Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Anon asks: how do you think homosexuality is biblically sound?

(Background: on Tumblr, one can submit anonymous questions to a blog.  This is one I got yesterday.)

Anonymous asks:
Totally not asking in a confrontational way at all, but what's your scriptural doctrine to support the LGBTQ movement/gay rights/open and unopposed homosexuality in the church? I wouldn't label myself conservative but I don't think homosexuality is biblically sound, and I just like to hear other people's takes on the matter and how they back it up with Truth.

Awesome.  Hi.  This is why I love having the Anonymous option on -- thanks for asking your question with a lot of openness and honesty.  I will try to answer in the same way!

A couple definitions are needed here.

* The way I understand something to be “biblically unsound” -- and please, please, please correct me if this is not how you meant it, Anon -- is that the Bible declares it to be invalid or untrue.  So I read “homosexuality is [not] biblically sound” to mean “the teachings of the Bible do not allow that one can be a homosexual.”  Or, shorthand, “the Bible opposes homosexuality.”

* Homosexuality, as a catch-all term for the lives and experiences of LGBTQ people, can be defined in a lot of different ways.  I think the essential here is that a homosexual person is someone who has or wants a physical, emotional, romantic, and sexual relationship with a member of the same sex.  

So.  Does the Bible oppose homosexuality?

My short answer is:


In the same way it opposes bacon cheeseburgers and sport utility vehicles.

No, I’m serious.  Stop giggling.

I may be rehashing old stuff for some of my readers (and for you, Anon), so:  if you have a working understanding of and appreciation for the historical critical method of Biblical study, you can probably skip the next few paragraphs.

First:  Some passages in the Bible clearly condemn things that we clearly accept.  Two kinds of thread in one cloth (Lev. 19:19).  Working on Saturday (Ex. 20:8-11).  Men having long hair (1 Cor. 11:14).  And yes, bacon (Lev. 11:7-8) and eating milk and meat together (Deut. 14:21).

In addition, there are things the Bible allows that we clearly condemn today.  Slavery, for example (Eph. 6:5-8), and selling children into slavery specifically (Ex. 21:7-8).  And we no longer follow the Biblical ways of worshipping, even though the writer of Leviticus is pretty serious about how important they are (the first eight chapters alone are all about how to properly worship and offer sacrifice).

And -- the Bible condemns things, very clearly and very often, that many Christians don’t get as worked up about as homosexuality.  Like not taking care of widows and orphans, for example (Ex. 22:22, Deut. 10:18, Deut. 24:19-21, Deut. 25:7, Deut. 27:19, Job 24:21, Job 31:16-22, Ps. 94:6, Ps. 146:9, Is. 1:17, Jer. 7:6, Jer. 22:3, Ez. 22:7, Zech. 7:10, Mal. 3:5).  Those are a lot of passages, and yet the six or seven verses that condemn homosexuality get a lot more attention.

My struggle with the viewpoint that homosexuality is an abomination comes when that kind of “literal reading” isn’t applied across the whole Bible and there isn’t a good articulation of why.  Condemning homosexuality simply because we “take the Bible literally” can be dangerous or look hypocritical if we preach and teach that other passages are not meant to be taken literally.  

Second:  The general Biblical worldview does not have space for things that exist in our cultures today.  What would the people who wrote the Bible say about public education, about gun violence, about how many hours we spend watching television?  We can guess, but if we time-traveled, picked up the apostle Paul, and asked him to tell us what to do with our iPhones, he would just stare in terror at the little beeping white box-thing in his hand.  If we are going to let the Bible be true, we can’t ask it questions it can’t answer.  We can read, and try to apply, but we always have to do so in the knowledge that we are taking a document written in a particular place and time that is very, very different from ours, and trying to apply it to our lives.

Homosexuality did not exist, in Biblical times, the way it does today.  Homosexual acts then were violent rapes by the winning army, or pedophilic acts in pagan temples, or fleeting and lust-heavy encounters under the cloak of secrecy.  No one was understood to “be homosexual” -- heterosexuality was so assumed it wasn’t even discussed.  

If we take modern science and psychology seriously, along with the personal testimony of thousands of gay and lesbian people, then at some point we have to deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of people find themselves attracted to the same sex.  This was simply not a fact that the writers of the Bible had access to.  

So, if you asked the writer of Leviticus about me and my partner of seven years being able to share an apartment, a bed, a cat, and a 401(k), his head would come very close to literally exploding.

Just like if he saw a sport utility vehicle tearing across the hills of Lebanon.

So:  is homosexuality biblically unsound?  

The shortest answer is no.  It’s not.

But here is what I believe is.

What I believe is biblically unsound is persecution, oppression, and hatred.

What I believe is biblically unsound is declaring the purity codes of a hundred generations ago to be greater than the God who declares “I am doing a new thing” (Is. 43:19), the God who cries “The ones who I have called Not-my-people will be my people” (Hos. 2:23).

What I believe is biblically unsound is to read Peter’s vision in the book of Acts (ch 10) and deny that God is capable of going beyond our carefully drawn boundaries.

What I believe is biblically unsound is to see Philip sent by the Holy Spirit to an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 9:26-40) and to respond with anything but joy when the eunuch cries, “Look, here is water!  What would prevent me from being baptized?”

What I believe is biblically unsound would be to claim that we can hinder God -- 

the powerful God who woke new life in Sarah’s old womb, the God who brought an oppressed and enslaved people out of Egypt across a dry sea bed, the God who rained down just enough to eat in the wilderness --

the wide-reaching God who saved Pharaoh and Egypt from the famine, who healed Naaman, who spared Rahab, who remembered Hagar --

the God who willed himself to be a tiny baby in a virgin’s womb, who preached mercy and compassion, who stretched out his carpenter’s hands to bleeding women and demon-possessed children and disbelieving Samaritans and rotten-skinned lepers and knew all along that his message of love would lead him to die --

the God who rose again and makes new life in us every day.


  1. I have nothing to add, save for maybe, "Thank you for writing this for me, for I am/was too lazy to do so." :)


    Some middle-aged, middle-class, overweight, straight, married dude who totally agrees.

  2. "My struggle with the viewpoint that homosexuality is an abomination comes when that kind of “literal reading” isn’t applied across the whole Bible and there isn’t a good articulation of why. Condemning homosexuality simply because we “take the Bible literally” can be dangerous or look hypocritical if we preach and teach that other passages are not meant to be taken literally."

    Beautifully and perfectly worded! Awesome entry, Emmy - I agree 100% with all of this.