9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Luke 4:9-12… How often do we forget this passage? How often do we forget that Satan is no fool? He isn’t dislodged from the present time. He isn’t oblivious to current events, hot topics, tweets, texts, and other popular cultural milieu. His agents are everywhere, and he has been around for quite some time. As any history major will tell you mankind is a fairly predictably fickle group. And when you study your subject matter as the devil does, you get to know them pretty well. I mean, eternity is at stake. I typically like to stand aside when it comes to cultural hot button issues. It honestly is just more frustration and lost cause than it is spiritually useful, or ultimately uplifting. But when I watch a video utilizing Scripture in an anti-Scripture format… I cannot stay silent. I’m sure some friends, and acquaintances will read this and be done with me. If so, I understand, homosexuality is a red hot topic right now. I just pray that God leads me to the right words and thoughts, and that I continue to portray the same loving and caring person I strive to be every day. I’m not perfect – I actually kind of screw up a lot. And I have my many, many , many flaws… I would never in a million years be so callous as to say one sin is worse than another. God makes it clear that sin is sin is sin. Only one sin separates you from God – and honestly that is simply a lifetime of shoving Him away.
So I watched a video, this video: “There are 6 scriptures about homosexuality in the Bible, here’s what they really say.” I encourage you to watch it. This article is just a “rant” without the video. It’s not too long, so give it a gander. You’re done? Ok, awesome, let’s move on.
A bit of background: I grew up in a small Presbyterian denomination – ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian). It’s a real exclusive club-like atmosphere, and fairly straight laced conservative. Well, it was. The newer generation of pastors, youth pastors, elders, etc… are working hard to make the (true) Reformed theological message attainable to all. I say true because that culturally hot stuff the speaker was glazing us with is not Reformed. I went to school (majoring in Bible, minoring in politics), at the ARP college, and ended up taking one year of seminary. I would like to think that I know a thing or two about Greek and Hebrew, cultural context, and Scriptural nuances in general. With that said, man – I was impressed! The kid knew something besides the go-to argument of “the Bible says to stone adulterers and abstain from pork, but Christians don’t follow that anymore! Who’s to say any of the law matters now!?” That’s a load of garbage, and the person who says it probably doesn’t even know why they should retort with that load of garbarge other than it typically shuts any lay-Christian down. Well, sir or madam – this video could not go unchallenged. Not in my mind. Not with its number of views. Not with its profane use of Scripture. And not with its, in complete honesty, rather intelligent argumentation of some rather good points. A true debater gives their opponent a chance to respond, to challenge, and to offer a substitute. So, this is my attempt to bring some new information to the table, and to roll out the deep wrinkles in his information.
Ok, quick sidebar. Exegesis is reading “out of” Scripture. It is a good, hermeneutically sound thing to do. You want to bring the meaning out of the text. You read the text and find meaning to pull from it for the reader. The opposite is isogesis. This would be reading “into the text.” In this version we look at a text and bring our own preconceived notions to the text and then, surprise find them in that same text! It’s simply astonishing what those who practice heavy use of isogesis can find in the Bible. I will be using these terms throughout my response, so it was good to explain them up front.
keep these concepts in mind
Matt quotes six Biblical verses: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9, I Timothy 1:10.
Point #1: Looking at Genesis’ story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a good, typical Christian starting point. And what’s that?? Some rather intricate biblical exegesis going on. The kid is spot on with the intrabiblical nuancing here. It would be foolish to say that this passage is specifically denouncing homosexual behavior (whether consensual, rape, whatever). He even pulls from Ezekiel 16:49 as Scripture that interprets Scripture. That is impressive. And what’s more, it is accurate Scripture interpreting Scripture. The widespread idea that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexual tendencies is a later thought process. There are actually even more verses that condemn S&G for other sins as well (citation needed). But is it incorrect to assume that homosexual lust was not a contributable sin to the men of S&G? Absolutely not. It becomes clear, from other passages we will hit later, that homosexuality (whether fueled by lust or a distorted sense of “love”) is not the lifestyle choice God intended for His special creation. Scripture is timeless, it’s Truth is timeless… God is timeless, and His statutes have no end. We must view Scripture in it’s whole – not just the parts we like most – in order to see God’s full message for us. That message is one of salvation… but more on that later.
Point #2/3: Abominations. We read that eating a rabbit is an abomination (Deut14:7), offering “strange fire” is an abomination (Lev10:1), lying with the same sex as with the opposite sex – homosexuality – is an abomination (Lev18:22, 20:13). These things are detestable to the LORD. They are also three odd things for our 21st century eyes to read, and ears to hear. Why… how…? What’s so wrong with rabbits?? Everyone has always eaten them!! And what’s with things with cloven hoof, that “chew the cud” (Lev11)? What even is an “abomination to the LORD?” What makes something such a terrible, detestable thing? Well, this is a hotly debated topic among scholars – both liberal and conservative. Abomination is important to distinguish before actually tackling what Matt’s response is to these passages – which again is a rather tricky, and convincing, argument to the everyday hearer.
First lets look at a few distinctions the Old Testament (OT from here on out) makes. The primary distinction is holy and common. God is holy, He dwelled in their tabernacle – therefore the people were to be holy. To be unholy was to be estranged from God’s good presence. But what actually is holiness? Ezekiel 22:26 says that Israel’s priests defiled the law because they taught that there was no difference between holy and common… nor a difference between clean and unclean. The ground state of things is “clean.” Clean, like metal, is pure – neither holy nor unclean. We are clean when there is no leprocy on our skin. To be holy, is to be set apart. So the Levites would set certain artifacts to be holy, set apart. Unholiness had degrees – some of which could be made holy again. Temporary unholiness could be remedied. To be the opposite of holy, was to be common. Common is then split between clean and unclean. If something holy touches a clean item – that item becomes holy (IE the sand that Moses stood upon was holy simply by being in the mere vicinity of YHWH – Ex3:5). The opposite then is true as well. When unclean touches clean, the clean thing becomes unclean. All of that to say that when holy touches unclean.. we got ourselves an abomination.
SO, why were certain things unclean and others clean? Again, scholars have differing opinions. One thought is they were purely hygienic. Pigs are normally gross creatures. Don’t eat that… But what about rabbits – they aren’t exactly disgusting (though it can be pointed out that they do eat pieces of their own poop for certain nutrients). Or what about fungi? They are considered clean, but can cause serious health issues! Also, if it’s a hygiene thing – WHY CAN WE EAT IT NOW?? Aside from Peter seeing Jesus open all things to be clean for eating (Acts 10). So what about idolatry? Many pagan Canaanites worshiped these unclean things as gods! But… cows were allowed… and cows were a historically significant temptation for the Israelites (Ex32).
Scholar Mary Douglas posits this: “Clean-ness” comes from the whole context of Israel and holiness. It is to be looked at from Israel’s culture (not 21st century American). Clean things are blessed, while unclean things are cursed. Things that follow a normal, natural, pattern are clean – those that deviate are cursed. It can be argued that to be holy was to be “whole” or “one” – to have integrity or to be without blemish. Scripture shows that some animals can be blemished (this whole line of argument), or a whole people can be blemished (Num33:54-55, Ex23:33, et al). Douglas looks at these dietary (or abomination laws in general) and retrobuilds them. Animals that “chew the cud, and have cloven hoofs” are clean. To deviate (rabbits, pigs, camels) is to be unclean. There are other considerations, but that makes the point. To be an abomination is to deviate wholly from what God intended. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And He made man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.
That was clean, that was holy. That is undeniable. It’s poetic the way the writer of Genesis puts it. God creates man, and when a suitable helper could not be found He creates a perfect helper – one to fit under his side through thick and thin. Homosexual behavior has been with us since the dawn of sin – so if we were hard pressed we could say that if God was ok with homosexuality an entirely different phrase could have been used. The words existed for such a thought, as did the concepts and the reality around them. But they weren’t. A different reality was chosen for God’s people. Let’s go back to the concept that an animal, as well, as a people group can be unclean – an abomination to the LORD’s sight. Christ warps that reality drastically. He touches a leper, and the leper is healed! WHen He touches a dead body that body comes back to life!! It was no long what went into your body that made you unclean, but what came out (Mark7:15). He came and fulfilled the ceremonial law – that law which brought Israel back in clean standing with a holy God. The moral law stands firm. Christ couldn’t have fulfill the moral law when He is poignantly preached it to His disciples (Matt5:44, 22:36-40, Luke 10:25-37, and many more). The moral code laid out in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is not gone just because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law. No, Christ took away the obligation to “do good by the law” because He absorbed our sin. His sacrifice was the Paschal Lamb – that perfect sacrifice to cover all sin, to bring us to contact a holy God – thus making us holy through Christ. (Other Scripture to note: II Timothy 3:16, I John… entirety)
Point #4: Onto the New Testament (NT). Matt posits that Paul is only putting down lust or vices. Not a loving, committed, faithful relationship. As I mentioned at the beginning, mankind is fairly predictable. If we are doing something now, we probably did it in the past. There truely is nothing new under the sun. To say that the Roman world was only featuring homosexuality as an example of lust and excess would be whitewashing the issue. These weren’t just lustful men seeking after young, malleable boys to have their way with after a boring night with the wife. This wasn’t just a drunken orgy, lusting after one another… That would be misunderstanding the sinful nature of man. And for sure this wasn’t just Paul attacking gorging on pedophilia, like a crazy man grows long hair – that is to say a “cultural convention.” Again, remember that the early church was really just “late Israel.” We still need to see the church as a response to the world around it – just as Levitical law was a response to the pagan world that surrounded them. To tattoo your body was typically to mark yourself with pagan symbols and to engorge yourself in their rituals – thus abandoning YHWH who brought you out of slavery (a foretaste of what the LORD would do through Christ). In the same manner, to grow your hair long was to show a wanton display of Roman/Hedonistic influence. To abandon your tie to the LORD and your Savior – Christ.
In modern theological circles this is called the Christ and Culture debate. Should we live as Christians seeing Christ against culture (radical puritanism), Christ apart from culture (Amish), Christ and culture (liberal/progressives) or Christ transforming culture (Reformed). Christ came into the world to transform it, to inaugurate His reign as King of Kings – to begin the takeover of His Kingdom of God. Slowly but surely He is transforming the world through His Church (when His church decides to do things for His glory, and not for fame or fortune or many other vices). These men/women that Paul speaks of are not acting out of a lustful gorging – but simple sinful desires. Much like a liar really enjoys a good deception, or a glutton likes that extra serving of chocolate cake. Or that married man glances a little too long at that girl’s (or guy’s) rear end. Sin is sin. Doesn’t matter which way you cut it – it is an abomination in God’s eyes – and Christ wants you to see that, and come to Him for repentance and help to fight it off.
Point #5/6: Oh man, this one really caught my eye. Brother took off into some Greek! Noice! Don’t see that too often! The terms that Paul uses are malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi can be translated as “effeminate.” This is true, but to stop at that positive definition is to not be thorough enough. It is also commonly used to describe a man who allows his body to go through shrewd behavior and acts. What could be construed as “shrewd?” Well, again, as a NT believer you must go back to the “God-breathed” (IITim3:16) OT to find the answer – in many cases. And it is here that we arrive at the previously covered “abomination” argument. The second term, arsenokoitai is typically translated as “men who have sex with men.” Matt wants to say that a better translation is rendered as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” But that is really all that is said, other than that “the concept of sexual orientation didn’t exist at that time.” I’m sorry, but that is a cop-out statement if I’ve ever heard one. Say that the concept of sexual orientation didn’t exist is like saying that the concept of technology didn’t exist at the time. Because they didn’t think in the same terms as us, they had no knowledge at all of the subject matter. Of course not!! The Romans had technology: they built concrete structures that have lasted millenia, they constructed roads in a way we can’t really even now, they strung amazing aqueducts across many many miles, they developed the components to the steam engine!! In the same manner, just because the exact term “sexual orientation” wasn’t a commonly (or possibly even ever) used term by the Roman empire, that does not mean that such a concept would have been foreign to them. Sexual orientation was not even coined until around 1973 – are we to say that no one before that time can really say anything about the concept?? That would be ridiculously absurd.
While we are on this idea, let’s jump over to another statement Matt makes:
The Bible never addresses issues of sexual orientation of same-sex marriage.
My immediate response is, “well, yes… Matt… that is true… But the Bible doesn’t address capitalism, democratic-republics, driving a car, using the internet, flying above the clouds, flying above the earth, space travel, gun control…. I could go on…?” To state something like that is just a psuedointellectual/emotional response to the issue at hand. While it is true, it is not a useful statement. Because as soon as we decide to follow through on that mind-set, and then call ourselves faithful Christians – our whole approach to life here on earth in the 21st century changes dramatically. Not only that, but our view of the Bible becomes practically nil. Why study a book that literally doesn’t directly respond to situations we deal with daily? I actually feel like when he said those words he rendered his entire argument a moot point. What does it matter what the Bible says about homosexuality, if it doesn’t actually speak directly to the thing homosexuals are fighting for today? Yes, he is in part fighting for the the homosexual’s right to worship out of the closet, and without any “side-ways glances.” To right to openly practice homosexuality, and relegate the previously considered sin (of said homosexuality) to just a past cultural convention. But ultimately he fights for constitutional rights within this world.
Why would I go through those past few paragraphs? Why follow that argumentation? Well it’s because I believe one thing: the Bible truly is God-breathed, and absolutely useful for teaching the believer and non-believer, for rebuking the believer, for correcting heretical thoughts, and for training the man/woman of God to grow in righteousness. And when I say Scripture/the Bible I mean all of it. The OT with the NT. You can’t have a full NT, without a consistent use of the OT. But what does the Bible tell us? Is it just a book full of rules and regulations? Just a list of do’s and don’ts? Or maybe it’s just an outdated system of laws, coupled with an exemplary moral teacher, and words from his followers? Or is it just all craziness? Dealing with a God, and unbelievable stories of parting waters, the dead rising, and sin. Or maybe, just maybe – it’s the Truth. It’s a Truth that has remained constant and full for thousands upon thousands of years. It’s a book that was true when Joshua led the Israelites into a land promised to them, it was true when David and Bathsheba sinned and Uriah was put to death, it was true when Ezra and Nehemiah brought an exiled people back to their land, and it was true when God made Himself into the form of man, and sent His Son to inaugurate the coming of His Kingdom. It has remained true through those first century, tumultuous times when the apostles were falling left and right to persecution. It remained true even when Constantine used it to forge an empire. The Truth never waned with popes who twisted it to bring about crusades and witch hunts and inquisitions. The Truth remained fast when preachers distorted it to allow the numbing cruelty of slavery (and It was shown forth in It’s fullness when It was used to overcome that institution). The Truth of the Scripture isn’t any less true today, even with the turmoil that plagues our post-modern, post-metanarrative, Facebooking, tweet sending age of the now.
This book tells a story – a beautiful one. One of a loving, omnipotent Creator who out of the sheer love in His being created all things so that they could revel in Him. He then specially creates one man and one woman to even more fully exemplify His being. When those two fall from grace, He offers grace by offering up one of the animals that surrounded them as a sacrifice to cover their shame. He then offers grace to the world after the Tower of Babel by raising up a special group of people to be His own. They screw up… a lot. Deceit, murder, licentiousness, theft, idolatry… and that is all before they even enter the Promised Land. But God shows grace… He brings them up out of oppressive slavery and points to a land flowing with good things from Him. Then He shows them exactly how to stay right before Him – to stay clean before a holy God. He could have left them to figure it out, or to simply take His commands and work hard from then on out. But instead He points again forward to a time when a perfect sacrifice would come and redeem out of the whole world. Every tribe, every tongue, every nation. The people of God would extend the globe over, and God would indeed be glorified. Because that is who the Bible is ultimately about – God. It’s not about us. Shoot, look at the narratives of the OT or the Gospels. People suck. We screw up at every turn. We miss the noses right in front of our faces due to our own inability to see the sin that clouds our vision. Man, the Bible would be pretty depressing if it told our story. Thankfully it tells a story of sin and grace from Genesis 3 to Revelation. God hasn’t given up on His people even when they practically spat in His face. Their sin was rampant, and far-reaching, and full encompassing. But He remained close by to guide them.
It is our job as Christians to bring our brothers and sisters to conviction through the use of the Scriptures. Not the outsider. Can we judge a Brit by our laws when they live in Britain? No. The same applies for the outsider to the faith. I am to love that person, to show Christ’s person (His whole person, the loving side and the convicting side). To my fellow believers my job is to call sin out where it is seen. And to be faithful to Scripture to see sin as sin. My sin needs to be called out too. If we are being fully honest as Christians we are accountable to each other while also being ultimately accountable to God Himself.
I guess what I really want to get across is that our faults, our sins, our shortcomings do not make us who we are. It is who we know. It is a faith in a proven Provider. It is setting our pride down for a strong Savior. The full Christian walk is one where we walk, not alone, but with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We must realize that these battles over earthly tumults will pass away.
If anyone has any other questions, comments, or concerns – please let me know! Thank you for reading through all of this! I know it was a lot to take in, and it has taken me over a week to really put it down in words. I hope you see not me, but Christ in this message.