Does the Bible Approve of Homosexuality?
It is becoming increasingly common to read and hear arguments made in defense of homosexuality. Usually no appeal is made to Scripture. However, on occasion, books and articles appear that attempt to address the biblical passages that discuss the subject. This article is a brief response to common claims about the Bible and homosexuality.
Some contend that Genesis 19 should not be used to argue against homosexuality since Sodom was destroyed, not for homosexuality, but because of its inhospitality and pride (see Matthew 10:14-15; Ezekiel 16:48-49). The argument is that the men of the city did not necessarily have any sexual perversion in mind, but just wanted to “know” Lot’s guests in the sense of interrogating them in a disrespectful fashion.
While it is true to say that Sodom was not destroyed merely because some of its citizens practiced homosexuality, it is false to say that Sodom was destroyed merely because its inhabitants were inhospitable and proud. The city was destroyed because its citizens were exceedingly sinful (Genesis 13:13). Ezekiel 16, which does mention their pride, also says they “committed abomination before” the Lord. Their actions at Lot’s doorstep reflected that sinfulness (Genesis 19:4-11). When the men of Sodom said they wanted to “know” the messengers of God, they obviously had sexual intentions in mind. This is clear from Lot’s unfortunate offer of his two daughters. Jude 7 reinforces this view as well: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Although Leviticus 20:13 enjoins the death penalty upon homosexuals, the passage is dismissed as irrelevant to the debate because it is part of a legal/holiness code that no longer is in force. It is no more binding than are the regulations against wearing different materials of cloth and planting different types of seed in the same ground.
It is true that the Mosaic legal/holiness code was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). However, to trivialize the code by placing all items in it on the same level is dubious. The Levitical condemnation of homosexual behavior is treated differently than the legislations against mixing cloths and sowing mixed seed. The former was under penalty of death; the latter were not (Leviticus 19:19). A better, though more unpleasant, analogy to the Levitical view of homosexuality is seen in the prohibitions against incest and bestiality, which are mentioned in the same context (Leviticus 20:14-16ff.).
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
It commonly is argued that Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. As our guide and model for life, we should follow Jesus’ example of silence. He taught, instead, that we should love one another in a non-judgmental way.
In response, it should be noted that Jesus’ silence on the issue is no argument that He approved of homosexuality. He never specifically addressed the issues of pedophilia, bestiality, or any number of other sexual perversions. Does this mean that Jesus approved of whatever He did not condemn by name? Are we to think that as long as people feel love, it doesn’t matter what they do? To ask is to answer. In fact, the Lord Jesus always spoke of sexual relations in heterosexual terms. What Jesus did say carries more weight than our views of what He did not say. Clearly, Jesus’ heterosexual view must be taken as normative (read Matthew 19:4-6 et al.).
1 CORINTHIANS 6 AND 1 TIMOTHY 1
Great strides are taken to prove that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 do not condemn homosexuality in general, but rather, abusive homosexual practices and male prostitution in particular.
Although the specific type of homosexual behavior mentioned in these two passages may be male prostitution and abusive homosexual practices, this does not in itself argue in favor of “loving, monogamous, homosexual” relationships. In fact, that concept is foreign to the New Testament. Both of these passages do condemn “fornication.” Fornication is a broad term that includes homosexuality. This is so for two reasons: (1) fornication refers to illicit sexual behavior; and (2) all sexual behavior that violates, is contrary to, or in addition to, the heterosexual behavior implied by a monogamous marriage, is illicit.
Clearly the most problematic passage for all who wish to say the Bible does not condemn homosexuality is Romans 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.
Proponents of homosexuality have tried to remove the force of this passage by suggesting that either Paul was expressing his own uninspired opinion, or he was merely laying the groundwork for his teaching on grace. So he was mainly concerned with idolatry, and not any sin in particular.
Although a biblical writer’s opinion might indeed appear in Scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:7), the suggestion that Romans 1:26-27 represents Paul’s uninspired opinion and is at variance with the rest of the Scripture, is erroneous. If we cannot trust Paul to express the will of God on this point, where can we trust him? What will be our standard? Unfortunately, our own opinions become the standard all too often.
The fact is, Paul meant exactly what Christians have long thought he meant—that homosexual behavior is symptomatic of sin in the world. This passage is not to be dismissed as too difficult to understand, or as an isolated passage that somehow is outweighed by an impressive array of passages teaching the opposite. Although this passage does not stand alone, from the standpoint of divine inspiration, one reference is enough.
The conclusion is this: every time homosexual behavior is mentioned, it is condemned. The Bible is not homophobic (i.e., obsessively hostile toward homosexuality), but it clearly treats heterosexuality as normative (1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3; et al.). These unsuccessful attempts to reinterpret the Bible’s teaching on the subject raise an even more crucial question: What Scripture can be presented that legitimizes homosexuality?