Some notes I’m likely to revisit soon

A mother of an adult son asked if I could offer some insight on the debate over whether or not Christianity is compatible with a homosexual lifestyle. Apparently her son found himself discussing this matter with a friend which led him to query his mom which, in turn, led her (a church member) to me. The following response, by no means exhaustive or polished(!), is what I gave her to deliver to her son:

Statements that would seek to make Christianity compatible with a homosexual lifestyle are in bold. Following the bold text is a brief response that endeavors to faithfully represent God’s word on the matter as revealed in Scripture. This interaction assumes that parties on both sides of the discussion believe—at a minimum— the Bible is the only authoritative rule for faith & conduct. 

1) God made me this way/I was born this way. The foundation of this argument is the belief that homosexuality is justified by the mere existence of same-sex attraction (SSA) and/or a genetic predisposition to homosexuality. But experiences, desires, and/or pre-dispositions aren’t self-justifying. The mere fact that a desire exists says nothing about whether that desire is good or bad. We need a standard by which to determine which desires are right & wrong, healthy & unhealthy, etc.

Christianity has historically taught that the only authoritative standard we have for such matters is the word of God contained in the Scriptures. On this objective standard we make two observations: (a) Scripture says that due to Adam’s sin humanity has been corrupted in every part of our being—body, mind, emotion—and  and that even our own hearts deceive us (see Psa 51:5; Rom 3:9-12; Eph 2:3; Jer 17:9). (b) Scripture categorically asserts that homosexual conduct is sinful (Rom 1:26-32; 1Cor 6:9-11; 1Tim 1:8-11). Therefore, the question is not “are these feelings/desires real?” but “are these feelings/desires right?”.

2) The Bible doesn’t condemn loving/committed homosexual relationships but promiscuous homosexuality. This argument assumes that because God is love He would never condemn a loving relationship. Scripture speaks to this in two ways: (a) not all love is good love (1Jn 2:15-16) (b) God clearly does prohibit certain unions—even certain heterosexual unions (Lev 18:6ff; 2Cor 6:14-15). Scripture categorically condemns homosexuality regardless of personal motivation, fidelity, or relational context.

3) The Bible’s prohibition is relative to the cultural context and/or concerns abusive homosexual behavior (particularly in regard to pederasty). Closely related to #2 in that the attempt is to establish two classes of homosexuality—healthy/sanctioned & unhealthy/forbidden. Again, Scripture makes no distinction between types of homosexual conduct or unions. Voluntary homosexual unions were not unheard of in the historical & cultural context in which the Bible was written. Even so, the human authors of Scripture (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) offered no exception clauses in their prohibitions against homosexuality. To suggest otherwise is to attempt to rationalize a way around the clear message contained in Scripture.

4) Jesus never spoke against homosexuality. This is an argument from silence but an argument with a reasonable explanation. First, Jesus fully endorsed the moral/ethical standards established by the OT law (Mat 5:17-19) which contained explicit prohibitions against homosexuality (Lev 18:22). By affirming the righteousness of the Law Jesus affirmed the “rightness” of forbidding homosexuality. Second, the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day shared the OT view concerning homosexuality. As such, Jesus would have had no occasion to address a non-existent problem or debate.

5) All Christians sin. Even if homosexuality is a sin, why should it be singled out as a “disqualifying” sin? Scripture doesn’t deny that Christians will sin. However, the good news of salvation includes a call to repent of & forsake sin (Mat 4:17; Luk 24:46-47; Acts 26:19-20; 2Tim 2:24-26). Consequently, Scripture denies that a true child of God will knowingly embrace sin (1Jn 3:5-10). As other passages of Scripture make clear, all sin—including homosexuality—is renounced by those who have experienced a new birth in Christ (Rom 6:22; 1Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-24; Heb 12:14). We readily acknowledge that a Christian who repents of his sin will still battle against the very sin he has abandoned, but for those battles God promises His strength, support, and ultimate victory (Gal 5:16; 1Thess 5:23-24; Heb 4:14-16).

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

4 thoughts on “Some notes I’m likely to revisit soon”

  1. Regarding #5, what’s the difference between “knowingly embrace sin” and “still battle against the very sin he has abandoned”? Seems like every sin is a conscious choice, so in a sense, every sin is a choice to knowingly embrace it. We do not sin by accident.

    1. Short answer: embracing sin isn’t fighting sin. To “embrace sin” in this context is to identify yourself by that sin w/out any intention of walking away from it–thus the need to take something God forbids & argue that it’s permissible.

  2. Going through a few of these and I tend to agree with what you’re saying. Number 4 references that Jesus endorsed the standards of the OT law, and then you cite Leviticus. What about Lev. 18:19? Or any of the other Leviticus verses that we tend to not follow? What makes it OK for us to pick and choose a few of these verses to use in an argument and the others (even in the same chapter) just throw out? And if it is OK, which verses are good for us to use and which aren’t? I’m genuinely asking, not trying to argue for the sake of arguing.

    1. Good questions. (1) Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial/ritual requirements of the Law for us; we’re made righteous in/by Him not by diet, dress code, etc. (Mk 7:18-19; Acts 10:14-15; Col 2:16-17) (2) Jesus obeyed the moral/ethical commands of the Law and directs us to imitate Him (Mat 5:21ff; Rom 13:9-10). This is a good overview by Tim Keller if you want to read more

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