In recent years there has been a dramatic shift in community attitudes to gays. The following example typifies that shift.
The father of modern computing, Alan Turing, cracked the German Enigma code in WW2. Churchill said his work was the biggest single factor in turning the tide of the war. However, because the codes were top secret, Turing’s identity was hidden for many years, and he was never publicly honoured for his remarkable work. He was also a secret homosexual, and homosexual practice was a crime in those days. After the war he was caught and charged – his identity as a hero of the war still concealed, even from law authorities. Given the choice of jail or chemical castration, he chose the latter. Eventually he committed suicide. Years later the Queen granted him a posthumous apology – a very rare act in that country.
Community attitudes to gays began to soften several decades ago, when influencers within the gay community proposed a number of changes within that movement. Those changes included things like encouraging gay sporting or movie identities to come out, and agitating for gay marriage (remembering that marriage was, prior to this time, scorned by gays, considered the territory of “straights”). The purpose of these changes was to persuade the world that the gay lifestyle was normal and acceptable, where once it had been considered deviant.
Political correctness added to the success of those changes. PC is a religion-like ideology, which fiercely defends the rights of the individual to pursue their own path in life, free from criticism or condemnation. Many of the changes brought by PC are consistent with Christian values (for example the stance against racial discrimination), but because PC is based on an ideology, it was inevitable that it would conflict at some point with religious belief, which is based on God’s Law.
That is what happened on the issue of homosexuality. The church taught that homosexual practice was a sin. Now many people were saying homosexuality was a normal lifestyle, and gays should be free to do as they chose, and receive the same legal and social acceptance as anyone else.
This conflict in ideologies was deepened when gays with a Christian background sought to make their homosexuality compatible with the Bible. Advocating loving, permanent, monogamous gay relationships, they looked for acceptance within the broad Christian church.
One section of the church was open to this approach, but another was not. (More on this later). The issue boiled down to the relevant Bible passages and their interpretation. What does the Bible say on this subject? We need to examine the passages and see for ourselves. That is the way it has been for centuries in the Christian church. Matters of the faith are decided on the clear teaching of scripture, and not on philosophical or rational ideas. If the Bible and philosophy are at odds, Bible-believing Christians hold to the Bible, no matter what the cost. It is important to them. Many have died for Christian ideals over the centuries, so highly do they value their faith in God and His love.
So we will now open up those scriptures and let them speak for themselves. In doing so, note that this article is not intended to impose Christian teaching on others, or tell others what to do. God has given us free will to do as we choose. But for those who wish to embrace God, His ways, and His eternal kingdom, this is what His Bible teaches.
Start from the start
We need to go right back to creation for our foundations on this subject. Here is what happened back then:
…God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
Right from the start, God created us male and female. The reason? To reproduce, to “fill the earth”, to create a people bearing His image. God sought a people He could love. A people with whom He could share His kingdom. A people who could enjoy Him, manage His creation, and through this bring Him glory.
God created man first, and woman later. After creating man He said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
… So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24)
The woman is “suitable” for the man and, conversely of course, the man is “suitable” for the woman. Clearly the male body is designed for the female body. They “fit” perfectly. The two are “united” in marriage and become “one flesh”. Sex was God’s idea, designed for the expression of love and intimacy between a man and a woman, and for procreation.
Design and purpose are important. God is Lord of creation, Lord of the earth. He is a good God, perfect in all ways, and His plans are best for His people and for the earth. He created us the way we are, and that way is perfect (though corrupted by sin, as we know).
From all this we can see that homosexual practice contradicts God’s design purposes. There is no suggestion anywhere in the above, that homosexuality has a place.
However, the reality is that some people are attracted to homosexual activity. And some might justify homosexual practice by saying there is no direct statement in the above passages to say that homosexuality is either right or wrong (apart from the implications of design).
So we need to ask are there any such direct statements in the rest of the Bible? We ought to expect something, because homosexuality is a significant reality in life, and the Bible usually gives clear instruction on significant life and moral issues. What do we find?
In fact there are at least six passages which deal directly with the subject. We will look at each of them, beginning with the Old Testament:
Genesis 19: Two angels had entered the town of Sodom. The men of the city saw the angels enter Lot’s house and:
They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing…
[After Lot and his family were led to safety] …then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah… (Genesis 19:5-25)
Note there may have been other issues regarding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for which they were punished. But to the sexual demands of the men, Lot responded firmly: “Don’t do this wicked thing”.
Leviticus 18: This chapter deals specifically with boundaries around sex. It gives seventeen prohibitions. They forbid sex with close relations, incest, adultery, bestiality and, in verse 22 it says:
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 20:13: This chapter is similar to Leviticus 18 (above) but, in addition, it also prescribes the punishment for the sins listed. In verse 13 it says:
If a man lies with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
It is obviously considered a serious violation.
Now the New Testament:
Romans 1:18-27: The apostle Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. He warns them:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Paul is clear and emphatic in this passage.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Because of immorality and conflict in the Corinthian church, Paul wrote:
…do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Note that homosexual practice is not listed here as if it is the only thing that excludes us from the kingdom of God — a number of different sins are listed. And note especially that some of these Christians Paul addresses had once been homosexuals, but were no longer. By the Spirit of God they had been changed. It is possible, by the grace of God, to make this change.
1 Timothy 1:9-11 Paul is instructing Timothy about the Old Testament Law and tells him:
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
These Bible passages clearly and strongly forbid homosexual practice. The fact that there are a significant number of them, from both Old and New Testaments, adds to their force.
We must now ask the question: are there any passages which approve homosexual practice? The answer is simply “no, there are none”.
However, in spite of the unified and compelling thrust of those passages, some people do not accept their plain meaning. I have a book on my shelves by a man who, though raised as a Christian, became homosexual, and tried to reconcile his faith with his homosexual practice. For each of the above passages he puts forward reasons to convince readers that their meaning is not what it appears to be. For anyone not thoroughly familiar with the Bible, or for anyone looking for loopholes to avoid the plain meaning of these passages, his arguments can be convincing.
It would take many pages to deal with them all, and some call for specialist knowledge of Greek, or Hebrew, or Bible history to find the faults in them. For the purposes of this short article there is a simple but logical approach, which I will use instead. It is as follows.
In the Bible you simply never find six passages on the same subject (such as these) whose correct meaning is the opposite of what it appears to be. Occasionally, deeper study of a single passage might uncover unexpected information that alters the apparent meaning of a passage. But not this many. When six Bible passages all say the same thing, in different words, in different books of the Bible, in different historical settings, in both Old and New Testaments, you can be very confident that the apparent meaning is the correct meaning.
In addition, our confidence in the apparent meaning is firmly upheld by two other points (already mentioned):
- The apparent meaning of the six passages is consistent with our underlying principle, that man was created for woman, and woman for man
- There are no Bible passages at all which approve of homosexuality
Of course people frequently dispute the plain meaning of the Bible. Sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others, try to make the Bible say things that are not true. And quite a few people are persuaded by their arguments. They become locked into them, and blinded to truth. It has been like this since Paul’s day, and he warned against it. Examples of his warnings are found in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 1 Timothy 1:3; Titus 1:9. Also 2 Timothy 4:3, which says:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
The Bible may not say what we want it to say. And that can be very difficult for people to accept, particularly for those caught up in the emotion and allure of homosexuality (or whatever the temptation may be). But the Bible is the Word of God. And, though it may not be easy to see, God the Creator has our best interests at heart when He sets out holy pathways for us to follow.
What if God made me this way (i.e. homosexual)?
God does not contradict Himself. It would be unjust of Him to create a person whose inclination was to oppose Him. Yes, people certainly do experience temptations towards homosexuality. Everyone experiences temptations to oppose God’s laws. But those temptations are not from God, but from sin. God calls us to resist them, and draw on His grace and power to overcome them — just as the Corinthians did.
Are gays born that way?
Some people believe homosexuals are born that way. This is a belief, not a proven fact. There is no scientific evidence to support it. No homosexual gene has been found. The book I mentioned above, written by an informed homosexual, agrees.
Can homosexuals change?
Many gays believe it is impossible to change. But we have seen that the homosexuals in the Corinthian church did. They were “washed…sanctified (and) justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Along with the others too — drunkards, greedy etc. By the grace of God we are able to change into the way God designed us.
And, again, it would be cruel and unjust of God to create a person who was essentially unable to do His will.
However, it can certainly be difficult to change. (Though from time to time God gives special favour and people are dramatically, powerfully and instantly changed.) Many issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography addiction etc. can be very difficult to escape from. In the same way, homosexuals can find it difficult to give up homosexual practice. We should be compassionate to any who are wrestling through that change.
Are there cases today, where homosexuals have changed successfully as the Corinthians did? Certainly. Many compelling and illuminating stories can be found. See, for example, freetochange.org. These stories are rarely, if ever, found in secular media, and because of that, many people form the opinion such stories do not exist. That is simply not true. It is important to hear them, for they are rarely published today.
It should be said that when people do make a change, from not only homosexuality, but also from things like pornography, alcohol, drugs etc., the temptations may still remain. However, by the miracle power of God, and wise life strategies, it is possible to live a life free from the issue. Recognising, of course, that no one is free from all temptation. Note that on the subject of temptation, the Bible gives this encouraging promise:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Is gay marriage OK?
Gays should be offered the same basic human rights as others. God has given everyone free will to follow His ways or not, and our laws should reflect that. On that basis we might conclude that gay marriage should be allowed. However, all rights must be weighed against a simple but universal principal of human rights, which says that our freedoms should not violate the rights and freedoms of others.
Does gay marriage violate the rights of others? In fact, it can. It can violate the rights of children. It can violate their right to be raised by their biological parents, and their right to be raised by a mother and a father, who’s parenting patterns are unique and different. Government regulations on marriage were instituted with this issue in mind. They are designed to protect the offspring of marriage – children – who cannot speak for themselves.
So in other words, gay marriage is not OK. Civil unions would overcome this problem, but they are mostly not acceptable to gays, whose underlying resolve is to have their lifestyle acknowledged as normal.
Note that this is not to say that gays are bad parents. It is simply saying that children need (and have a right to) a mother and a father. And, whenever possible, to biological parents. Many children raised by gays have, in adulthood, come out and said that their childhood was significantly disadvantaged on this issue. Though they love their (gay) parents, who lovingly nurtured them, they nevertheless speak forcefully against the practice. Their message is simple: no-one has the right to deprive children of their biological parents, or the nurture of parents of both genders.
You can find such stories on fairgoforgays.com.au; in Stealing from a Child, by David van Gende (whose major points can be found on my website fairgoforeveryone.com), or by searching the internet. Many gays are also opposed to gay marriage for the above reasons.
Why did the Christian community divide on gay issues?
A major division in the Christian church can be traced back to the 1700s, and the influence of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement promoting reason and science over tradition and religion. It confronted the tyranny of absolute monarchies, and the excesses of the established church. However, its emphasis on rational thought as the only basis for authority and legitimacy opened the door for atheism and attacks on the Christian faith – especially the authority of scripture, but also the supernatural.
Since the Reformation of 1517, the authority of scripture had been the sole foundation of the Protestant church, but with that now under attack some theologians looked for other ways to validate the Christian faith. German theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889) proposed that Christianity be defined by ethical conduct in society. This opened the door for the social gospel, which emphasised the application of Christian ethics to social problems. Along with this emphasis, supernatural activity such as the virgin birth, the resurrection, miracles, creation and so on, were minimised or set aside. This, of course, was far less offensive to atheists than the long held biblical gospel – of salvation from sin and eternal judgment through Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.
Other churches resisted the pressure to change, holding firmly to their belief in the truth and primacy of scripture. As a result the Christian church divided into two streams, which we might call liberal (social gospel), and traditional (gospel of salvation from sin through Christ’s atonement).
The line of demarcation was not always clearly defined of course. Many evangelical churches also established ministries for the needy, working hand in hand with their established preaching of the gospel of salvation from sin. This was in contrast to the liberal churches, which focused primarily on meeting the needs of the poor, while downplaying the “offensive” demands of the gospel.
Because of this, when community attitudes recently softened towards homosexuality, the liberal church found it easy to follow suit. They considered this an expression of Christian love, and a stand against discrimination. They explained away the scriptures which spoke against homosexual practice, unaware that their new policy had emerged, not from new insight into the Bible, but from pressure from rationalists and atheists.
On the other hand, most evangelical churches held firmly to their long-held scriptural understanding – in the face of fierce criticism. They understood homosexual practice to be outside God’s will, but something which could be changed by the grace and love of God. They believed a person thus changed, would enjoy a far more fulfilled and happy life. That being the case, they considered their responsibility was not to bend to the new demands, but to show acceptance and love to the homosexual, while sharing the forgiving and restoring power of Christ to those who wanted to hear – as per Jesus’ example with the woman caught in adultery: “…neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin.”
In spite of significant changes in community attitudes, the Bible message remains the same and is very clear.
God has planned marriage to be between a man and a woman, for the purpose of procreation and the expression of committed love and intimacy.
There is no allowance in scripture for homosexual practice and, in fact, there are a number of passages which clearly and expressly forbid it. These passages are sufficiently clear, and plentiful, to dismiss disputes about their meaning.
For some people, temptations towards homosexuality are very real, and difficult to overcome. Nevertheless it is possible for homosexuals to change. The example was set in the Corinthian church, and many examples can be found today.
The teaching of liberal churches comes not from a new understanding of scripture, but from the pressures of atheism and rationalism, birthed during the Enlightenment. While the Biblical approach seems difficult, it leads to fulfilled and happy life under the favour of God.
Christians today need to recognise what the Bible teaches on the subject, and treat gays with the same compassion afforded to all others.