The Politics of Gay Marriage (God gave them up, Part 2)

pogoRichard P. Hays explains the theology of Rom 1 in more detail —

Homosexual activity, then, is not a provocation of “the wrath of God” (Rom. 1: 18); rather, it is a consequence of God’s decision to “give up” rebellious creatures to follow their own futile thinking and desires. The unrighteous behavior catalogued in Romans 1: 26– 31 is a list of symptoms: the underlying sickness of humanity as a whole, Jews and Greeks alike, is that they have turned away from God and fallen under the power of sin (cf. Rom. 3: 9).

When this context is kept clearly in view, several important observations follow:

  • Paul is not describing the individual life histories of pagan sinners; not every pagan has first known the true God of Israel and then chosen to turn away into idolatry. When Paul writes, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,” he is giving a global account of the universal fall of humanity. This fall is manifested continually in the various ungodly behaviors listed in verses 24– 31.
  • Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings “exchange” these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”
  • Homosexual acts are not, however, specially reprehensible sins; they are no worse than any of the other manifestations of human unrighteousness listed in the passage (w. 29– 31)— no worse in principle than covetousness or gossip or disrespect for parents.
  • Homosexual activity will not incur God’s punishment: it is its own punishment, an “antireward.” Paul here simply echoes a traditional Jewish idea. The Wisdom of Solomon, an intertestamental writing that has surely informed Paul’s thinking in Romans 1, puts it like this: “Therefore those who lived unrighteously, in a life of folly, [God] tormented through their own abominations” (Wisdom of Solomon 12: 23).

Hays, Richard (2013-07-30). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic (p. 388). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The does not mean that homosexual conduct is no sin; quite the contrary. It means that the damnation of society apart from God is much broader than just for those who engage in homosexual sex — or the other sins listed. All outside of Jesus are damned — and the damned, as a society, are marked as damned by their sinful, anti-natural, anti-Creator conduct — even if all they do is approve this conduct in others.

On the other hand, homosexual conduct is not worse than the several other sins listed in Romans 1. Rather, Paul uses homosexual conduct as the first and perhaps most obvious example of many sins that mark a culture as separated from God.

(Rom. 1:28-32 ESV)  28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

One of many striking features of this passage is Paul’s triple declaration that “God gave them up” (Rom 1:24, 26, 28) to sin. The language is from —

(Ps. 81:11-16 ESV)  11 “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.  12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.  13 Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!  14 I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.  15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever.  16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” 

Although Psa 81 is speaking of Israel’s rebellion against God in the desert, the Psalmist’s point is God did not want this result. God’s fondest desire was that Israel would not be stubborn and instead listen to God’s word.

Therefore, God is not the cause of the sinfulness of those described in Rom 1. Rather, God allows them to descend into their own degradation. He doesn’t prevent them from becoming what they wish to become. But it’s not what he wants.

Well then, why not intervene? Why let Israel die in the desert? Why let the Gentiles descend into anti-Creator sin?

God’s purpose in giving the godless over to their godlessness is to show the difference between following God and not. If you want to enjoy the many blessings of following God, you have to follow God. If you want a well-ordered society where people treat each other as God wants, you have to part of a society that follows God. And such a society exists: it’s called the church.

The many Kingdom parables of Jesus speak to how we should treat one another, not of civil law and how to govern the pagans. It’s about how the church is to live as a society in exile, citizens of heaven, resident aliens who serve a King who is at war with the Powers and will not bow to anyone or anything but the Messiah.

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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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25 Responses to The Politics of Gay Marriage (God gave them up, Part 2)

  1. Mark says:

    Isaiah 5:4
    What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?

    Jeremiah 35:17
    “Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.'”

    Matthew and Luke both wrote that Jesus said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

    The prophets and the Messiah all tried to get the people to reform and it just wasn’t going to happen. Perhaps the sermons need to go back to preaching on Jesus and how he taught his follower to live in a pagan world.

  2. Monty says:

    All sin is sin. To be outside of Christ is to be lost. True. However, certain sins carried a greater penalty. For example, no one that I’m aware of was put to death for slander, nor was it required under the Law. No one was put to death for stealing(except for kidnapping). But the Law did require the death penalty for certain sins, many of which were of a sexual nature. These were sins that were looked at as perversion or just so far off track that they carried the death penalty.

    I believe Paul’s using homosexuality in Romans 1 does as Jay says, “provide a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings “exchange” these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”

    However, to not think it “particularly heinous” is to miss Paul’s reason for using it to begin with. When he says, “even the women” he is showing the depth of their depravity. As he would expect perhaps his readers to gasp and say,” the women too?” “No way.” Yes really!” In other words man had abandoned the God given “normal desires” for unnatural affections that aren’t even the God given ones. Man is essence invented his own desires that went against how God hardwired man to begin with. They went as low as you can go and as far away from God as you can go, by saying, “even the women folk.”

    It’s generally men who deal with sexual sins and lusts the most. It’s generally men who have problems with pornography and generally men who are sexual predators. But when the women burn in lust, too, as the men do, one towards another, it’s a particularly bad and depraved society.

  3. Dwight says:

    Many of the women in context were temple priestesses (prostitutes) which were giving a service that was put forward to their deity.
    Rom.1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
    It might not have been solely about lust for women, but it definitely was in regards to men. Men with men was rampant, but women with women was scarcely seen, but that didn’t mean that women didn’t commit sexual immorality in another way, prostitution, bestiality, etc.
    What ever the sexual sin, it was against nature in its inherent nature and thus against God, no matter the reason behind it. Reason never changed a sin to a non-sin.

  4. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    God’s purpose in giving the godless over to their godlessness is to show the difference between following God and not. If you want to enjoy the many blessings of following God, you have to follow God. If you want a well-ordered society where people treat each other as God wants, you have to part of a society that follows God. And such a society exists: it’s called the church.

    Well written column. I think, though, what it omits is a consideration of the very sad fact that people are unwittingly conditioned as children to have an abnormal sexual orientation. THAT sucks because, unlike a physical handicap, it intices one to sin in a shameful fashion. And it is not, so far as we now know, easily fixed. Imagine being a young teenager, discovering you have a SSO and then reading Romans 1. Would you not feel like the scum of the earth? Would you not hate yourself? I believe Paul was speaking in general terms about mankind but, to the unsophisticated reader, it seems like he’s saying individuals choose this behavior. Thousands of suicides say otherwise.

    THIS is precisely why I have been repeatedly arguing for imprinting as the cause and the need for effective treatment to be discovered. But the way it is now in America, SSO is not a problem and so no cure is searched for. Spiritually, it’s as though people have Ebola and no one is concerned.

  5. Mark says:

    In addition to what Christopher said, there were many young people who were yelled at from pulpits (and condemned to hell) for having the normal human sexual desires that come from hormones and puberty. Some people began to view any sexual desire as problematic and suppressed it (or at least attempted to) at the high expense of relationships later in life. The sexual desire given to man by God, even if that man knew how to “possess his vessel” (yes, I love the old language), was viewed as a bad thing because it would get you sent to hell. Then, the cofC universities did not help when students were expelled for running around with the other gender (actual sex was not required) or for having feelings for the same gender. Even a false accusation put one at high risk for being expelled.

  6. Dwight says:

    Christopher, If you lived in Rome during the time of Jesus homosexuality was more of a man-boy thing, much like it is in Afganistan and part of the culture. But even then people had a choice. In Eph. it talks about those who once walked according to the power and prince of the air (Satan) and turned to God. If we buy the imprinting thing, then Jesus and the apostles were wrong in just asking people to repent and turn from their evil ways, as it was not really possible.
    And yet this is exactly what Jesus and the apostles expected people to do, no matter how long they might have lived in the sin or grew up in the culture that taught the sin as normal.
    There is no six-step program, there is the treatment of Christ and His love,
    There are oodles of stories of children who have grown up in some of the worst atmospheres and have by force of will, fought against that atmosphere and became model citizens.
    What we have to show people is that there is a reason for change and a glorious end result in doing it. And we have to not play the hypocrite in the process.

  7. Christopher says:

    Dwight wrote:

    If we buy the imprinting thing, then Jesus and the apostles were wrong in just asking people to repent and turn from their evil ways, as it was not really possible.

    Why would you say this? Do you know what imprinting is? It is not genetic, but learned behavior. And anything learned can be unlearned.

  8. Christopher says:

    So there is a newly “published” study that finds that child raised by “stable” gay parents are no different from those who raised by stable heterosexual parents:

    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-04-kids-stable-families-difference-well-being.html

    And then you ask “Just who conducted this ‘study'”? And you find out one of the “researchers”, Henny Boz, is obviously lesbian. This is what passes for “science” much of the time these days: non-reproducible research in support of an ideology. Satan at work.

  9. Dwight says:

    Christopher, You wrote, “THIS is precisely why I have been repeatedly arguing for imprinting as the cause and the need for effective treatment to be discovered.” So this argues that imprinting is not just some learned behavior, but an indelible behavior, as you are arguing for something to aggressively change the imprint such as treatment. When you imprint something you stamp it or write directly onto it, thus I don’t regard it as simply learned behavior, but indelible behavior placed there by another.
    I can learn to do something, but that doesn’t mean that I am hard positioned to do it. There are many who are “imprinted” in their raising, but then again the person can make the choice to go that way or rewrite their own behavior. This must be true, because there are many who are raised heterosexual that choose homosexual behavior later. But this isn’t learned behavior, but taken on behavior.
    I was simply making the case that “imprinting” by another even during our formative years can be changed by self.

  10. Christopher says:

    Dwight wrote:

    So this argues that imprinting is not just some learned behavior, but an indelible behavior, as you are arguing for something to aggressively change the imprint such as treatment. When you imprint something you stamp it or write directly onto it, thus I don’t regard it as simply learned behavior, but indelible behavior placed there by another.

    You mistake me, buddy. I believe imprinting is not indelible but deeply engrained. It is hard, but not impossible, to unlearn. And if people really considered SSO a problem, then they’d figure out how to unlearn it. But even though, in just Darwinian (rather than Christian) terms, homosexuality is “bad” )because it is maladaptive and would lead to the extinction of the human race if everyone practiced it strictly), people think it’s not a problem. Thus, it never gets fixed.

  11. Monty says:

    Cristopher,

    I read the article from the National Review and it proves a point I made earlier in these discussions that there is no stone that the left will not unturn to jam their gay religion down the throats of conservative Christian values. They could easily have found a bakery that would cater their wedding but they chose purposely to make an issue out of it. Many such other cases than this one too. There will come a day when they make issues of pastors who cannot in good conscience wed same sex couples. Think pastors will win? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Their obvious agenda is to weed out dissenters where ever they be. And they’ve only gotten started.

  12. Gary says:

    The homosexuality that Paul knew was overwhelmingly associated with prostitution, pederasty, promiscuity and coercion- men in power forcing themselves sexually on men who had no power. No wonder Paul used homosexuality as the premier example of humankind turning away from God. Same-sex marriage was unknown in the Roman Empire as far as we can tell before and during the decade of the 50’s when Paul wrote Romans and 1 Corinthians. Jay has repeatedly cited Nero’s two same-sex marriages as evidence of Paul including gay marriage as we know it today in his condemnation of homosexuality. Those marriages did not occur until the following decade. But even if they had been prior to Romans 1 one of Nero’s same-sex marriages was with a boy and one was with a man whom he had castrated. Neither was in any way representative of gay marriage today. There is zero historical or contextual basis to see Romans 1 as applying to gay marriage today.

    I used to fear Romans 1. Now it is so clear to me that Paul’s words are not in any way applicable to homosexual love. What Paul condemned was the opposite of love. Some of us can remember when we used to tell those with whom we were studying with and hoping to baptize to read the Bible as if for the first time- without any preconceived notions. I would recommend to anyone reading this to try to do just that with Romans 1. Read it and honestly ask yourself: are the people whose sexual behavior Paul is condemning in any way like the gay folks today who simply want to spend their lives in marriage with the one they love? The answer is obvious. Paul condemned using homosexuality to hurt and exploit others. To use Romans 1 to condemn gay marriage today is to twist and distort Scripture to serve a misguided conservatism.

    It is little remembered today that the Bible was used to support the right of white people to enslave black people and then to condemn interracial love. “Bible believing Christians” knew their Bibles and they could quote book, chapter and verse to support their racism. But in the decade of the 1960’s America made a permanent transition away from racism. Racist attitudes and practices that were part of ordinary life in 1960 in the South were gone with the wind by 1970. Anyone who was racist by 1970 pretty much had to keep his racism to himself or be ostracized by the wider society. Bob Jones University continued to prohibit interracial dating and marriage but even BJU relented by 2000.

    Those who condemn homosexual love today are going down the same path. I’m not impugning anyone’s heart or motives. I’m only pointing out an instructive parallel with racism. We have embarked in this country on a decade much like the 1960’s. This time prejudice and discrimination against gays is being rejected by our nation. Those who persist in calling gays sinners and worse will in coming years be as despised and marginalized as a racist church would be. I hope Churches of Christ will think long and hard and go back and reread their Bibles before staying on this path.

  13. Christopher says:

    Gary wrote:

    Those who condemn homosexual love today are going down the same path. I’m not impugning anyone’s heart or motives. I’m only pointing out an instructive parallel with racism.

    It is only “instructive” to the extent SSO, like race (and gender), is genetically determined or, like age or physical handicaps, cannot be helped. No one questions that people should not be blamed for what they cannot help, what they did not choose. But since SSO cannot be conclusively shown to be either genetically determined or incurable, the parallel you draw is neither certain or instructive. And tying those with views like mine to racism seems like a nice way of calling us bigots (or “homophobes” or “haters” or whatever ad hominem term one wishes to use).

  14. Gary says:

    Christopher, after you’ve “cured” several gay men please let us know how you did it.

  15. Christopher says:

    Gary,

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to find examples of people who have overcome their homosexuality on the Internet. You just have to want to find them. I am aware that the “world” tells us that homosexuality cannot be cured. It also teaches us, as a fact, that species have evolved over time from a single cell to human beings. There is, of course, no real scientific proof of the latter. Yet it is believed nonetheless. Some former homosexuals are cured, others overcome. A universal cure cannot be known until the cause is identified. And as long as most people claim SSO is not a problem, few will be motivated to find a cure.

    I have posted this link once before:

    http://strengthinweakness.org

    This ministry is run by a CoC minister, a once practicing homosexual who is now married with four children. The site contains many articles written by various people and a members-only section. If that’s not good enough for you at this juncture, I’m not sure what might be.

    Good fortune, friend.

  16. Dustin says:

    The Tennessee bill discussed in the National Review article is not supported by the groups that it supposedly protects (Christian counsellors).

    While perusing through some old Richard Beck posts in the airport, I found this conclusion which makes sense for both sides:

    “Clearly, Christian churches will discern things differently on this issue. They already are. And we should tolerate the heterogeneity amongst us. My final Biblical position on this, then, is similar to Gamaliel’s in the Book of Acts. As the Christian movement was growing the Jews were attempting to discern the will of God (just like we are in this instance): Were Christians evil? Or good? Gamaliel gave this advice to the Jewish leaders: If this movement is from man, then it will ultimately crumble. But if it is from God, who can fight against it? I don’t know if the gay-Christian church is from God or man. But, like Gamaliel, I’ve decided to stand aside, to love, and to allow it room to grow. Only God will know the final outcome. Until then, I pick up the towel and don’t bother much with whose feet I’m washing. ”

    -Richard Beck, Putting it All Together: Is Homosexuality a Sin?
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.ae/2006/03/pulling-it-all-together-is.html?m=1

  17. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    I’ll ask some questions because there are so few known marriages like yours in the area of the country in which I live, that I have never encountered an experience where I or any of the friends that I know have arrived at a public function where we were aware of a single same sex marriage. Are you comfortable to go any public functions in the area of the world in which you live with your mate? Are you and your mate ever invited to attend private parties with couples in your community? Within a reasonable driving distance from your home how many other married same sex marriages can you say that you have a close relationship with? Are there more male marriages or female marriages in the surrounding area of your home? Are there any others other than you who claim to be Christians? What would you guess the percentage of these marriages in your area would be in relationship to the number of man and woman marriages? In other words how greatly has your style of marriage permeated society where you live? If you and your spouse decided to throw a party for an anniversary of your marriage in your home how many guests do you believe would you plan for attending? Would any be man and woman families?
    I do believe that there is many of the readers of this blog which cannot see an impact of marriages like yours or even same sex partners living together within their communities.

  18. Monty says:

    Tennessee governor vetoed the bill his house passed, just like in Ga, now the N.C governor is backtracking. All of it tied to money. Dollars and Gay Agenda hand in hand; odd how 2-3 % of the population can control Big Business in a way that the masses of Christians never could, maybe we never tried very hard or cared enough to send a message. I guess the pull to take the kids to Disney World was stronger than standing up for what you believe. We reap what we sow, or maybe what we don’t sow sometimes.

  19. Dustin says:

    I’m trying to understand what people are afraid of with these laws that no one wants except legislatures. There’s hardly any outcry on the horrible conditions of prisons and the treatment of prisoners and care for the poor. Yet, many seem to be more afraid that gay people will rule the world.

  20. Monty says:

    Dustin,

    Did you read the link, Christopher posted? There’s your answer. Grad students getting kicked out of grad programs because of beliefs. That should make anyone concerned. And why can’t they hold to their religious convictions?

  21. Dwight says:

    Gary, “The homosexuality that Paul knew was overwhelmingly associated with prostitution, pederasty, promiscuity and coercion- men in power forcing themselves sexually on men who had no power.” is untrue and shows how little you know of homosexuality in the Roman culture.
    Homosexuality wasn’t associated with prostitution, prostitution was associated with sex, some of which was homosexual, but largely men and women.
    While true that many homosexual encounters was with older men and children, many times it wasn’t. The ratio was mixed.
    It was promiscuis, but then again all sex outside of marriage was promiscius.
    There was little evidence for forced homosexuality by coercion, other than rape and this happened to both men and women, sometimes at the same time.

    An interesting phenominon is how we always focus on Roman culture, while ignoring Jewish culture. There was no homosexuality in Jewish culture, because it was a sin.
    One would think that if homosexuality done in the name of love it would have been accepted by God, but then again even incest done in the name of love was sinful. So love wasn’t a factor to Paul, because it wasn’t a factor to God, homosexuality like incest was always sinful no matter for what reason.

    Dustin, the problem is that it is a small minority homosexuals, transgendered, etc. that is changing society towards forcing an acceptance of sin by legislation. This is only the tip of the iceberg to come.

  22. Christopher says:

    Dwight wrote:

    An interesting phenominon is how we always focus on Roman culture, while ignoring Jewish culture. There was no homosexuality in Jewish culture, because it was a sin.

    I find instructive there is no OT record of anyone practicing homosexuality like there is of other sexual sins like rape and adultery. I think that is more evidence that SSO is not genetically determined but caused by environmental factors. Else why would not someone have committed this sin?

  23. Larry Cheek says:

    It is very easy for me to believe that all the Israelites understood fully the event at Sodom and Gomorrah, and that event was taught to every Jewish child at a very early age. Which would be a reason for a lack of the record of later judgments being rendered. The Romans had no such event in their history to counter their actions.

  24. Christopher says:

    This is for Jay and everyone else here who places undue faith in contemporary “science”:

    http://theweek.com/articles/618141/big-science-broken

    If a hypothesis cannot be proven by replication using the scientific method, it’s NOT science.

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