A Response to the 'Gay Christian' Movement
© Vincent McCann, Spotlight Ministries Posted by permission
In recent years, the debate on the subject of homosexuality has been one of great concern for the Christian Church. Many people today are calling for the Church to reconsider its traditional stance against homosexuality by accepting it as a natural way of life amongst some individuals. It is argued that a person can be a Christian but at the same time be actively involved in a gay relationship.
With the coming of the year 1996, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement 1 celebrated its twentieth year as an official organization. Their statement of faith makes it clear that they sincerely believe that same-sex relationships are entirely compatible with the Christian faith, and should be expressed in a sexual relationship. 2 There are also many other similar groups who share the same convictions as the LGCM. For example, Quest is an organization that holds to the same basic beliefs as the LGCM, but claims to have its roots in Roman Catholicism. They too seek to encourage gay and lesbian men and women to reconcile their Christian beliefs with their sexuality. 3
Advocates of a gay Christian life are not only to be found in groups like the above; even in more orthodox circles the issue of homosexuality is becoming more and more prominent; causing concern, and confusion. An example of this confusion is clearly seen in the views of Atkinson, who on one hand affirms that homosexuality cannot be adequately justified by the Scriptures, but on the other hand gives gay relationships a hearty endorsement by exclaiming that those in such relationships should "Thank God for their homosexual orientation". 4 But aside from such perplexity, there is also the voice of the revisionists who claim that the Bible supports the case for homosexuality. 5 It is here, in the arena of biblical interpretation that homosexuality has been a recent cause of concern for the Church because the only way that a gay theology can be maintained is by the blatant twisting of biblical texts, or by moving away from a high view of Scripture. 6 It is therefore the very word of God itself that is being undermined. 7 Some of the key texts in the current debate will now be briefly examined.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has traditionally been understood to be condemnatory of homosexual acts, revisionists and groups like the LGCM are challenging this view with various lines of argumentation. It is believed that the sin of the men of Sodom was not homosexuality, but rather inhospitality. Lot was protecting his visitors from the men of Sodom on the basis of an ancient Canaanite custom that guaranteed the protection of anyone coming under a persons roof (v. 8). 8 It is thought however, that Lot had exceeded his rights as an outsider by inviting the strangers under his roof because their intentions might have posed a threat to the community. This explains why the men of Sodom wanted to 'know' the strangers. 9 Countyman acknowledges that there is a possibility of the sin of Sodom being sexual, but feels that the main point of the passage is to highlight the men's aggressive inhospitality. 10 It is further argued that even if the sin of Sodom was sexual it still has no relevance in modern day homosexual relationships which are based on love, and not violence. 11
In response to the above arguments the following should be noted: First of all the sin of Sodom is most certainly of a sexual nature; being clearly evident even in the immediate context of the story. Schmidt observes how although it is true that the Hebrew word for 'know' is seldom used to refer to sexual activity, it is certainly used in this sense here. This is clear in verse 8 when Lot offers his virgin daughters to appease the hostile mob. 12 As well as the evidence from the immediate context, Jude 7 also clearly refers to the sin of the Sodomites as being that of homosexuality (c.f. also 2 Peter 2:6-7). 13 Although the men of Sodom were unquestionably guilty of more than homosexuality alone (Isa. 1:10-17, Ezek. 16:49-52), homosexual activity was certainly a sin by which they were especially noted for. 14 To argue that the behavior of Sodom has no parallels with modern 'loving' homosexual relationships is to ignore a simple fundamental fact; just because a person feels that what they are doing is right does not necessarily mean that God is in agreement with it (Prov. 14:12). 15 Those who are involved in pedophilia could also argue that the relationships that they have are loving, and natural to them. However, this does not make what they do right. 16 The facts are that the Scriptures make no distinction between violent homosexual acts, and homosexual relationships where a loving relationship is said to exist. Alongside numerous other sins, it is simply identified as being contrary to God's will. 17
These verses clearly condemn male homosexual relationships as an 'abomination'. Although these prohibitions appear without exception, their intent has been an area for considerable debate. For example, Geisler has observed how revisionists sometimes claim that the context in which the Leviticus texts are set is one of Canaanite cultic prostitution; and therefore the writer is not so much concerned with homosexuality, but rather the idolatry that accompanied it. 18 Proponents of this view will sometimes claim that the word to eba (abomination) is specifically concerned with cultic purity being maintained in the light of the surrounding pagan nations, and not homosexual relations. 19
It should first be noted that Leviticus 18:22 uses the very general word zakar for male, and therefore clearly condemns every kind of male homosexual practice. 20 It is also evident that when the Bible uses the word 'abomination' elsewhere, it can refer to a variety of things detestable to God, and is sometimes used in connection with the practices of Gentiles (Gen. 43:32, Ex. 8:26), in which the word cannot be strictly limited to a concern to maintain ritual purity amongst Israel. 21 This is also in agreement with verses 24-25 where it is explained how God's judgment came upon the Canaanites for being involved in the same sexual sins. 22
A straightforward reading of this text appears to be a clear condemnation of homosexual behavior as being 'unnatural'. However, those who would seek to build a gay theology often argue that Paul is not condemning homosexuality as morally wrong, but rather that homosexual relationships are only unnatural for those who by nature (phusis) are heterosexual; in the same way homosexuals act contrary to their nature if they engage in heterosexuality. 23 It is further stated that 'contrary to nature' does not mean immoral behavior, but merely something which is unusual, or different to what would normally be expected. 24 So rather than condemn homosexuality, it is argued that Romans chapter 1 actually speaks in favor of it.
Schmidt observes that the main weakness with the above is that advocates of this interpretation come with the presupposition that it is individual acts that are in view, when in fact the entire context of chapter 1 is concerned with the corporate rebellion of sinful humanity against God, of which homosexuality is part of. 25 Schmidt goes on to point out that the Romans passage is filled with allusions to the creation of humanity and in particular the relationship between man and woman. This is seen in verses 20 and 25 where creation is specifically mentioned. 26 As in Genesis, reference to knowledge is allured to (v. 22 c.f. Gen.3:5-6). But the most interesting similarity here is found in verses 26-27 where the usual Greek words for men and women are not mentioned but rather females and males; closely relating to male and female in Genesis 1:27. Another connection is seen in the unusual order of presenting unnatural same-sex female relationships first, which could well be a possible reminder of the order in which humanity sinned, the woman being first (c.f. 1 Tim.2:14). 27 With these observations in view, it is clear that Paul is referring to what is unnatural as the sexual activity between two people of the same sex who have abandoned the natural relationship that should exists between man and woman in the context of the marriage union. 28 When revisionists argue that 'contrary to nature' means that homosexual acts are simply unusual, it does not rule out the fact that they are also immoral. This is clear from verses 26-27 where such relationships are described as 'indecent' and 'shameful lusts', clearly describing sin of a sexual temperament. 29
1 Corinthians 6:9/
1 Tim. 1:9-10
Considerable debate has revolved around Paul's lists of offenses as described in the above scriptural references, and in particular the word arsenokoitai. Schmidt observes that those who reject the traditional view of this word do so on the basis that the word does not occur prior to Paul's use of it; and it is not used again until the third century. 30 It is often contended that these texts are referring to specific homosexual offenses, such as pederasty and male prostitution, but not homosexuality itself. 31 With this in mind, Geisler notes how homosexuals and revisionists conclude that Paul actually approves of homosexual acts that are not offensive and only condemns the ones that are. 32
The much debated word arsenokoitai is a compound of the words 'male' and 'bed' reflecting closely to the Septuagint version of Leviticus 18:22 and therefore appears to condemn all homosexual behavior; not just that which is offensive. 33 It should be further recognized that if it is only offensive homosexual acts that are being condemned in the lists that Paul gives, then on the same grounds it could be argued that only offensive kinds of fornication or murder should be condemned in the same passages. 34 The fact therefore remains that when Scripture condemns homosexuality, it does so without qualification. 35
As well as the concern that the Church faces to maintain its traditional view on the Scriptures, another area for consideration is the claim that homosexuality is an inborn trait. Recent findings by some scientists suggest that homosexual tendencies are of genetic origin and are therefore natural in the life of the individual whom it effects. 36 Dallas notes that on this basis pro-gay activists argue that because homosexuality is a natural condition it cannot be changed and should not be considered as immoral. 37 The LGCM also endorse this view by drawing the parallel of a person who is born left-handed being unable to change to that of a right-handed person, because they too are born that way. 38 Despite the lack of solid evidence, gay groups have been more than quick to accept the research that has been done as conclusive. 39 Dallas observes that all scientific evidence should be carefully examined by Christians, but when it is used to challenge what the Church has believed about sexuality a response is called for. 40 It should first be recognized that most experts in the scientific field reject the claims that a person is born gay on the basis of inconclusive evidence. 41 The truth is that most of the 'evidence' in question comes from the media world who have sensationalized the research for their own purposes. 42 Even if there was a possibility that further research did uncover a genetic connection in homosexuality, this would not prove it as being normal. All it would prove is what scientist already know; that genetic differences can sometimes affect a person in an defective way. 43 The fact also remains that sin is a reality in every area of the human experience, including the biological and genetic areas (Ps. 51:5). 44
Due to the traditional stance of the Church in regards to homosexuality, increasing attack is coming from gay activists who are seeking to portray traditional Christianity as being old fashioned, out of touch with the modern world, and worst of all hateful towards homosexuals. 45 This is seen by the fact that within the gay Christian movement there are many vocal individuals who are seeking to both promote a gay Christian lifestyle, and undermine the authority of the historic Christian Church. Gay Christian author, Arditti, is one such individual who uses the medium of paperback novels to win the hearts and sympathy of the general public; but at the same time caricatures the traditional Church as narrow minded bigots, out of touch with the way that modern twentieth century people think. 46
Jones has to admit that at times Christians have failed in this area by sometimes allowing hate to slip into their rhetoric where the gay community is concerned. 47 All too often Christians will say the right things but say them in the wrong way. 48 However, for Christians who are responding to the issue of homosexuality out of genuine love and concern, accusations of being unloving, or homophobic, should not discourage them from addressing this issue. 49 The Church certainly needs to maintain an understanding and sensitive attitude when it voices its concern on homosexuality but voice its concern it must, even if it risks being called narrow-minded and bigoted. 50 When in dialogue with those of a different conviction it is therefore imperative that a correct balance of love and truth is maintained; to invalidate charges of hate, but also to guard against compromise. Spencer sums this up well in his statement "Truth without love is too hard; love without truth is too soft". 51
Although gay activists and modern day revisionists view homosexuality as being compatible with the Christian faith, the simple truth of scripture remains; whenever homosexuality is referred to, it is always consistently condemned, in both Old and New Testaments. 52 The appeal that homosexuality is to be accepted as a genetic condition has also failed to convince the majority of those both in the Church and the scientific profession alike. In a society where moral standards are becoming increasingly worse, the Church needs to shine in its witness for Christian purity more than ever. It needs to maintain its traditional stance against the sin of homosexuality in the same way that it opposes all other sins; but at the same time be willing to love, help, and sympathize with those who are repentant and seek to be free.
1 To be referred to as LGCM throughout this essay. 2 LGCM, Leaflet, 1. 3 Quest, leaflet, 3. 4 D. Atkinson, "Begging to Differ", Third Way". vol. 18, no. 10, Dec. 1995, 19. 5 S.L. Jones, "The Loving Opposition", Christianity Today. July, 1993, 19. 6 Ibid, 20. 7 Ibid, 19. 8 N.L. Geisler, Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 257. 9 J.R.W. Stott, "Homosexual Marriage", Christianity Today. Nov. 22, 1985, 22. The Hebrew word for 'know' is yadah. It occurs 943 times in the Old Testament 10 of which pertain to sexual acts. 10 L.W. Countryman, Dirt, Greed & Sex (London: IVP, 1989), 31. 11 LGCM, leaflet, 2. 12 T.E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? (Leicester: IVP, 1995), 87. Schmidt also points out how the same verb is also used in Judges 19:22, 25 where its meaning is undeniably sexual. 13 Ibid., 96-97. 14 C. Calver and P. Meadows Living On the Edge, Spring Harvest seminar notes. (Sussex: Spring Harvest, 1993), 50. 15 M. Hallet, The 'Gay Church' Debate, 3. 16 Schmidt, 61-62. 17 Hallet, 3. 18 Geisler, 258. 19 J. Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 100-102. 20 G. Wenham, "The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality", ExpositoryTimes. 102, 1990-1991, 362. 21 R.B. Hays, "Relations Natural and Unnatural", Journal of Religious Ethics. 14, 1986, 212. 22 Geisler, 268-269. 23 Boswell, 109-113. 24 Ibid., 110-112. See also Countryman, 114. 25 Schmidt, 78. 26 Ibid., 81. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Geisler, 264. 30 Schmidt, 95. 31 Boswell, 106-107. In addition to this, Boswell also interprets the Greek word malakoi in 1 Corin. 6:9 (usually translated as 'effeminate' in most English translations) as masturbators. 32 Geisler, 264. 33 C.Townsend, "Homosexuality: Finding the Way of Truth and Love", Cambridge Papers, vol. 3, number 2, June 1994. 34 Geisler, 263. 35 Ibid. 36 J. Dallas, "Born Gay", Christianity Today. June 22, 1993, 20. 37 Ibid. 38 LGCM, leaflet, 4. 39 N. Hawkes, "Gay Gene Research Revives Dispute Over Sexual Orientation", TheTimes, 1/4/88. 40 Dallas, 20. 41 Ibid., 22. 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid., 23. 44 Ibid. 45 T. Sanderson, Gat Times. March 1996, 39. 46 M. Arditti, "A Pagan Vision", Gay Times.,18. Arditti has seen incredible success in the sales of his novels, all of which have the distinctive trait of presenting the gay life as normal and pour scorn upon the Christian Church. He has recognized that imaginative writing is a powerful tool in which the gay community can "enter into the hearts, minds, lives and souls" of those who are not within its immediate circle. 47 Jones, 25. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid., 24. 51 J.R. Spencer, Through the Maze. Issue 12, June 1994, 1. It should be noted here that Mr. Spencer has a ministry to Mormons and therefore applies this saying specifically to communicating with them. However, this present writer feels as though the phrase is applicable to dialogue with all people groups. 52 Dallas, 23.
Arditti, M. "A Pagan Vision", Gay Times. March, 1996. Atkinson, D. "Begging to Differ", Third Way. vol.18, no.10, Dec. 1995. Boswell, J. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Calver, C., and Meadows, P. Living On the Edge, Spring Harvest seminar notes. Sussex: Spring Harvest, 1993. Countryman, L.W. Dirt, Greed & Sex. London: SCM, 1989. Dallas, J. "Born Gay", Christianity Today. June 22, 1993. Geisler, N.L. Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993. Hallett, M. The 'Gay Church' Debate. Hawkes, N. "Gay Gene Research Revives Dispute Over Sexual Orientation", TheTimes, 1/4/88. Hays, R.B. "Relations Natural and Unnatural", Journal of Religious Ethics. 14, 1986. Jones, S.L."The Loving Opposition", Christianity Today. July 19, 1993. Sanderson, T. "Media Watch", Gay Times. March, 1996. Schmidt, T.E. Straight and Narrow? Leicester: IVP, 1995. Spencer, J.R. Through the Maze. issue 12, June 1994. Stott, J.R.W. "Homosexual Marriage", Christianity Today. Nov. 22, 1985. Townsend, C. "Homosexuality: Finding the Way of Truth and Love", Cambridge Papers, vol. 3, number 2, June 1994. Wenham, G. "The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality", ExpositoryTimes. 102, 1990-1991. LGCM, leaflet. Quest, leaflet.
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