Gay Christians? (1)

gay and christian?I’ve been speaking with an especially thoughtful young person recently who asked me whether it was appropriate to speak of “Gay Christians.” My first response was to ask whether it is appropriate to speak of “Murderer Christians” or “Thief Christians” or “Idolater Christians”? When the adjective “gay” refers to homosexuals, the expression “Gay Christian” is an oxymoron. Remarkably, Millennials (18–34) may be almost entirely unaware of the older, original sense of “gay,” i.e., happy. Equally remarkable is the fact that it now seems widely accepted that the practice of homosexuality is quite compatible with a Christian profession. There is even a “Gay Christian Network” internet program. They must be right, after all famous evangelical celebrities have endorsed them. Isn’t that how truth and reality works? If you get enough influential people to endorse your views and practices, then that makes it true, right?

Uh, no. This is the fallacy Argumentum ad baculum or the appeal to force. A million Frenchman can be wrong. Most of the Germans supported the Third Reich. Most of the Japanese supported the Emperor in World War II, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. All those folks were wrong. Mass movements are often wrong. Ideas and practices become accepted for a variety of reasons but their acceptance, even widespread acceptance doesn’t make them true or right.

Of course whether my comparison between homosexuality and theft or muder holds depends on whether homosexuality (i.e., homosexual activity) is, in fact, sin. There are essentially three approaches to this question:

  1. The Bible Doesn’t Speak About Homosexuality
  2. The Bible Approves of Homosexuality
  3. The Bible Regards Homosexuality As Sin

Whole volumes, of course, have been written on this question over the last 30 years or so and a single blog post cannot sort them all out but there is strong prima facie evidence that views #1 and #2 are wrong.

Leviticus 20:13 (ESV) says,

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination

The Hebrew Bible can be blunt but it can also be restrained, polite and in this case, some have used its politeness, its restrained language against it. In this case, however, the Hebrew Bible is a little more explicit than the even more polite ESV translation. “A man that lies [with] a male [in] bed [as] a woman….” The intent seems pretty clear. The concern is not with two guys taking a nap. The verb “to lie down” is used euphemistically in Hebrew to refer to sexual relations and the inclusion of the adjective “male” and the noun “bed” make the intent clear. There was also a civil punishment attached to this prohibition: death. No one was going to be killed for sleeping but they could be put to death for same sex (homosexual) relations. An “enlightened” and “liberated” (late) modern person might not like what the text says but it was clear enough in its original context to serve as the basis for criminal prosecution (on the basis of 2 or 3 witnesses) and capital punishment.

One might object, “But that’s the Old Testament. We’re not under the Old Testament any longer.” Well, that’s true but it’s irrelevant to the question: does the Bible speak to homosexuality (i.e., homosexual activity)? Leviticus 20:13 is in the Bible and it speaks to homosexuality. Ergo #1 is false. Does the Bible approve of homosexuality? Leviticus 20:13 describes homosexuality as an “abomination” ergo, no, the Bible does not approve of it. No, Jonathan and David were not homosexual lovers. Not every natural, expression of masculine affection is a signal of homosexual attraction or relations. One could only read that narrative this way in our perverse, over-sexualized culture.

It is true that the Old Testament, strictly defined as the Mosaic Covenant, the 613 commandments of the national, temporary, typological revelation of God to national Israel, has been fulfilled by Christ. Nevertheless, the Christian church has always rejected the notion that there are two Gods in Scripture, a mean Old Testament God and a nice, loving New Testament God. That was the view held by the Gnostics in the 2nd century AD and later by the Manichaeans. It was rejected as heresy in both cases because the New Testament explicitly teaches the contrary. The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 says,

Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one

The NT quotes or alludes the Shema. Our Lord Jesus quoted it in Mark 12:29. Paul alludes to it in Romans 3:30, in Galatians 3;20, and so does James in James 2:19. The New Testament uses the same language for God that the OT uses. The NT regularly quotes the OT regarding God’s disapproval of sin and even, e.g., Hebrews 12, intensifies its language about God’s hatred for sin and the coming judgment. No one preached about the coming judgment more than Jesus himself.

There are not two Gods in Scripture and though advent of Christ did fulfill all the types and shadows under Moses, all the sacrifices and civil laws and punishments, and though the national covenant with Israel has expired, nevertheless, Leviticus 20:13 does still communicate God’s moral disapproval of homosexuality.

Further, the New Testament continues to condemn homosexuality. In Romans 1:26–27 (ESV) Paul writes:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

As in Leviticus, Paul is clear but relatively polite or restrained in his language. That restraint, however, cannot be used to argue that the passage does not speak to or against homosexual acts. The context is established in v. 18 where Paul writes, “For the wrath of God lis revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” So, he is elaborating on the theme of God’s moral disapproval of sin. He proceeds to give examples of egregiously sinful behavior. In v. 23 he gives idolatry as an example. In v. 24 he turns to sexual immorality, to “the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” which he connects again (v. 25) directly to idolatry. Violation of the first three commandments is connected to the violation of the seventh commandment. Thus, the context is idolatry and sexual immorality. Women exchanging “the use according to nature” (την φυσικην) for that which is “outside of nature” (παρα φυσιν) is a reference to sexual behavior. Paul wasn’t complaining about economic (business) behavior or ordinary domestic questions. In v. 27, he includes men in his complaint. Thus, both Lesbian acts and male homosexual acts are included and condemned. The frame of reference is sex and the boundary is nature, that which is of use or profit (χρησιν). Homosexual acts are biologically fruitless, they cannot produce children. According to Paul, the only product of homosexual activity is the “due penalty” for the activity.

He is even more pointed in 1Corinthians 6:9 and 1Tim 1:10, where he condemns the “αρσενοκοιται” (arsenokoitai). The standard definition (Bouer, Arnt, Gingrich, Danker) is “a male who practices homosexuality, pederast, sodomite.” This is the way the word was understood in early Christian, post-canonical usage though it occurs in the same sense in the Sibylline Oracles (6th cent BC) ii.73. See Moulton and Milligan s.v.

Of course, we want to avoid the etymological fallacy (deducing the meaning of a word by adding up its letters or component parts) because it does not always work and can produce misleading results but in this case it works because usage confirms what adding up the letters suggests. αρσην (arsen) = male and κοιτης (koites) = bed or euphemistically for sexual relations.

However uncomfortable it makes us late moderns, the text of 1Corinthians 6:9 is quite clear:

“Or do you not know that the unjust (αδικοι) will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither will you who deceive (πλανασθε) nor the sexually immoral (πορνοι) nor idolaters (ειδωλολατραι), nor adulterers (μοιχοι), nor the effeminate (μαλακοι), nor homosexuals (αρσενοκοιται).”

I translate μαλακοι as “effeminate” because of the way it’s used in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic Scriptures) for the “soft parts” and is used elsewhere in the sense of “effeminate, of a catamite, a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness, 1 Cor. 6:9” (BAGD, s.v.).

Paul was quite familiar with Corinth as a fairly depraved, cosmopolitan port city and he was well aware of the sorts of sexual immorality that were openly practiced there as elsewhere (e.g., Ephesus had pornographic graffiti that would make us blush). It seems clear that one thing, effeminate men who submit themselves to sexual abuse, perhaps homosexual prostitutes, led him to the last category, homosexuals.

Paul is announcing God’s judgment on several classes of sinful behaviors and warning those who commit them impenitently (without sorrow or struggle) that they must acknowledge their sin for what it is and turn to and put their trust in Jesus the Savior who obeyed and died for heterosexual and homosexual sinners and who offers free acceptance with God on the basis of faith (trust) in Jesus, the gracious Savior of helpless sinners.

So, there is ample biblical evidence that, taken in its original context, understood according to the intention of the human authors and in its broader canonical context (the Old and New Testaments together regarded as one, unfolding story of redemption and revelation) for the conclusion that the Bible regards homosexuality (i.e., the sexual acts) and even male effeminacy, i.e., the now widespread so-called “gender bending” that blurs the lines between males and females) as sin.

Why, then, do so many seem miss or misunderstand this teaching? More on this in part 2.

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    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for this. Interesting. It would seem to be the exception to the rule. I see that the published a response. The purpose of the site is to encourage the notion that one can be both Christian and actively homosexual.

    • Jim,

      I clicked the GCN link and found Ron B.’s Opinion piece immediately suspect by the description of it, “The following opinion was written by Ron, a Gay Christian Network member who believes gay Christians are called to lifelong celibacy”. “Gay Christians are called to lifelong celibacy”? No, (like Dr. Clark said, “gay Christian” is an oxymoron) Christians are called to obedience. In this context, if you’re single, you be celibate, if you’re married, you be faithful to your spouse. And if you’re tempted by sinful sexual desires, you flee and call out to the Lord for deliverance. 1 Cor. 6:18 comes to mind.

      Ron B. quotes Paul from this same Cor. chapter, “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11). Ron, like many gay advocates, doesn’t say ANYTHING about “That is what some of you WERE”. The “were” is always ignored. This proves homosexuality is a behavior, not an identity and that a person can be freed from it. Ron’s avoidance of this gels with the description of this piece.

      In his Conclusion Ron writes, “It is love that inspires me to be celibate: the love of God which gives me the desire to obey His commandments”.
      I gotta ask, wouldn’t the love of God inspire you to go beyond (homosexual) celibacy and into making a perspicuous and emphatic statement of: “I am NOT gay but I do struggle w/ same-sex attractions and because I know it’s an abomination in God’s sight, I will call on Him for deliverance. I will be celibate because I am unmarried, not because I believe God made me gay but doesn’t want me to be gay or perform homosexual acts”. That to me, would show obedience.

      Tragically, while Ron. B. doesn’t want to act on his homosexual desires and believes God’s word in the condemnation of it, it doesn’t sound like he FULLY wants to flee from it and be free from it. I pray he does someday.

  1. Hi Dr. Clark,

    I knew homosexual acts were a sin, but effeminate behavior is culturally defined. Would I be right in thinking that this isn’t referring to the guy with very soft skin and an interest in sushi but rather effeminate by actions as implied in your article; “effeminate men who submit themselves to sexual abuse, perhaps homosexual prostitutes.”
    I’m pretty certain I’ve answered my own question, but what about effeminate behaviors that are typically common to gay men who have just “come out of the closet” such as the “valley girl” accent, other verbal cues, pronounced physical familiarity (physical/emotional) with women or other modern signals that are designed to solidify and announce/project one’s “gayness.” At the risk of legalism, would these behaviors fall under a biblical understanding of “effeminate” or is it safer to let one’s own conscience define what constitutes “effeminate?”

    • Hi Katie,

      What constitutes “effeminate” is a very good and difficult question. I waited to reply until I could talk to some folks and think a bit. Part of the answer is “nature” and part of the answer is culture. I’ll address the latter first. What constitutes “masculine” behavior or traits does vary. What counts as “masculine” in the UK and Europe might be considered effeminate here. According to Steve Baugh, that’s part of what Paul is addressing in 1Cor 11 re head coverings, the confusion of males and females. Thus, the signals sent may vary from culture to culture. It’s considered perfectly appropriate in some cultures for men to stand holding hands while they talk. In our culture, not so much. So, the main point here would be to pay attention to the culture and to be sure not to send confusing signals. Males should dress like males and not like females. In our culture I think we know what constitutes effeminate behavior—it seems as if the homosexual culture both affirms those stereotypical behaviors and then criticizes the “straights” for noting the stereotypes. In that case, it’s not about justice. That’s just power: “We can do it and affirm it but you can’t notice it or you’re homophobic.” Well, nonsense.

      Nature is the other part of the equation. There is, in nature, a clear distinction between males and females and we should affirm those differences. We should enumerate them carefully. E.g., being caring is not a purely feminine characteristic and being rugged isn’t a purely masculine but there are differences. Men and women are made differently, we’re wired differently, we perceive things differently. At least some of that is as much nature as it is nurture. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (regarding what is obscene) “I know it when I see it.” Sometimes it’s an intuitive judgement based on the intent of the person performing the behavior (dress, manner, speech, affectation) and sending the signals.

  2. “Tragically, while Ron. B. doesn’t want to act on his homosexual desires and believes God’s word in the condemnation of it, it doesn’t sound like he FULLY wants to flee from it and be free from it. I pray he does someday.”

    Yes, MP, you’re right. This does speaks to the real issue at heart – Original Sin (unbelief).

    • And if you don’t get Original Sin then you don’t really get Grace, do you? Unbelief is our default setting.

  3. Katie,

    I’d say that the effeminate behaviour you described is culturally defined – much in the same you have metrosexual and what not. Having said this, of course, there are “limits” to such behavior – what is appropriate and what is not. For example, the effeminate cannot expect to considered no different than how a female relates to a female. If he can’t accept that, then he has a problem. But if it’s not that, then it makes very little difference if the effeminate eats meatloaf or not, as long as his orientation is not gay, then – that’s his style, really.

  4. “This proves homosexuality is a behavior, not an identity and that a person can be freed from it. Ron’s avoidance of this gels with the description of this piece.”

    Yes, but it’s sinful and perverted and unnatural identity. Because this is how gays see and define themselves — it is who they are. This is why many homosexuals do not see themselves as different from monogamous or married (heterosexual) couples.

    This identity is grounded in bondage to Original Sin (unbelief) and must thus be delivered by the unconditional Gospel that grants true freedom in the form of faith alone which sets creation (i.e. of this old creation) in its original and true context which is union-communion and pro-creation.

  5. arsenokoitai

    I believe we see that greek still in English (not as much as American): “nookie” and “arse”.

  6. Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

    More seriously, Paul was arguing in the form “according to/contrary to nature” in the context of a Roman empire that would soon produce Caligula, and earlier emperors and high society surely had their own brand of perversity. Not to mention the stereotype of Greeks in general. How much do we know about the view of homosexuality in that broader secular society, and how does that help us understand Paul?

  7. Ron, like many gay advocates, doesn’t say ANYTHING about “That is what some of you WERE”. The “were” is always ignored.

    That’s true to a point, but there’s also the important perspective that Christians still are sinners. Justified sinners, growing in sanctification, but sinners nonetheless until glorification.

    • Zrim, I’m not saying that after one is beyond the “were” that it’s all good after that. They may still and probably will struggle but they’re not believing that it’s their identity any longer which is why, as you said, we’re still sinners growing in sanctification until the consumation of glorification. simul iustus et peccator

    • I don’t want you to be confused; I’m not Zrim — not that there’s anything wrong with being Zrim, some of my best friends are Zrim!

      • Whoops, sorry RubeRad. I often think of Zrim when I see your name and vica versa. I’m a fan of the Confessional Outhouse.

  8. One of the guys who at least helped spread that over the airways in the L.A. area over the radio was Frank Pastore. I didn’t follow his radio program, but I once accidently came upon the program when he was talking about gay Christians and insisted in using that terminology, while callers called in strongly disagreeing with him. I guess it started as a result of a lesbian with a partner and children in the relationship who called in; she professed to be Christian, and I think she initially called in to say she was against homosexual marriage. I think she may have also consented to her behavior being sinful.

    It should also be pointed out that Frank was not uneducated. He was a graduate of Talbot. But we can’t blame Talbot for his ideas, at least I don’t think so.

    I think the Roman communion has also used similar terminology, even perhaps in official church documents. At the very least, some priests do speak of “homosexual” Christians.

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