Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

Preston Sprinkle —  August 22, 2013 — 15 Comments
This entry is part 1 of 20 in the seriesHomosexuality in the Bible

This is the subject of a book I’m working on. And it’s the subject of the next great battle that the church will face in the coming years—indeed, it’s already facing it.

Before I write a book, however, I like to blog about the subject. It’s a good way to test my thoughts, tease out my interpretation, and see if what I’m saying makes sense to a general audience. So what I’m going to do over the next several months is blog about what the Bible says about homosex 1homosexuality. I’ll address several issues such as “nature vs. nurture” (i.e. is same sex attraction biological?), the question of whether it can be “fixed,” (i.e. can gay people become straight?), and whether same sex attraction is a sin or just homosexual sex. However, for the bulk of these posts (and my book) I want to stick more closely to my primary field. I want to stick close to what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the issue.

So in the next post, we’ll dive into the Old Testament to see what it says about Homosexuality, beginning with the infamous story of Sodom in Genesis 19. But first, let’s clear some space for a fruitful discussion by identifying key preliminary issues in the discussion.

First, I’m coming at this topic with a whole lot of baggage. I was raised in a church environment where it was assumed that the Bible outright condemns homosexuality. And maybe it does. But I’d encourage everyone to rely on the actual text of Scripture for their authority rather than their Christian upbringing and assumptions. In my initial phase of study, I’ve seen that the issue is a hundred times more complicated than I thought. No longer do I believe Christians can simply quote a verse from Leviticus (or wherever) and think that the debate is settled. There are a lot of questions surrounding the biblical material that refers to homosexual sex.

Second, let’s use terms and language that aren’t unnecessarily offensive to those who disagree. If truth offends, then so be it. But we shouldn’t add to that offense with our own ignorance and lack of compassion. Here’s what I’m getting at. The gay community (that is, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or LGBT community) does not prefer the term “homosexual” to refer to their orientation. (“Homosexuality” is fine.) The term “homosexual” to refer to people has been used all too often by anti-gay protestors so that the term “homosexual” brings with it many hostile connotations. Gay people don’t usually refer to themselves as homosexuals. Therefore, those who have same sex orientation prefer the terms “gay,” “lesbian,” or more broadly LGBT.

Now, is this a concession? Are we watering down the truth by using “their” terms? No. I don’t think we are. By using the terms “gay” or LGBT, we are referring to the same thing yet using language that doesn’t unnecessarily offend.

As an analogy, Christians in Israel prefer to be called “believers” rather than “Christians.” Why? Because the term “Christian” has too many negative connotations for the Jewish people two-groomsthey’re trying to reach (e.g. “Christian” = a 13th century “Crusader” with a sword in hand). Why use a term that will unnecessarily offend and send the wrong signal (i.e. that Christians hate gays or Jews or whomever)? Let’s use terms that better communicate what we’re trying to say: We’re all cemented in sin and trying to figure out what repentance looks like.

Third, Christians need to think more deeply about what it means to be gay. There’s a massive spectrum of homosexuality that can’t be contained under one general label. On the one end, there are Christians who love God, who submit to His word, who also struggle with same-sex attraction, and who are on the brink of suicide (or already in the grave) because they didn’t know how to cope with their struggle and they didn’t have a community of “believers” (!) who would help them work through their pain. Anyone want to quote a verse and condemn that community? (Unfortunately, many have.)

On the other end of the “gay” spectrum is the aggressive, flamboyant, Christian-hating drag-queen, who’s usually pictured in the media. Mind you: These two types of “gay people” are not the same. They are world’s apart. So when we think about “gay people” and we only think about the drag queen in the media, we won’t be prepared to minister to the 15 year-old Awana champ with a gun to her head, because for some reason she’s not into boys. The point is: We need to go beyond the labels and look at the heart.

There are a whole host of other issues and ignorances that clutter this issue, but we can’t lay them all out here. In any case, I’d encourage you to do a lot of reading on both sides in order to be more informed about the complexities involved. It’s not a simple discussion.

My purpose for these blogs will be more limited, however. I’ll do my best to be sensitive to the God hates fagspsychological and sociological intricacies, but I want to focus primarily on the Bible. What does the Bible say about homosexuality (including same sex attraction and same sex intercourse)? Which passages address it and which ones don’t?

In my next post we’ll begin with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and I’ll try to show why this passage does not clearly condemn homosexuality.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Series NavigationWas Sodom the First All-Gay City? >>
Preston Sprinkle

Preston Sprinkle

Posts

I'm married to a beautiful wife and we have four kids (3 girls and a boy). I've been teaching college level Bible and Theology classes for a few years now (since 2007), and enjoy hanging out with my family, running, surfing, and life in SoCal. Before I became a teacher, I was in school. Lots and lots of school. I did a B.A. and M.Div here in SoCal, and then did a Ph.D. in Scotland in NT studies. Before coming to EBC, I taught at Nottingham University for a semester, and Cedarville University for a couple of years. Along with surfing, I also love to research and write, and I've written a few things on Paul, Early Judaism, and Hell.
  • http://cramercomments.blogspot.com/ DavidCramer

    Thanks for this post, Preston. Just one push back:

    “On the other end of the ‘gay’ spectrum is the aggressive, flamboyant, Christian-hating drag-queen, who’s usually pictured in the media. Mind you: These two types of ‘gay people’ are not the same. They are world’s apart.”

    Maybe or maybe not. Perhaps the “aggressive, flamboyant, Christian-hating drag-queen” IS the former “15 year-old Awana champ” who, instead of committing suicide, decided to act out against the community that hurt her. In other words, even those who might most appear to be “the enemy” in this discussion are really a lot closer than one might think.

    • Preston

      Good point, David! Thanks for the pushback.

  • http://www.beingfilled.com/ Chuck McKnight

    I’m following along and looking forward to seeing how you address this issue.

    • Preston

      Thanks Chuck! Me too ;)

  • Tim

    I really appreciate your efforts on this and your wisdom. Can I subscribe to the blog so I don’t miss the next one on this topic?

    • Preston

      Ya, I think there’s a link on the sidebar somewhere.

  • Matthew Halsted

    Your post reminded me of something I glanced at a while back. Seems like I read somewhere (maybe an article shared by Nancy Pearcey) that what is unique about the homosexual question these days is not THAT it is happening, rather the way in which the conversation is happening (that’s the summary of it, at least). To the shock of most conservative, Bible-believing Christians, the “homosexual issue” is not some “new” sin that is popping up because “we are in the last days of the apocalypse.” On the contrary, homosexuality is an old issue. But what is new (and what this article seemed to convey) is that the current debate between conservatives and liberals is being framed around the notions that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” whereas back in the day (say, ancient Greece/Rome), homosexuality was not perceived by society as a “lifestyle” per se, but as an act. In other words, it wasn’t about “who you were” as much as it was “what you did.” This is totally opposite of how “homosexuality” is perceived in our present culture.

    No doubt, when the whole debate is framed within our current paradigm, there will be HUGE (maybe detrimental?) consequences. And I think both sides (conservative & liberals) have both assumed that way of framing the discussion when they argue for their respective positions.

    Looking forward to the posts!

    • Preston

      Brilliant thoughts, bro! Ya, I’ve read some stuff along the same lines. Interestingly, the Bible speaks of the issue in the same way: as the act not the orientation. But we’ll get into this in future posts!

      Indeed, both sides have much to learn. I’ve got much to learn…

  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank-you for this beginning. As a generally traditionalist Christian this is something about which I have an opinion, but which also I need to rethink especially since it will be an area where wisdom is needed to deal graciously however one ends up on the issues. I know even as I hold my traditionalist views that I need to develop a fuller understanding before I can be of much help to others. Look forward to what you have to say on the issue.

    • Jeremy

      Daniel,
      I too hold your view and often wrestle with how to minister and deal with people struggling with this sin. Just like our children, we have to look at them as having a heart issue and not the outward action. This logic will help us to deal with the major overlying issue verses just trying to give them some religion.

    • Preston

      Thanks for dropping in, Daniel!

  • Bert

    P, I’m always intrigued by your blogs. This series is sure to be a shot in the arm for all believers. I have wrestled with various passages of text that I felt were being drawn way out of context and applied way off mark by Christians (Crusaders I’m sure). At our church, we have currently received a brother back into fellowship who has struggled for years with homosexuality. He has repented but continues to struggle and deal with same sex attraction. We collectively (and I mean our church at large) understand that NOT to be a Biblically condemning issue. Like for me, I have an attraction to women but it is not sin unless I lust continually for someone or have sex with them. I’m looking forward to this series bro.

    Bert

    • Preston

      Indeed, Bert. That’s where I’m at. Same sex attraction is not a sin. Acting on it might be. One of the most devastating problems in the evangelical church has been ignorance and lack of compassion when dealing with people with unwanted same-sex attraction.

  • Craig Beard

    “I heard Preston Sprinkle is blogging on homosexuality. . . . Well, of course we’re going to throw poo at him!” [I have no idea why a Madagascar reference, specifically, came to mind, but there you go.] I’ve come to expect from you thoughtful dealing with tough topics, I’m quite interested in what you have to say on this one. Be on alert for the poo.

    • Preston

      Cracking me up, bro! With 4 kids, I clearly resonate with your desire to quote Madagascar. It totally fits. And yes, I’ll wear some goggles.