Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mark's thoughts: The Christian view of homosexuality and marriage

Unfortunately, we live at a time when an incredible shift is taking place in our culture.  We are witnessing the homosexualization of culture.  Powerful forces in the world around us are promoting homosexuality as a normal, acceptable and even praiseworthy lifestyle. They have achieved one of the primary goals for this movement: legal recognition of homosexual marriage.  However the march of the homosexual movement has not stopped there.  Instead in a seemingly inexorable fashion it seeks to annihilate the biblical view of sex and marriage in the public square using the weapons of “hate speech” and economic power of large corporations.   
When we encounter these forces and see their impact on the world and Church, it is crucial that we as Christians return to God’s Word and listen to what He has to say about these issues.  We must start at the beginning and acknowledge that in establishing His created order, God made humanity as male and female.  We read in Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  God determined, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper corresponding to him” (Genesis 2:18) and he created woman as the necessary partner for man.  He instituted marriage as the one flesh union of a man and woman (Genesis 2:24) which was to carry out the necessary task of procreation – God told Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

God’s Word teaches us that He established marriage for three reasons.  First it prevents mankind from being alone (Genesis 2:18).  Second, it provides for the continuing life of humanity through procreation (Genesis 1:28).  Third, it curbs the inclination toward sin and lust in this fallen world, for as Paul wrote: “But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2).

Homosexuality runs directly counter to this ordering of creation provided by God.  God’s Word in the Old and New Testaments is absolutely clear on this point.  Because it is crucial to actually listen to what God’s Word says on this topic, I have set forth the full text of these passages below:

Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

Roman 1:24-27 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their woman exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

1 Timothy 1:8-10 But we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

It is important to realize that the Old and New Testaments stated this condemnation of homosexuality in the midst of the ancient world that accepted homosexuality. However, the specifics of this position are not what the world would have us believe.  Typically it involved the practice of pederasty in which an older man sodomized a young man (often a slave in the Roman period).  While it was acceptable for the older man to play the active, insertive role, the young man who was passively penetrated was looked down upon (see the discussion in Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, 22-37). 

Homosexuality has gained wider acceptance as it is promoted by powerful forces in our culture.  One of the most common arguments is that homosexuality is a natural state.  We are told that people are “born that way.”  This was a crucial part of the argument that helped sway public attitudes toward acceptance.  However it is certainly false to say that all homosexuals were born that way.  J. Michael Bailey has observed that studies with identical twins do indicate a genetic component.  At the same time he adds, “If sexual orientation were completely genetic, then genetically identical twins should always have the same sexual orientation, but clearly they don’t.  Environment must also matter….” (The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, 110).  There is an increasing awareness that sexual orientation is not fixed as homosexual but instead “fluid,” especially among women as they shift between homosexuality and heterosexuality.  It seems likely that there is a combination of genetic inclination and societal influence in varying degrees within each person.  

However, even if it were conclusively proven that homosexuality is a genetic condition, it would not change the truth that God’s Word shares with us about the sinfulness of homosexuality.  The entrance of sin into the world in the Fall (Genesis 3) warped and twisted God’s creation.  The presence of the genetic predisposition to cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or any harmful condition bears witness to the impact of sin on creation.  It does not make these things “natural,” but rather makes them part of a sinful, fallen world.  A genetic predisposition to homosexuality would be no different than the genetic predisposition to alcoholism.  The struggle against these sins would be caused by the impact of sin in the world, and not through any personal fault of the individual.  However, in neither case would this give an individual the right to engage in homosexual acts or drunkenness and the abuse of alcohol.  Both would remain sins that Christians must avoid and for which they must repent when they have committed these sins.

As a result of our sinful, fallen world a Christian may have sinful homosexual inclinations and desires, in the same way that a Christian may have sinful heterosexual inclinations and desires that break the Sixth Commandment.  In both cases, the Sixth Commandment forbids Christians from acting on these desires and calls us to repentance in the face of these desires.  When Christians fall and engage in a homosexual act they need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness, just like Christians who engage in a heterosexual act that breaks the Sixth Commandment.  At the same time, it is important to realize that sin is sin.  Homosexuality is one form of the many ways that people sin.  Christians must strive in their lives to avoid all forms of sin.  We know that we frequently fail to do this in many different ways.  On those occasions, we take comfort in knowing that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the assurance of forgiveness to all who repent and turn to Him in faith.  

Reflection on God’s Word also leads to the conclusion that Christians cannot endorse any form of “homosexual marriage.”  As we have seen, God’s Word teaches us that marriage has three purposes: 1) it prevents mankind from being alone (Geneis 2:18); 2) it provides for the continuing life of humanity through procreation (Genesis 1:28); 3) it curbs the inclination toward sin and lust in this fallen world (1 Corinthians 7:2).  Since homosexual relationships violate the second and third purposes of marriage, they do not reflect what God calls marriage and Christians are not permitted to call them marriage.

Ultimately the discussion about homosexuality is really a discussion about the authority of God’s Word.  If we believe that the Scriptures are God’s inspired and inerrant Word, then we will recognize that they remain God’s authoritative revelation to us.  They will continue to guide the God pleasing life that reflects and respects His ordering of creation.  However if we treat Scripture as a human document that we must evaluate and then decide which parts we wish to accept, the result is that we lose God’s Word as the guide for our faith and life.  As Dr. David Adams has correctly judged regarding the topic of homosexuality: “If successful in their efforts to undercut the authority of the biblical witness on this subject, the proponents of homosexuality in the church will have effectively deprived the church of the means to apply what the Bible says about virtually any moral issue to the life of the church today” (Concordia Journal, July 2005, pg. 228).  

Unfortunately, the general acceptance of homosexuality in our culture is here to stay.  If the Church is to be faithful to God’s Word, it will increasingly find herself to be counter-cultural as she tells the world what it doesn’t want to hear – just as things were at the beginning of the Church during its first few centuries of life.  Yet if the Church is to remain Christ’s Church, she must listen to God’s authoritative revelation about all subjects - including homosexuality.  May the Holy Spirit grant each of us the faith to listen to God’s Word and confess the truth about the ordering of God’s good creation that He has made known to us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Pastor Surburg. Excellent & solid defense of the truth as found in God's word.

    Ginny Valleau