In the light of the reported comments regarding what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said regarding the Church of England and Gay marriage, and the Presses seeming delight in reporting that this is from someone from the evangelical wing, it behoves us to stop and ask what does the Bible say, or how is it now being interpreted.
Roy Clements (a former evangelical Baptist minister who ‘came out’) has written:
“I believe there are at least three reasons why evangelicals must think again about homosexuality:
- Because Christian hostility towards homophile relationships rests on an interpretation of the Bible which is in many respects open to question.
- Because there is a diversity of opinion among Christians about the issue which will cause division within the churches unless an attitude of greater tolerance and mutual respect prevails.
- Because current pastoral practice is damaging homosexual Christians and so alienating the gay community generally that evangelism is impossible.”
The big issue today is how we read the text. An anonymous minister writing on the website Fulcrum said, “But I cannot pretend to be straight when I read the Bible, and that means I read the text through a lens which is subtly different to the lens through which a straight man, or a woman, will read the Bible. That diversity is not a problem: it is a gift to the Church, and it helps us to see what the author is really saying.” But that could be stated of many things and leaves us with a text that is utterly powerless to speak to us let alone change our lives.
This issue says Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "will expose a great divide over the authority of the Bible among many Christian churches and denominations — perhaps in a way exceeding any other issue."
21st Century Sexuality
When examined it would appear that a major part of the problem seems to be the overemphasis in the 21st century on ‘being sexually active as the way to be most fully alive,’ and correspondingly any denial of that ‘right’ is seen as an infringement on personal freedom.
A Forgotten and Unspoken Truth: Homosexual behaviour is one of the most harmful and destructive of behaviours.
- Mostly compulsive promiscuity.
- 75% of homosexual men have more than 100 sexual partners during their lifetime.
- More than half of these partners are strangers.
- Only 8% of homosexual men and 7% of homosexual women ever have relationships lasting more than three years.
- Widespread drug use by homosexuals to heighten their sexual experiences.
- Homosexuals in general are three times as likely to be problem drinkers as the general population.
- Studies show that 47% of male homosexuals have a history of alcohol abuse and 51% have a history of drug abuse.
- 40% of homosexual men have a history of major depression. That compares with only 3% for men in general.
- Similarly 37% of female homosexuals have a history of depression. This leads in turn to heightened suicide rates.
- Studies show that homosexuals are much more likely to be paedophiles than heterosexual men.
- Homosexual activity is very destructive, resulting eventually in such problems as prostate damage, ulcers and ruptures, and chronic incontinence and diarrhea.
Traditional Evangelical/Biblical Reasoning and Response:
Up until recently the traditional and accepted approach could be outlined as:
- We are all obligated to do God’s will.
- God’s will is expressed in the Bible.
- The Bible forbids homosexual behaviour.
- Therefore, homosexual behaviour is against God’s will, or is wrong.
In other words there was no doubt about what the Bible said, and as one theologian put it, "I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behaviour, and there is no getting around it." And that "Paul wouldn't accept [a loving homosexual] relationship for a minute." Walter Wink, To Hell With Gays (though one could certainly take issue with the title of his book, his comments are worth noting).
Not so any more.
The Problem we Face - There are now differing approaches to God and his Word:
- God has authoritatively spoken in his Word in for all time.
- God speaks in the world and we need to catch up with what God is doing in the world.
- A complete redefinition of scripture - The Bible is no longer viewed as the literal word of God – a text with a fixed meaning – but a historical document that is a witness to God’s message, but we are told we need to remember that it was written by humans and therefore flawed. To that extent man needs to reinterpret it as he improves. As society changes so to must the Church’s teachings. We are all on a journey. To quote Kate Blanchard, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Alma College,“Those folks, those human beings, were ahead of their time in many ways, and we can be deeply grateful that they pooled the best of their wisdom together for the benefit of posterity. But like it or not, even the most inspired human authors are still only human; not only did our intellectual and spiritual ancestors get some stuff dead wrong, but they also never thought of many of the questions that we have to deal with. When such questions arise, we must courageously stand in our own time, trusting that inspiration and wisdom are renewable resources (that "God is still speaking," as one church puts it, even if some of us do have longstanding tradition on our side).”
And so Rob Bell is able to say, “I’ve seen....” and Steve Chalke speaks about being guided by his pastoral concerns, all of which leads a reappraisal of scripture, and the idea that there is a 'conversation between God and man that is still in progress, and as time goes by we are learning what’s right and wrong for our generation, adapting and changing as our understanding progresses.'
This is not what Christians and churches have believed down through the centuries. For the majority the Bible has been the God breathed, authoritative word, totally sufficient for faith and conduct, something that we submit our minds to, rather than stand over it in judgement.
A Quick overview of Some of the New Twists/Manipulations of Scripture:
- Gen. 2:18 “It’s not good for man to be alone” – the focus here is placed on the ‘aloneness’ of Adam, and the argument is made that God provided a suitable partner for Adam and that’s OK for Adam and perhaps most men, but for gay men it’s different, so if a woman doesn’t suit you it’s OK to be with and marry a man – correspondingly a woman, a woman, and the evangelical is now being accused of misusing scripture. To quote, “1. Eve was not created as purely a sex partner, or child bearer. Eve was created as a ‘helpmate’ a companion. This is certainly the basis of love in all relationships, hetero and homosexual. 2. Adam and Eve certainly seem to be God’s idea, but there is no reason to believe they were God’s ONLY idea. A God who can make 300 types of mushroom, can certainly make more than 2 types of people. 3. To conclude that Adam and Eve are the model for who we should be leaves us with more questions than answers. If this one couple populated the earth without God creating others then we are all the product of incest. Surely that is not the biblical message. Who was Mrs. Cain? An ‘other’ created by God, just as we all are. 4. The logic that we should all be exactly like the first couple is specious at best. What if Adam had brown eyes? Should all men have brown eyes?” The Bible and Homosexuality, Scholarship and Diversity Study.
- The multiplication mandate. God’s purpose at the beginning was humanities multiplication, now things have moved on, therefore it doesn’t matter who we connect with.
- Gen 19, the story of Sodom – 1, this is no longer considered to be about God’s judgment on homosexuality but judgment for failure to be hospitable – something of great importance in that culture, or 2, if it’s acknowledged that homosexuality is involved it’s not because it’s wrong but because rape/violence is used. Note though Jude 7 – Sodom and surrounding cities.
- Lev. 18:22 “You are not to lie with a man as with a woman” – this is taken to mean that as the woman in that culture was deemed to be of lower status, to lie with a man in such a way is to demean or dishonour him, but if you lie with a man as an equal that is OK.
- In Lev 18 and 20 it's said the practices are condemned because they are done in association with idolatry. “If the practices in Leviticus 18 and 20 are condemned because of their association with idolatry, then it logically follows that they would be permissible if they were committed apart from idolatry. That would mean incest, adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice (all of which are listed in these chapters) are only condemned when associated with idolatry; otherwise, they are allowable. No responsible reader of these passages would agree with such a premise.(12)” Probe
- David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and John – here there is a lot of reading back from our present cultural understanding/distortions, where love is nearly always sexualised and therefore seen as a sexual activity; we see this occurring in a lot of historical revisionism, i.e. Nelson. Not so in the OT and NT. Likewise there are many other cultures where love was thought of quite differently.
- Jesus never mentioned it. True, but he did state categorically the context for all sexual relations – a husband and wife.
- Rom. 1: 26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:9. The homosexuality Paul talks about was different, i.e homosexual prostitution or pedophilia or Cultic. This argument cannot be sustained.
- Rom. 1:26, 27; “Contrary to nature.” It’s argued that this is about heterosexuals indulging in homosexual practice, in other words, something that is not natural to them (!) therefore wrong. This is read into the text, which is about the ‘unnaturalness’ of men going after men and women with women.
- The Bible is only against non-consexual acts, i.e. rape, prostitution, idolatrous. Sex in the Bible is a marital activity, all sex outside of it is condemned (adultery, fornication, prostitution, bestiality, incest.....). In the Bible (OT & NT) it is the two sexes that become one flesh.
- Queen James Bible. This is ‘gay’ interpretation of the Bible, that slants it in their direction.
A misuse of some other Texts, History and Guilt to Move us in Another Direction.
- “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit” – homosexuals say that’s what it’s done for me, it’s rejected and hurt me, therefore the doctrine, and churches/Christians who practice it must be wrong!
- “Judge not so that you are not judged” – You can’t/shouldn’t judge me, it’s wrong - Josh McDowell says this is becoming the most well known verse in the Bible.
- “It’s the same as slavery, the church once thought that was OK but came to believe differently” – actually the church thought slavery was wrong way back, and the comparison is unjustified. You’ll find in OT there were certain laws regarding the treatment of slaves.
- “It’s racist” – the fact is race and gender are 100% inherited, sexuality isn’t.
- “Use of guilt” – it’s argued that homosexuals commit suicide because of the churches teaching and attitude - that's overstated.
- “We are not under law” – if there is an admittance that the text does refer to homosexuality, then it’s very often said we are not under law and so it no longer applies.
What does the Bible say?
- Jesus fulfilled the Law, declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), touched lepers, dead bodies.
- Jesus paid the price for our sin.
- OT ceremonial laws were done away (see Hebrews).
- OT moral law still stands re stealing, killing, sexual relations, etc..
- All the sex ethics of the OT were restated in the NT. Sex in the Bible is a marital activity, all sex outside of it is condemned (adultery, fornication, prostitution, .....). In the Bible (OT & NT) it is the two sexes that become one flesh.
- Sin of any kind continues to be sin and still needs to be repented of. Paul says “such were some of you.”
A further argument: But what about the judgements relating to particular sins in OT, should they still be in force?
- In the OT Israel was a nation state called and governed by God for a purpose and as such there were civil penalties to be paid.
- In the NT the church is not a nation state, but it can be found in many nations and sin is dealt with by exhortation and exclusion.
James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell in their book The Unthinkable has become Thinkable, contend that : “The net effect of this revisionist approach is a novel and destructive twisting of Scripture...The Bible is being reinterpreted according to urges that are "against nature" and then said to support the homosexual agenda...Despite the revisionists' protests to the contrary, their position is in actuality based upon human desire rather than upon biblical authority and interpretation.”
What about the nature of homosexuality?
- Homosexuality needs to be seen like any other wrong behaviour as a consequence of the Fall, and therefore our brokenness, which manifests itself in different ways in different individuals – we need to maintain a robust doctrine of sin.
- Just because we feel something doesn’t make it right. If we all followed the logic of ‘that’s the way I’m made’ we’d have chaos – sin has corrupted our feelings. People can be tempted by all kinds of wrong feelings.
- The answer is in the gospel – Paul says and ‘such were some of you’ 1 Cor 6:11.
- And again he says, "I have crucified the affections and lusts," a forgotten and neglected truth.
Richard Lovelace represents the past evangelical consensus when he argues: "If we can reinterpret the Scripture to endorse homosexual acts among Christians, we can make it endorse anything else we want to do or believe."
 Dr. Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?