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Does Scripture have anything to say about homosexuality?

EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the 11th story in a series examining the national debate over same-sex “marriage.” The series appears in Baptist Press each Friday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Did Jesus condemn homosexuality? Does the Bible address the issue?

Joe Dallas once thought that Scripture had little to say about homosexuality. As a homosexual and proponent of so-called pro-gay theology, he spent several years asserting that Scripture did not condemn homosexuality. He was even a member of a Metropolitan Community Church, which is comprised of members who reject the traditional interpretation of verses dealing with sexuality.

But in the mid-1980s, Dallas saw the incompatibility between homosexuality and the Bible, and was saved. Today he works as a Christian counselor in California and speaks at conferences on homosexuality issues.

He visited Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 7 as part of Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference.

The Bible, Dallas said, is clear in its condemnation of homosexuality.

“If many people are now saying that the Bible does indeed legitimize homosexuality,” he told the conference, “[then] we need to know why they are saying it and know how to respond to what they are saying. I think that is good stewardship.”

Dallas has written a book, “A Strong Delusion,” that examines and critiques the arguments of pro-gay theology.

While the debate over same-sex “marriage” has focused mostly on the political realm, in recent weeks some in the religious community have spoken out, saying that the Bible is silent on the issue. A coalition of religious leaders in Boston released a statement supporting same-sex “marriage.” Some even quoted Scripture. On the floor of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, Sen. Robert Havern, a Democrat, cited the suffering of Christ in saying he supports same-sex “marriage.”

On the flip side, a much larger coalition of Massachusetts religious leaders — including several prominent black pastors — released a separate statement condemning the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

One of the most common arguments used by pro-gay theologians, Dallas said, is that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Dallas said that argument can be countered by pointing to Matthew 19:5-9, where Christ condemns adultery and defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“He certainly set a standard,” Dallas said. “… What Jesus said about God’s created intention for the human sexual experience is indeed right in line with what the Levitical code says about homosexuality.”

It is important, Dallas said, for Christians to understand that pro-gay theology embraces some of what orthodoxy teaches. For instance, he said, pro-gay theology affirms the basic premises of Christianity (the divinity of Christ, the fallenness of man) and the authority of Scripture (but with a revisionist approach to homosexuality). However, pro-gay theologians claim that in the scriptural references to homosexuality, the Bible has either been mistranslated, misinterpreted or misunderstood.

The battle over Scripture’s teachings “is where the final battle lines are going to be drawn on the issue of legitimizing homosexuality,” Dallas said.

Dallas examined five Bible passages often abused by pro-gay theologians:

— Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (NKJV). Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

Pro-gay theologians say the Hebrew word for abomination, “Toevah,” indicates that the verses prohibit ceremonial impurity, and not sexual immorality. In other words, the verses do not prohibit homosexuality by itself, but instead prohibit only homosexual acts that are part of a pagan ceremony.

Pro-gay theologians point to the fact that the Israelites were called to distance themselves from other countries — some of which practiced pagan ceremonies that included homosexual acts, Dallas said.

Dallas gave three responses to their argument. First, he said, there are instances in which “Toevah” is used in reference to blanket prohibitions — Proverbs 6:16-19 is an example (it condemns, among other things, haughty eyes and lying tongues). Second, the verses in Leviticus are not “contingency” verses — in other words, they do not list any exceptions where homosexuality can be committed. Third, homosexuality is condemned in the New Testament.

If pro-gay theologians were consistent, Dallas said, they would make the same argument about other sins that they make about homosexuality.

“[If pro-gay theologians are right, then] adultery is prohibited only if it is part of a ritual,” Dallas said. “Incest is prohibited only if it is part of a ritual.”

— Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

Pro-gay theologians, Dallas said, claim that in Romans Paul is not condemning homosexuals but instead is condemning heterosexuals who practice homosexual acts — in other words those who practice what is “unnatural to them.” If homosexuals practice homosexuality, these theologians say, then they are practicing what is natural to them.

But Dallas said that Paul’s use of two Greek words — “arsane” (men) and “thelais” (women) — indicates that he is emphasizing the biology of men and women, and not their orientation. In addition, Dallas said, the men “burned in their lust,” underscoring their homosexuality.

Also, like the Levitical passages, Romans 1 lists no exceptions when homosexuality can be practiced. Romans 1:29 lists other sins, such as greed and murder, that no “intelligent person” would claim they have exceptions, Dallas said.

— 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Timothy 1:9-10: “[T]he law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane … for fornicators, for sodomites, … and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. …”

Pro-gay theologians claim that the Greek word used in these passages for homosexuality, “arsenokoite,” addresses male prostitution, not homosexuality.

That argument stems from the fact that Paul chose not to use common Greek words for homosexuality but instead chose to coin the aforementioned word, Dallas said.

But the word itself indicates it refers to homosexuality, Dallas said. It is made up of two Greek words: “arsane,” meaning male, and “koite,” meaning couch or bed.

“The implication would certainly be that Paul is talking about homosexuality by combining arsen and koite,” Dallas said.

Additionally, the Septuagint — the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Paul would have read — refers to homosexuality in similar fashion: “arsenos koiten,” Dallas said.

“Many of the terms at that time described not so much homosexual people but homosexual acts or behaviors,” Dallas said. “… And if Paul had used any of those terms, those would have been limiting terms. … He was going for a broad condemnation of any erotic contact.”
For more information about the debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit BP’s story collection at: http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust