Comment of the Day

Sean gets right to the point — a point that Rod and I will explore much more in coming weeks.

Nine biblical citations are customarily invoked as relating to
homosexuality. Four (Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46
and II Kings 23:7) simply forbid prostitution by men and women.

Two others (Leviticus 18:19-23 and Leviticus 20:10-16) are part of
what biblical scholars call the Holiness Code. The code explicitly bans
homosexual acts. But it also prohibits eating raw meat, planting two
different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with two
different kinds of yarn. Tattoos, adultery and sexual intercourse
during a woman’s menstrual period are similarly outlawed.

There is no mention of homosexuality in the four Gospels of the New
Testament. The moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with the

Three references from St. Paul are frequently cited (Romans
1:26-2:1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and I Timothy 1:10). But St. Paul was
concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it
represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish-
Christian spiritual idealism. He was against lust and sensuality in
anyone, including heterosexuals. To say that homosexuality is bad
because homosexuals are tempted to do morally doubtful things is to say
that heterosexuality is bad because heterosexuals are likewise tempted.
For St. Paul, anyone who puts his or her interest ahead of God’s is
condemned, a verdict that falls equally upon everyone.

And lest we forget Sodom and Gomorrah, recall that the story is not
about sexual perversion and homosexual practice. It is about
inhospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the
poor, according to Ezekiel 16:19·50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of
thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness
was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of
the poor and needy.” To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about
homosexual sex is an analysis of about as much worth as
suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on

He then points us to Peter Gomes’s post on the subject.

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  • Not to be a complete proof texter, but surely Romans 1 has more to do with our understanding of this subject, rather than going completely social-historical on the passage and dismissing it, wouldn’t it be helpful to engage the text?

  • Jason, I don’t see how understanding the social-historical context of Romans 1 automatically means that Sean (the commenter) — or anyone else, for that matter — is “dismissing” the passage and not “engaging” it. In fact, I’d say it’s quite the opposite. The social-historical reading helps us to see the bigger picture, how the passage speaks and relates to all of us (gay and straight). How is that a bad thing (except inasmuchas it takes a plank away from an anti-gay reading and application of this passage)?

  • Tony,
    Is not Eph. 5 enough for us to know that homosexual marriage is not God’s desire? He desires to display the glory of this gospel through the picture of marriage and this marriage happens descriptively and prescriptively through a man and a women. As you know, God takes his pictures (communion, baptism, Sabbath, marriage, etc) very seriously from cover to cover of the Bible. Perhaps we should take our cues about marriage not from what the Bible does NOT say, but rather based on what is simply assumed from what it does say.

  • rob

    I would especially like to see some engagement with William Webb’s “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals”, as I found that a valuable contribution to a cultural analysis of these topics. He comes to a different conclusion than Tony, but to me, his redemptive hermeneutic is tough to argue with.

  • Stella

    What biblical arguments support the position that marriage is anything other than between a man and a woman? I must have missed them.

  • Jason

    William Webb’s redemptive hermeneutic has been thoroughly examined and has been found wanting. See Schreiner, Thomas R. “Review of Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 7/1 (2002) 41-51.
    As far as Paul’s comments on homosexuality, in Sean’s view, he twists Scripture so much that you can barely make it out anymore. Paul uses the Leviticus passages in order to base his condemnation of homosexuality. Furthermore, as far as Sodom goes, has Sean ever read Jude?

  • rob

    Jason, I guess I’m not surprised it was found wanting, based on the Journal that the review appeared in. I have yet to find a critique that takes seriously the work done in the book as opposed to trying to maintain male/female hierarchy.

  • Sean gets right to ONE point: the prooftexts that people use to assert that the Christian Bible calls homosexual activity sin. There are equally simplistic arguments made in favor of homosexuality. Shouldn’t we be engaging the best arguments of those we disagree with, and not the worst?
    I like Stella’s comment; instrisic to her question is the assumption that Christian scriptures, as they have been interpreted in the community of faith, DO posit a model of marriage, one that involves the union of male and female, in a mutually submitted and self-sacrificial covenant.
    A little over a year ago, Gary Wills wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times asserting that “abortion is not a religious issue,” and proceded to dismantle one by one the prooftexts that many people commonly used to oppose abortion. What he missed, and what I think Sean misses, is that refuting an argument made from scripture is not a matter of finding the prooftexts and “disproving” them, if you will.
    My plea to Sean, to Tony, and too all who want to change our minds is this: do better. Assume we are good, kind-hearted, intelligent people who are deeply immersed in the story of God revealed in the Bible.

  • Jason

    Thomas Schreiner is a first-rate scholar.
    The only reason you believe that this article (if you’ve even read it) doesn’t take the work seriously is because it comes from a journal that holds to a viewpoint that you don’t agree with. A first rate fallacy if I’ve ever seen one. Others have critiqued Webb as well; all you have to do is look and try to be objective (oops, sorry…I said the ultimate postmodern dirty word).

  • Rob

    Jason, let me ask, have YOU actually read Webb? I’m not here to defend him, but I can make the same argument you have, i.e. first rate scholars have found the work to be solid. I’ve read both sides, and I fall on the side of Webb. Not sure where the “postmodern dirty word” came from, but it does reveal your bias.

  • Jason

    The answer to your question is yes.
    Here’s the point: Webb’s starting point in his hermeneutic is application (p. 13ff), which I have come to discover is the exact wrong place to begin. I have come to discover that his analysis of the historical context is also suspect. Simply put, I don’t find a trajectory that is worthy of the conclusions he makes.
    If you would like to disagree, that is just fine. I fall on the side of the literal-historical-grammatical interpretation, which is a different side than Webb’s.
    As far as Schreiner’s review of Webb’s hermeneutic, it seems that you disregard his conclusion based upon the fact that you disagree with complementarianism (not hierarchy, btw). This is a genetic fallacy–rejecting an idea because it allegedly comes from a bad source.
    As far as my “postmodern dirty word” comment is concerned, that was not directed at you. That was for any person who would read the word “objective” in my statement and begin to throw insults my way. I have found that in engaging conversations with postmoderns and emergents, the minute the word “objective” comes into play, they usually ditch the “respectful conversation” and begin to refer to their conversation partner as a “fundamentalist, modernist dinosaur” or something to that effect. Sorry for the confusion.
    I guess we can just agree to disagree.
    Thanks for the respectful conversation, Rob.

  • Bob

    “But St. Paul was concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish- Christian spiritual idealism.”
    And the proof of that would be…
    Maybe St Paul was concerned about various kinds of sexual immorality- adultery, sex outside of marriage AND homosexuality.
    This assertion (and consequent writing off of New Testament teaching on sexuality) is unfounded.
    And as for Sodom and Gomorrah. I find the conspicuous absence of one particular verse very telling. Yes- they were inhospitable and treated the poor with contempt. Very much so. Was that (as is being asserted here) the extent?
    Jude 7: “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
    Maybe the reason why that text wasn’t dealt with in this comment is that it’s pretty clear- and pretty clearly refutes the argument. A bit more intellectual honesty please.