Category Archives: Apologetics

Marriage, Homosexuality, and The Bible, Part 2

Is Conservative Theology on Homosexuality Clear or Queer?

This is part 2 of a series on what the Bible has to say about marriage and homosexuality (Part 1 is available here).

Christians that hold to a conservative interpretation of what the Bible says about marriage and homosexuality are often labeled as backwards, archaic, and on the wrong side of history. Is this the case? Or are conservative Christians correct when they say that their reading of the Biblical texts about marriage and homosexuality are timeless and not subject to social evolution?

homosexuality-sin-stupid
If you can’t beat ’em, ad hominem!

What Does The Bible Say About Homosexuality?

First and foremost, nowhere does the Bible single out homosexual activity as a sin that is worse than any other sexual sin. Homosexual activity is included in the prohibitions against all sexual activity outside of marriage. Incest in any form, adultery, homosexuality, beastiality, polygamy and fornication are all prohibited in the Bible.

Some would argue that such teachings are archaic and should be ignored, just like we ignore other laws of the Bible. The argument looks something like this:

  • Premise 1: Eating of shellfish is an abomination according to the Bible.
  • Premise 2: Homosexuality is an abomination according to the Bible.
  • Premise 3: Christians ignore the laws about eating shellfish.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, Christians ought to be able to ignore the laws about homosexuality.

The website godhatesshrimp.com exists to expose this perceived hypocrisy in a satiric way. For a more in-your-face example of this argument, watch this video of gay-activist Dan Savage as he bullies high school students at an anti-bully conference (Warning: Contains offensive language).

The problem here is a misunderstanding of the context of the Law, specifically the Levitical Law. Not all of Leviticus is written to everyone. There were laws and abominations that were specific for the Jews. The law against the eating of shellfish (Lev 11:9-12) is one of those laws. This is made clear by the context. God says, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying…” (Lev. 19:1, NKJV). Additionally, in Lev. 11:9-12, the dietary abominations are declared to be “abominations to you.” Three times God says, “They are/shall be an abomination to you.”

Contrast that with what God says about the sexual abominations in Lev. 18:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.
Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God’” (Lev. 18:22-30, NKJV).

It is important to notice the repeated use of the plural “abominations.” Homosexuality is not the only abomination God is warning against.

So, what abominations is God warning against? Contextually, chapter 17 is about blood atonement procedures, so that is for Israel, not for everyone. In Chapter 18 God says to Israel, “According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do;” (vs 3, NKJV).  So, now instead of it applying only to Israel, God mentions things that are done by Egypt and the land of Canaan. In other words, these sexual acts were already abominations before God gave the Levitical law. What were the things those other nations did?  The chapter contains the following:

  • Vs 6-18, don’t uncover the nakedness of various relatives.
  • Vs 19, don’t have sexual relations with woman on her period
  • Vs 20. don’t have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife
  • Vs 21, don’t offer children to Molech
  • Vs 22, don’t lie with a male as with a female
  • Vs 23, don’t have intercourse with animals

In essence, not all abominations are equal. There are abominations in Leviticus only for the Israelites, and there are abominations that were for non-Israelites that pre-existed the Levitical Law.  It is in the latter group that homosexuality is listed. To mix topics intended only for Israel with topics that included the non-Israelites is mistaken hermeneutics at best and blatant dishonesty at worst.

To further illustrate the point that these abominations pre-existed the Levitical Law we can look at Paul’s words in the first chapter of Romans:

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in the thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, . . . For this reason God gave them up to file 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 (Rom 1:18-22; 24-27, NKJV).

There is no mention of the Law of Moses here. In fact, the context of the first three chapters of Romans clearly shows that Paul is specifically referring to those who did not have the special revelation of the Law of Moses. In the next chapter, Paul states:

[F]or when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them (Rom 2:14-15, NKJV).

So, we can clearly see that sexual immorality was already part of the broader Natural Law that has existed from the foundation of the world. When God created the heavens and the earth, He also created the Laws of Nature. The Egyptians and Canaanites ought to have been able to understand that their sexual actions were immoral even without the special revelation of the Law of Moses.

Also, because the prohibition against sexual immorality (including homosexuality) is found in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, we can conclude that God’s position never changes. God’s disdain against homosexual activity appears as early as the first book in the Bible:

Now before they law down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof” (Gen 19:4-8, NKJV).

Again, we see that Lot, who lived hundreds of years prior to the giving of the Law of Moses, understood that homosexual activity was wicked. The Law of Moses was not needed for this truth to be understood because it was evidenced through the Natural Law. God codified this Natural Law in the Law of Moses and this teaching was perpetuated with the New Testament church.

In addition to Paul’s teaching to the believers in Rome that we have already mentioned, Paul states to the church in Corinth:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9-10, NKJV).

From the earliest record in the Bible to the some of the last, Scripture categorically condemns homosexual behavior. This is understood even by those in the gay community. Pim Pronk, a gay biologist, theologian, and philosopher states:

To sum up: wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned. With reference to it the New Testament adds no arguments to those of the Old. Rejection is a foregone conclusion; the assessment of it nowhere constitutes a problem. It obviously has to be repeated from time to time, but the phenomenon as such nowhere becomes the focus of moral attention. It is never condemned in isolation but always in association with other major sins; unchastity, violence, moral corruption, and idolatry.

Even glbtq.com, which claims to be “the worlds largest encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture,” acknowledges this fact:

The bad news from the Christian bible is that it condemns same-sex desire and same-sex acts without qualification of age, gender, role, status, consent, or membership in an ethnic community.

If the Bible is so clear, why are there so many so-called Christian leaders (like Rob Bell) and Christian churches (like the Episcopalian Church) that condone the same practice that the Bible condemns?

If our culture would take an honest look at what the Bible says about marriage and homosexuality, not only would we come to the conclusion that homosexual marriage should not be promoted, but also that homosexual practice should not be permitted and that both ought to be prohibited.

Marriage, Homosexuality, and The Bible, Part 1

Is Conservative Theology on Marriage Clear or Queer?

This is part 1 of a series on what the Bible has to say about marriage and homosexuality.

Christians that hold to a conservative interpretation of what the Bible says about marriage and homosexuality are often labeled as backwards, archaic, and on the wrong side of history. Is this the case? Or are conservative Christians correct when they say that their reading of the Biblical texts about marriage and homosexuality are timeless and not subject to social evolution?

Straw man, anyone?

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

The first mention of the institution of the family mentioned in the Bible is found in Genesis where God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him” (Gen 2:18, NET).

The Hebrew expression כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (kÿnegdo) that is translated as “corresponds to him” literally means “according to the opposite of him.” Translations such as “suitable [for]” (NASB, NIV), “matching,” “corresponding to” all capture the idea. (Translations that render the phrase simply “partner” [cf. NEB, NRSV], while not totally inaccurate, do not reflect the nuance of correspondence and/or suitability.) The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond. In short, this prepositional phrase indicates that she has everything that God had invested in him (1).

Marriage, according to the Bible, was a creation of God. Marriage was not instituted by government, nor was it developed by a social organization. God had a plan (“I will make…) to provide a “companion” or, as other translations say, a “helper” for the man. The word for “companion” is עֵזֶר (’ezer) and is used elsewhere to describe God (Exodus 18:4; Psalm 121:1, 2). The implication here is that the wife, like God, is someone who does for the man what he cannot do for himself. In other words, the wife meets the needs of the husband. It also logically follows that the husband meets the needs of the wife. The two are an indispensable pair. This was God’s plan.

Then God gave Adam a job:

He brought them [the animals] to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found (Gen 2:19b-20, NET).

The point of the animals on parade is clear: none of the animals could meet Adams needs. A special creative act was required. So God made Eve. She was equal, but different. She was complementary. When Adam saw Eve, he knew she was perfect for him:

This one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man (Gen 2:23, NET).

And then, Moses, the writer of Genesis explains this entire scene by telling us “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family” (Gen 2:24, NET).

Here we find God’s definition of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. Heterosexual monogamy is the only approved marriage relationship in the Bible.

Jesus affirms this view. He actually quotes the words of Moses mentioned above. Matthew 19 records:

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:3-6, NKJV).

The only kind of marriage that Jesus endorsed was the same kind of marriage that was initiated at the beginning: one man, one woman, for life. Again, heterosexual monogamy is the only approved marriage relationship in the Bible. The Pharisees did go on and ask about Moses and his allowance for divorce, and Jesus again went back to the creation account and states, “from the beginning it was not so.” Jesus’ emphasis on the original intent of the Creator on the issue of marriage clearly shows that He would not have endorsed or condoned same-sex marriage. The very concept would have actually been unheard of in Jesus’ time. Although homosexual practice was normal and accepted, it was done for recreational purposes. Even the pagan Romans understood that marriage was and ought to be limited to a man and a woman.

The entire scene from Genesis of the creation of the man and the woman would have been incredibly radical at the time that Moses recorded it. No other ancient eastern religion honored the female as an equal partner to the man, and no other ancient eastern moral code commanded sexual fidelity for a husband and wife. In fact, the very opposite was the case. By the time the Torah was given to Moses and the Jews, religions taught unbridled sexual activity as worship to their gods. In Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Cyrus, Canaan and others, temple prostitution and ritualistic sexual acts were part of their laws and history. This practice became the norm in almost every religious system. The Babylonian goddess Ishtar had seduced a man. The Egyptian god Asiris had an incestuous relationship with his sister. Krishna, the Hindu god, was a polygamist. Zeus married his sister Hera.

Also contemporaneous with the early Jewish religious law was the practice of homosexuality. Gender, when it came to sexual activity, was a non-issue. This can be seen in the laws of Leviticus 18 where God warns the Hebrews against sexual immorality:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord (Lev 18:1-5, NKJV).

They were obviously very familiar with the sexual practices of the Egyptians and would see the same things happening in the land which there were about to enter.

This is the historic and cultural context into which the Torah entered. And it was this kind of thinking that God was trying to get the Hebrews to unlearn. In the Hebrew religion, man was not conceived in a sexual act, but created in a supernatural one. Sex is not recreational activity or worship to their deity, but a sacred act reserved for a matrimonial union. Thus, any sexual activity outside of heterosexual monogamy was prohibited. This was contrary to the aforementioned religious ideologies and shows that the Judeo-Christian God is countercultural, and therefore not just some idea conceived in the mind of man.

Tomorrow we will look at what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

Five Foundational F.A.C.T.S. About God

FACTSThe Bible tells us that we can know that God is by looking at the world around us. Paul makes this argument in Romans, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20, NKJV). The Psalmist David takes a similar position:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world (Psalms 19:1-4b, NKJV).

But beyond that general revelation of His existence can we know who God is? Can we know what He is like? Can we know HIs personality? The answer to all of these questions is, yes!

We will examine five of these traits of God using the acronym F.A.C.T.S.

F – God Is Forgiving

The forgiveness of God is possibly the most important and incredible aspect of who He is.

We are all sinners. And it doesn’t take very long for our sinfulness to come to the surface. As children, when mom told you not to eat the cookies in the cookie jar, you disobeyed and ate the cookies. Then, when mom discovered that there were cookies missing from the cookie jar, she asked if you ate the cookies and you, with crumbs falling from the corners of your mouth shook your head and said, “No, mommy. I did not eat the cookies from the cookie jar.” In one episode we have just broken four of the Ten Commandments; we coveted the cookies (commandment 10), we stole the cookies (commandment 8), we lied (commandment 9), and we dishonored our mother (commandment 5). Four out of ten, that’s 40% wrong. That’s a failing grade on any test. Thus, by the age of four or so, we are all dirty, rotten sinners and it gets worse after that.

Our natural tendency is to do things our way instead of God’s way. Paul, quoting from the Old Testament tells us that:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is non who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat in as open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And they way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

This is a pretty grim picture of the human condition.

Paul goes on and says that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 10:23), and that “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). God is prepared to judge and condemn us for our sin. But the good news is that He is also prepared to forgive us if we repent. Paul doesn’t stop with the bad news, in Romans 3, he goes on and says that we are:

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).

And in Romans 6, Paul contrasts the death wages of sin with the gift of God: eternal life.

God is so willing to forgive us that He became a human being and died for our sins. He paid the price for your sin with His death on the cross. He was buried. He rose from the dead. Thus He conquered death, Hell, and the grave. We can also beat death, Hell and the grave by identifying with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A -God Is Approachable

During His time on the earth, Jesus taught that God was approachable. Luke records that Jesus said:

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Luke 11:9-10, NKJV).

Not only is God approachable, He expects and wants us to approach Him. God invites us to talk with Him and express our concerns to Him. And, as the cliché goes, “You don’t have to get good to get God.” God does not care how we come to Him, He just wants us to come.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who all upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will here their cry and save them (Psalm 145:18-19).

C – God Is Creative

As humans, when we create something, we use previously existing matter. But God created that matter out of nothing by speaking everything into existence. Not only did God create the heavens and the earth and everything in them, He also continues to create life in us and create solutions to our problems. God wants to use His creative abilities for us. In Psalms 121 the psalmist asks and answers a rhetorical question:

From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1b-2).

Because God had the power and ability to make everything, He has the power and ability to fix anything. We can put our trust in His creative power for our lives.

T – God is Transparent

As we’ve already mentioned God has revealed to us who He is. God tells us His thoughts and feelings, and He is honest and transparent about it. Everything God says about Himself is true and trustworthy. Psalms 92:15 states, “…the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Likewise, Numbers 23:19 declares:

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

This aspect of God is also reiterated in the New Testament. Paul states in his letter to Titus that “God, who cannot lie, promised [hope of eternal life] before time began” (Titus 1:2). Hebrews 6:18 says that “it is impossible for God to lie.” Also, James states that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

The prophecies of the Old Testament prove this. Everything that God said would happen before now has happened — just as God said it would. Some of these prophecies are predictions of future occurrences, some are warnings, some are instructions, some are revelations concerning the Divine character, and some are statements of simple fact. The common thread running through all of these prophetic statements is that they are all true. God has never reneged. He has never lied. He has never even made an “honest mistake”.

Not only is God incapable of lying, is is not tempted to lie. There is no such thing as a compromising situation for God. He does not need to make up false accomplishments or attributes.

Interestingly, Paul, who made the bold claim in his letter to Titus that God cannot lie, wrote to Titus who was ministering to the Cretans (Titus 1:5), who were known for their dishonesty. Cretans were polytheists, and their numerous gods had numerous personalities. Paul was giving Titus a clear contrast between those gods and the Christian God. Not only does this contrast exists between the Christian God and other gods, but it also exists between God and Satan, the father of lies.

We ought to be thankful that we serve a God Who does not, will not, and cannot go back on His word. This transparency and honesty means that we can trust God to fulfill His promise of eternal life for those who serve and obey Him.

S – God Is Self-Revealing

God’s desire is to have a two-way relationship with us. A prerequisite for any relationship is personal knowledge of the other individual in the relationship. So we must be able to go beyond the understanding that God exists and find out more about Him.

Hebrews 11:6 shows this progression of knowledge of God, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The first necessity is believing that God exists. That belief will lead us to seek Him in a diligent fashion. That search will subsequently be rewarded. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” God wants to be found by us and has given us plenty of evidence for His existence and plenty of information about who He is.

In the Old Testament, God gave special revelations of who He is to certain individuals that sought Him. Abraham obeyed God and followed after Him, and as a result of His obedience God rewarded Abraham by showing him some of the divine attributes of God. The same thing happened with Jacob. Moses is also a great example. Moses witnessed the first written revelation of God on Mount Sinai where God gave His people the Law. The Bible records numerous conversations between God and Moses. Moses was even called the friend of God. The prophets of the Old Testament also received rewards of special revelation from God. To Jeremiah, whom we’ve already quoted, God also said:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NKJV)

Thus not only does God declare to Jeremiah that He can be understood and known, God then proceeds to give Jeremiah some understanding and knowledge about the nature of God. When we believe that God exists and search for Him, we will likewise be rewarded with understanding and knowledge about Him.

Because of these F.A.C.T.S. we can echo the sentiments of David:

In You, Lord my God,
I Put my trust.
I trust in You;
Do not let me be put to shame,
Nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in You
Will ever be put to shame (Psalms 25:1-3a).