***Editor’s Note: Dr. Cox’s book, “Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism” is available for purchase HERE.
Once an anchor is hoisted, a ship can sail. The question is who, or what, is controlling the rudder? In America, it is clear to see that the rudder is no longer under the control of a Judeo-Christian ethic.
The Supreme Court of the United States, aka SCOTUS, by the narrowest of margins in a 5-4 vote, ruled in late June 2015 that it is unconstitutional for states to deny same-sex marriage to those desiring such. This amounts to a national endorsement of homosexuality.
Most Christians were stunned by the ruling, for several reasons. First, most Christians believe that the Bible speaks authoritatively and distinctively against homosexuality in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, most Christians have established their ethical norms based on what is known as a Judeo-Christian ethic. Third, most Christians believe that the United States of America has, quite literally, been built as “one nation under God,” and that such a statement is far more than a phrase, indeed, it expresses a conviction, that, from its inception, the United States has become the greatest nation the world has ever known because it has established and maintained laws rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethic and there is the fear that this root has been severed.
This article is an examination of same-sex marriage and the seismic moral paradigm shift for America. In order to do this, I will scrutinize homosexuality from the biblical perspective, the moral perspective, the political perspective, and the practical perspective. The article sprang out of a five-part sermon series preached in July and August of 2015 at the First Baptist Church, Pryor, Oklahoma, available HERE.
Homosexuality: The Biblical Perspective
Old Testament Passages
At least seven passages in the Old Testament are germane to the topic of homosexuality. All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Genesis 19:4-5 (Sodomy is identified), (4) Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; (5) 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 have relations with them.
Genesis 19:13 (homosexuality brought divine destruction), Then the two men said to Lot, ‘Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’
Leviticus 18:22 (homosexuality is explicitly forbidden for males and implicitly forbidden for a female to lie with a female), You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 (punishment for homosexuality), If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
This verse is found in a list of sexual sins, all requiring the death penalty. They include cursing father or mother (v. 9), adultery (v. 10), incest with a mother (v. 11), incest with a daughter-in-law (v. 12), marrying a woman and her mother (v. 14), and bestiality (vv. 15-16). God has always been quite serious about sexual purity, especially for those who claim to be his people. This is the way things were to be in the ideal state of Israel, a theocracy. But in a democracy, few would press the applicability of the death penalty for these sins, I certainly would not. However, the principles of godly, biblical, sexuality are unmistakably present.
Deuteronomy 22:5 (cross-dressing was considered an abomination), A woman shall not wear a man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
Since this was the law for clothing, a woman having sex with another woman or a man having sex with another man was clearly an abomination to the Lord as well.
1 Kings 14:24 (considered an abomination), There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
1 Kings 22:46 (expelled from the land by Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, in a purging process), The remnant of the sodomites who remained in the days of his father Asa, he expelled from the land.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (word 6945) defines Sodomite as a sacred male devotee to a god by prostitution to licentiousness; unclean.[i] The text of Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius defines Sodomite as a male temple-prostitute.[ii]
New Testament Passages
At least four passages in the New Testament are germane to the topic of homosexuality. Again, all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Romans 1:21-27, (21) For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (24) Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. (25) For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, (27) and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
The progression is unmistakably devolving. People knew God but did not honor him as God or give thanks (v. 21). Then they became futile in their speculations (v. 21). Then their foolish heart was darkened (v. 21). Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (v. 22). Then they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, birds, and animals (v. 23). Eventually, these same ones sank into a self-degrading spiral of sensualism (v. 24). Matthew Henry points out that one cannot be delivered over to a greater slavery than to be given over to one’s own lusts.[iii] Dale Moody asserts that dishonoring of God leads to dishonoring the body.[iv] They exchanged the truth of God for a lie (v. 25). Women exchanging the natural function for what is unnatural (v. 26): Lesbianism. Men abandoning the natural function of the woman for what is unnatural: homosexuality (v. 27). They were aflame with passion toward one another, committing indecent acts with each other, receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error (disease)?
Certainly, these verses reveal that homosexuality of any sort is unnatural and is a sexual inversion, meaning a reversal of God’s natural order. Indeed, the most distinguishing symptoms of moral depravity are seen in one’s sexual orientation and practice. J. W. MacGorman notes the abandonment to dishonorable passions and the degenerate reversal: people worship animals as gods, men lust after men as women, women lust after women as men.[v] Homosexuality is depicted as quite unnatural (v. 26), implying that no person is born a homosexual. MacGorman astutely observes that if homosexuality were practiced universally by all people, it would lead to the extinction of the human race, because man and woman are God’s complimentary sexual beings, each one essential to the other in the reproduction of mankind, and that heterosexuality is the only conduct fitting God’s created order.[vi] MacGorman rightly further explains that the homosexual who charges that God made him or her that way is attributing a confusion to God that does not exist.[vii]
From the Old Testament and New Testament perspective, homosexuality, then, is not an alternate lifestyle but an unnatural perversion involving shameless acts (v. 27). In fact, to burn in their lust means “to be hot in the genitals.” MacGorman warns that one’s capacity for shame is an index of one’s moral sensitivity.[viii] This is to suggest that through repeated violations, one’s capacity for shame eventually disappears. Some call this “liberation”; but the Bible regards it as depravity.
Further, homosexuality results in serious breakdown for those involved (v. 27), where personal retribution is inevitable and in accord with the wrong which is done, reaping what is sown (Gal. 6:7-8). In other words, God has made it such that all vice is self-avenging: consequences are built in. But the innocent also end up suffering the consequences produced by the guilty. Sin cannot be committed in a vacuum. All sin makes waves in the ocean of humanity. Our alcohol or drug use may cause our children and grandchildren to be born with a genetic predisposition toward each. Our sexual promiscuity may result in acquiring a sexually transmitted disease which can be passed on. Our sexual preferences and practices can greatly influence our children and grandchildren. These are consequential waves.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (homosexuals listed among those not inheriting the kingdom of God), (9) Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
These verses are clear that habitual lifestyle in sinfulness indicates no spiritual transformation ever took place (v. 9). Do not be deceived into thinking that unrepentant sinners are let into heaven. The Bible here says that no fornicators will enter into heaven. The word means sexual relations outside of marriage. An extremely gripping assertion since the virtue of chastity was practically unheard of in Corinth! Next, no idolaters, which means putting anything or anyone on a level with God. Next, no adulterers, meaning those who violate the sanctity of marital sexual exclusivity.[ix] Next, no effeminate (malakos), that is the passive male partner in homosexual activity, a male prostitute, or men and boys who allow themselves to be misused sexually. Then, no homosexuals (arsenokoites) (Rom. 1:26-27). This means a Sodomite, a male partner in homosexual activity. Homosexuality was quite prevalent in Greco-Roman society. William Barclay says that Nero was about to marry a boy named Sporus.[x] In fact, Barclay states that fourteen of the first fifteen Roman emperors were, in fact, homosexual or bisexual.[xi] It seems apparent that, through Paul, God was re-establishing standards for human sexuality in a sex-crazed world. God’s standard for the sexual preference of his people has always been heterosexual. Such a statement of condemnation against homosexuality would have been very unpopular in the first-century Roman world and is today as well!
1 Timothy 1:8-11 (homosexuals listed among the ungodly, unholy, and profane), (8) But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, (9) realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers (10) and immoral men and homosexuals (arsenokoites) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, (11) according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
Jude 7 (homosexuality, not inhospitality, results in the punishment of eternal fire), Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
I have read at least one article written by a so-called Bible scholar seeking to minimize the meaning and intent of many of these verses.[xii] The interpretive “gymnastics” in trying to achieve such an objective were less than persuasive. His essay is so riddled with such a multiplicity of conjectural statements regarding word meanings, that the plain meanings were obviously being intentionally avoided. That writer did not like what he saw and sought, I think in vain, to try and raise reasonable doubt about the plain meaning conveyed in Scripture. Such a “revisionist” interpretive model is not to be respected because it is neither objective nor scholarly, but “reductionistic,” deconstructing the words to reduce, limit, marginalize, or even eliminate the plain sense of their meaning and their theological and moral impact. But, let’s be realistic and frank, plenty of Americans do not care what the Bible says on the matter of homosexuality.
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: Riverside Book and Bible House, n.d.).
[ii]Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), 873.
[iii]Matthew Henry, An Exposition with Practical Observations of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, Acts to Revelation (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.; reprint, n.d.), 372.
[iv]Dale Moody, Romans in The Broadman Bible Commentary, ed. Clifton J. Allen, vol. 10, Acts-1 Corinthians (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1970), 171.
[v]J. W. MacGorman, Romans, in Layman’s Bible Book Commentary, vol. 20, Romans-1 Corinthians (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1980), 29.
[ix]Richard Pratt, Jr., 1 Corinthians, in Holman New Testament Commentary, ed. Max Anders, vol. 7, 1 and 2 Corinthians (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 89.
[x]William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, 3rd. ed. in The Daily Bible Study Series, vol. 9 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 64.
[xii]William O. Walker, Jr., “What the New Testament Says about Homosexuality,” <http://www.westarinstitute.org/resources/the-fourth-r/what-the-new-testament-says-about-homosexuality/>, accessed 29 June 2015.