Book Plunge: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.

What do I think of Brownson’s book published by Eerdmans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ll say at the start that of Christians trying to write from a position that is affirming of same-sex relationships, Brownson’s is the best that I have read. I think if you want to tackle a position that is affirming, this is the best one to read. He deals with a lot of the critics of his position and tries to pay attention to relevant scholarship.

And still, it just falls short.

Let’s start at the beginning. On page 9, Brownson tells us that we do not interpret rightly any Scripture until we locate the text within the larger fabric of the Bible. To an extent, I understand, and my disagreement could be what Brownson would agree with as well. I think a text can be understood on its own. If I read a Psalm about David drowning his couch with tears, I think I understand that alone. I think a deeper understanding for a fuller Biblical understanding could be found by comparing that with all of Scripture. I doubt Brownson would disagree with a point like this.

On the next page, he tells us that often, people have had to go back to Scripture when changes take place in society and culture to see if they were wrong. Again, I have no problem with this. It could have been that in the case of the passages seen as espousing the traditional view of homosexuality, that our interpretation was wrong. We should always be willing to go back to the text and examine it.

It’s when we get into the arguments that I start to wonder. For instance, Brownson on pages 29 and 33 wants to say marriage is not trying to get back to the primordial garden. There is some truth to that. Marriage also looks forward to the new creation found in the new Jerusalem. It is used at the end of Revelation and in Ephesians 5 with this in mind.

What I disagree with him on is that marriage is simply a kinship bond. Of course, marriage establishes a a new kinship bond. Brownson says that what is important in Genesis 2:24 is the kinship bond and that does not necessitate male and female. I find this a bit problematic. When Jesus speaks of the passage after all in Matthew 19, he refers to the male and female component which he didn’t need to do at all.

Second, with regard to kinship bonds, if all this is is about forming new relationships, I have to wonder why it is that this is supposed to be an exclusive kinship bond. Why limit it to one person? Why, unless the sexual union does a bit more than that? Of course, some Jews did not do that, but Jesus held to the strict interpretation and said male and female are joined together and what God has joined together let no man separate.

Third, Brownson thinks physical differences cannot be in view since this passage is used to describe Christ and the church and obviously, that church is composed of men partially. I do not think that this is a convincing argument. The same could be said of God and Israel, but the point is that the man is in the giving position and the woman in the receiving in the paradigm. It’s using the patriarchal system of the past to make the point and it does not require a one-to-one correspondence. In relationships with God, we are all on the receiving end and we receive the life of God in us.

Finally, it looks like sometimes the Bible has a problem with kinship bonds becoming too close. That’s why we have prohibitions against incest and lo and behold, when we get to the list of sexual practices that are condemned, we find homosexual practice right there. Of course, Brownson has something to say on that and we will have something to say in response.

Now to be fair on the patriarchy point, Brownson does rightly point out that one sees exceptions to patriarchy. He is indeed correct. You have Deborah in the book of Judges, Huldah at the time of Josiah, and of course women like Ruth, Esther, Rahab, and others being glorified. We also find right in the beginning that male and female are created in the image of God. When we get to Jesus, Jesus regularly associates with women openly. When we get to Paul, Paul has women in the church in positions of authority like Phoebe and Junia. In the house rules in Ephesians 5, it is true women are to submit, but men are given a much longer list of what they are to do.

When it comes to slavery, we find something similar. Slavery is a sort of necessary evil in Bible times, but as we keep going, we find a change going on. Compared to the society of the time, ancient Israel was quite progressive. Philemon can be seen as the Emancipation Proclamation of the New Testament. All of this can be found in William Webb’s excellent, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. What do we find with homosexuality?

We find no homosexual couples looked at as examples in the Bible. We find no change moving along those lines. We find the New Testament is even stricter on sexual matters than the Old Testament is, such as polygamy is not really an issue in the New Testament and Jesus ups the ante of adultery to not even looking at another person’s wife with lust. On a traditional interpretation, matters are exactly the same. While there is a line for slavery and women moving towards more freedom and dignity, the line on sexual practice is getting tighter.

In fact, Brownson realizes a danger. On page 83, he tells us that when we get to Romans 1, he realizes that if it refers to lesbian intercourse in the passage, then his interpretation of patriarchy would be ruled out. He will argue he finds this unlikely. I will argue that I find it very likely.

On page 91, Brownson tells us that divorce is essentially the severing of kinship bonds and the obligations that come with them. I find this still odd. Why is it then that we only find divorce going on with marriage? Do we find siblings divorcing one another or parents divorcing children or vice-versa? It looks like divorce refers to one thing specifically. Brownson thinks that this is confirmed in the Jesus tradition, but again, I frankly don’t see it. When Paul talks about one flesh, he talks about sexual union between a man and a woman. When Jesus talks about one flesh, he references Genesis 1:27 with it.

While I am disagreeing for now, I want to say that on page 103 he quotes Rowan Williams before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have to quote the passage in full. It is a passage about the sexual bond and it is simply too beautiful so that paraphrasing would not do it justice.

“Any genuine experience of desire leaves me in this position: I cannot of myself satisfy my wants without distorting or trivializing them. But in this experience we have a particularly intense case of the helplessness of the ego alone. For my body to be the cause of joy , the end of homecoming, for me, it must be there for someone else, must be perceived, accepted, nurtured. And that means being given over to the creation of joy in that other, because only as directed to the enjoyment, the happiness, of the other does it become unreservedly lovable. To desire my joy is to desire the joy of the one I desire: my search for enjoyment through the bodily presence of another is a longing to be enjoyed in my body. As Blake put it, sexual partners “admire” in each other “the lineaments of gratified desire.” We are pleased because we are pleasing.”

I also agree with Brownson’s commentary on this:

“Sexual desire, on the other hand, requires another person, and if sex is to achieve what the body most deeply longs for, one must enter into deep communion with the other — the kind of communion that the Bible speaks of as a one-flesh union. In that union, one relinquishes self-determination , and one’s own happiness is bound up in the happiness of the other.”

I often tell men who are about to get married that they certainly desire sex, but they really don’t have a clue. You don’t know how much this experience will change you until it happens. Once you get caught in the world of another person on this intimate level, life is never the same. Brownson is right on 104 when he says that the language of the body cannot be avoided. Our faithfulness as Christians depends in part on how we use the bodies that God gave us. We will either use them to speak love or use them to speak destruction.

When we get to Romans 1, Brownson’s argument is that the passage condemns excessive lust and this excessive lust leads to homosexual practice. I do not see how this can come from the text. Paul does not really speak about excessive desire anywhere else. Where in a passage like 1 Cor. 7 do we see “Now you married couples, do not be getting it on too much in the bedroom. Your desires don’t need to be excessive!” In fact, he says they should come together and the only reason they should avoid it is by mutual consent and then only for a short time and then only devotion to prayer. If someone in the church is burning with desire, he doesn’t say to shut down the desire. He says to get married. Keep in mind all of this is also without mention of procreation.

If anything, it also looks like Paul is condemning the result of what has happened and if it is excessive lust he’s saying “Do you see where it gets you? It gets you to homosexual practice.” A Jewish audience would look and say “Yep. Sure does. Our Scriptures are crystal clear on that. You tell them Paul!”

Brownson also wants to see this as an indictment of the emperor at the time. Again, I don’t see how this follows. Paul is writing about the whole of the Gentile world and not one small segment, even one as important as the emperor. In fact, as people like Gagnon and Sprinkle have pointed out, the language of Romans 1 several times mirrors Genesis 1. You have terms like creator, creation, male and female, and the idol descriptions match the descriptions of creatures in Genesis 1. Paul is making a contrast with creation. What he is saying is that when we look at the creation, it is apparent that there is a creator, but mankind in wickedness chose to make images of created things rather than honor the creator, which is a disruption of design on the vertical level. They then did the same on the horizontal level and the clearest example of this is homosexual practice.

For the lesbian issue, Brownson points to “their women” and says that the women are being thought of in relationship to men. Unfortunately, there is no interaction with someone like Bernadette Brooten who has shown that yes, female same-sex eroticism was indeed a part of the world of the New Testament and it was known about. I can’t help but think that Brownson approached the text wanting to find what he found and then found it.

When we get to a passage like 1 Cor. 6:9, on page 271, Brownson says that attempts to link the word translated to refer to those who practice homosexuality to Lev. 18 and 20 is speculative. Really? Let’s take a look. Here’s the Greek word.


Now let’s go to Leviticus 18. When we get to verse 22, what do we see?

και μετα αρσενος ου κοιμηθηση κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα γαρ εστιν

And when we get to 20:13….

και ος αν κοιμηθη μετα αρσενος κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα εποιησαν αμφοτεροι θανατουσθωσαν ενοχοι εισιν

Yep. That’s speculative alright. You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to see that relationship. By the way, I also find the idea of Leviticus 18 and 20 not referring to homosexual practice but cult prostitution also highly speculative. Am I to think that the writer of Leviticus would have no problem with bestiality or incest or child sacrifice if they were done at home instead of in a cult? (Sprinkle has also called into question that cult prostitution was around.) I also question that it has anything to do with pederasty since from what I understand, that was a later Greco-Roman practice.

In conclusion, Brownson has made the best case that there is, and yet he has still fallen short. If you want to tackle a case for same-sex relationships, this is the one to tackle. I still walk away convinced that those who affirm same-sex relationships are reading something into the text.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Bible, And Homosexuality

What do I think of Jack Rogers’s book published by Westminster John Knox Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When reading Rogers, it’s looking again like so much of this is “Let’s avoid one extreme by going to the other one.” I can side with what he says on page 18 about the problems of a literalistic approach to Scripture and taking some Scripture out of context with tragic consequences. We should all want to avoid that. While I do harp on literalism, there are some passages that are straight-forward and some that the surrounding context further indicates that what is going on is what the straight-forward reading indicates.

This is the kind that says let us not look at what the verses say, but let us look to the attitude of Christ. Now naturally, we should look to the attitude of Christ, but if all the verses say the same thing and there is no movement of progression or change or any counter-examples of what a verse says, then perhaps we should consider that that is what Christ would have us say on the matter. If the Scripture is silent, then we can be silent, but if it is not, we should listen to it.

Rogers wants to give us seven guidelines for interpreting Scripture. I will be presenting my response to each. I found some of them problematic simply for being so subjective.

The first is to recognize that Jesus is the center of Scripture. Always realize that with the Old Testament themes of Messiah and covenant. Keeping Christ as center aids in interpretation. (p. 53)

Now there can be no question for the Christian that Christ is the focal point of Scripture, but that also doesn’t provide us with much information for interpretation. I also encourage Christians when reading the Old Testament to at first NOT be a Christian. What I mean is don’t read it with the Christian lens on. Read it as you would a person at the time who knows nothing about a coming Jesus and decide how you would interpret it then based on where you are. Would you immediately conclude Isaiah 53 is Messianic? Maybe. Maybe not. What purpose would you see in the Levitical Laws? How would you see a prophecy like that of Daniel 9?

So with the first, I do think it’s good to keep Christ as central, but the problem can be in our society, we can all say we do that and all say we’re right as a result. It’s the classic problem of the church coming together for a vote and vote as “The Spirit leads you to vote.” Unfortunately, the Spirit can’t seem to decide what He wants in those cases.

On p. 56 we find the second that says to let the focus be on the plain text of Scripture with the grammatical and historical context instead of allegory and subjective fantasy. For the most part, I don’t have much problem with this. However, I do wonder about the “plain text.” What is plain to us is not necessarily plain to the original readers and vice versa. I doubt that that would be seriously objected to however.

Yet here, Rogers will come up with a point of contention in the debate. Is it wise to take statements that condemn idolatrous and immoral sexual activity and apply them to contemporary Christians who are gay or lesbian and neither idolatrous or immoral? (p. 57) I have no wish to quibble by saying we’re all idolatrous to some extent, but I think we can on immorality. The very question at the heart is “Is  this immoral?” and you don’t answer that by arguing “They’re not doing anything immoral.” Of course, if we take the Levitical Laws, we could go across the board with them. What about the incestual relationships? Are those okay provided they’re loving and committed and not done in idol worship? Would bestiality be okay? Was Paul wrong in 1 Cor. 5?

When we get to guideline 3, I start getting concerned. Rogers’s rule is “Depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting and applying God’s message.” (p. 57) The problem is many of us can do what I call, punting to the Spirit, where we don’t have any basis for our claims and just say that this is what the Holy Spirit is saying. Of course, we’re back to the church problem again. How many people disagree on what the text says and say the Holy Spirit is telling them what it says?

P. 59 says to be guided by the doctrinal consensus of the church, which is the rule of faith. Now to an extent, I don’t disagree with this. If you are coming up with a new interpretation, you need to have some basis for it especially if it goes against what the church has taught for a long time. Of course, there can be new information found such as when we found the Dead Sea Scrolls that can shed new light and of course, the new claim can be right, but it had better have good evidence for it.

On p. 61, we get to the fifth that says that all interpretations be in accordance with the love of God and the love of neighbor. Again, most anyone would not disagree, but what is love? So many people today say that if you oppose homosexuality, then you are not being loving. Aren’t God’s people supposed to love? It’s this bizarre idea that love means that you don’t ever say that anyone or anything is wrong.

In reality, if you love anything, you will have to hate. You will hate because you love what you love and want the good of what you love and will be opposed to anything that goes against that. Love is not a rule that says anything goes and you don’t condemn. If you have children, you will not let them play with matches or guns because you love them and you will not tolerate the schoolyard bully punching them because “You need to show love to him.”

The next is on p. 62. It is that the Bible requires earnest study to establish the best text and interpret the influence of the historical and cultural context. Of course, this is absolutely true. One must seriously study the Bible, a lesson it would be good to see internet atheists learn. Rogers already has an example citing Furnish on Romans 1 with the idea that same-sex intercourse compromises what would be seen in a patriarchal society as the dominant role of males over females.

I find this claim problematic. There were writings that referred to nature, such as in Cicero, that point to the idea that the male and female body fit together. (It’s hard to think that no one back then ever noticed that.) The second century physician Soranus wrote about parts of the body not being used as they were meant to be in homosexuality. Furthermore, Paul is writing this from a Jewish perspective and in Judaism, the opposition to homosexual behavior was the most intense. Why if they were just copying the culture around them? It’s furthermore difficult to think that the wrath of God was pouring down on the world because they were questioning patriarchy.

On p. 64, we read that we are to seek to interpret a passage in light of all of the Bible. Again, I can agree to a point. I think we should interpret the passage on its own merit first and then in the end go to the whole, but I doubt Rogers would disagree with that. Rogers does say later that “When we recognize that all of us, of whatever sexual orientation, are created by God, that we are all fallen sinners, and that we can all be redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, homosexuality will no longer be a divisive issue.”

I don’t know anyone in the debate who is contesting that. I hold that homosexual practice is wrong, but that the people are made by God and are fallen sinners and can be redeemed. Of course, if he’s wanting to say they were created that way, that could be contested and that would need to be established and to my knowledge, it hasn’t, but I know of no one who is denying the power of Christ with redemption.

When Rogers gets to the text, it’s not much better. Rogers argues that the Levitical statements are all about male superiority and if you undermine that, then that leads to the death penalty. It’s hard to think of how all the other incestual laws and the laws against child sacrifice and bestiality go against male superiority, but somehow Rogers thinks they do. It’s also hard to think that the other nations, as the ending of Lev. 18 and 20 indicate, are being judged for going against male superiority. Does Rogers want to argue that God is sexist?

On p. 73, Rogers says that the Gospel Paul is proclaiming does not center on sexuality but the universality of sin and grace in Christ. Sure, but so what? The issue of what we can and cannot eat should not be read the way it is because of the Gospel? Paul after all did not write this whole letter just to say you can eat X kinds of food. There’s a lot more to it. Paul did not write the letter just to condemn homosexual behavior, but what if that is a part of what he did?

Rogers also argues that for Paul, unnatural was a synonym for unconventional. Rogers points to the illustration of the olive tree in Romans 11 as his example. This doesn’t really work since the olive tree is not an entity with its own will and desires. When we speak of what is natural for it, we speak of what will happen following the course of nature. By the course of nature, shoots from another tree would not walk on over and attach themselves to the olive tree. When we apply this to humans, we are not talking about convention, as if olive trees grow by convention. We are talking about design and this time the participants can choose to act according to their design.

Rogers also argues that this was about passion and having too much of an excess. I find this an odd argument. While Paul can say in 1 Cor. 7 that he wishes all were as he was and willing to be celibate, he doesn’t ever talk about an excess of sex. He never says to the married couples “Hey! You two! Let’s not have too much of that hanky panky going on! Please try to desire your spouse a little bit less!” Instead, if he has any danger he wants to warn against, it’s married couples having too little sex. Paul is saying “If you want to avoid sex, do it by mutual consent and then only for a short time.” Of course, Paul would condemn sex outside of the covenant and he does, but it is not the case that we have Paul saying people are desiring sex too much. It’s what they do with it. Thus, I find Rogers’s argument strange and lacking.

Rogers says that if Paul walked into the Playboy Mansion today or observed college students “hooking up” he would condemn such an action not because heterosexual sex is wrong, but because of the context. I can’t help but wonder at this point if Rogers would say the same if he was told that these were “loving relationships.” That does seem to be the qualifier for him.

To his credit, Rogers does interact with Gagnon and points out that Jesus said some are born eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. Again, this is an odd response. Rogers and others will say that the ancient world knew nothing of homosexual orientation (see p. 58 of his book) and yet here, Jesus is talking about people with a homosexual orientation supposedly. Which is it? Furthermore, these people are people who in fact do not just avoid sex with women, but rather sex with ANYONE whatsoever. If Rogers was consistent, then he would be saying that those who are born eunuchs then should avoid all sex. Jesus never says anything about these eunuchs having sex with others.

Rogers also says that Gagnon thinks all homosexuals have willfully chosen their orientation. No source is given for this and from my interactions with Gagnon, this is not the case. In fact, about Rogers’s statement, Gagnon points to what he has said in his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

The latest scientific research on homosexuality simply reinforces what Scripture and common sense already told us: human behavior results from a complex mixture of biologically related desires (genetic, intrauterine, post-natal brain development), familial and environmental influences, human psychology, and repeated choices. Whatever predisposition to homosexuality may exist is a far cry from predestination or determinism and easy to harmonize with Paul’s understanding of homosexuality. It is often stated by scholars supportive of the homosexual lifestyle that Paul believed that homosexual behavior was something freely chosen, based on the threefold use of “they exchanged” (metellaxan) in Rom 1:23, 25, 26. The use of the word exchange may indeed suggest that Paul assumed an element of choice was involved, though for the phenomenon globally conceived and not necessarily for each individual. Certainly, the larger context in which these verses are found indicates a willing suppression of the truth about God and God’s design for the created order (1:18). And indeed who would debate the point that homosexual behavior is void of all choice? Even a predisposition does not compel behavior.

Romans 1-8 indicates as well that Paul considered the sinful passions that buffet humanity to be innate and controlling. Corresponding to the threefold “they exchanged” is the threefold “God gave them over” (paredoken autous ho theos) in 1:24, 26, 28. Rather than exert a restraining influence, God steps aside and allows human beings to be controlled by preexisting desires.Paul paints a picture of humanity subjugated and ruled by its own passions; a humanity not in control but controlled. . . . Based on a reading of Rom 5:12-21 and 7:7-23, it is clear that Paul conceived of sin as ‘innate’ . . . . Paul viewed sin as a power operating in the ‘flesh’ and in human ‘members,’ experienced since birth as a result of being descendants of Adam. . . . For Paul all sin was in a certain sense innate in that human beings don’t ask to feel sexual desire, or anger, or fear, or selfishness—they just do, despite whether they want to experience such impulses or not. If Paul could be transported into our time and told that homosexual impulses were at least partly present at birth, he would probably say, ‘I could have told you that’ or at least ‘I can work that into my system of thought.’” (pp. 430-31; boldface added)

For the sake of argument, Gagnon could be wrong in what he says. You could disagree with him entirely here. There is something he cannot be wrong on. He cannot be wrong in that this is what he believes. This does not indicate that he thinks this is willfully chosen. We might as well ask if Vietnam vets chose to have PTSD.

Rogers also thinks Gagnon goes beyond Scripture in pointing to design, but this is interesting because much of the rest of the book is Rogers talking about interacting with homosexual couples. This can be touching I’m sure, but what does it have to do with interpretation? Would the argument work if I introduced you to several couples of mothers and sons living together in a loving incestual relationship? Obviously not. So what difference does seeing “loving homosexual couples” have to do with this? Just list any group down the line and see if you would apply the same standard.

In the end, Rogers does not really have a convincing case. It looks more like he knew what he wanted to find and he went to find it. It’s easy to go along with the culture many times in Christianity, but he who marries the spirit of the age will be destined to die a widow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The New Testament and Homosexuality

What do I think of Robin Scroggs’s book published by Augsburg Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been doing some research lately on the Romans 1 passage on homosexuality for a class I’m taking and wanted to read some of the books I could find on the passage that were written from a perspective that is different from the traditional one that the passage condemns homosexual activity. Scroggs was one that I had heard about. I purchased his book then to see what he had to say.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Scroggs did much of a study. If you check the bibliography, his sources as far as I can tell are all of the opinion that homosexual behavior is okay. Of course, he should have some of those sources. The problem is if those are the only sources you really have. It’s like saying “I want to study the age of the Earth” and then reading only people who think the Earth is young and lo and behold, you conclude the Earth is young.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Scroggs gets everything wrong. There are some points I agree with. He says “At the same time, I confess equally that I see no way of reading the Christian gospel except that it is one which totally accepts in love all persons, regardless of inadequacies or moral failings.” (Location 21) Naturally, all of us want to have a robust view of the good news. The good news is Jesus does love you just as you are. I would want to add that He also loves you so much He doesn’t want to leave you as you are.

Scroggs is also correct in saying “Until we know what the biblical authors were against we cannot begin to reflect upon the relevance of those writings for contemporary issues.” (Location 59) This is indeed the case. We need to understand what the text meant to the people back then and then look and see what it means to us today. I agree entirely.

Who also would disagree with the statement that “Each of us needs to know why we hold the views we do and what are the implications and presuppositions of our views. At the same time we need to hear sympathetically the views of others who differ, to understand the logic of their positions. What we need is a little less heat and a little more light.” (Location 127) Again, all of this sounds good. What needs to be asked is if Scroggs will give us more light.

Well let’s see what some early commentators said. How about chapter 11 of book 1 of the Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus?

1. ABOUT this time the Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth; they became unjust towards men, and impious towards God, insomuch that they did not call to mind the advantages they received from him: they hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices. God was therefore much displeased at them, and determined to punish them for their pride, and to overthrow their city, and to lay waste their country, until there should neither plant nor fruit grow out of it.

2. When God had thus resolved concerning the Sodomites, Abraham, as he sat by the oak of Mambre, at the door of his tent, saw three angels; and thinking them to be strangers, he rose up, and saluted them, and desired they would accept of an entertainment, and abide with him; to which, when they agreed, he ordered cakes of meal to be made presently; and when he had slain a calf, he roasted it, and brought it to them, as they sat under the oak. Now they made a show of eating; and besides, they asked him about his wife Sarah, where she was; and when he said she was within, they said they would come again hereafter, and find her become a mother. Upon which the woman laughed, and said that it was impossible she should bear children, since she was ninety years of age, and her husband was a hundred. Then they concealed themselves no longer, but declared that they were angels of God; and that one of them was sent to inform them about the child, and two of the overthrow of Sodom.

3. When Abraham heard this, he was grieved for the Sodomites; and he rose up, and besought God for them, and entreated him that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. And when God had replied that there was no good man among the Sodomites; for if there were but ten such man among them, he would not punish any of them for their sins, Abraham held his peace. And the angels came to the city of the Sodomites, and Lot entreated them to accept of a lodging with him; for he was a very generous and hospitable man, and one that had learned to imitate the goodness of Abraham. Now when the Sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and this to an extraordinary degree, and that they took up their lodgings with Lot, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence; and when Lot exhorted them to sobriety, and not to offer any thing immodest to the strangers, but to have regard to their lodging in his house; and promised that if their inclinations could not be governed, he would expose his daughters to their lust, instead of these strangers; neither thus were they made ashamed.

Or what about Against Apion Book II?

And why do not the Lacedemonians think of abolishing that form of their government which suffers them not to associate with any others, as well as their contempt of matrimony? And why do not the Eleans and Thebans abolish that unnatural and impudent lust, which makes them lie with males? For they will not show a sufficient sign of their repentance of what they of old thought to be very excellent, and very advantageous in their practices, unless they entirely avoid all such actions for the time to come: nay, such things are inserted into the body of their laws, and had once such a power among the Greeks, that they ascribed these sodomitical practices to the gods themselves, as a part of their good character; and indeed it was according to the same manner that the gods married their own sisters. This the Greeks contrived as an apology for their own absurd and unnatural pleasures.

But what about Ezekiel 16?

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

However, Ezekiel is referring to the holiness code here and the word he uses for detestable things is the word for abominations that is used in Leviticus 18 and 20 that describes homosexual practice. That would mean that Sodom was violating the holiness code. The end of Leviticus 18 and 20 also indicates that the other nations were expelled for following these practices.

When we get to Romans, we see this at Location 224.

“What is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual; what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.” Paul is stigmatizing persons who have gone beyond their own personal nature to commit homosexual acts. But this means they must be by nature heterosexual. Thus Paul does not address the situation of persons who are “by nature” homosexually oriented. This argument depends heavily, of course, on the distinction between inversion and perversion described above.”

Of course, the problem with this is that it’s saying Paul had no problem with the practice automatically which is the statement under question. It’s also amazing that we’re told regularly Paul did not understand what it meant to have a homosexual orientation and yet the whole argument presumes that he does. We could also just as well ask would Paul have had a problem with incest if he knew the person was someone who had an incestual nature and was from birth attracted to family members for sexual gratification?

In fact, when we speak about homosexual relationships we read that “That Paul would have actually known people who participated in such relationships is hardly likely. What he ‘knew’ probably originated rather from the rumor mills of the day, particularly perhaps from Jewish suspicions about Gentile activities.” (Loc. 503)

Okay. So let me get this straight. Paul is definitely a Jew, but he’s a Roman citizen who grew up in a Greek culture and is well familiar with Greco-Roman thought and rhetoric and traveled throughout the Roman empire, but somehow, we can be sure he was not familiar with what the Gentiles did? The same one who said the Corinthians were guilty of an evil not even found among the pagans? Methinks Scroggs presumes too much. This is even more interesting since at 516 we’re told that Paul and his disciple who wrote 1 Timothy were firmly embedded in Greek culture. Which is it?

Scroggs has several references on the term “para phusin” which means contrary to nature. The term is used to describe homosexual practice often. It’s important that when it’s described in the Laws of Plato, it also speaks about female mating with female. Scroggs goes from this to loc. 701 where he argues that Paul’s usage of the term in the passage is a stereotype of Greco-Roman attitudes. It was pederasty being condemned.

It’s hard to really find this convincing, especially since it starts with women on women and since Paul uses language that goes back to Genesis 1, such as the description of animals, male and female, and the creator. Paul is not getting his ideas from culture so much as he is from Genesis 1 and 2.

At loc. 942, we’re told that Hellenistic Jewish attitudes were more homophobic than Palestinian.

Because, you know, we needed more light and less heat….

At loc. 1091, Scroggs says the Gospels do not mention homosexuality at all nor does Acts or the book of Revelation. It’s only in the epistles. Sure, but there are several sins not mentioned in those books. That does not mean they did not matter. It could just as easily mean, these were open and shut cases. Jews did not need to be convinced. I have never heard a sermon at a church about the evils of incest and how we shouldn’t practice incest, but that does not mean all the churches I have been to affirm incest.

At 1098, we’re told that pederasty was the norm for homosexual relationships, so it must be a presupposition that pederasty is under view. Nice to know that all of this is done before we even get to the documents themselves. If we are beginning with any view, wouldn’t it make more sense to begin with Paul’s Jewish view?

I really wish there was more relevant to this, but unfortunately, there isn’t. It looks like Scroggs set out to read only that which agreed with his conclusion and lo and behold, reached his conclusion. Beware always the sound of one-hand clapping. The Christian is on good position in going with the traditional interpretation. Of course, it could be for the sake of argument that the Bible is wrong in what it says, but let’s be sure we’re clear on what it says.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: God and the Gay Christian

What do I think of Matthew Vines’s book published by Convergent Books? Let’s Plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Matthew Vines has become somewhat of a celebrity in the church for being outspoken about being a homosexual and for making the case that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. His book is an autobiographical look at his life and how he reached his conclusion as well as a look at Scriptural texts that he thinks are relevant to the case. While many times there are those who dismiss the Bible, Vines does do us a favor right at the start by stating where he comes from. On page 1 he says

Like most theologically conservative Christians, I hold what is often called a “high view” of the Bible. That means I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life. While some parts of the Bible address cultural norms that do not directly apply to modern societies, all of Scripture is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV)

In this, Vines and I are quite likely to agree as I too hold a high view. What we will disagree with starkly will be our interpretations and as we go through, I wonder how much of this high view Vines has will be consistently upheld. What I also want to be on the watch for is to look and see if it more often happens that experience trumps Scripture.

One aspect I kept wondering about in the book was about the emphasis on homosexuality. Let’s suppose I instead wanted to write “God and the incestual Christian” or “God and the polygamous Christian.” Could I use many of the same arguments? I would wager that in many cases, I could. In fact, were I to argue for this, I could probably make a more convincing case. After all, Paul only condemns one kind of incestual relationship and someone like Abraham married his step-sister. Would Matthew Vines then be open to the possibility of loving and committed incestual relationships?

Vines goes into an autobiographical account early on of how he got here, which is fine for all intents and purposes, but something we must be watchful of. We do not want to get caught in the feeling of the story so much that we let it overpower our reason as we examine the case. Vines shows how he grew up in a conservative home and knew people in school who were gay and seemed normal enough. (What are we to expect? Gay people act totally different in every aspect of life?) He later on in college came to identify himself as a homosexual and then began a process of going through the Bible with that in mind to see what he could say to his parents who would be heartbroken.

Vines says in his book that one other reason he lost confidence in the idea that same-sex relationships were sinful is that it no longer made sense. Perhaps it didn’t, but if we go through and see that this is what the text says, then we are obligated to do it. Would I be justified in breaking the commandment to lust just because it no longer made sense to me? “Yes God. I understand why you don’t want me to sleep with other women than my wife, but hey, looking is natural. It doesn’t make sense to me why I can’t look.” He says the relationships he saw that were committed were characterized by faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice and what sin looks like that? Perhaps we could say incestuous relationships would look like that, so again we have to ask if Vines would support the book “God and the Incestuous Christian.”

One of the main passages Vines goes to repeatedly is to say that a tree is known by its fruit and says “Well the fruit of homosexual relationships that are committed is mutual love and self-sacrifice while condemning it leads to the suicide and bullying of many homosexuals.” No doubt, evangelicals across the board would condemn bullying homosexuals and we would agree that homosexual suicide is a tragedy, but are we not getting into the dangers of pragmatism and victimization? Would Vines for instance justify my robbing a bank if I give all the money to the local hospital? After all, look at all the good that came from my action! As for the suicide of homosexuals, could it not be that this is a result of how much sex is put on a huge pedestal in our society where sex is everything? Is this not part of what’s going on when you consider who you sleep with such a major part of your identity. How many times do we see characters in pop culture and such saying “I can’t die a virgin!” or something like that?

Suppose we had a group of men who were married but were depressed because they could not sleep with other women. This great desire came at them everyday and eventually a lot of them just broke and hung themselves rather than face the fact that they could not have polygamous relationships. Would Vines then be in support of looking again at polygamy? Would he be in support of men who hung themselves because they could not have sex with their mother or their sister?

The passage in Matthew 7 is in fact talking about prophets and not about outworkings of teachings. I take it that the message is that if someone is truly a prophet of God, their message will line up with Scripture. If my interpretation is correct, and I consider that much more likely, then if Vines fails in his case, then it is in fact him who is the one producing the bad fruit by encouraging us to hold to a wrong interpretation of Scripture. We should keep this in mind especially since I said earlier we can’t go by experience, an insight Vines agrees with since on page 24 he tells us that experience is subjective and prone to error as a judge of truth.

Vines tries to compare the case of homosexuality being okay to the case of the Earth going around the sun. The problem was that we can see quite simply how the text is being misread in those accounts. (He’s also wrong about the people thinking being at the center of the universe was a good thing. It wasn’t. God was seen as being on the outer circles.) Vines will have to have incredibly strong evidence to show that 2,000 years of church reading has been wrong.

Vines does still want us to think about our own experience with sexuality. Can we point to a specific moment where we chose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex? Well no. Can a person with depression point to a specific moment where they chose to be depressed? Can a person with PTSD point to a specific moment where they chose to have PTSD? I am one who once struggled with panic attacks and I can tell you there is no one specific moment where I chose to have panic attacks. It is part of this idea that if you did not choose to have something, then you were born with it. Why should I believe that? I do not think people would generally choose to be homosexual any more than they would to have PTSD or depression or panic attacks.

Let’s move on to Scriptural interpretations. Vines looks at Matthew 19 and says that only those who have the gift of celibacy should abstain from sexual unions. Vines says that Jesus or Paul never enjoined homosexuals to lifelong celibacy nor did they endorse redefining marriage. Of course not because there was no need to. Jesus stood behind a solid interpretation of the Old Testament and in fact at any point where it came to the morality of the Old Testament, Jesus raised the bar. You don’t murder? Good. How are you doing with hating your brother? You don’t commit adultery? Good. How are you doing at not looking at women to lust after them?

So in the end, it looks like Vines is saying that if homosexuals don’t have the gift of celibacy, then they should not stay celibate, and if they should not stay celibate, they should marry one another. How does such a view work? Are we to say that if Jesus met someone who burned with passion for his mother and did not think he had the gift of celibacy, that Jesus would okay him marrying his mother? Are we to think Paul would think someone who burned with passion for multiple women should in fact be okay with polygamous relationships? If the Corinthian church had written back and said that the man who was in an incestual relationship with his stepmother burned with passion and did not have the gift of celibacy then we would expect Paul would say “Well why didn’t you say so earlier? Sure. Let him have that relationship.”

Amazingly, Vines goes from here to 1 Timothy 4 and speaks of false teachers who will forbid marriage. Yet when Paul talked about marriage, he had something specific in mind. Again, would this verse be able to be used by people wanting incestual marriage? How about people wanting polygamous marriage?

Let’s move on to Sodom. Now I do think inhospitality can be included on the list of why Sodom was destroyed, but Vines is too quick to say that Bible scholars on both sides have dismissed homosexuality as the sin of Sodom. Robert Gagnon, for instance, has plenty of material on the sin of Sodom and he would certainly include homosexuality. This includes how Ezekiel uses language from the holiness code of Leviticus and the language of abomination that is used in Leviticus 20:13.

Amusingly, Vines also goes to Jude 7 and says the men were pursuing sarkos heteras which is translated as other flesh and says the problem was that they were too much pursuing flesh that was different. Gagnon questions such an interpretation of the passage and rightly points out that the men did not know that the visitors were angels. As Gagnon says

According to Jude 7 the men of Sodom “committed sexual immorality (ekporneusasai) and went after other flesh.” Jones is correct in thinking that “went after other flesh” refers to sex with the angelic visitors but fails in his assumption that “committed sexual immorality” has the same referent. Jude 7 is an instance of parataxis: two clauses conjoined by ‘and’ where one is conceptually subordinated to the other. Jones follows other homosexualist interpretations in assuming the meaning as “they committed sexual immorality by going after other flesh.” But a paratactic construction in Greek can just as easily make the first clause subordinate; in this case, “by (or: in the course of) committing sexual immorality they went after other flesh.” In other words, in the process of attempting the sexually immoral act of having intercourse with other men, the men of Sodom got more than they bargained for: committing an offense unknowingly against angels (note the echo in Heb 13:2: “do not neglect hospitality to strangers for, because of this, some have entertained angels without knowing it”). This is apparently how the earliest ‘commentator’ of Jude 7 read it. For 2 Peter 2:6-7, 10 refers to the “defiling desire/lust” of the men of Sodom. Since the men of Sodom did not know that the male visitors were angels—so not only Gen 19:4-11 but also all subsequent ancient interpreters—the reference cannot be to a lust for angels but rather must be to a lust for men. So both Jude 7 and 2 Pet 2:6-7 provide further confirmation in the history of interpretation that the Sodom narrative is correctly interpreted when one does not limit the indictment of male homosexual relations to coercive forms.

Thus, I do not find what Vines says to be convincing. Are there other sins going on in the text besides homosexuality? Yes. There definitely are. Is homosexuality a sin that is going on in the text? Yes. It definitely is.

Let’s move on to Leviticus.

Vines is right that there are many OT laws that we do not follow because they were never placed on us. However, there are plenty that we do still follow. “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus after all. Vines wants to ask how much of this still applies. He looks to Leviticus 18:19 and 20:18 which speak of sex while a woman is menstruating. However, the punishment is being cut off. The punishment for other offenses in Leviticus 20 meanwhile is death. The idea of the menstrual cycle is to give a woman rest instead of rather letting her be treated like an object. Israelites did consider uncovering blood to be shameful and that would mean more quarantine.

Vines also wants to look at what else the OT doesn’t condemn such as polygamy and concubinage and it allows for divorce. Sure, but like many other systems, we must keep in mind Leviticus was not meant to bring us Heaven on Earth nor was any of the Torah. God starts with Israel where they are. We’re even told 2 Samuel 12:7-8 would have allowed for more wives, but is that what it says?

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Israel was not to go past the bounds of the lands of Israel and Judah. Why would God then give more? Or is it saying that God was ready to bless David abundantly and all that Saul had had transferred over to David when Saul died and God would have been willing to give even more. This is not speaking about just wives but of the whole idea of more than Saul had would have belonged to David. The whole problem with Vines’s argument is he assumes that these practices are abandoned, so maybe the others. Sure. Maybe bestiality has been abandoned. Jesus and Paul say nothing about it. Maybe child sacrifice has been abandoned. Maybe incest has been abandoned. How far do we go?

Vines is right that different words are used to speak of abominations, but in the text in Leviticus, it all comes from the holiness code. It can refer to ritual uncleanliness, but it can also refer to moral wickedness and the text is quite clear with saying that whoever does this gets death. This is more than just ritual uncleanliness. Vines tries to get around the idea of the death penalty by saying we consider many punishments excessive. Perhaps we do, but this is the standard God set for the nation of Israel and it won’t work to say “This seems excessive to us, so surely it isn’t so great a sin.”

In the end, I frankly look at Vines’s statements and wonder what on Earth is being condemned in Leviticus. It’s as if we’re told that this was once worthy of death, but today it’s no big deal. In fact, today we should celebrate it. That will require a look at the New Testament. Let’s go there. Vines sees Romans 1 as the most important passage for discussion so let’s see what we make of his argument there.

Vines is of course correct that some matters are cultural. For instance, we have ended slavery, but slaves in the time were expected to serve their masters honorably and with respect. Men and women could greet one another with a holy kiss in church, but today you could get a lawsuit for that one. (Although I do try to tell my wife during greeting time that we should greet one another with a holy kiss.) The question is not “Are there cultural commands?” The question is “Is Romans 1 an example?”

I do not think so because Romans 1 also points back to Genesis 1 and 2. You have numerous tie-ins in the text. You have terminology not elsewhere used such as creator, creation, and male and female. The description of the creatures also matches the descriptions found in Genesis 1. Paul is referring back to creation. What he is saying is that idolatry is a blatant example of getting the vertical relationship wrong. In idolatry, one takes that which is the creation and treats it like the creator. In the same way for Paul, homosexuality is an example on the horizontal level. One takes the body clearly meant to be used sexually with members of the opposite sex, and instead uses it with members of the same sex. Vines instead sees it as the condemnation of excess rather than moderation of the desires.

But Paul does not allow that. Paul says the desires themselves are shameful and there is no indication that he thought only a little bit would have been okay. One would in fact wonder why if same-sex behavior was truly a good thing Paul would say to not have too much of it. We don’t see that going on with heterosexuals since in 1 Cor. 7, Paul urges us to NOT abandon the coming together of ourselves. Paul says nothing about the intentions of the act or the frequency. He says the act and the desire themselves are both wrong. Again, I find Vines just straining.

Let’s move on to 1 Cor. 6. The question is over the two words that are used. Vines wishes to say the term Malakoi refers to effeminate men, but will this stand up? Let’s look at how this holds up. The passage reads as follows:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

All of this is about sexual immorality as idolatry always carried with it a notion of sexual misbehavior. In this case, the malakoi has been used elsewhere to refer to people who allow themselves to be the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. This shows up in the writings of Soranus and Pseudo-Aristotle. Meanwhile, the next term arsenokoitai is in fact a term that comes from two words in the LXX that come from Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, the passages about homosexuality, and it is a combination of “lying” and “male”. No. This doesn’t refer to all men are liars, but to the act of sexually lying with someone. Vines wants to suggest that Paul could have in mind pederasty, but there were words specifically referring to that if Paul had wanted to say that.

Vines goes on in the book to argue further about how we should change society in light of this, but I do not find this at all convincing since his arguments are just extremely weak. Despite his idea of wanting to be open and friendly, he does cast a gauntlet down when he says on pages 161-2 that “It is the church that is sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” So apparently, Vines is making it clear. We either accept homosexuals as they are or else we are sinning.

He closes also with seeds of a modern reformation with three people who have been influential in supporting homosexual relationships, two are evangelical and one of those is an evangelical scholar. The interesting aspect is none of these stories starts with a look at Scripture by itself. It all starts with people having emotional reasons to want to embrace homosexuality, such as the first who made a good friend who was a homosexual and the evangelical having a child who was homosexual. Again, I am convinced that experience is trumping Scripture.

In conclusion, Vines puts forward a better argument than most, but one that is lacking, but he deserves to be answered. I encourage others to read Gagnon as well in response to Vines and those that he cites and I look forward to the day when there is a Vines-Gagnon debate.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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