It doesn’t really surprise me that there would arise a movement in the professing Christian community who would side with anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-Bible activists. How should we interpret a professing Christian organization who would align themselves with someone like LGBT activist Dan Savage, a man barely distinguished from the flip-side of the Westboro Baptists?
(Notalllikethat.org) — The purpose of the NALT Christians Project is to give LGBT-affirming Christians a means of proclaiming to the world—and especially to young gay people—their belief and conviction that there is nothing anti-biblical or at all inherently sinful about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
I realize there’s a desire to not offend or hurt anyone’s feelings or tell anyone they’re sinners, but despite the linguistic gymnastics, the Bible is pretty clear on what God believes about homosexual sexual relationships. Some people don’t want to pass judgment and others don’t want to appear mean or hateful. I sympathize, but all that is irrelevant to what the Bible has to say about homosexual sexual relationships.
Let me start by making two observations. First, this is about God being mad: “For the wrath of God [orge] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men….”
Second, there is a specific progression that leads to this “orgy” of anger. Men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). They exchanged “the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). Next, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…” (v. 24). They “exchanged the natural [sexual] function for that which is unnatural (v. 26). Therefore, the wrath of God rightly falls on them (v. 18); they are without excuse (v. 20).
This text is a crystal clear condemnation of homosexuality by the Apostle Paul in the middle of his most brilliant discourse on general revelation. Paul is not speaking to a localized aberration of pedophilia or temple prostitution that’s part of life in the capital of Graeco-Roman culture. He is talking about a universal condition of man.
Regarding the same-sex behavior itself, here are the specific words Paul uses: a lust of the heart, an impurity and dishonoring to the body (v. 24); a degrading passion that’s unnatural (v. 29); an indecent act and an error (v. 27); not proper and the product of a depraved mind (v. 28).
There’s only one way the clear sense of this passage can be missed: if someone is in total revolt against God. According to Paul, homosexual behavior is evidence of active, persistent rebellion against one’s Creator. Verse 32 shows it’s rooted in direct, willful, aggressive sedition against God–true of all so-called Christians who are defending their own homosexuality. God’s response is explicit: “They are without excuse” (v. 20).
Paul was not unclear about what he meant by “natural.” Homosexuals do not abandon natural desires; they abandon natural functions: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another…” (1:26-27)
Paul is not talking about natural desires here, but natural functions. He is not talking about what one wants sexually, but how one is built to operate sexually. The body is built to function in a specific way. Men were not built to function sexually with men, but with women.
Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? We can find clues not just from the Genesis account, but also from the Prophets and the New Testament books 2 Peter and Jude. These give a sense of how ancient Jewish thinkers steeped in Jewish culture understood these texts.
First, Sodom and Gomorrah were judged because of grave sin. Genesis 18:20 says, “And the Lord said, ‘The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.'” Indeed, not even ten righteous people could be found in the city.
Second, it seems the judgment of these cities was to serve as a lesson to Abraham and to others that wickedness would be punished. In 2 Peter 2:6 we learn that God condemned and destroyed the cities as “an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter.”
Third, peculiar qualities of the sin are described by Jude and Peter. Jude 7 depicts the activity as “gross immorality” and going after “strange flesh.” Peter wrote that Lot was “oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men,” and “by what he saw and heard…felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds.” These people were “those who indulged the flesh in its corrupt desires and despised authority” (2 Peter 2:7-10).
Fourth, there are 27 references outside of Genesis where Sodom is mentioned. It is emblematic of gross immorality, deepest depravity, and ultimate judgment.
Piecing together the biblical evidence gives us a picture of Sodom’s offense. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was some kind of activity—a grave, ongoing, lawless, sensuous activity—that Lot saw and heard and that tormented him as he witnessed it day after day. It was an activity in which the inhabitants indulged the flesh in corrupt desires by going after strange flesh, ultimately bringing upon them the most extensive judgment anywhere in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation.
Was the city destroyed because the men of Sodom tried to rape the angels (option (2) above)? The answer is obviously no. God’s judgment could not have been for the rapacious attempt itself because His decision to destroy the cities was made days before the encounter (see Genesis 18:20). Further, Peter makes it clear that the wicked activity was ongoing (“day after day”), not a one-time incident. The outcry had already been going up to God for some time.
Was this a mere interrogation? Though the Hebrew word yada (“to know”) has a variety of nuances, it is properly translated in the NASB as “have [sexual] relations with.” Though the word does not always have sexual connotations, it frequently does, and this translation is most consistent with the context of Genesis 9:5. There is no evidence that what the townsmen had in mind was a harmless interview. Lot’s response—“Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly”—makes it clear they had other intentions.
In addition, the same verb is used in the immediate context to describe the daughters who had not “known” a man and who were offered to the mob instead. Are we to understand Lot to be saying, “Please don’t question my guests. Here, talk to my daughters, instead. They’ve never been interviewed”?
Did God judge Sodom and Gomorrah for inhospitality? Is it true that God’s judgment was not for homosexuality per se, but because the people of the town were discourteous to the visitors, violating sacred sanctuary customs by attempting to rape them? A couple of observations raise serious doubt.
First, the suggestion itself is an odd one. To say that the men of Sodom were inhospitable because of the attempted rape is much like saying a husband who’s just beaten his wife is an insensitive spouse. It may be true, but it’s hardly a meaningful observation given the greater crime.
Second—and more to the textual evidence—it doesn’t fit the collective biblical description of the conduct that earned God’s wrath: a corrupt, lawless, sensuous activity that Lot saw and heard day after day, in which the men went after strange flesh.
Third, are we to believe that God annihilated two whole cities because they had bad manners, even granting that such manners were much more important then than now? There’s no textual evidence that inhospitality was a capital crime. However, homosexuality was punishable by death in Israel (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). Does God ignore the capital crime, yet level two entire cities for a wrong that is not listed anywhere as a serious offense?
- Leviticus is not where we go for our moral instruction. It is a central thesis of Paul that Jesus has freed us from the Law.
- Leviticus is that book of the Law which has specifically to do with cult–sacrifice, priesthood, ritual purity. It is in this regard that it touches on homosexuality.
- The Hebrew word “toevah” (translated “abomination” and “detestable act”) is a cultic, not a moral, term. The English “abomination” means abhorrent, loathsome, unspeakably bad. Toevah means ritually unclean. Eating pork is toevah; having sex with a menstruating woman is toevah. You cannot come to worship after doing these things until you have been purified.
- Nor does the naming of the death penalty mark homosexuality as particularly heinous. Also punishable by death in the Law is disobedience to parents (no age specified), picking up sticks on the Sabbath, adultery, and many other actions.”
C. Ralph Blair argues:
- That this was for ritual purity of the priests and not for moral purity.
- The Law no longer applies to the New Testament Christian.
D. Analysis: It’s true, much of the Law deals with religious activity rather than universal morality, however…
- Ritual purity and moral purity are not always distinct.
- This section was not addressed to the priests, but to all the “sons of Israel” (v. 2).
- This isn’t merely ritual purity.
- Context determines the meaning here.
- The “toevah” (abomination) of homosexuality here is sandwiched between adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21) and bestiality (18:23). Was Moses saying merely that if you committed adultery, bestiality, or child sacrifice you had to be careful to wash up before you came to church?
- Moral aspects of the Law do still apply, as NT citations demonstrate.
- It’s curious that some claim homosexual practice was minor because it was no more offensive to God than picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Why don’t they conclude that both homosexuality and Sabbath breaking etc. were so offensive to God and such a threat to Judaism that they were capital offenses? If you want to know how God really felt, look at the punishment.
E. No, Moses spoke clearly here:
- The fact that the Law has just two references to it and none of the prophets directly address it is inconsequential.
- The paucity of reference is do to one simple fact.
- It’s not because it was unimportant; it was a capital crime.
- It’s because it wasn’t prevalent, like idolatry; homosexuals were executed.
As Neil Simpson notes:
- 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
- 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
- 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
- 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.