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Q&A #146 - Legitimizing same-sex relations: an offense to God? (Parts 1 & 2)
by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version 188.8.131.52)
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
One day you will stand before God on teaching others your interpretation of His word. I have never read such a twisted understanding of same sex relations, and I think it is an offense to God and his Word.
What Christians other than Jesus Christ himself have been 100% correct on all of their teachings -- teaching that should reflect genuine, Jesus-based, first century Christianity? Many of today's Christians teach the legitimacy of: capital punishment, hating enemies, having feelings of revenge, serving in the military, bearing/using weapons against others for self-defense, tithing, and/or suiting other Christians. Yet all of these were strongly opposed by early Christians -- within their own Christian communities -- before Constantine corrupted Christian practices, teachings, and church organization, beginning in 313 A.D. For more details see:
On the issue of legally recognizing a permanent, undeviatingly faithful, same-sex relationship, my current conclusions, which I described at http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa133.htm, are based upon much prayer, much Christian service, and much honest biblical and early Christian research. Still, that does not guarantee that those conclusions are 100% correct, but unless I am convinced otherwise, it is my sincere belief and understanding that those conclusions are consistent with God's grace and love. As I stated on that webpage:
This would completely rule out premarital sex, bi-sexual relations, polygamy, extramarital sex, extra-marital affairs of the heart, or even extramarital flirting. If a Christian of any sexual orientation desires a spouse, a choice of one and only one individual needs to be made and legalized prior to beginning a sexual relationship. This needs to include an unrenegable, permanent commitment to be unconditionally faithful to that chosen spouse.
This is a basic Christian standard that most heterosexual Christian couples reportedly have not fully met. Maybe same-sex Christian couples can help to strengthen the practice of that Christian standard!
I might also mention that the parable of the good Samaritan (Luk 10:30-35) and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Mat 25:31-46) teach us that NOT responding to the needs of the down-trodden and marginalized is a rejection of Jesus' life and teachings. I will continue to choose to follow Christ to the extent that I am able.
With sincere best wishes,
Robert Nguyen Cramer
"Exploring the original texts and early Christianity"
While no theology is perfect and all of us in our best works fall short of God's glory, I cannot see how anyone can read God's word and justify any sort of same sex union. Sodomy is clearly repugnant to the Lord as witnessed throughout the old testament.
With regard to humanity, God first created man. It was the first time in those six days of creation that he did not see that it was good. He said it is not good for man to be alone. So he specifically and with purpose created woman -- anatomically designed to fit to Adam as his completer and helpmeet.
Since the fall of man, none of us are perfect in our physical being. Whether you believe people are born homosexual or chose that life style matters not. We are all fallen and predisposed to sin. The pedophile is clearly drawn to the child can he then claim that he was born with unique neurotransmitters and synapses and therefore justify acting upon this perversity? Can someone with a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia justify murder? We all struggle with sin in our very nature, even as Paul called himself the chief of sinners. To therefore redefine specific sin (homosexuality) outside of God's word as permissible simply because someone's biological make up may make that struggle more difficult is ridiculous.
While God does not explain every type of perversion in his word (this one he clearly does, however)!; it is clear that he intended man and woman to be joined (witness Genesis 1). It seems to me that every time the practice of homosexuality enters into a civilization it is the downfall of that culture. Roman fell like Gomorra, yet God's word stands.
Begging your pardon, but, it seems to me that your thinking is the product of cultural influence. Indeed it was more difficult for Moses to take Egypt of the Israelites than the Israelites out of Egypt. And for a teacher of God's word to bow to espouse a homosexual agenda is no less horrific than bowing to Baal. I do agree that we are to LOVE the downtrodden, but true love always speaks the truth in effort to save the lost from the very pit of hell that we were snatched from. That said my prayers are with you, Sir.
Writer: Sodomy is clearly repugnant to the Lord as witnessed throughout the old testament.
BibleTexts.com response: The actions described of the men in Sodom (Gen 19:1-11) remind me of brutal gang rapes that have been too common in some prisons. Such sexual aggression is clearly sinful, whether directed against someone of the same sex or of the opposite sex. The aggression that was a great sin in the biblical account of Sodom has nothing to do with an enduringly faithful commitment to a permanent relationship -- whether heterosexual or same sex.
Jesus did not discuss sodomy, but in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus did mention Sodom. He said Sodom would be treated better than cities that rejected his gospel or his works.
Mat 10:11-15 - 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Mat 11:9-26 - 9 "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." 20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you." 25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
As more fully discussed at http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa133.htm#jesus, there is no evidence, either pro or con, regarding Jesus' views of same-sex relations. All that can be concluded is that Jesus was aware that some people had gender abnormalities (people then called eunuchs, today called people with atypical genitalia). Though Jewish authorities limited their rights, Jesus was not critical of them nor did he limit their inclusion in the kingdom. Contrary to standard Jewish teachings and practices of his time, Jesus and early Christians considered eunuchs as whole men and did not exclude them from full participation in the religious community. There are no biblical accounts of Jesus healing or changing the characteristics of eunuchs.
All Old Testament laws need to be re-viewed through the lens of Christ. There were Old Testament practices that were clearly repugnant to Jesus and the earliest Christians, such as the teaching of "an eye for an eye," hating one's enemies, capital punishment, and using violence to defend oneself or others. In fact Old Testament law pronounced capital punishment for many actions. Capital crimes included much more than just murder (Exo 21:12). They also included, but were not limited to, touching Mount Sinai (Exo 19:12), cursing a parent (Exo 21:17), hitting a parent (Exo 21:15), practicing witchcraft (Exo 22:18), sodomy with an animal (Exo 22:19), sacrificing to another god (Exo 22:20), working on the sabbath day (Exo 31:14,15; 35:2), adultery (Lev 20:10), incest (Lev 20:11,12), homosexuality (Lev 20:13), marrying both a woman and her mother (Lev 20:14), and contempt for a judge or for a priest (Deu 17:12). On the basis of Old Testament law Jesus should have been executed for his strong words to Jewish priests and for working on the sabbath, and the adulterous woman described in John 8 should have been executed. According to the customs of Jesus' day, eunuchs were marginalized as being less than a man, but Jesus showed them respect. He beheld "the kingdom of God" that was within them. So should we. (See Luk 17:20,21.)
Writer: With regard to humanity, God first created man. It was the first time in those six days of creation that he did not see that it was good. He said it is not good for man to be alone. So he specifically and with purpose created woman-anatomically designed to fit to Adam as his completer and helpmeet.
BibleTexts.com response: There are actually two different accounts of creation in Genesis:
- Gen 1:1-Gen 2:4a, where God is known in the Hebrew text as Elohim, which in English is simply translated "God."
- Gen 2:4b-Gen 3:24, where God is known in the Hebrew text as Yahweh Elohim, which in English is typically translated "Jehovah God" or "Lord God."
The Adam and Eve story provides us with great object lessons but not with a historical record of our actual ancestry. The Adam and Eve story, which is told in the second account of creation, is an ancient allegory. Bible scholars at the best seminaries have recognized this for well over 100 years. (See http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/gen.htm.)
A major part of Paul's 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians serves as an excellent commentary on the Genesis' two accounts of creations. (See http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/soul.htm for an explanation of Paul's commentary of Gen 1 & 2.)
The first biblical account of account of creation in Gen 1 had already made both man and woman as complete.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them... 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done,...
Writer: Since the fall of man, none of us are perfect in our physical being. Whether you believe people are born homosexual or chose that life style matters not. We are all fallen and predisposed to sin.
BibleTexts.com response: As illustrated in the excerpt below, the dogma that we have inherited "the fall" from Adam is not shared by all biblical scholars and Christian theologians. In his article on the "Doctrine of Man," William Hordern (A Dictionary of Christian Theology, edited by Alan Richardson, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969) wrote:
Original Sin and the Fall... In the early history of the Church, the story of Adam and Eve was taken as a historical account of the first man and woman. Because they disobeyed God's command, they were driven from the garden. In their disobedience all men fell into 'original sin'. One line of thought, represented by Augustine, saw this original sin as being biologically transmitted to later generations through the sexual procreation of the human race. This inherited sin meant that man is born both guilty and with a corrupted nature that is prone to sin. Another line of thought, represented by the Westminster Confession of Faith, has seen Adam as the federal representative of the human race who acted on behalf of the future generations of man. Thus a man's sinful state consists in his sharing of the guilt for Adam's sin, the corruption of his own nature and the actual transgressions which he commits as a result of his corruption.
Nineteenth-century biblical criticism discredited the historical nature of the Adam and Eve story. At the same time the wide acceptance of the evolutionary hypthesis led to the view that man had progressed from his primeval state instead of falling from a higher one. Ninteenth-century theology tended to see man, not as a sinner, but as an essentially good creature who was destined to become better. The doctrines of the fall and original sin have been revived in the twentieth century. Few theolgians today accept the view that guilt can be inherited. But theologians are widely agreed that the state in which we find man is out of harmony with God's will and purpose for him. The universality of sin remains a fact even if we no longer think in terms of Adam's fall. Today theologians point out that 'Adam' is the Hebrew word for a human being or mankind collectively. There seems to be a legitimate reason to interpret the Genesis account as a teaching about man as such and not as the history of the first man. [page 204]
Regarding doctrine of "the fall" and the teaching that we continue to inherit its consequences, it is well to remember Ezekiel's words (Eze 18:1-9, TEV):
1 The LORD spoke to me 2 and said, "What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel? "The parents ate the sour grapes, But the children got the sour taste.' 3 "As surely as I am the living God," says the Sovereign LORD, "you will not repeat this proverb in Israel any more. 4 The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.
5 "Suppose there is a truly good man, righteous and honest. 6 He doesn't worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn't seduce another man's wife or have intercourse with a woman during her period. 7 He doesn't cheat or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security; he feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 8 He doesn't lend money for profit. He refuses to do evil and gives an honest decision in any dispute. 9 Such a man obeys my commands and carefully keeps my laws. He is righteous, and he will live," says the Sovereign LORD.
Writer: The pedophile is clearly drawn to the child can he then claim that he was born with unique neurotransmitters and synapses and therefore justify acting upon this perversity?
BibleTexts.com response: Pedophiles can be heterosexuals or homosexuals, and they are sick felons from whom children need protection. In fact communities need protection from all felons, including murderers, rapists (including date rapists from middle school, high school, college, and other settings), child-porn distributors, slave owners of sweat-shop slaves and prostitution slaves. Pedophilia and these other aggressive felonies have nothing to do with the non-aggressive, non-promiscuous, permanently faithful relationships that we are discussing -- whether heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
Writer: We all struggle with sin in our very nature, even as Paul called himself the chief of sinners. To therefore redefine specific sin (homosexuality) outside of God's word as permissible simply because someone's biological make up may make that struggle more difficult is ridiculous.
BibleTexts.com response: Paul and the writer of 1 John were certainly correct when they wrote:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jo 1:8-10)
It is also true that sexual promiscuity -- heterosexual or same-sex -- can rightly be labeled as a sin, but to label the sexual orientation with which one is born -- whether heterosexual or same-sex -- as a sin or even as a disease would be very uncharitable. Such labeling is not representative of the inclusiveness of Jesus Christ , who was well aware that some people had gender abnormalities (today called atypical genitalia) and that though Jewish authorities limited their rights, Jesus was not critical of them nor did he limit their inclusion in the kingdom. We have no evidence that he ever addressed the issue of same-sex relationships. We do know that he was willing to regularly suffer the humiliation, mean-spirited insults, and physical persecution resulting from his associating with -- ministering to and being ministered to by -- those disenfranchised, repudiated, or despised by others.
Writer: While God does not explain every type of perversion in his word (this one he clearly does, however)!; it is clear that he intended man and woman to be joined (witness Genesis 1). It seems to me that every time the practice of homosexuality enters into a civilization it is the downfall of that culture. Roman fell like Gomorra, yet God's word stands.
BibleTexts.com response: It has not simply entered a civilization, it appears to have been consistently a part of every civilization, whether or not the histories of each time period always fully recorded it.
Writer: Begging your pardon, but, it seems to me that your thinking is the product of cultural influence. Indeed it was more difficult for Moses to take Egypt of the Israelites than the Israelites out of Egypt. And for a teacher of God's word to bow to espouse a homosexual agenda is no less horrific than bowing to Baal. I do agree that we are to LOVE the downtrodden, but true love always speaks the truth in effort to save the lost from the very pit of hell that we were snatched from. That said my prayers are with you, Sir.
BibleTexts.com response: Actually cultural influence has had nothing to do with my thinking on this subject. I have honestly and thoroughly explored the biblical record and early Christian history. Even more importantly, I believe that it has been my openness to be influenced of the living Holy Spirit -- and not simply by the letter -- that has enabled me to reach the conclusions that I have. (You may be interested in knowing that other straight/heterosexual Christian teachers and clergy have independently mentioned to me that my writings on this topic have been the result of my openness to the Holy Spirit.)
To put all of this in perspective, it is appropriate to explore another question:
Where are most of today's "Christians" deviating from the teachings of Jesus and the earliest Christians?
Many of our current "Christian values" do not appear to represent the values, teachings, and practices of Jesus and the earliest Christians. All Christians today need honest soul-searching and some serious self-examination, not only regarding same-sex orientation but also regarding many also other matters. We all should be much more modest about our claims of fidelity to earliest Christian values and practices, and we should be less judgmental towards those whose practices differ from ours. Such caution is especially appropriate, because there generally is very little familiarity with what were the authentic practices, teachings, and values of the earliest Christians, in the first, second, and third centuries. Those early Christians wrote a lot on many subjects, and there are many accounts of how they practiced what they preached.
Current dilemma: If we truly are following the example and the gospel teachings of Jesus, we are successful in our efforts to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Mat 10:8. See also Joh 14:12.) entirely through prayer, as Jesus and the earliest Christians taught. If today we should happen to believe that same-sex orientation is a disease or a sin, rather than a previously unrecognized, from-birth, natural state, then we through our prayers should be able to heal same-sex oriented people and genuinely modify their same-sex orientation -- entirely by means of Christian prayer. If we are able to do this, then we might have a basis for judging those same-sex oriented Christians who have not yet come to be healed by such prayer. Until we are able to apply Christian healing to sexual orientation, quickly and permanently, then our words are hollow -- even inhumane and cruel. Who are we to judge others, if we through spiritual power cannot effect what we believe to be the needed change?
Below are two examples of how earnest Christians today regularly make accommodations to their lack of "demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1Co 2:4).
Use of pharmaceuticals: Many Christians who have not been healed solely through their prayers regulary use medication, even though Jesus and his earliest followers healed without them, and even though some early Christians directly spoke out against the use of pharmaceuticals. The English term pharmaceuticals and related words come from the Greek word pharmakeia (Gal 5:20; Rev 18:23, KJV: sorcery, witchcraft; NRSV: sorcery), the meaning of which is "the employment of drugs for any purpose" (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, edited by Wesley J. Perschbacher, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990, page 426). The Greek word for drug is pharmakon (Rev 9:21, KJV: sorcerers; NRSV: sorceries), and the Greek term for those practicing the use of drugs is pharmakos (Rev 21:8, 22:15, KJV & NRSV: sorcerers).
Tatian, a leading Christian polemicist of the second century, commented that pharmaceutics represent Satanic methods:
Pharmacy in all its forms is due to the same artificial devising. If anyone is healed by matter because he trusts in it, all the more will he be healed if in himself he relies on the power of God. Just as poisons are material concoctions, so remedies too belong to the same substance. [Tatian, Oracio ad Graecos 18]
Advocacy of or participation in the military: Many Christians today who feel physically threatened arm themselves with guns, and many Christians throughout the world advocate and participate in the military as a means of protecting their nations against enemies. This is in sharp contrast to the teachings and examples of Jesus and virtually all pre-313 A.D. Christians. (At http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/313ad.htm, you can explore how, beginning in 313 A.D., Christianity began to be radically changed by its cooption by the non-Christian Roman Empirer Constantine.)
Following early Christian theology and practices, Origen (185-255 A.D.), who has been called the "father of Christian theology," wrote to the Roman official Celcus:
Celsus urges us "to help the king with all our might, to labor with him in the maintenance of justice, and to fight for him. Or if he demands it, to fight under him or lead an army along with him." To this, our answer is that we do give help to kings when needed. But this is, so to speak, a divine help, "putting on the whole armor of God." And we do this in obedience to the commandment of the apostle: "I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men; for kings, and for all who are in authority." So the more anyone excels in godliness, the more effective the help is that he renders to kings. This is a greater help than what is given by soldiers who go forth to fight and kill as many of the enemy as they can...
Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army-an army of godliness-by offering our prayers to God... And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being. And they promote to a divine and heavenly city those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy. (c. 248), ANF 4.667, 668.
As evangelical David Bercot (Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, Scroll Publishing, 1989, page 93) concluded from his exploration of early Christian writings:
In their writings, the early Christians clearly stated they opposed war because they literally followed Jesus' commandments to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek." They viewed war as morally wrong...
Other examples: These are just a few of the many, many examples of how Christians have sought other means not provided in the Bible and often contrary to early Christian teachings and practices. (For other examples, see "Earliest Christian values" at http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/genuine-christianity.htm.) Some have not even tried to resolve their problems through prayer, and some have prayed without having their problems resolved.
Considering all the disregarded teachings and practices of earliest Christianity, who today is so righteous as to be worthy to cast the first stone at those seeking legally protected same-sex civil unions or marriage? Many outspoken opponents are especially hypocritical, considering their own selective disregard of other early Christian teachings. Also such opponents' personal track records of faithfulness to and permanence of their own marriages may not compare well with the more permanently faithful relationships of many who seek the right to same-sex civil unions or marriage?
Present dilemma revisited: Prayerful Christians who are same-sex oriented are now seeking same-sex marriage. This is only a more recent example of the dilemma of Christians earnestly seeking but not always finding solutions that are consistent with how the Bible traditionally has been understood. Until we through through prayer alone -- and in a timely manner -- can rid others of what we believe to be their tormenter, we have no right to judge (or legislate) steps that others (Christians or non-Christians) take to address their needs -- as long as their solution does not directly harm others. (Harming others is always in clear conflict with all that we know Jesus to have taught.) Knowing that none of us is wiser than the Holy Spirit, and that we all still have much to learn from the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote simply (1Th 5:19, TEV):
Do not restrain the Holy Spirit.
If we require that a certain segment of our churches -- or of the general population -- practice life-long abstinence from legal marriage and its associated sexual relations, we should be willing to practice such life-long abstinence ourselves. (See Mat 19:9-12 and 1Co 7:1-5.) Until then we should support relationships that reduce or eliminate promiscuity and promote a higher morality than now exists. (See S&H 56:4-14; 64:26-29; 65:13-32.) That seems in keeping with what is nearest right under the circumstances.
Conclusion: According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said (Mat 13:52, NASB):
Every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.
Eduard Schweizer (The Good News according to Matthew, translated by David E. Green, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), a highly respected biblical scholar, in his commentary on Mat 13:51-53, wrote of Matthew's description of the Christian scribe or scholar (page 313):
Matthew obviously sees the disciples as prototypes of the teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven... The true teacher of the Law has learned from Jesus to see both the old and the new together (cf. Wisd. 8.8) -- God's Law, and its new interpretation proclaimed by Jesus and realized in all that he does. Or is Matthew thinking of Jesus' own teaching, and its new interpretation in the "learned" decisions of the community of disciples (16:19; 18:18)? In either case, it is clear that for Matthew the whole collection of parables is a didactic discourse on the Kingdom of God. Such a teacher of the Law is of course no longer a "rabbi," i.e. a "great one," but rather a "disciple" in the Kingdom of heaven, i.e. one who remains a "learner" (the same word in Greek [as disciple]) throughout his life.
Such life-long openness to learning and to a willingness to being guided by the living Holy Spirit is vital to our Christian discipleship.
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer