Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homosexuality and Scripture I: The Ignored Passages

In this series of posts, I am examining critically the liberal Protestant arguements for accepting homosexuality as normal and even morally praiseworthy.

The Liberal Talking Points
(1) A candidate for a teaching position was being interviewed by the faculty of my university college. He claimed that the Bible is practically silent on the issue of homosexulity, that Jesus has nothing to say about it and that there are only 7 passages that refer to it in the Bible. (He was not hired, thankfully.) (2) Balswick and Balswick's Authentic Human Sexuality, a text published by IVP and used in many Evangelical colleges and seminaries says that only 5 biblical passages deal with homosexuality and, not surprisingly, Gen. 1-2, Matt. 19 and Eph. 5 are not on the list. (3) An Anglican bishop claims that the Bible says nothing decisive about homosexuality as we understand it today.

So what is going on in these three examples? Again and again we hear the same line: the Bible is practically silent on homosexuality and where it speaks it has marbles in its mouth and can't be understood. The same liberal talking points are repeated endlessly and the oversimplifications and misrepresentations continue.

What is Missing?
The problem here is the "silenced passages" which deal with God's intent and plan in creating man in two sexes as male and female. The word in Gen. 2:18 which is translated "helper" in the NIV really means "one who completes." In other words the sexes are complementary. There is no support for a unisex ideal or the concept that gender is completely socially constructed. The sexes are not merely biological differences but personal differences and the male and the female were made to complement each other. In Gen. 1:27 the creation of man as male and female is closely linked to the creation of man in the image of God. But it is not merely that man is in two sexes so far as reproductive biology is concerned, for animals are sexually diffrentiated as well, but the meaning of the sexes in man as a rational, moral creature made in God's image is that man is thereby enabled to love in a personal way that images or reflects (abiet imperfectly) the love that defines the relations of the persons in the Trinity. The creation of man in two sexes is meant to speak of the personal love that lies at the root of the experience of being human and it is meant to be a reflection of the Creator who creates a creature in his image and likeness to reflect his glory in the creation.

The Biblical Doctrine of Creation versus Gnosticism
Now to assume, without argument, that all this has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality is to be willfully obtuse. It is to reject the Christian doctrine of creation as found in Scripture and the first article of the creed and it is to flirt with gnosticism. To understand that the Creator is imaged in the love of husband and wife, a fruitful love that forms the basis for community through procreation, is to understand why sterile homosexual behaviour is itself not only closely connected with idolatry but is actually itself a form of idolatry. To claim the right to the pleasure of sexual stimulation but to reject the Divine plan for personal and fruitful communion is to image an idol of sterilty and death rather than the Triune God of fruitful self-giving and life.

Jesus and Paul Read Genesis
Both Jesus (Matt. 19:4, Eph. 5:31) quote Gen. 2:24, which is the summary statement for the narrative of the creation of man as male and female: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh." The first words "For this reason" points back to the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and the rest of the verse proclaims the end result of the Creator's intent: marriage. Jesus says in Matt. 19:1-4 that God made man male and female for the purpose of marriage. Paul sees the Divine purpose in marriage as an insight into the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage is centrally embedded both in creation and redemption, both in God's design of his creation and also in his plan of redemption for his cosmos. Just as Adam is a type of Christ, so the marriage of Adam and Eve is a type of the relationship of Christ and the Church.

Why is all of this important to the debate on homosexuality? It is crucial to see that marriage is not some sort of human invention or a mere random accident of biological evolution. Rather, marriage is deeply embedded in the Divine plan for creation and redemption and recognizing this fact is integral to the spritual life. Homosexuality is an exception, a falling short, a perversion of the Divinely mandated Good. It can never be held up a equal to marriage and to sacralize it is idolatry.

Of course the liberal Protestant defenders of homosexuality have to ignore the passages discussed here because they are impossible to reconcile with the polyamorist and pansexualist agenda behind the current agitation for homosexual "rights." Naturally, such passages have to be deemed irrelevant to the debate for they are too powerful to twist into support for the sexual revolution. But note the cost involved. Liberal Protestants have basically accepted a naturalistic account of human sexuality as evolving by chance and amenable to the exertion of the human will, which can make of sexuality anything the individual or society wants. This is a high cost, for it means that humans are no longer uniquely designed by the Creator in his image. Humans are basically just evolving animals who can now take charge of evolution and direct the evolution of their own natures in whatever way they want. Is there any wonder homosexuality is associated with idolatry in Romans 1 and much second temple Judaism?

On Beating Dead Horses
Scripture has a lot to say about homosexuality indirectly. It shows where the perversion falls short by lifting up the Divinely designed ideal. But there is one more point to note here. Every time the liberal talking points reduce the list of Biblical passages that directly address the topic of homosexuality and every time the point is made that Romans 1 is not about homosexuality per se, but is using homosexuality as an example of the wider point it seeks to make about universal sinfulness, the more clear the Bible's anti-homosexual stance becomes. Why? Because the Bible is so clear about the Divine plan for human sexuality that it is redundant - beating a dead horse - to say over and over again that the homosexual behaviour that characterizes the pagan world around Israel is wrong. It doesn't need to be said in so many words because it is so blindingly obvious from what is stated about creation!

Homosexuality was all around Israel in every period of her existence up to the first century AD and it was prevalent in the Greco-Roman world of the early church. But the writers of the Bible did not sit around all day having Indaba sessions and wringing their hands over the painful questions of whether homosexuality is just as natural as normal sexuality. They simply weren't conflicted and it is not because they were not informed. To take the Bible's near silence on homosexuality as evidence of an ambivalent attitute is to get it totally backwards. It actually is evidence of a united, clear-minded and deeply held belief in the goodness of God's created order including the creation of man as male and female.


Stephen said...

Personally I like the KJV translation of that word in Gen 2:18 - "helpmeet". It's an old word that we don't use anymore, but I like the sound of it, and it describes the relationship perfectly.


Craig Carter said...

Good point. "Helpmeet" is good because the average reader is not quite sure what it means, whereas we tend to assume that we know what "helper" means before we hear the explanation of the Hebrew.

Anonymous said...


Independence holy is.
Homosexuals envy this
state of man God given and
want the man, the promised land.

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