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Does the Bible really condemn homosexuality?

Lucas Sayre | Sunday, March 28, 2004

Many Christians unquestioningly accept the claims of their respective churches that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. Many of the major denominations hold such a position, though they proclaim it at different dogmatic levels. Upon closer inspection, however, this condemnation of homosexual behavior is anything but a clear Scriptural directive. A faithful Christian must examine his or her position on this issue with scrutiny and honesty, rather than reflexive agreement with his or her church’s stance.Such a careful analysis, I believe, does not lead to the conclusion that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior. I will not condemn others who reach a different conclusion, as it is ultimately a matter of faith, but I offer this analysis with the sincere hope it be received with an open heart and mind.Biblical arguments against homosexual behavior are usually based on passages such as Romans 1:26, which condemns “menfolk [who] have given up natural intercourse to be consumed with passion for each other.” Other passages echo the same sentiment: Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 call “lying with another man” an “abomination.” Deuteronomy 23:17-18, Judges 19 and other passages sometimes are translated to condemn sodomites, but this translation has been questioned, with modern translators preferring “male temple prostitute” to “sodomite.”In all these passages, the biblical reader must consider the underlying theological rule as well as the cultural context. Put simply, what is the reason same-sex behavior was condemned? And what was the society’s understanding of homosexuality at the time of the writing of these passages?A broader examination of the Bible answers the first of these questions. Namely, scripture condemns acts that are inconsistent with the natural order of God’s creation. Unsurprisingly, the authors applied this principle to homosexual behavior, for homosexual behavior had long been viewed as a choice to act counter to one’s natural, God-given design.This understanding of homosexuality, as a choice, stood until the 19th and 20th centuries. Now, a growing body of scientific evidence strongly suggests that sexual orientation, including homosexuality, is an orientation, part of the natural, God-given design of each human. Just recently, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association changed its classification of homosexuality to categorize it as an orientation rather than a disorder. With this evidence, we see the biblical authors were incorrect to classify homosexual behavior as unnatural. As such, homosexual behavior cannot be said to break a commandment from God, as understood by scripture.Some argue that because of the fall of humanity in Genesis, humans are naturally inclined to sin, and that many sinful behaviors, such as adultery and alcoholism, stem from natural human inclinations and dispositions.The critical distinction is that the sinful natures of alcoholism, adultery and other behaviors do not stem from an argument on nature, but rather from the argument that these behaviors violate the divine values of love and respect for self and others. Argu-ments against homosexual behavior rely solely on nature, and thus a refutation of the nature argument is a refutation of the entire argument against homosexuality.Note this analysis does not challenge the divinely-inspired nature of the theological values being espoused by these authors. While many Christians disagree on how literally the Bible should be interpreted, such a question is unnecessary in this framework. Most agree the veracity of the theological instructions contained in the Bible should be paramount.The cultural and scientific understandings of the time of each scripture’s writing must be determined so as to separate God’s eternal and unwavering values from those values particular to the given society. Only then can these values be clearly applied to today’s society.The most literal readers of the Bible use this principle to explain why slavery is not condemned in Exodus and other Old Testament books, for example (Exodus 21). They say the institution of slavery did not exist in Old Testament times in the same way we think of it today. Additionally, they explain that slaves were probably servants under a family in a patriarchal-ordered society, enjoying the benefits of the family structure rather than the inevitable struggle for survival out on one’s own.Whether or not this analysis of Exodus is convincing, it shows that literal Bible readers do indeed consider societal norms and understandings when they attempt to uncover God’s truth. To be consistent, they should also apply this technique to the issue of homosexuality.Furthermore, any biblical argument surrounding homosexuality must consider any possible examples counter to one’s current position. David and Jonathan’s relationship in Samuel may (although not necessarily) have risen beyond mere friendship. Note 1 Samuel 20:41: “David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they [he and Jonathan] kissed each other, and wept the more” and 2 Samuel 1:25-26: “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”The above argument cannot be considered authoritative by itself. But may it act as one voice in a much-needed debate. Throughout the debate, remember this – in the hundreds of Jesus’s teachings, he never mentioned homosexuality‚ not once. Therefore, any position on homosexuality, whether for or against, cannot rightfully be elevated to the level of dogma as many Christian churches currently have so done.Rather, we should consider core lessons such as Genesis 1:27, “So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God he created them‚” and John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Lucas SayreseniorDillon HallMarch 25