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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Can a Christian be a homosexual?

[This post can be found at the new site, here]

Next post, I hope to discuss what the Bible has to say about the political side of homosexuality, specifically as it relates to marriage. Please, comment on this post, I am sure I left out relevant Bible verses and concepts. Have patience with this human being.

Can a Christian be a Homosexual?
By Tobias Davis
June 5, 2009

The issue of homosexuality is a divisive one, especially in America, where the recently passed "Proposition 8" in California outlawed homosexual marriage. In Iowa, a recent decision by the State's Supreme Court interpreted the law as allowing homosexual marriage, although the United States Supreme Court would likely rule the decision as not Constitutional for various reasons. New Hampshire legislatures signed in a bill on June 3rd which legalizes homosexual marriage, that bill will be enacted January 1, 2010.

The question I will pose today is not whether people agree that homosexual marriage is acceptable, but a deeper theological question, one which I have heard posed in various forms from many Christians: Can a person who claims to be a homosexual also truthfully claim to be a Christian?

First of all, for the benefit of those less studied, I think it is wise to establish what, if anything, the Bible says about homosexuality. I am not going into a full exegesis, so let me point out the major verses. Leviticus 18:22-24 states that a man shall not lie with another man as with a female, i.e., no homosexual actions. The same book, Leviticus 20:13, says that if a man lies with another man as with a woman, he shall be put to death. This should, at least, note that homosexuality was not something trivial, since it required the death penalty. 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 say quite clearly that homosexuality is a sin, that those who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God. Romans 1:26-27 says that homosexuality is a "degrading passion", it is not a "natural function" and it is an "indecent act". Additional implicative verses can be found in Jude 6-7, Genesis 19:5-7, and more.

Is homosexuality different, in a moral way, from other sins like heterosexual adultery or murder? 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 places homosexuality in the same list as idolatry, theft, and general sexual immorality. This is why I think it is safe to say that homosexuality is like most other sins; it is condemned like other sins, and it is forgivable like other sins.

This leads to the heart of the subject: Since homosexuality is like other sins, shouldn't we treat it like other sins? When a Christian is practicing gossip, a sin on par with murder, why do we treat them differently than someone who practices homosexuality? Should we treat them differently?

One distinct difference (and then I will turn to the Bible) is an issue of something I will call "popular heresy": It is not so much homosexuality itself that is more despicable than other sins, it is the refusal of many churches to call it a sin, coupled with homosexual activists calling Christians like myself (who dare call it sin) "hatemongers" and the like. Christians should speak out against homosexuality in the same way that they should speak out against a church preaching heresy, being mindful that homosexuality is a sin into which they could be tempted as well.

In studying the Bible on the subject, I have found only one distinction of homosexuality as compared to other since, this is found in Romans 1:21-28, quoted here from the NAS, although most other translations are the same in the relevant terms:

"21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. ... 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind," Romans 1:21, 26-28
Paul speaks of the gospel and the righteousness of God, that certain people, "when they knew God" , were not regenerate but rather were "vain in their imaginations" and so God "gave them up to vile affections", i.e., God gave them up to homosexual desires. I have heard this passage to argue that homosexuals are not able to be saved, but I don't think that is the point: In a later verse, Paul says the people he refers to, "32 knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

The word "pleasure", in the phrase "have pleasure in them", is the Greek word suneudokeo (Strongs 4909) which has a sense of approval. So it seems Paul is not speaking of people who struggle and resist homosexual thoughts, but rather those who practice homosexuality and approve it, that is, they deny that it is a sin. (A slight aside: If you are a Christian, and you struggle with homosexual desires, take heed to Romans 1:21 " when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful", confess immediately any sin of pride, give all glory to God.)

So then, the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin, and implies that it is even a punishment. Can a Christian be a homosexual? It depends on what you mean. We could divide all "homosexuals" cases into two general cases: Those who disapprove of the thing, who know it is a sin, and those who approve of it, who claim it is not a sin. It could be claimed that there is a third group: those who do not know. But those people are only waiting to be told the scripture, and then they will decide in their hearts.

The case of the latter, those who claim it is not sin, is the case of the condemned or reprobate. The question becomes: Does God allow a Christian to be "given over" to sin? Perhaps for a time, but not forever. Ephesians 1:13-14 says that, as a believer, you are marked with a seal (the Holy Spirit) who is a mark of the guarantee of our salvation, implying that a Christians salvation is guaranteed. 1 Peter 1:5 says that God, in His power, keeps us in salvation. Finally, John 10:28 says that a Christian can never be taken from God's hand.

The case of the first, the homosexual who knows it is a sin and calls it such, is much more hopeful: Homosexuality is a sin which can be repented of, just like murder. Can a Christian commit murder? Certainly, and they must face the consequences of that sin. Likewise, a Christian can be tempted by homosexuality, and even commit homosexual acts, but they will then face the consequences.


Andrew June 6, 2009 at 11:35 PM  

Clearly, for anyone who takes the Bible seriously there can be no question that homosexuality is a sin. As you sort of alluded to, Paul used homosexual as the quintessential example of sin. That is, it represented a textbook case of humans deliberately violating God's will.

Theologically speaking, the last paragraph is the most important part of this discussion. There's no sin that can't be forgiven if the sinner is repentant, but it seems that people are relatively unwilling to repent compared to other sins. I agree that the problem is the unwillingness of more liberal denominations to recognize the behavior as sinful, making people even less likely to repent.

Rodney S.,  June 7, 2009 at 1:51 AM  

Great post Toby. I only want to expand upon your phrase, "gossip, a sin on par with murder". I assume what you intend by this is that "any" sin separates us from God and condemns us to eternal hell. But this is to view sin from God's holy perspective.

When we view sin from its destructive and corrosive impact upon society sins all differ in severity. Rebellion, for instance, is an especially heinous sin in the eyes of God. Sins that tend to give birth to greater and more prolific sins, such as in the case of rebellion, stand out in Scripture as deserving immediate judgment (i.e., "you must remove the evil from among you").

I would also argue that though I agree with the premise of this post (i.e., homosexuality is a sin that is forgivable) I would argue that it is a more heinous sin than is fornication. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for rampant homosexuality, not rampant promiscuity, fornication or even infidelity.

And Romans 1:27 speaks of homosexuals "receiving in themselves the penalty of their error". Is this a spiritual judgment or physical or both? Could a component of this judgment be that when a man's semen enters into another man there is a physical penalty built in? I think that's one possible rendering.

But I agree with you that we have demonized homosexuality and allowed other, more culturally acceptable sins perhaps, to pass by us without similar disapprobation.

Great post!

Tobias Davis June 7, 2009 at 2:19 AM  

I think you are right, that when churches refuse to call something sin people are less likely to repent of it.

Although there certainly is the idea of all sin separating us, as you said, and there is also the difference of magnitude of sin, as you also pointed out, I was actually just referring to the verse which lists the two together. A good verse that comes to mind is Luke 12:47-48, which indicates differences of punishment for sin. Those were good points on sin, I glossed over that point quite a bit.

When I read Romans 1:27, I suppose that I always assumed it was physical, and I would refer to the high incidence of STDs in homosexuals as evidence. However, the spiritual side of it is important as well I agree, I will have to think about that a bit more.

I would only slightly disagree with you as to the reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed: Ezekial 16:48-50 says that Sodom and Gomorrah "were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."

So it wasn't only the sin of homosexuality, as your statement might imply, but the whole works for which they were judged.

Great thoughts, guys, I will definitely think more on the issue. Hopefully I will have thought through enough to make my second post on the issue, which will be more of the political side.

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