Book Plunge: Does The Bible Condemn Gay People?

What do I think of Van Der Walt and Andrews’s book published by Inspired Living? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

To be fair, this is a very short book. So short you could read it in an hour in fact. While it’s not meant to be exhaustive and I understand that, the work is highly insufficient for its claims and does not show much research on the part of its writers. You get the impression they came to the text wanting to find what they wanted to find and chose sources to make sure that that happened.

With a look at the title, even a strong conservative can say no, it doesn’t. What we can say is that it condemns homosexual activity. Once again, for the sake of argument, the Bible could be wrong in its condemnation of homosexual activity, but let us not be wrong in the fact that it does condemn it. At the start, you find the emotional heartstrings pulled with a quote like “We believe that a loving God would want a loving interpretation of His words which does not exclude anyone from any His message simply based on one aspect of their identity.”

That sounds good, but how far does it go? The use of simply there implies that sexual activity is a small thing. Should we say the same if someone considered adultery part of their identity? Would we say “A loving God would not want to exclude me based on one aspect of my identity. What if we found the same for sexual attraction to children, or relatives, or animals? Could I say it’s part of my sexual identity to be attracted to multiple women so I should be allowed? Why would a loving God want to exclude this?

Also, the writers say that they are not experts on religion, but have read widely and are presenting the work of experts. If you’re not an expert though, then don’t present an opinion on it in that way. A non-expert can have a hard time even knowing how to evaluate the material at times and their material is hardly representative. What do they use?

They use the documentary “For The Bible Tells Me So.” The description of this goes as follows:

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle Interntional Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp.
Through the experience of five very normal, very Christian , very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson – we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. With commentary by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, For The Bible Tells Me So offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

Next we have God and the Gay Christian written by Matthew Vines which is a leading popular work arguing that homosexuality and Christianity are perfectly compatible. The video is also included. The next work is “What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. It’s description is

Helminiak, a Roman Catholic priest, has done careful reading in current biblical scholarship about homosexuality. While cautioning against viewing biblical teaching as “the last word on sexual ethics,” he stresses the need for accurate understanding of what the biblical “facts” are and concludes that “the Bible supplies no real basis for the condemnation of homosexuality.” Using the studies of Yale historian John Boswell (Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, LJ 7/94), New Testament seminary professor L. William Countryman, and others, Helminiak examines the story of Sodom (where the sin was inhospitality), Jude’s decrying sex with angels, and five texts-Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:27, I Corinthians 6:9, and I Timothy 1:10-all of which, he concludes, “are concerned with something other than homogenital activity itself.” Highly recommended for all libraries.

We have next “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart, followed by The Bible and Homosexuality article on Wikipedia. Yes. Wikipedia. The obvious place we all go to for excellent research. Following that is the GayChristian 101 web site and Religious Tolerance.

Now am I saying exclude these sources because they all argue for homosexuality? No, but let’s consider this.

Let’s suppose you wanted to write and say you were not an expert on the age of the Earth, but you were reading the experts, and the only books and videos and such you cited were young-earth creationists. What if you were going to write a critique of evolution and you included only people who argued against evolution in your source? What if you were going to do a look at the question of theism and the only people you cited were Christian apologists specializing in theism vs. atheism? Not only that, not one person in this list is really a scholar in the field. There are in fact pro-homosexual NT scholars that could have been cited, but these authors do not do so and yet they expect us to think they have interviewed the experts.

The authors also want us to keep in mind that the Bible was written thousands of years ago without the understanding that homosexuality was a legitimate widespread sexuality. Unfortunately, they do not demonstrate this. Is there any interaction with the Symposium of Plato where it is said some people’s missing halves were of the same sex? Is there any interaction with Hubbard’s work on homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome? Not a peep of it. It had its defenders and detractors back then and even theories as to what causes homosexuality.

When looking at Bible passages, completely ignored are passages like the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2 and the main thrust of Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 19 is ignored. In fact, other passages are gone to, such as Jonathan and David supposedly having a gay relationship. Another one suggested is that Ruth and Naomi had one. (Apparently, incest isn’t really a problem.) In fact, in looking at Matthew 19:9-12, we’re told that the passage speaking about eunuchs is widely considered to refer to homosexuality. Who widely considers this? We’re not told.

Looking at the Levitical passages, we’re told that most were only applicable to Jewish priests or Levites. We would be quite interested to find out that commands against bestiality and child sacrifice only applied to the Levites but were okay for everyone else. This also does not explain why the text specifically says the nations before were being driven out because they engaged in these practices, which were apparently only wrong for Levites. The writers then say there are many other aspects we don’t follow. True enough, because these are not seen as part of the moral law, but that these other nations got excluded from the land for these practices tells us that these are different, as well as the fact that these passages prescribe the death penalty.

For the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative, I could actually agree that the sin of Sodom is an inhospitality, but at the same time, their homosexual behavior is condemned and shown as a sign of how far they have fallen. When this is cited in Ezekiel 16, one can see that Ezekiel is citing the holiness code which includes the prohibitions of Leviticus and would include same-sex behavior.

For 1 Cor. 6:9-11, we’re told the words do not refer to homosexuals, but if they did not, then Paul had much better words to use. In fact, the latter word Arsenokoitai, comes from the Levitical passage on homosexuality and is combination of two words found there. One struggles to find a way that Paul could have been clearer.

Romans 1 is of course the key passage and here we’re told that unnatural could mean uncustomary, but the text does not permit that interpretation. Paul uses several terms such as creation, creator, male and female, etc. These are referring to the Genesis 1 and 2 narrative. If Paul wants to say idolatry is a horribly wrong twisting of reality on the vertical level to think that God can be reduced to animals and idols, then homosexuality is such an event on the horizontal level to take the natural usages of the male and female body and use them in ways they were not designed to be used. The writers tell us that Paul was not referring to loving gay relationships, but Paul would have known about such and we could just as well ask what Paul would say about loving incestual relationships or loving bestial relationships or loving polygamous relationships.

In the end, this is a hideously weak look at an important topic and the sound of one hand clapping by ignoring the best scholarship on both sides in the field. Don’t waste your time and while the book has been free on Kindle and could still be now, don’t waste your storage space.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Answering Thom Stark on the Bible and Homosexuality

What do I think of what Thom Stark has to say on the Bible and homosexuality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not a shock that Thom Stark has jumped on the bandwagon with wanting to support homosexual behavior. Now he thinks he has hard questions for Christians. Really? Let’s see what he has.

If you’re a Christian who condemns homosexuality because the Bible condemns it, there are at least five things you must also do before you can condemn it consistently:

Well I guess we’re off to a bad start since I have other grounds for my condemnation, but of course, Stark has this idea that all Christians are the same. But hey, let’s leap into the text.

1) You must also condemn sex between a husband and his menstruating wife (an act condemned on equal footing with adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, and child sacrifice in both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20).

On equal footing? Well no. Leviticus 18 doesn’t mention the punishments for certain crimes, but Leviticus 20 does. Leviticus 20 gives incest, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice as leading to death. Witchcraft involves expulsion from the community. The same follows for sleeping with a woman while she’s menstruating since that involves blood and the punishment is being cut off. Homosexuality is right there with the ones that end in death and is thus treated differently. So sorry, point #1 doesn’t really work.

2) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, polygamy is morally acceptable to God, and is a standard type of “biblical marriage.” It is given tacit approval in the laws of Moses, in Deut 21:15-17, where a man with more than one wife is told that he must treat the children of unfavored wives equally to the children of favored wives. There is 2 Sam 12:8, where Yahweh reminds David that he gave Saul’s wives to him as a gift, and would have given David even more if he had asked. Then in the New Testament, only church elders are told they cannot marry more than one wife (ostensibly because more than one wife is a distraction from caring for the church family), a prohibition that does not apply to any other Christian.

Or being a good Christian, you could remember that this was a practice allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of people, much like divorce was. The NT has several indications about a time where God let some people have a little bit more leeway. But what about 2 Samuel 12:8?

And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

Does this mean more wives? No. It refers to wealth period. Would God have given David other houses besides Israel and Judah? Israel was told to not expand their borders. It refers to increasing wealth entirely. It’s a way of saying “Look what all I gave you! Isn’t that enough?!”

3) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to capture the women of your defeated political enemies and force them to marry you. “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Yahweh your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go into her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife” (Deut 21:10-13). That is biblical marriage.

I suppose Thom would have preferred that the women be either killed or left to fend for themselves alone in the ANE. That they were allowed to marry was a way to protect the woman. Is that a different kind of marriage? No. It is still a man-woman marriage. It is a different way to enter into marriage but the reality of marriage as the union of man and a woman is the same.

4) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to force a rape victim to marry her rapist. “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and forcibly seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives” (Deut 22:28-29). This is biblical marriage.

And Thom again doesn’t realize that this was set in place to protect the woman. In the culture, she would have been shamed and seen as undesirable for marriage by being raped. Forcing her rapist to provide for her for the rest of his life would make him think twice about the activity. The woman would have welcomed the arrangement wanting the man to be punished and making him pay the price for her.

5) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable as a matter of course to own slaves. “As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness” (Lev 25:44-46). You must acknowledge that the New Testament orders slaves to obey their masters, even while it tells their masters to treat them kindly. Nowhere does the Bible condemn slavery, and thus, if you wish to continue to condemn homosexuality simply because the Bible says so, you must never condemn slavery again.

Or we could try understanding the way slavery worked in the ANE. Sorry Thom, but you couldn’t just go to Wal-Mart and get a job. You had to work for someone else and the system set up for that was slavery, a way to actually care for the poor. It was nothing like the slavery that we saw in Civil War Times.

We could go on with things you ought to support: genocide, patriarchy, etc. But these five are a good jumping-off point. When you can honestly say 1) that you do not have sex during menstruation and that you excommunicate any fellow Christians who do, 2) that you support a man’s right to marry multiple women, 3) that you support a man’s right to invade a country, kill a woman’s husband or father, and take her as his wife, 4) that you support a rapist’s right to forcibly marry his victim and deny her right to divorce him, and 5) that you support a man’s right to purchase and own human beings as slaves and bequeath them to his children, then you may come to me and tell me that you believe homosexuality is immoral because the Bible tells you so. Until that time, suffer your own hatred in silence.

Ah yes. The hatred card at the end. You see, I took the time to write this post in the middle of stomping around my house talking about how much I hate homosexuals. When I meet other Christians, all we do is gather around and share stories of mean things we did to homosexuals that week. Please excuse me because after this post I have to go to a meeting where we will hold up our Christian flag and continue our prolonged hate of homosexuals.

Yeah Thom. That kind of drivel about hate means I just don’t take you seriously there. You see, believe it or not, hate can be a very good thing.

What?

You see, I take it you don’t support genocide, slavery, or patriarchy. I would wager you hate those things. Do you think that’s a problem? I don’t. I think if something is evil, you should hate it. Even if it isn’t evil, if you think it is, you should hate it.

Meanwhile, it would have been nice of you to explain what these passages mean that you think we should just throw out. It would have also been nice to have seen you touch a passage like Romans 1 and deal with what Paul said. Oh. Maybe next time you can look at the work of Robert Gagnon and comment.

But until then, it’s this kind of handling of the text that I just find completely unpersuasive and banks on people not understanding the historical context.

By the way, telling people to suffer it in silence is a way of saying “Shut up.”

How tolerant of you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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