Tag Archives: Homosexuality

Jesus Said Nothing About Homosexuality?

Some claiming to be Christians assert there’s nothing wrong with homosexual lusts or behaviours.  Sometimes such “Christians” identify themselves as “progressive Christians.” At other times they refer to themselves as “sex-positive Christians.”  In a previous post, I addressed one of their arguments, namely that the Bible never spoke about homosexuality until 1946.  In this post, I’ll tackle a different one:  Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.

There are two ways to disprove this claim.  One is to consider how this claim has a far too narrow understanding of how Jesus speaks.  Simply by virtue of his divinity, the entire Bible is the word of Christ.  Because of his deity, Jesus Christ stands behind everything written in the 66 books of the Bible, including what the Old Testament and the New Testament both teach about homosexuality.  If Jesus is God, and if the entire Bible is the Word of God, then the entire Bible is also the word of Jesus.  So, when Romans 1:26-27 speaks of homosexuality in terms of “dishonourable passions” and relations “contrary to nature,” that is Christ speaking.  When 1 Timothy 1:10 includes “men who practice homosexuality” among those who are “ungodly and sinners,” that is our Lord Jesus speaking too.

The other way to disprove this claim is to actually look at the spoken words of Jesus as he carried out his ministry on this earth.  In other words, let’s look at the spoken words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and John.  We can readily grant that Jesus never used the word “homosexuality” in his teaching.  We can also readily grant that he never directly spoke of homosexual lusts or relations.  This can be explained quite easily from his context.  Jesus was ministering primarily in a Jewish context where it was a given that homosexuality was out of accord with God’s will – after all, the Torah was clear in Leviticus 18 and 20.  Analogously, I’m quite sure that if you were to jump in a time machine and travel back to listen to Reformed preachers in the nineteenth century, there would likewise be very few mentions of homosexuality because of the broader cultural consensus on it.  There wasn’t a pressing need to address it.

Jesus did indirectly address homosexuality, however.  Amongst the Jews of his day, Sodom and Gomorrah were renowned for their sexual immorality.  The nature of that infamous immorality is described in Jude 7 as the pursuit of “unnatural desire.”  This type of desire and behaviour was regarded as repugnant.  So, when a teacher like Jesus invoked the names of Sodom and Gomorrah, he was calling up that reaction in his listeners.  Jesus does exactly that in Matthew 10:15.  He’s speaking there about any Jewish town which refuses to welcome the preachers of the kingdom of heaven.  He says, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”  This is a remarkable statement.  For the Jews then, and for God’s covenant people today, Jesus was saying there is a sin worse than homosexual lusts and behaviours:  rejecting the preaching of the gospel.  Covenant unbelief is more abominable than homosexuality!  However, don’t miss the fact that the surprising nature of this teaching is based on an acceptance of what the Old Testament teaches about homosexuality:  it is an abomination.

We could also refer to what Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19.  The Pharisees asked him whether divorce was lawful for any cause.  Before he answered, he affirmed what the Old Testament taught about the institution of marriage:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt. 19:5).  Jesus here affirmed that God designed marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.  He affirmed heterosexual marriage as the only context in which sexual intimacy (“shall become one flesh”) ought to exist – consistent with the teaching of his Word elsewhere.

Imagine if someone were to argue, “Jesus said nothing about incest, therefore incest should be acceptable for Christians.”  Or imagine, “Jesus said nothing about pedophilia, therefore pedophilia should be acceptable.”  We could go down the list of all kinds of moral issues where Jesus “said nothing” and end up approving of everything and anything.

To claim that “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality” is just not honest to the facts of the Bible.  I’d therefore propose a new name for “progressive Christians.”  Let’s call them what they are:  “wishful thinkers.”  They just wish the Bible would support their easy-going acceptance of what the world holds about sexuality.  Then they create for themselves their own personal Jesus who will approve of their worldliness.  It’s just as Christ told us in his Word:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false prophets among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  (2 Peter 2:1-2).        


Homosexuality, the Bible, 1946 and all that

I’m just going to say it, no holds barred:  one of the shallowest objections to traditional Christian sexual ethics is that “the Bible didn’t even use the word ‘homosexuality’ until 1946.”  I’m gobsmacked that people actually get taken in by this special sort of tomfoolery.  I know a lot has been written on this canard already, but it can only aid the cause of truth to get one more voice sharing the facts.

Here’s the thing:  it doesn’t matter that the Bible didn’t use the word ‘homosexuality’ until 1946.  The point is completely irrelevant.  Let me illustrate with other phenomena.  Consider:

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘evolution.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about Darwinian macro-evolution?

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘transgender.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about the transgender ideology?

No Bible translation has ever used the word ‘racism.’  Does it follow that the Bible has nothing to say about that?

Christians understand that the Bible’s relevance is not bound up with the use of an exact word.  It would be juvenile to take a word designating a topic (any topic), check an online concordance and, failing to find the word mentioned, conclude that the Bible has nothing to say on that topic.  The classic example is the Trinity.  Imagine someone checking a concordance for any mention of the word ‘Trinity’ in the Bible and, not finding it there, concluding that the doctrine of the Trinity is not in the Bible.  No, the word isn’t there, but the concept or doctrine certainly is.  Christians realize that, to do the Bible justice, we have to take the totality of its witness — that goes far beyond the usage of individual words.

Language is always in flux.  During our family worship, we take turns reading from the Bible.  My wife and kids read from the ESV while I read from the KJV.  I’m always surprised at how words change over the centuries.  For example, the KJV uses the word ‘corn’ in several places.  When we think of ‘corn,’ we think of the crop developed from maize.  It’s a New World crop — it didn’t grow in Israel in biblical times.  However, the KJV simply used the word ‘corn’ to describe any type of grain.  The English language has changed and Bible translations change with it.  Today there’s no corn in modern English translations.

While language changes, biblical truth does not.  Bible-believing Christians didn’t suddenly start seeing homosexuality as a problem in 1946.  Nor did Bible-believing Christians wake up one morning in 1946 and decide that they needed to have a Bible translation that supported their views.  History matters and history testifies that Bible-believing Christians have consistently maintained that homosexuality is contrary to God’s will for humanity.  Let me give two examples to illustrate.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563 for the teaching of children in the German-speaking region known as the Palatinate.  Lord’s Day 41 deals with the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Someone might read Lord’s Day 41 and note that it makes no mention of homosexuality.  But you shouldn’t conclude that Reformed churches therefore have no problem with homosexuality.  Answer 109 says that God “forbids all unchaste acts.”  One of the biblical proof-texts is 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, a passage which has traditionally been understood to refer, in part, to homosexual behaviour.  Zacharias Ursinus was the main author of the Catechism and he wrote a commentary on it — actually lectures to his seminary students.  While the Catechism addressed to children understandably avoids this subject, his commentary definitely discusses homosexuality.  He speaks of it as being “contrary to nature.”  Homosexuality, according to Ursinus, is a heinous sin and an abominable transgression.  True, he doesn’t use the word ‘homosexuality’ — he couldn’t because it didn’t exist yet!  Nevertheless, the concept is there.

You can see the exact same thing in John Calvin’s commentary on Romans 1:26-27.  Again, Calvin doesn’t use the word ‘homosexual’ and neither should you expect him to.   Yet he still speaks of “the dreadful crime of unnatural lust” and of a “filthiness which even brute beasts abhor.”  Calvin found what we call ‘homosexuality’ to be contrary to God’s will, even though he didn’t use the word itself.  Were he alive today, he would no doubt find it ludicrous that some would argue that the Bible has anything other than condemnation for such things.

What Christians need to learn today is another important word:  revisionism.  In an effort to make homosexuality acceptable to Christians, progressive sorts are constantly trying to revise our theology and history.  This revisionism ought to be self-evidently anti-biblical.  In other words, it isn’t true to the Scriptures.  However, it can appeal to those who, for whatever reason, wish for a happy union between Christianity and homosexuality.  It appeals to those who think:  “Wouldn’t it be nice if our Christianity wasn’t so counter-cultural?”  Yet:  let no one join together what God has put asunder.


“Interview” with Jackie Hill Perry

Over my sabbatical, I read Jackie Hill Perry’s book Gay Girl Good God.  Rather than tell you how awesome it is, I thought I should show you.  You can read about it here at the Reformed Perspective website.


New Dutch Resource Added

I’ve just added a new article in Dutch:

Geen verschil in zonden?

This translation was originally published here at Een in waarheid.

The English original can be found here:  Are All Sins Equal?

 


Are All Sins Equal?

Weigh scale balance

I’ve noticed that Christians sometimes soft pedal the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality by arguing that all sins are the same.  In other words, my extra-marital heterosexual lust is no less a sin than the gay person’s homosexual lust.  Sin is sin and it is all equally wicked.

In a sense this is true.  It’s true in the sense of every sin being equally deserving of God’s wrath.  What to us is a small trifling sin is in the eyes of God a tremendous offense.  This is directly related to the holy majesty of the one sinned against.  If you sin even slightly against infinitely holy majesty, you incur an infinite debt.  But this line of discussion can’t go very far since, in the nature of the case, we’re not just slight sinners — see Romans 3:10-18.

As true as it is that every sin equally deserves God’s wrath, it is equally true that Scripture teaches that some sins are worse than others in God’s sight.  This is immediately evident from the Old Testament law.  Some sins, like blasphemy, were punishable with death, whereas others received lighter penalties.  In Ezekiel 8:6, God points out to Ezekiel the great idolatrous abominations in Jerusalem.  Then he says, “But you will see still greater abominations.”  There are great abominations, and then there are greater abominations.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism captures the biblical teaching on this in QA 83:

Q.  Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

A.  Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

The Westminster Larger Catechism in QA 151 expands on this and explains what the aggravations are.  They fall under four broad categories:  from the persons offending, from the parties offended, from the nature and quality of the offence, and from circumstances of time and place.  So, if you’re an older Christian who should know better or an office bearer, your sin carries more weight.  If your sin was against a weaker brother, your sin is worse.  If you broke several commandments in one go, that’s to be regarded as more heinous.  If your sin was committed publicly, that’s worse than if it was committed privately.

As a quick aside, you might be wondering whether this is touched on in the Heidelberg Catechism.  Well, it is, but just not directly.  Some sins being worse than others is implied in Lord’s Day 36 on the third commandment.  We confess that “no sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of his name.  That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.”  So, blasphemy is worse than, say, adultery or false witness.  Some sins are worse than others.

There is no doubt that Scripture describes homosexual lusts and behaviour as abominable (Lev. 20:13).  The Bible uses strong language about these sins to impress upon us how God regards these things as completely contrary to his design for the human race.  While heterosexual extra- and non-marital lusts and behaviours are sinful, they retain something of what is natural in that they involve the opposite sex.  Homosexual lusts and behaviour are worse because they bring in the additional element of overturning what the Creator God designed to be natural.  This is what the Bible is saying in Romans 1:26-27 — it speaks of trading in natural relations for unnatural.

However, when we speak about sins in terms of their heinousness, we ought always to remember that there is, in Scripture, a sin that is even worse than a homosexual lifestyle.  As Greg Bahnsen once described it, “there is a sin worse than sodomy” in the Bible.  It’s found in Matthew 10.  Jesus sent out his apostles to preach and teach amongst “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” — God’s covenant people.  While they did that, the possibility was there that they would meet with unbelief.  In such a case, they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left that town — signifying that these people are unclean.  Then Jesus adds in verse 15, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”  Sodom and Gomorrah were notorious for their sexual immorality and “unnatural desire” (Jude 7).  Christ was saying that there is something far worse than what Sodom and Gomorrah did:  to be a child of the covenant and to reject the Saviour.  To have God call you his own, for him to send you the Saviour with the glad tidings of the gospel, and for you to reject him — that is something God calls worse than homosexuality.  It’s a warning to people in the church today.

Realize this:  we all have sins great and small sinking us into the depths.  Yet, no matter what our sins are, there is a Saviour whose atoning work is sufficient to wipe it all out.  The saving work of Jesus is there for all who feel the weight of their sin and long for that burden to be lifted.  Even as we speak about some sins which are more heinous than others, let’s also always speak about the grace which is super-abounding in Jesus Christ.