I mentioned in my post on Tuesday, I said I wanted to respond to another article in The Des Moines Register, but wanted to wait because it addresses a larger issue how the Church should respond to homosexuals. Rev. Robert Butterfield, the interim pastor at Urbandale United Church of Christ, wanted to blow his church’s horn in a Sunday op-ed…
Because otherwise the larger community might not recognize what a church can and should be like. Such a visible, public example is especially needed at a time when many churches continue to espouse homophobic policies or pretend to be welcoming to gays but really are not.
Well, thank you Rev. Butterfield, but this isn’t the first time somebody has tooted your church’s horn. I kindly thank you for the label that you place upon me and many others as we seek to be faithful to scripture, but that is part of the problem really as the United Church of Christ has abandoned scripture as their authority. That is where this descent really begins. What the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and now the Evangelical Lutheran Church (at least the churches that support the social statements passed last week).
Al Mohler on Monday quoted Barbara Wheeler, who serves as an advocate for the acceptance of homosexual clergy within the Presbyterian Church (USA) she said, “What you’re seeing is two things: the society is in the process of changing its collective mind about the moral status of same-sex relationships, and there’s a parallel theological movement.” Mohler went on to say:
She is exactly right, for the theological movement to normalize homosexual relationships is working hard to accommodate the Scriptures and the church’s historic teaching so that it matches the changing mind of the larger society.
Instead of transforming culture, churches that take this course are transformed by it. Which is exactly what Rev. Butterfield is advocating. He says that we should be following the Iowa Supreme Court’s lead.
Given the fact that the Iowa Supreme Court has put its stamp of approval on same-sex marriage, one would think that churches all over Iowa would be rushing to modernize their thinking and adopt policies and practices that welcome and affirm homosexual individuals and same-sex couples. But so far there is no rush. The reason for the churches’ inertia is that they are letting their policies and practices be driven by popular prejudice rather than by what the Iowa Supreme Court in its wisdom has decided or by what the Bible has to say.
What the Bible has to say? That’s fascinating, Rev. Butterfield, what pray tell does the Bible have to say about homosexuality?
What many Christians do not understand is that the Bible does not offer a clear statement on homosexuality, let alone a reasoned judgment. Homosexuality is barely mentioned in the Bible. In Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, where homosexuality is mentioned, we are dealing with what in Hebrew are called chukim, that is, with a category of laws for which the rabbis could find no reasonable basis. They were divine orders to be obeyed blindly, without justification, simply because God issued them. Chukim are to be distinguished from mishpatim (derived from the same root as justice and judge), which were based on experience and reasoned justification. Chukim are antithetical to liberty, and the legal portions of the Bible reflect a clear and intentional development away from unjustified chukim toward justified mishpatim. To insist on obeying chukim, while the Bible itself seeks to move beyond chukim to mishpatim, is ridiculous and anti-biblical.
I would contend that the Bible does offer a clear statement on homosexuality, and a reasoned one at that. Stay with me as I take down this his “argument” which is full of presuppositions and reflects, quite frankly, poor reasoning – not to mention his hermeneutical skills are wanting.
Let’s start with his statement that “homosexuality is barely mentioned.” Identity theft is never mentioned in the Bible. Drunk driving is never mentioned in the Bible. Child molestation is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, and I could go on and on. We know these things are wrong and sinful, and I would submit that we both would agree on this. While the actual term may not be in the Bible, the principles that would guide us to the conclusion that it is sin are.
Homosexuality is specifically mentioned in the Bible, but not only that, in the New Testament we are treated to the broader category found in the Greek word, pornea, which means sexual immorality – that includes any sexual sin outside the framework and boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman.
Regarding his statement on the rabbis’ interpretation of the Leviticus passages, so what? Why am I bound by the interpretation of rabbis who came hundreds of years after Mosaic law was given? That aside my argument for homosexuality being a sin is not based on Leviticus anyway. Why? Because in the context there are obscure laws that we don’t follow today. For instance, prohibition of eating pork, etc.
I will submit to you though that in Leviticus 18 all, with the exception of the verse about menstrual cycles, (Leviticus 18:19), are all still considered taboo and sinful today. To take his argument to it’s full conclusion he would also have to say, that incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice are ok as well.
He goes on….
The biblical authors knew nothing about sexual orientation; they thought everyone was by nature heterosexual, and they were obviously wrong.
REALLY? When did they find the gay gene? People have tried to pass off studies that were a bunch of bunk in this endeavor, but it hasn’t been found. I’ll submit that some people have tendencies in this area. We are all born with sinful tendencies. Some seem predisposed to cheat and steal, others to overeat, etc. That doesn’t make those activies any less sin. Going on…
The language used to describe David’s relationship with Jonathan is widely acknowledged to be erotic (see especially 2 Samuel 1:17-27), and yet the Bible presents that relationship as not only acceptable but actually exemplary.
First of all… context. Jonathan had been killed. David was in mourning. I want to zero in on v. 26 because I’m sure that is what Rev. Butterfield is referring, “I am very distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.”
He’s assuming that “love” is sexual love. He refers to Jonathan as “my brother.” The word love used in this passage is the Hebrew word, “ahabah” which is a general word for love which can be used of human love for a human object, of man toward man, of man toward himself, between a man and woman, sexual desire and God’s love to His people.
In the entire context of Jonathan and David’s relationship looking at it from an ancient Middle Eastern perspective. “Brother” should be taken to mean “treaty/covenant brother.” So this love Jonathan had for David should be understood to have covenantal connotations. Similar to what is seen in Psalm 109:4-5.
In return for my love they accuse me,
but I give myself to prayer.
So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
Same Hebrew word, but referring to covenantal loyalty. So to a soldier, which David and Jonathan were, this type of loyalty and brotherhood does indeed surpass “the love of women” in importance. Soldiers in battle understand this, and that is the context.
The story of Sodom in Genesis 19:1-11 is about the sin of inhospitality and has nothing to say about homosexuality.
Now I’ll submit that homosexuality isn’t the only thing going on in Sodom and Gommorah, but let’s look verse 5. “And they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’” What’s “to know”? See further in verse 8, Lot says to the men at the door, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.”
Now I don’t think he’s referring to playing cribbage. So in one sense, yes it about being inhospitable. I think it’s rather inhospitable to gang rape guests in your town. Then we get into the New Testament:
In Romans 1:26-27, which talks about women and men exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones, Paul is assuming (incorrectly) that everyone is born with heterosexual orientation. In any case, Paul’s major argument in that passage is against Gentile infidelity, not homosexuality, as seen in the fact that Paul immediately drops the subject of homosexuality and does not return to it.
There we have it. Paul’s wrong! Oh, I stand corrected Butterfield and his liberal theologians know more than the Apostle Paul whom God used to write a 1/3 of the New Testament. Does that statement seem just a tad arrogant to you? They are now saying, “we are our own authority. We know better.” You can say that, but it isn’t a good argument.
Again, context… Paul is not just writing about Gentiles. He is writing about all mankind. In Romans 1:18-20 we see the ultimate problem:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
God has revealed Himself. He is made plain, but people have suppressed the truth. Not only that they did not honor Him as God. They didn’t thank Him. They became futile in their thinking… and in that process their hearts were darkened, (Romans 1:21). But it didn’t stop there – they exchanged the glory of God for false gods, (Romans 1:22). They went on and “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,” (Romans 1:25). They committed idolatry. They placed their thoughts above what God thought (“futile in their thinking”).
For that “God gave them up” in v. 24, v.26, and v.28… a progression that gets worse and worse because their hearts become more and more hardened. It lists all sin, so in one sense he is right it isn’t just about homosexuality, but homosexuality is in there and it is sin right along with gossip, slander, envy, murder, strife, being disobedient to parent, etc, (Romans 1:29-30). He sets up the condition of the human race, the bad news before we get to the good news of Christ’s work on the cross on behalf of sinful humanity. Jesus takes homosexuality and all sin seriously, enough that He died, so He could satisfy the wrath of God that is being revealed against humanity, (Romans 1:18).
Sharing that news is loving. To gloss over sin and deny that people have to repent as a result and turn to Jesus for mercy and forgiveness is preaching hate as far as I’m concerned.
Regarding not bringing it up again - See 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, that statement is just inaccurate. None of this, however, is the thrust of my framework on this issue. It can be seen when I discussed marriage awhile back:
Our first insight is in Genesis 1 when God created males and females. He said to them to be “fruitful and multiply,” (Genesis 1:28). One, not the only, reason for marriage is the propagation of the human race. We are to procreate, and God provided marriage as a means to do that. Gay marriage can not accomplish this. They can mimic it by fighting to have adoption laws changed or through artificial insemination, but it can’t occur naturally.
In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” (ESV). A helper fit for him… what does this mean? In the Hebrew the first word in that phrase – “helper” implies, naturally, someone who assists and encourages. “Help” provides support for what is lacking in the one who needs help.
“Helper” is qualified by “fit for him” – this word in Hebrew seems to be related to the verb meaning “to be plain or visible.” A related noun refers to an “eminent” person. So possibly “helper fit for him” means a a person matching his distinctiveness (as one created in God’s image). This phrase certainly points to one who is fit to stand before the man, opposite him, as his counterpart, companion, and complement.There isn’t a sense of inferiority or subordination, rather this person is one who “like him,” but to give a literal rendering “like opposite him.”
The foundation is in Genesis, not Leviticus, or even Romans. God established the boundaries of marriage and sexual relationships. One man. One woman. In the covenant of marriage, period. I went on to say…
This marriage is a covenant with the Lord being a witness between the husband and the wife of his youth, (Malachi 2:14). The relationship between a husband and his wife is to be patterned after the relationship between Christ and His Church, (Ephesians 5:22-33). This covenant has three components to it. First, leaving, and then cleaving (”hold fast to his wife”), and then becoming “one flesh.” While leaving and cleaving are important, they really aren’t relevant to the topic at hand. I do want to conclude here by looking at what is meant by “one flesh.”
This refers to the personal union of a man with his wife at all levels in their life. It is expressed and deepened through sexual intercourse, but it means much more than that. It refers to the “oneness” that becomes more and more of a reality over time. This “one flesh” relationship is also realized in the “one flesh” of children that they have together in this covenantal relationship.
In light of this passage we can see why sex is to be reserved for the one context of heterosexual marriage. It is a symbol of covenant commitment. It is to deepen faithful love, and it needs the context of consistency and reliability. Also we can see why homosexual relationships, and homosexual marriages in particular, can’t be affirmed biblically (at least not with people being faithful to the text). The “not good” that our Creator God saw in man’s being alone is met with the provision of a woman to complete and complement him.
Jesus affirms this description of marriage in Matthew 19:4-7. He extends the definition of adultery to even what goes on in our minds, (Matthew 5:27-28). I’ve already said that the Greek word, pornea (“sexual immorality”) encompasses any sexual activity outside the marriage covenant which God the Father established as being between a man and a woman, and Jesus has affirmed.
So the argument that the Bible ignores or even affirms homosexual behavior is one that is based on false presuppositions, taking passages out of context, and ignoring key passages.
In short doing hermeneutical gymnastics.
Latest posts by Shane Vander Hart (see all)
- Recap: A Three-Way Republican Primary in Iowa Senate District 1 - May 24, 2018
- Update: Nate Boulton Suspends Gubernatorial Campaign - May 24, 2018
- Jim Mowrer’s Illegal Endorsement of Himself - May 23, 2018