sees homosexual activity as not against God’s mean-spirited, moralizing rulebook. Rather, he sees it as a mark of something deeply unhealthy and dangerous to society — indeed, a sign that society has become profoundly rebellious against God.

Obviously, passing a law making homosexual activity illegal is not going to solve that problem. The solution is a return to Jesus, salvation by faith in/faithfulness to Jesus, an ethic built on the cross and resurrection, and receipt of the indwelling Spirit — which is Rom 3 – 8.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to Homosexuality: Arguments Opposed, Part 4

  1. Christopher says:

    Good article, Jay. I agree with all you’ve written here.

  2. Sam says:

    These have been good posts, Jay. I have been wrestling with one thing lately. You say that “We are plainly designed to marry and to reproduce male with female — or else to remain single.” Which makes perfect sense, but how should gay Christians follow Pauls recommendation in 1 Cor. 7 for each to have their own spouse? If a gay Christian struggles with celibacy, what is the recommendation for them? Mixed orientation marriages work for some, but I’m unsure if that is a satisfying answer to me. Would you advocate a Catholic position, that sex is intended to be equally unitive and procreative? From what I’ve heard most Non-Catholics seem to be open to sex that wouldn’t lead to reproduction (contraception/sterilization). It just seems that using anatomy to reason against homosexual relationships is confusing if the primary function of sex is not to reproduce. I’d just like some thoughts, sorry if this is a bit jumbled.

    Also, feel free to refer to Dr. Wright as a Bishop. I believe there may be a special title, since he is no longer in a pastoral position, but he’s still a Bishop because he was ordained as one.

    As always, thanks for the insight and grace.

  3. Christopher says:

    Sam writes:

    You say that “We are plainly designed to marry and to reproduce male with female — or else to remain single.” Which makes perfect sense, but how should gay Christians follow Pauls recommendation in 1 Cor. 7 for each to have their own spouse? If a gay Christian struggles with celibacy, what is the recommendation for them?

    I get the impression that Jay leans towards believing SSO is determined genetically and, if so, you just got the short end of the stick. God grades on a curve and provide help through His spirit, but that’s about all you may expect in an otherwise deistic universe. I lean towards believing SSO is determined by environmental factors, like imprinting (which is a scientifically proven phenomenon). If so, then there may well be reason for hoping it can be cured or unlearned. People just have to be interested enough to figure out how, as they are for things like HIV and (finally now) cancer.

    For the time being, you may want to check out the Strength in Weakness ministry on the Internet. God bless.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Sam asked,

    how should gay Christians follow Pauls recommendation in 1 Cor. 7 for each to have their own spouse?

    Paul says this is a concession, not a command. He prefers that his readers remain single.

    It just seems that using anatomy to reason against homosexual relationships is confusing if the primary function of sex is not to reproduce. I’d just like some thoughts, sorry if this is a bit jumbled.

    I disagree with the Catholic position that sex must be at least potentially procreative to be approved by God. I don’t find that in the Bible.

    However, I do believe that Paul teaches in Rom 1 that our design as male and female reveals God’s will that sex be between a man and woman. The design issues are the same whether sex is for procreation or shared pleasure. Paul says nothing about having children or not in Rom 1, and his critiques of homosexuality never deal with procreation.

    I well understand that not all gay people have the gift of celibacy. But abstinence is not a demand uniquely imposed on gay people by the scriptures. There are far more single heterosexuals than gay men and women, and they are also required to be abstinent — and many who have little chance of marriage.

    This has led many Christians to rethink what it means to live as a single Christian, gay or straight. In our culture, it’s assumed that adults will live alone, or that two might share a house. Increasingly, single friends are sharing homes among several friends to live in community. Blue Like Jazz has a great chapter or two on Donald Miller’s pastor insisting that he stop living alone and move in with a bunch of single Christian men — although he is not gay. The pastor’s wisdom is that none of us is designed to live alone. Community is good for us.

  5. Sam says:

    Well said. Thanks, Jay.

  6. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    This has led many Christians to rethink what it means to live as a single Christian, gay or straight. In our culture, it’s assumed that adults will live alone, or that two might share a house. Increasingly, single friends are sharing homes among several friends to live in community. Blue Like Jazz has a great chapter or two on Donald Miller’s pastor insisting that he stop living alone and move in with a bunch of single Christian men — although he is not gay. The pastor’s wisdom is that none of us is designed to live alone. Community is good for us.

    Good point. This is exactly what I did for most of my years as a single Christian. And we almost never went on a single date to avoid being ensnared by sexual temptation. Instead, we went on double or triple dates which were a blast – low pressure, become friends before anything else kind of dates.

  7. Dwight says:

    Just a thought to the question “How can it be loving for God to prohibit homosexuals from engaging in homosexual sex?”.
    This also applies to everything that was listed within the context of sexual immorality in the OT Law, including incest, bestiality, rape, etc and even adultery. God was against any sexual situation that didn’t include a committed relationship between a man and woman. These sexual immoral things in the OT is what was in mind in the NT as that is what the Jews knew within the context of fornication or sexual immorality. Why one committed adultery (if it was love or lust) didn’t matter as they were all judged under the act, which was sinful. Lust brings forth sin when it is enacted upon.

    While sex is intended for children it also has a pleasure capability built in, which makes the acquirement of noisy, smelly babies that much easier to come by. This doesn’t mean that all sex should lead to children, but at least in the old days, before contraceptives, sex usually meant children, for whatever reason it was had. This was true of David and Bathsheba, who probably weren’t thinking children at the time of the affair. And yet it happened.

    I side with Chris on this. I also lean towards environmental reasons for homosexuality, be it exposure or bad parenting or no parenting or poor marital roles. And while there might be a genetic influence, this doesn’t explain why studies on twins haven’t resulted in 100% one way or the other. This doesn’t even explain why those men who have feminine characteristics and women who have masculine characteristics turn out heterosexual and those men and women who do not turn out homosexual. And then there are the bi-sexuals.
    People might have feelings and inclinations, but in the end people choose what they want to do or not do.

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