I just completed my series of messages on the Bible (see sermon series Shhhh! God’s Talking) and during the series I spent a good amount of time dealing with tough questions of the Bible and tough questions about the faith, but one of the toughest questions that I had to deal with is God’s take on homosexuality.
Actually, I wasn’t able to give it the time it deserves in the brief message or two I was able to address it, so I thought I would go into a little more detail here on my blog.
During my senior year of college, one of my best friends sat me down to talk with me one night. I listened to him tell me how that he had struggled his whole life with a strange desire to be with other men. He flirted with girls and dated a lot, but never wanted to get close to any of them. Instead, he always wanted to be close with another guy. He confessed to me that night that he was a homosexual.
Within the next five years of my life, four other friends of mine shared the same basic story with me. I was regularly heartbroken to hear the stories about the struggles my friends had with their feelings, their desires to do what is right, and in one case a strong belief that God hated him.
I’ve spoken with men dealing with homosexuality. I’ve cried with them. I’ve engaged them on deeply spiritual issues.
I’ve also read books about it, done research, and cried some on my own. I’m not fully qualified to give the world’s best answer to this issue. But it is on my heart, and I think I have something worthwhile to say anyway.
What’s the authority?
When it comes to the issue of homosexuality, we have to realize that apart from some spiritual authority, there is almost no practical way that any discussion can be anything more than the sharing of opinions. However, we also have to realize that among those who accept the Bible as their spiritual authority, there are differing points of view. What I want to do is approach the issue from two sides to do justice to both arguments.
Before I do, though, I want to say that I will not be wasting my time trying to refute the extremists. I completely disagree with the fellow who runs the “God Hates Fags” website and “ministry.” However, I also completely disagree with the majority of the homosexual lobby. There are clearly extremes on both sides of the issue, but there are also people who are really trying to find some middle ground. Those are the people I want to address.
Two Approaches to the Bible
On the one side of the argument, you have people who believe that the Bible clearly teaches a prohibition against homosexuality. Not only is this the most traditional view of the teaching of the Bible, but it is also the one that seems to take the Bible with the more “literal” of interpretations. Here are the key points they generally make:
- The Bible clearly outlaws all forms of sexual interaction except for that between a husband and a wife.
- The key passages relating to this are Leviticus 18:22-23 and Romans 1:26-27 where sexual relationships between men and men are put in parallel to sexual relationships between women and animals.
However, there are those who argue that the Bible makes room for those who practice homosexual monogamy akin to heterosexual monogamy. Usually, their reasons are these:
- There is no passage in the Bible that talks about wholesome, loving, monogamous homosexuality.
- Sexual orientation is not chosen. Your sexual orientation is just who you are. Therefore, homosexuals are “naturally” homosexual. When Paul mentions homosexuality, he was talking about either temple prostitution or pedophilia or perhaps heterosexual men having sexual relations with other heterosexual men. Two heterosexual men engaging in sexual activity would be acting “against their nature” but two homosexual men doing so would be acting in accord with their nature.
Now, I can understand the approach of those who believe homosexuality should be accepted; but I cannot agree with their conclusions. In fact, I feel that their arguments in support of the acceptance of modern day homosexuality are weak for the following reasons.
- Homosexual monogamy is not discussed in the Bible because God never addressed homosexual love from a “relationship” or “commitment” aspect. God only addressed the physical sexual act. In fact, there is never any prohibition in the Bible about men loving other men. The prohibition is focused on the physical act.
- Homosexuality, however powerful of an innate feeling it may be, is not natural according to either God’s design in Creation or God’s revealed will for human beings.
- Loving, homosexual monogamy is largely a myth. There are exceptions to this, but the majority of homosexuality is practiced with high levels of promiscuity.
What is love?
Homosexuality is not an easy issue to deal with today because there is no doubt that the people who call themselves homosexual have strong internal feelings that they have experienced in most cases “all their lives.” Additionally, they often have discovered those feelings most profoundly in the relationship with one key individual who has sparked a real sense of love within them. There can be no denying their sexual urges or their feelings of love. Therefore, if God is love, and if “that’s the way he made them,” shouldn’t they be allowed to live out that love? Why would God be so cruel as to give them desires that can never be lived out? As a result of that kind of thinking, a large number of people who believe in the Bible want to warmly accept homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, and those are the people who seem to be showing the most love—those are the people who seem to be “acting Christianly.”
Is that really love, though? Let me give an extreme example to illustrate my point. Every individual on earth has extremely powerful urges within them to drink. The infant’s first experience of love comes from drinking her mother’s milk. Thirst is more powerful than hunger. There can be no denying that the urge to drink is powerful and universal.
However, there are some people in this world who have extremely powerful urges within them to consume alcohol as that drink. There are powerful biological forces that are driving them to pursue the buzz brought on by alcohol. They have great friendships that have developed around alcohol. However, it is ruining their lives. Take a person like that, and it isn’t hard to imagine that those who love that person the most are also the ones who will confront him with the inappropriateness of his behavior and maybe even stage an “intervention.” Through counseling and support, that person may be able to defeat the biological urges and even the memory of past experiences for the sake of greater good.
Likewise, one might say that all human beings have a powerful internal drive to experience sex. The problem is that while most people have their sexual drive attuned to members of the opposite gender, there are some who feel that attraction toward members of the same gender. If the analogy with alcoholism holds, then those who most love the homosexual will be the ones to confront the homosexual with the inappropriateness of his behavior.
So then, does the analogy with alcoholism hold? In order for the analogy to hold, two things must be true:
- Homosexuality must be an unnatural and damaging behavior.
- Homosexuality must be a mindset that can be controlled or at least managed.
Homosexuality is unnatural and damaging
Regarding #1, the clearest teaching of the Bible is that homosexual behavior is both unnatural and damaging—Romans 1:26-27 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul argues that those who engage in homosexual activity (again note that it is not those who are tempted with homosexual feelings, but those who become “offenders” by indulging those feelings) will not enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s a pretty strong claim. Of course, those who use this verse to point fingers at homosexuals should be sure to read the context where Paul also says that greed, slander, and drunkenness are also things that will disqualify a person from heaven!
Now, there are those who will say that homosexuality as practiced today is “natural” and “wholesome;” however, if the Creator calls it unnatural, then it’s unnatural, and if it might land someone in eternal punishment, that seems to be damaging. If nothing else, doing something that is outside of God’s will is clearly going to be something that causes spiritual damage to a person’s soul.
Homosexuality can be controlled or modified
Regarding #2, all sexual behavior can be controlled. Ascetic monks, of course have been doing it for centuries, but throughout human history, there are countless examples of men and women who have restrained themselves from indulging their sexual desires until their wedding dates or in fact for their whole lives. Controlling sexual behavior is clearly possible. This does not guarantee that the desires can ever be changed although there is a significant body of evidence developing that supports both the claim that homosexuality is not based in biology alone but also in environmental and social aspects of a person’s early childhood and also the claim that homosexual tendencies can actually be lessened or even reversed through sensitive psychological counseling! There are a number of well-documented cases where just such a reversal has taken place.
If I had the time, I would review my old research and do new research to grab some of the best cases and make them available here, but a quick Google search should reveal a number. Try looking up “testimony of a former homosexual” and see what that gets you. You might also want to check out Focus on the Family to see the research they have on the topic.
As it stands now, these are just my thoughts on the matter. I don’t have an academic paper to which I can refer you, but I do have the Bible and my own logical thinking. I’d love to interact with you about this more. Just post a comment below, and let’s start the conversation.