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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Law regarding homosexuality.

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

In the last post, I discussed the fact that the Bible views homosexuality as a sin. The act of homosexuality is a sin, and, like heterosexual lust, it is even a sin to lust in a homosexual manner.

Of course, whether something is a moral sin and whether it is an act of criminality are two different points. The Bible says that if I lust in my heart after a woman it is the sin of adultery, yet it would be impossible to enforce a law regarding one's thought life. The proposition that all moral laws are civil laws is an absurd one indeed!

The question proposed is this: Should homosexuality be illegal? If so, in what way? If not, should Christians be "doing something about it"?

Let me try to give context to the first verse I want to reference. The book of Leviticus is generally thought to be divided into a few sections, the first part being ceremonial laws concerning the sacrifices and purification rites. This section goes on until chapter 18, in which the laws concerning sacrifices end, and the general civil law begins. This next section of Leviticus deals with things requiring civil punishment, and speaks on issues ranging from general theft requiring restitution, through to where we are stopping. Here, couched between a list of other sexual sins including bestiality and incest, is the law concerning homosexuality:

"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)
In my previous post concerning whether homosexuality was a sin, I said that this verse should, at the least, remind us that homosexuality was not considered something small. Now, even further than a personal moral law, it seems clear that this law is clear when it states that homosexuality is a civil offense requiring the death penalty.

The objection made by Christians at this point is generally the argument that the law is no longer valid, that when Christ came we entered a new era, an era of "love". However, if we are to take the Bible systematically, we cannot simply wish for some difficult part to be dissolved.

Unless you can show somewhere in the Bible where it says that the Old Testament law has completely passed away, that view (of a "new era") is simply not Biblical. This would be much like a child arguing that, since father had not told him he could not play in the street today, means that yesterday's command to not play in the street is nullified.

Now certainly, the death penalty for homosexuals seems a rather strict one, especially in an age where the sexually deviant are not only accepted but encouraged, but if we are to be honest Christians we must see what we can make out of this seemingly uncomfortable law.

First, how is such a law implemented? What restrictions are put on such a law? It would be a terrifying world, indeed, if one could get put to death by a person wildly accusing you of homosexuality! Can a person practicing homosexuality in the privacy of their home be convicted?

Thankfully, the book of Deuteronomy (the other book of law) does not leave us too much "in the lurch", but goes on to put a major restriction on the death penalty:
"On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. The hands of the witness must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people." Deuteronomy 17:6-7 (NIV) See also Deuteronomy 19:15
Here we find our first major restriction on any death penalty: There must be multiple witnesses. This point seems an obvious one in a country where a trial by jury and a slew of witnesses are generally required, however, this right has not always been recognized, and ancient Israel was quite the opposite of the surrounding countries which could kill you without reason or witnesses.

If this is not enough, later in Deuteronomy it speaks of the problem of false witnesses, that they are given the punishment which would have been (or already was) given to the person standing trial. Enacting this law alone would reduce lawsuits greatly, and would not allow "evidence" such as DNA and fingerprints to stand as a witness at a trial.
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. Deuteronomy 19:16-19 (NIV)
The next point brought up, generally by the secular person although at times by the Christian, is that we will have people snooping around, spying in the windows. The claim comes down to an argument that "what stays in the private of home should be of no concern", at least as far as the law goes. As a blanket statement concerning all events, this argument is false: If a murder occurs in someone's home, it is certainly of concern!

It seems that this principle could be drawn out a bit more: Considering that the Bible requires the death penalty for homosexuality, it seems that it is something which, even if done in the privacy of one's home, is something at least "of concern". However, even though we are concerned with murder occurring in the privacy of a home, we don't set up security cameras or go peering in the windows of our neighbor's home at night. It seems that the same practice of respecting privacy should be applied in this area as well.

While this idea of respecting privacy is all fine, this section of Deuteronomy indicates that, even if an act is done in private, once it is found out it must be investigated:
If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take that man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death." Deuteronomy 17: 2-5 (NIV)
While this command refers especially to worshiping other gods, it's first phrase "doing evil in the eyes of the Lord" seems to refer to any evil act deserving the death penalty. However, recall the first two rules required and apply them here: If you were bringing false witness, you would get the death penalty, and you would also need at least another witness.

In the dozen or more people who responded to the survey I sent out, the main part of which were conservative Christians, the major thought of the comments was that homosexuality should be illegal, at least in some general sense. I did not ask specifically whether homosexuality should be punishable by death, so we can let the comments speak on that.

Finally, even though many conservatives and many Christians feel that homosexuality should be made illegal, the question still must always come down to: On what basis do you argue this?

If the Bible is not the ultimate foundation for our law, than the only thing remaining is human thought. That human thought is the same which created legal systems which sent numberless Jews to concentration camps, which sent innocent Christians to be torn apart by lions for entertainment, and the same law which chops off the hands of thieves and only punishes the woman--refusing to punish the man--for cases of adultery.

Sola Scriptura


DCCCfC,  July 11, 2009 at 6:58 AM  

Loved it Toby, you covered everything! I miss you alot now! Lol. Keep writing!

Rod July 11, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

Great article Toby.

Some Christians might argue that we are no longer under "law" but under "grace" so the Christian Bible has no say in matters such as you've covered.

Such "Christians" emasculate the Bible in every aspect of social life except the salvation of souls. And even many Christians that do not argue from that perspective, essentially live out that belief, because they've bought the lie that their religious beliefs cannot enter into the civil arena.

Such people try to restrict the Bible to application in only the ecclesiastical realm.

This is just another of Satan's tricks to minimize the influence of the greatest book ever written upon the hearts, minds, actions, economies and governments of the lost and hell-bound people of the earth...

Keep up the good fight!

GreatAxioms July 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM  

Loved your article Toby. Great summary of the principles. Masterfully argued. That doesn't mean you won't get flak. Many Christians don't want to be confused by the facts of Scripture on this issue. The facts are too embarrassing for them. They want their position to be acceptable to the world. But like you said, if civil government is limited by the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12), it will protect us (and criminals) from arbitrary standards. Once the alternatives are examined, Biblical law shines forth as the only solution. Thanks again for writing.

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