Recently, Tony Jones put up a question asking people to explain why homosexuality is wrong (that is, what is inherently wrong with it) without resorting to what he calls the “6 clobber verses” of Scripture. That is to say, can we show that homosexuality is wrong outside of Scripture?
I see where he is coming from – God does not do anything arbitrarily. There is always a reason behind His rules. He doesn’t just say, “Don’t do this” without there being some reason for it. So what is God’s reason for forbidding homosexuality?
I am not discussing the law or whether or not something should be legal. That is another issue entirely. Rather, I just want to approach this as an, “is it moral” issue among Christians. Thus, if one is not a Christian, this post will not offer much insight into why homosexuality is wrong, other than explain our reasoning.
The debate, when among Christians, must keep the Bible at the center
Clearly, we cannot remove God’s reason from the confines of the Bible. I would argue that outside of homosexuality being an unnatural act (from an evolutionary standpoint, it offers little to no benefit for the advancement of the species), there is very little to condemn homosexuality. But, the same would ring true for quite a few other sexual taboos. Assuming that the liberty to make a choice is part of our natural freedoms, this means all sexual acts that do not inhibit one’s ability to choose (e.g. rape, pedophilia with a young child, etc) should likewise be allowed.
The only way to avoid the above situation is to keep the conversation within some type of Biblical narrative. For example, even Tony’s question shows that he is keeping with the Biblical narrative:
“…can you please explain to me WHY a gay or lesbian person who is in a long-term, monogamous relationship would not be able to wholeheartedly follow Christ?”
Monogamy has no natural defense. In fact, it makes far more sense for promiscuity and/or polygamy to be an acceptable trait because (1) it allows people to be more in line with their natures as sexual beings and (2) increases the fitness of the species. In fact, monogamy would only be defensible from a natural standpoint depending on the situation (e.g. overpopulation).
Suffice it to say, without a natural defense of monogamy, there is not much reason to use it within a debate unless one is holding onto some facet of a Biblical narrative. Thus, if Tony (and others) is going to agree to keep the conversation within a Biblical narrative, then the same must be said for the issue of homosexuality. This does not mean I am going to bring up the 6 “clobber verses,” but rather that one cannot simply dismiss the Biblical idea of marriage; to do so would be a double standard.
Dealing with Pro-Homosexual arguments (A prelude to a defense)
Before one begins to yell, “Slippery slope argument!” and before I begin an explanation for why God forbids homosexuality, it would be wise to actually consider what is being said. The main arguments for the pro-homosexual crowd among Christians is that:
1) It is part of a homosexual person’s nature to be attracted to the same sex, thus to ask the person to remain celibate or to look for a mate from the member of the opposite sex is to force the person to deny his or her nature.
2) The purpose of marriage is for two people to enjoy each other in monogamy and display God’s love for one another, creating a bond in God – why are homosexuals incapable of doing this?
3) The Bible tells us to love one another, but by telling people they cannot date who they want, that is not love.
Now, those are the three main non-scriptural arguments. I could put up the arguments that question the validity of Scripture or that say, “Well, it’s a cultural issue” (which is a weak argument considering the culture of Rome at the time), but those would be superfluous to the point I am attempting to make.
Dealing with these objections, all three rests upon a few presuppositions: (1) that the egalitarian model of marriage (man and wife equal both in ontology and role, that is, they have the same role to fulfill or interchangeable roles) is the correct model, (2) there is no deeper spiritual meaning to the sexual union between a man and a woman, (3) that the Bible places no inhibitions on sexual activity or love.
My defense will cover both (1) and (2), but I would briefly like to look at (3). If we love someone, does this justify engaging in sexual activities with that person? Again, outside of the Biblical context, there is little to say on this issue. So long as a person is safe and both people (or the multiple people involved) are safe, it is hard to say that sex among multiple partners, between a man and a young boy or girl (so long as the child has shown a capability to understand consequences of certain actions), or even between family members is immoral or wrong.
So in keeping with the Biblical narrative, the above list already shows there is quite a bit that is already forbidden, regardless of our lust (or love if we desire to call it that). It would appear that the God puts our wants and desires on a lower tier in His priority list, or to word it properly – God wants us to align our wants and desires with His wants and desires, with His overall plan. Thus, just because someone loves another person does not justify a sexual union. Within the Biblical narrative, there are certain parameters in which sexual activity can occur, no matter how much love is involved.
What is the Biblical reason for sex? We could say procreation, but this does not explain the emotional issues and the spiritual bond that is formed in sexual union, nor does it explain why the Bible deals with the joy and union of sexual relationships far more than it deals with sex for procreation.
We must understand the Biblical model of marriage, which is complimentarian. Whereas the egalitarian view says that there are no defined roles within marriage (other than what the couple establishes), the complimentarian view says there are defined roles within marriage that the man is to follow and the woman is to follow. What is often ignored by egalitarians is that both roles, though different, compliment each other in servitude. The woman submits to the authority of the husband, but the husband submits to the needs of the wife.
Thus, we end up with a cycle of service. The husband’s authority is far from authoritarian or absolute, in fact, “authority” is almost the wrong word to use in English, but I can think of no other word to describe what the Bible talks about. Rather, we must recognize that this “authority” is a weak authority; one where the husband must consult with his wife and ultimately put the needs of his wife (and family) before his own. Men who fail to do this have abandoned their calling as men.
With the above in mind, it should be understood why homosexuality is inherently wrong; it removes the two complimenting roles. The wife’s role compliments the husband’s role and the husband’s role compliments the wife’s role. This is why death is a tragedy within a marriage (it’s always a tragedy, but specifically in a marriage) and why divorce is abhorrent in most situations. Both separate two roles that compliment each other. Homosexuality, however, does not allow for both roles to exist. Who holds the authority in a homosexual relationship? Who follows the commands for the husband and who follows the commands for the wife?
Monogamous, long term homosexual relationships do not have “role-play” in the sense that one acts like the man and the other like the woman. That is a popular misconception. But this only brings up the problem that such a relationship cannot fulfill the complimentary gender roles that marriage is supposed to bring together.
Moving onto the second issue, of spiritual union, I would ask the egalitarian exactly what it means to become “one.” If this isn’t the bringing together of two equal, but different roles, then what is it? Unless called by God to be celibate, a man without a woman is incomplete and a woman without a man is incomplete. This is especially true especially when children are involved. Though it is sometimes avoidable, being a single parent offers an incomplete childhood for the children. Though this is sometimes not avoidable in heterosexual relationships, it is impossible to meet the Biblical requirements for parenthood in homosexual relationships. The reason is simple; the parents hold the same role.
So under the Biblical view of marriage, which is complimentarian, homosexuality is the bringing together of the same role and not opposite roles, thus it is inherently wrong.
The very first objection that will be offered up against what I just said will be, “But if I can show the complimentary view of marriage to be wrong, then you lose your justification against homosexuality.” While it is true that egalitarian views of marriage certainly pave the way for an acceptance of homosexual marriages, it is possible to offer a defense of sola heterosexual marriages under the egalitarian view.
Even under the egalitarian view, marriage is representative of two things: (1) God’s relationship to Israel and (2) Christ’s relationship to the Church. Though (1) has passed, there is little doubt that the Song of Solomon showed both the relationship between a man and a wife, but also served as an allegory to God’s relationship with Israel. There is also little debate on (2) among conservative and liberal Christians; marriage is an allegory to Christ’s love for the Church when that marriage is among Christians.
Within a homosexual relationship there is an immediate problem. Certainly, homosexual couples can serve each other and love each other with a self-sacrificial love, but heterosexual friends can accomplish this. Celibate priests can accomplish this. In fact, all humans who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit can accomplish this. So self-sacrificial love between two close partners is not the only analogous part to marriage. If it were, then we should see this example used elsewhere in Scripture, but we do not.
Rather, what is marriage between a man and woman, even under an egalitarian view? It is the taking of two people who share the same flesh and blood, but are necessarily different in some ways (sexual organs, mentality, psychology, etc) and putting them together as one. A homosexual relationship simply cannot accomplish this. That is not a slam against homosexuals, it is simply a fact, – it cannot take two people who share the same flesh and blood (the same nature), but are different in some other ways.
Christ shared the same flesh and blood with humans (He was fully human), but He was different in His divine essence. Though fully human, He was also fully God (though He emptied Himself of His divine attributes). This is the other analogous part to marriage; it represents the bringing together of two who are the same and opposite. This can only occur in a heterosexual relationship. Christ is not married to Christ and the Church is not married to the Church, just as a man should not marry a man and a woman should not marry a woman.
Conclusion of the argument
If we keep the conversation within the Biblical narrative, we must recognize that marriage is the bringing together of two different roles and two different types of people. Sex was not created as a necessary part of our essence; it was not created as a way to express ourselves “willy-nilly.” It was created to serve the purpose of reproduction, yes, but more than that to serve as a bonding element between a husband and wife, to serve as an analogy for what occurs when God forms a relationship with us. If we stick to the Biblical narrative, we simply cannot support homosexuality. If we abandon the Biblical narrative, then the issue of “monogamy” and other sexual acts become null and we must accept such acts, even if we have distaste for them.
The above in no way justified hatred for homosexuals or even legal movements against homosexuals. Just as homosexuality is not God’s plan for marriage, neither are affairs or divorce – but we allow both to occur in our society. The issue of legal rights pertaining to homosexual couples is a complex issue, but one that is ultimately a different issue then what I have defended above, so I will let it rest.
As for the Christian treatment of homosexuals; we have wronged them. It is one thing to recognize something as a sinful lifestyle; it is another to attack it with such hatred that we ignore other sexual sins. Some attempt to say, “But they’re the only ones trying to legitimatize their lifestyle, so we have to fight back hard.” But that argument is misguided. One merely needs to turn on the television to find that the acts of extra-marital and pre-marital sex have not only been legitimized, but have been celebrated.
The act of homosexuality is a sin, but so are many other things. If unrepentant, it could mean that one is not a Christian, one cannot become a Christian, or one’s relationship with God is blocked. But that is how it is for all sin. We need to approach those who engage in homosexual activities with love and understanding; that is also part of the Biblical narrative.