Yesterday, my wife sent me a post from her social media feed that she had found on a friends page. We talked about it for a little bit and then I felt led to write a response to it. Below is the link to the article I read and then my response follows. It is a brief reply, because you can literally write books on these issues and verses. I wish I didn’t have to write anything about this topic, but I feel compelled to do so because of the ramifications that will take place if I don’t say anything. I am not harping on this issue alone, there are many areas the church can address. I view it as a continued conversation on the current issues in our culture. I have attempted to remove the log out of my eye first, before I point out someone else’s splinter. I seek to speak the truth in love at all times. I welcome your comments below.
The Original Article from Bishop Richard Wilke
Dear Rev. Wilke,
I read your article and too am saddened by the issue that is consuming our churches and culture today. But, for a complete different reason than you are. I see the erosion of truth and the authority of God’s Word being changed, diminished, and twisted not by outsiders of the faith, but those from inside. God does hold those who teach and have authority over others in higher regard. Here are a few thoughts on your article.
First, I think it is very naïve of you to take your daughters “coming out” to not as an issue of influence. While parents are the most powerful influence on their children, they are not the only influence. Culture, movies, music, and media are a powerful influence on people today. I believe it was 18th century writer Andrew Fletcher that said “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”
Secondly, you make the statement “Still, I knew I had some work to do. I needed to reconcile my commitment to scriptural authority with loving and accepting my daughter.” In this statement you unknowning contradict yourself. For you cannot keep Scriptural authority if you want to find an alternative interpretation of Scripture that lines up with your “loving acceptance” (perhaps a feeling or experience) of your daughter. Instead, you should have chosen to reconcile your loving feelings with the authority of Scripture. I believe you may also have convinced yourself of a wrong definition of loving your daughter. Who says love let’s people do what they want? Statistics show that often those who struggle with same sex attraction or have friends and family that do, will be more likely to find interpretations of the biblical texts that are pro-LGBTQ. Indeed relationships are a powerful influence on our thoughts and beliefs. I could comment more about this wrong idea of love, but I will move on to the more important part of your article, the Scriptures.
Third, it is true that the Bible does speak “little” about the issue of homosexuality, there is a reason for this. The Bible was written in the shadow of the Genesis narrative with Adam and Eve. This foundation flows through many of the Scriptures in the Old and New Testament, especially dealing with this issue which I will explain below. There was no need for the Bible to say much about it, Jewish scholars on both sides, conservative and liberal both agreed that it was behavior against God’s design. In fact you will find that no church leader up until the last half of the twentieth century supported it.
The heterosexual relationship/marriage is assumed all throughout the Bible. The Mosaic laws (even 3 of the 10 commandments), the psalms, books of wisdom, the gospels, many of the epistles, all use the corresponding pronouns to a male/female relationship. Not one time is a homosexual relationship spoken of in a positive light.
So now we come to the meat of this debate, the Scriptures. You are right, context is indeed the key to finding out what is the proper interpretation of these passages. Many people have different “interpretations” of these passages, what stops someone from saying “that’s just your interpretation and I have my interpretation,” is the question, which one is the correct interpretation?
The Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah (from here S&G) is definitely not the strongest passage from which to base an argument against homosexuality, but since you mentioned it I will address it. While the townspeople may have acted inhospitable and in rape and violence, there is clearly more going on here. The men want to “know” the two visitors that are Lot’s guests. We both understand that the word “know” can be taken in different senses, but the context tells the key. Lot replies to the men of the city,
“I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.”
It would be very strange for Lot’s daughter to not “know” any other men in a sense other than a sexual one. Second, it is important to note that God had already judged the city for destruction, hence His discussion with Abraham (Gen. 18:20), before this inhospitable act. Third, if we are debating what the sin of S&G was that caused destruction it would be rather strange for God to destroy a city for inhospitality or pride alone. But, in the Mosaic Law homosexual acts are punishable by death.
You quoted the Ezekiel passage that talks about S&G but you failed to mention the other two passages that also speak of it. Second Peter 2:4-10 discusses the destruction of S&G. Peter writes in verse 7,
“if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked.”
The key word being “sensual” refer to sexual conduct. Jude 7 also discusses the two Old Testament cities. Jude states,
“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
This passage again points to a sexual immorality, the general term for all sexual sins, and the accompanying destruction. In your quote of the Ezekiel passage, we may get a more detailed account of what was going on with the things that were listed, but you stopped just short of a very telling phrase in the Ezekiel passage. Ezekiel continues in verse 50,
“They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”
The word “abomination” is very telling. It brings up reflections of the Leviticus 18 passage. I will grant that there may have been other sins that were committed by the people of S&G but there is too much evidence that points to a wicked sexual act.
Next you discuss the Leviticus 18 passage and as a good revisionist you point out that Lev. 17-26 is part of the holiness code, intended strictly for Israel to follow and represent Jehovah God before the nations around them.
A closer examination of the chapters will show that Leviticus 18 really stands out differently than the rest of the chapters. It begins and ends with the Lord reemphasizing a warning to follow the commands listed unlike those in the other chapters. All of the commands deal specifically with sexual sins and the other chapters are more randomized. Aside from the other texts that speak on homosexuality in the New Testament, you should also ask yourself the reason behind the holiness code to begin with. Did God not want Israel to perform child sacrifice to Molech “just because,” or was it perhaps the actual acts that God found detestable themselves. It was not simply a preference as one prefers ice cream flavors, God actually had a reason for commanding Israel not to live and practice as the other nations around them did. At the end of Leviticus 18 we read that God had already judged the other nations for these same practices.
“Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled” (vv. 24-27).
This seems to point that it was the actual acts themselves that were evil in the eyes of the Lord and not just meant to “raise the bar” in a spiritual moral way.
Turning to the New Testament, you seem to gloss over these verses rather quickly and not even give specific references. Romans 1:26-27 is probably the most telling of the verses in all of Scripture. Yes, the most common form of homosexuality practiced in the Roman world was the pederasty that was done with an adult man and a young boy around the age of 12. But if you read what Paul says,
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”
In the Roman world there was no female equivalent of pederasty, this was only a practice done by the men. Also the Scripture says “men committed indecent acts with other men.” Paul did not use the Greek word for a young boy as well. Furthermore, if Paul wanted to condemn the practice of pederasty he could have simply used the separate Greek term for that and not the general term that he used.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul elaborates on a number of sins that those who “practice” (being a key word) these will not inherent eternal life. This is a good time to point out that we all struggle with sin. That is a biblical truth. It is important to point out that nowhere in Scripture does it condemn anyone who is tempted with same-sex attraction. In the same way for someone who is tempted to steal, or use fowl langue, or another temptation. We do not pick only on one issue and ignore the rest. I understand that for various reasons people struggle with temptations, but we must not give into those temptations, thus committing sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states;
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
In Greek, Paul uses two words that make up our English phrase above “men who practice homosexuality.” Arsenokoitai and malakoi are the two terms that Paul uses. One for the male active partner and the other for the passive partner. The Greek word Arsenokoitai is connected with the passage from Leviticus 18 from Paul’s use in the passage and can illusions those practices that were described there. There have been articles recently that have tried to soften the language of Scripture. Things like, “The word homosexual was not added into the Bible until recently” and so on. While this is true on a technicality, it misrepresents what the Greek says. It lists both the active and passive partner in a “homosexual act” and that’s where we have coined the term homosexuality from. This is similar where people would say the word “trinity” is not in the Bible or “inerrant” but at the same time the words describe it to be the equivalent word used today. There is much more that could be elaborated on with the Greek but I will move on to another issue in this article.
And finally, we come to Jesus and His teaching and what He did and did not address. It is a bad argument to say that Jesus never discussed XYZ and so XYZ must be permissible. There are a lot of things that Jesus never discussed. Grand thief auto, internet pornography, and so on. I have already mentioned above why I believe the Bible (including Jesus) doesn’t speak more on this issue but Jesus did affirm the Genesis creation account between a man and woman in Matthew 19.
Many have quoted Jesus’s interactions with the sinners, tax collectors, and the women of the street. They quickly point out that His love for them was far and above what the religious leaders of the day had shown to them. I agree with you, Mr. Wilke, that we should all strive to imitate Christ in this manner. I would even agree that some Christians have been right out mean and hateful to the LGBTQ community and that is wrong. But, that doesn’t mean that we change what Scripture plainly teaches in order to change the behavior of some Christians who need a lesson on manners and just being friendly.
At the same time, pro-LGBTQ friendly Christians don’t seem to read the whole story of Jesus ministry. He did tell the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more.” He did heal people, invite them, but he also told them to leave there life of sin. I recently saw a quote by Sinclair Ferguson,
“It is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather He accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Nor does He leave us the way He found us, but to transform us into the likeness of His son.”
Many authors like Matthew Vines, Justin Lee have written in their books about the “bad fruit” that they believe Christians are producing when they do not accept the lifestyles of the LGBTQ community. They connect the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 with this same idea but they are missing Jesus point about what real fruit actually is. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-23,
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Notice that Jesus started out by pointing out the false prophets were the ones who produced bad fruit. What is the good fruit that Jesus is talking about here? It is found in the last verses 21-23, “he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Obedience to God’s commands is the good fruit we should aim for. Not an obedience out of fear or to earn salvation. It is a gift of grace, but obedience out of love for God who has done so much for us that we want to love Him back. This love toward God says, I am a sinner, I need to let Christ transform me and make me more like his character and his teachings. I yield my weakness, my struggles, and my desires to the one who gave me eternal life and saved me from my sins.
I pray that you may consider these Scriptures again and place God’s Word as the top authority over your life as I do. We can still love LGBTQ family, friends, and people that we all may interact with and have a candid conversation with them.