The percentage of U.S. Christians who believe homosexuality ought to be accepted by society increased markedly recently, from 44% in 2007 to 54% in 2014, as reported by the non-partisan Pew Research Center. Denominations considered most conservative saw the percentage of their members who say it should be accepted increase nearly 40% (from 26% to 36%).
Does this trend reflect more Christians ignoring the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality? Have they fallen prey to a secular worldview, under the influence of Hollywood and political liberals?
Or have more Christians become convinced that their prior view was wrong and same-sex marriage is not against God’s will?
Are such Christians engaging in willful blindness, interpreting scripture in a tortured way to reach a desired result? Or is their interpretation reasonable and appropriate?
This is the second in a series of blog posts introducing differing views about scripture relevant to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
The main scripture passage discussed in this post relates to “abominations,” a word used in the Old Testament to describe a variety of things, including male homosexual activity.
Below, I describe some of the passage’s context and some of what those who oppose and affirm same-sex marriage say about it, alternating the point of view.
Introduction and Context: When Moses led the Israelites’ escape from slavery, they went into the wilderness between Egypt and what is now Israel. They camped for about a year at the base of a mountain, Mount Sinai. The third book of the Bible, Leviticus, describes God telling Moses a large number of laws (or commands) for Moses to tell the Israelites while camped there. Estimates on when this took place range from ~3250 to ~3450 years ago.
Main Scripture (Leviticus 18:1, 22, 20:1, 13):
God told Moses to tell the Israelites: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. … If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination ….”
Some Affirming Christians Say: This command was given over 3000 years ago to people who had no concept of same-sex marriage. There was no reason for God to express exceptions that would not have made sense to the hearer. To read the command as prohibiting something unknown to them at the time (sexual relations within same-sex marriage) is reading more into what God said than God actually said. Also, the command refers only to men and not to women, so God had something specific in mind.
Some Non-Affirming Christians Say: This command could not be clearer. It plainly says God considers homosexual sex an abomination and thus a sin. No exceptions. The text, of course, applies to women having sexual relations with one another, too. What God commanded of the men applied to the women, too. To say that God probably would have expressed it differently had same-sex marriage been known at the time is baseless speculation.
Affirming Christians: This command is not directed at us in any event. God told Moses such commands are for “the Israelite people” (Lev. 18:1-2, 20:1-2). We are not Israelite people. Leviticus includes commands for the Israelite people like:
- if someone “insults his father or mother, he shall be put to death”
- you shall not wear clothing “made of two different materials”
- after you plant a tree, only in its “fifth year may you use the fruit.”
These commands and others, including the command in the main text, were for Israelites, per the Bible, and not for everyone. They were never commands for non-Israelites.
Non-Affirming Christians: The command not to “lie with a male as with a woman” applied to everyone, not just Israelites. In Leviticus 18:24, God tells the Israelites not to engage in homosexual and other bad practices because “by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves.”
In other words, homosexual practices by the nations already in the land to which the Israelites were going was one of the reasons God threw those nations out. Those nations were non-Israelite. Thus, the prohibition against homosexual sex applied to non-Israelites then, and it applies to non-Israelites now.
Affirming Christians: God tied such commands to the Israelites and their land (the wilderness and their destination). God emphasizes in Leviticus 18:25-26 that these commands apply “both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you.” This refers to foreigners living among the Israelites in the wilderness and foreigners living among the Israelites after they arrive at their destination (the Promised Land). If the commands applied to everyone (Israelites and non-Israelite foreigners), then Leviticus 18:25-26 have said the commands apply “both to native-born Israelites and to foreigners” and would not have added “living among you” to “foreigners.”
Non-affirming Christians: The reference to the laws applying to the “foreigners living among you” is a reference to non-Israelites who were with them in the wilderness. This was to make it clear that the commands apply to them, too. The reference is not to say that they are the only foreigners to which the commands apply, obviously, as God just said in 18:24 that the commands apply to the nations already in the Israelite’s destination.
Also, sin is anything that is against God’s will. Abominations are against God’s will, so they are sins. Condoning the marriage of two men is the same as condoning the abomination (and thus sin) of a man who lies with a male as with a woman. We should not condone abominations.
Affirming Christians: Again, if commands were to apply to all foreigners, the Leviticus passage would not have limited it to those “living among you.”
Also, “abomination” is commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to things that were off-limits to Israelites (not off limits to everyone).
Examples of “abominations” listed there:
- having sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle
God had God’s reasons for making such things off-limits for Israelites then, but that does not define sin for everyone today. Thus, the main passage defining something as an abomination does not answer the question regarding whether it is sin today.
Non-affirming Christians: God does have God’s reasons, and we should respect those reasons. There is no verse in the Bible that says that homosexual sex is no longer an abomination. Thus, it remains an abomination and a sin. Besides, why would we want to test God by endorsing something like homosexual sex that even affirming Christians acknowledge God at least at one time considered an abomination?
Affirming Christians: There is no verse that specifically refers to incense, oysters, shrimp, eagles, etc., is no longer an abomination, either. Why don’t you claim that burning incense, eating oysters and shrimp, an eagle, etc., is testing God? If you approached life as not doing anything against the Law of Moses, otherwise you are testing God, it would be ridiculous and untrusting of Christ.
Non-affirming Christians: It’s obvious that God’s declaring homosexual acts to be an abomination was an expression of God’s moral code while those other things were simply expressions of civil or ceremonial rules. I am not saying that we should follow the Law of Moses. I am saying that parts of the Law of Moses, including that part, reflects God’s moral law, which does not change.
Of course, both sides of this issue say a lot more about this line of differing views, including the impact of Christ’s sacrifice and his words (which will be discussed in a future post).
This series introduces the issues. My aim with this post was to continue introducing some differing views among Christians regarding Biblical passages relevant to same-sex marriage.
You can find more discussion about this subject at the sources noted below and in my first post in this series.
I am planning on publishing posts in this series in groups of three, publishing posts on other topics in between. I expect to publish the third post in this first group next week.
For part 3 in this series, click here.
(The picture at the top is of the main scripture in an older, hard-copy Bible we own.)
See my first post for sources of information in this post and of related information.
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/18/most-u-s-christian-groups-grow-more-accepting-of-homosexuality/ ( … 54% … evangelicals to 36% …)
https://www.carm.org/leviticus-18-22 (some laws for everyone)
Leviticus 20:9 (insults father or mother)
Leviticus 19:19 (two different materials)
Leviticus 19:24-25 (fifth-year fruit)
Leviticus 18:24 (by all these practices …)
Isaiah 1:13 (incense)
Leviticus 11:9-12 (oysters, shrimp, …)
Leviticus 20:18 (menstrual cycle)
Leviticus 11:13 (eagles)
The scripture passages quoted in this series of posts are from the New Revised Standard Version, the Tanakh Translation, the New Living Translation, or the King James Version.