The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Bible and Homosexuality: Part 1

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In an interview on CNN, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the new bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, had this to say when asked if she believed homosexuality is a sin.

“I don’t believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us,” she said. “Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.”

Either believe and teach what the Bible actually says about homosexuality or get out of the church. Quit playing semantic and exegetical games. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality. Anyone wanting to refute the pro-homosexual arguments must deal with John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality . If you refute it, you refute all arguments that claim the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior.

Boswell begins his dissection of biblical texts that have traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality with an examination of Genesis 19. Genesis 2:18–25 is judiciously avoided by Boswell. Behavior characterized in Genesis 19, Leviticus, 18:22, 20:13, and Romans 1:24–27 is aberrational because of the normative status of the heterosexual relationship outlined by God in Genesis 2:18–25. Based on the Genesis account alone, there is no need for a single verse condemning homosexuality. Affirming the heterosexual relationship—one man with one woman—condemns the homosexual relationship. With the norm established, any deviation is by definition abnormal.

Because of sin, God confirms his word with negative prohibitions of homosexual behavior. The first place we encounter this negative appraisal is in Genesis 19 (although see 9:20–25). Boswell minimizes the importance of this story when he writes, “The sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present, and that the original moral impact of the passage had to do with hospitality. Briefly put, . . . Lot was violating the custom of Sodom (where he was himself not a citizen but only a ‘sojourner’) by entertaining unknown guests within the city walls at night without obtaining the permission of the elders of the city.”[1] Boswell assumes what he must prove.

First, Lot was not a “sojourner,” although the crowd accused him of being one (19:9). The text states that Lot “came in as an alien” (19:9), but by the time of this encounter he had his own house (19:2) and may even have been a ruler since he met the angels while he “was sitting in the gate of Sodom” (19:1). The “gates of the city” is the customary place where rulers met to decide judicial matters (Deut. 16:18). Since Lot met the angels at the gates of the city, the elders were no doubt present. Lot operated according to custom. Lot showed hospitality to the strangers by feeding them and offering them his home for lodging (19:1–3). He even washed their feet, which was symbolic of hospitality (cf. John 12:3; 13:5).

Second, the severity of punishment for a lack of hospitality seems extreme. Greg L. Bahnsen writes: “It calls for a strange mentality to see (1) how a simple desire of the townsmen to get acquainted would be a breach of hospitality, (2) how it could be deemed seriously wicked (especially in light of the city customs, which Lot certainly understood), and (3) why it would be so vile as to warrant dramatic divine punishment.”[2]

Boswell continues with his strained exegesis by claiming that “Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places, but not a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality.”[3] The word “homosexuality” is of recent invention. Sodom’s sins of “arrogance,” “abundant food,” and “careless ease,” and a refusal “to help the poor and needy” are listed in Ezekiel 16:49. In a bit of deception, Boswell fails to quote verse 50: “Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.” The word “abominations” is the same word used in Leviticus 18:22 to describe explicit homosexual behavior. Notice too that “abominations” is listed last in the Ezekiel passage. The Hebrew word “abomination” (to’evah) is a term of strong disapproval in Hebrew; it is used five times in Leviticus 18 (verses 22, 26, 27, 29, 30) and in 20:13. “It is more common in Deuteronomy (17 times), in Proverbs (21 times), and in Ezekiel (43 times). Other writers use it less often. It comes from a root meaning ‘to hate’ or ‘abhor.’ An abomination is literally something detestable and hated by God (e.g., Prov. 6:16; 11:1).”[4] We know the nature of the abomination by its description in the Genesis account (19:5). Homosexuality is the culmination of evil, the outgrowth of spiritual decadence. It was the immoral straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

In a sense, homosexuality is the cultural culmination of rebellion against God. It represents the `burning out’ of man and his culture. Paul described accompanying aspects of a culture that reaches this stage in [Romans 1] verses 29-31. The vices enumerated by Paul accompanying the open practice of homosexuality and characterize a society in which homosexuality is practiced and tolerated. Therefore, homosexuality that is publicly accepted is symptomatic of a society under judgment, inwardly corrupted to the point of impending collapse. Paul the apostle regarded it as the most overt evidence of that degeneracy to which God in His wrath gave over the nations.[5]

Third, Boswell moves from the lack of hospitality argument to an admission that sodomy was an issue: Sodom “was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to rape the angels.”[6] This explanation assumes the validity of homosexual “love” over against homosexual rape. Boswell and other homosexual advocates must first prove that homosexuality is moral before they can claim that homosexual acts between “consenting adults” are legitimate in biblical terms. Once again, Boswell assumes to be true what he must first prove. In logical parlance, he is begging the question.

Fourth, it’s possible that Lot knew that visitors often came to Sodom to engage in homosexual relations. Sodom was known for its decadence, similar to San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta. This is why Lot is so insistent that the angels stay with him. The square was considered a “pick-up” point for visitors to the city.

To be continued. . . .

Endnotes:

[1] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 93–94.
[2] Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), 33.
[3] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 94.
[4] Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 259.
[5] Bahnsen, Homosexuality, 59.
[6] Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 93.

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