Saturday, August 12, 2006

Same Gender Unions - A Biblical Perspective

By Lyn Perry
This is the next installment in an ongoing discussion with (and originally posted at) aTypical Joe on the issue of "gay marriage." For a history of the "diablog" so far, visit this permalink. Please participate. Thoughtful comments and civil dialog are always welcome!

Any productive biblical discussion on the issue of homosexuality flows from two assumptions. First, participants take the Bible seriously, ie, both sides recognize the inherent authority of Scripture when properly interpreted. And second, they seek to apply what the Bible teaches in obedience to God.

I don't know Joe well enough to determine if he accepts this two-fold premise (I'll soon find out, lol). I assume, however, that many readers will reject the authority of Scripture outright and thus have no qualms about ignoring its dictates. Well then. This will not be a productive discussion as we'll be talking past each other.

However, in the interest of understanding the position of many (of course, not all) Christians, I believe it is necessary to state a biblical argument against same gender unions. So let me elucidate my presuppositions up front.

1. I believe the Bible to be God's unique communication with humanity.
2. I believe it is truthful, relevant, applicable, and clear in all that it teaches.
3. I believe we are to obey the plain teaching of Scripture when properly and responsibly interpreted according to accepted grammatical and historical methodology.

That being said, there are certainly teachings and principles that seem to allow a variety of applications over which Christians may disagree (baptism, communion, Christ's return, etc). The Bible may not set forth a specific position with regard to certain issues and thus there is freedom of practice when it comes to "secondary" concerns (as demonstrated by the variety of denominations in existence).

I do not believe that the practice of homosexuality, however, is of secondary importance. It is my assertion that the Bible is quite clear on the matter. And I offer six observations that demonstrate this assertion. I'm sure a more thorough rationale has been set forth by scholars - and I are not one! But as a former pastor and lifelong student of the Bible, I contend the following points are fundamentally sound. You'll note that I've paired them together, forming basically 3 key points.

1. God created marriage - a lifelong, mutual relationship between one man and one woman; God instituted this union in the garden (ie, before the fall). Genesis 2:18-25

2. Jesus endorsed the creation model and affirmed God's intent that marriage is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, mutual relationship. Matthew 19:4-12

Key Point: Marriage has already been defined. It is God's standard and is therefore the only context whereby one may enjoy a sexual relationship with another person.

3. The Old Testament clearly prohibits homosexual practices. Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

4. No New Testament teaching overturns this Old Testament prohibition.

Key Point: Unlike Levitical dietary and cultic laws that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (see Mark 7:1-23), the commandment against homosexual practices is still valid.

5. Apostolic teaching prohibits homosexual practices. Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 6; 1 Timothy 1

6. Apostolic teaching proclaims a life of transformation. Colossian 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:17-22

Key Point: While homosexual practice is not condoned, the good news of God is that we can live a transformed life and experience joy, fulfillment, and blessing in obedience to God's will.

These three basic propositions - marriage is already defined, homosexual practice is prohibited, and transformation is possible - form the foundation to a (in my opinion, the) biblical perspective regarding same gender unions.

To nip in the bud some common objections, let me address a couple of red herrings or common myths. First, some will mention that Jesus did not explicitly condemn homosexual practice. Jesus didn't mention homosexuality for the same reason he didn't mention incest or pedophilia. It was already defined as sexual immorality and no one was advocating otherwise (compared to a squabble concerning divorce that he addressed in Matthew 19). His silence is not endorsement.

A second point is often made that the biblical writers were not referring to what we know today as a committed, loving, mutual relationships between people of the same sex. This is false. The Greek and Roman world were as "advanced" as our society when it came to sexual mores. That is why the Apostles were adamant against such practices. The Bible is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.

Finally, a few (very few, fortunately, as it simply reveals a total ignorance of the Bible) will point to David and Jonathan as men who loved each other deeply. Or even Jesus and John, the beloved disciple. I say, yes. That's right. They shared a deep love. Your point?

All this to say that these arguments are weak and have been dismissed as featherweight objections to what the Bible clearly teaches. In fact, most liberal scholars have finally come to the conclusion that the Bible does indeed teach that homosexual practice is sin. (Review the extensive resources compiled by Rob Gagnon.) The ringer is that they are now admitting their opposition to that teaching. "Yes, the Apostle Paul taught against homosexuality as we know it. But he was wrong. We just know more today than Paul did back then. He was a product of his religious heritage." Well then. At least we know where we stand.

So like I said at the beginning, a productive biblical discussion assumes that if the participants do not take the Bible seriously and do not seek to apply what it teaches in obedience to God, then we will have simply stated our partisan positions. We'll have gained some clarity, perhaps, but not agreement or resolution. Here I stand. Where do you?
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