In the past decade, a growing number of Christians have been coming to the conclusion that the Bible either affirms same-sex unions or that it is unclear on the matter. Are they right?
As well-meaning as they may be, no they’re not.
Have you ever been watching a really intense, complex movie when, somewhere in the middle, a friend walks in, sees you’re watching something, and sits down next to you? At first, your friend is quiet, absorbing what’s happening on the screen, but eventually, he or she asks, “Who’s that?” or “Why is she so angry with him?” or “Who is he running from?”
Answering if the Bible is opposed to same-sex unions is kind of like that.
Scripture speaks negatively of same-sex sexual behavior only a handful of times (see Genesis 19:1-9, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, and Jude 1:7), and these passages have been challenged a great deal as of late. Revisionists insist that a closer look at translation, textual context, cultural context, and inconsistencies in church practice actually reveal that these verses do not mean what casual readers and serious biblical scholars for hundreds of years (and the majority of biblical scholars in our day) have always understood them to mean.
But revisionists are making the same mistake that friend is making when he or she interrupts your movie half-way through, trying to fully grasp the story by diving in midway. They’re missing what Christians have collectively understood for nearly 2,000 years.
What Christian believers have understood for centuries is that what the Bible has to say about sexual morality is not made up of a random set of rules found here and there in the pages of Scripture. Rather, Christian sexual morality is of one fabric with the whole of the biblical narrative.
In other words, when we enter the realm of talking about what sexual conduct the Bible either affirms or prohibits, we’ve entered the realm of talking about what it means to be made in God’s image, male and female (Genesis 1:26, 27).
God’s commands for sexuality fit perfectly with God’s design for humanity as male and female, with all that makes men and women different and complementary.
Todd Wilson puts it this way in his book Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality:
“The church’s stance against homosexual activity isn’t the product of a few Bible proof texts that speak directly to the issue of same-sex practice; it is the result of the Bible’s holistic vision of human sexuality [being biologically sexed as male and female], which pervades Scripture.”
From what I can gather, what Christians historically understood that we seem to have forgotten include things like:
- Our biological sex (male and female) is an integral part of what it means to be human
- Our biological sex (male and female) is an integral part of what it means to be made in God’s image
- And so, our biological sex (male and female) cannot be divorced from what it means to live virtuously.
So is the Bible opposed to same-sex unions? Yes, just as it is opposed to lust, infidelity, pornography, sex outside of marriage, masturbation, and any number of other sexual behaviors. How do we know? We can look to what Scripture prohibits, but also to God’s creative and redemptive plan.
Questions like, “Is gay sex okay?” or “How far is too far?” or “Does God care if I watch a little porn?” are connected to more fundamental questions like, “Why did God make us male and female?” and “Why did He choose sex to be the way new babies come into the world?” and “Why did God become a human male and why did He come through Mary’s virgin womb?” and “Why did He die naked on the cross?” and “Why did He rise bodily from the dead?”
Hint: Returning to the movie analogy, humanity’s maleness and femaleness is not a flourish added by the costume department, but a primary part of the script and central to the entire plot.
After posting this blog this morning, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to share just a couple of other important notes:
First, I didn’t write this post to try to win an argument or pick a fight. I wrote it because as our team at Regen daily walks with men and women experiencing same-sex attractions, we’re hearing from them that the rise of gay-affirming voices culturally and in churches does not bring them comfort in the storm, but rather, feels like the storm is swallowing up their safe harbors. I’m deeply concerned for these brothers and sisters, and I hope to push back the darkness and waves just a bit so they might have more places to rest and be encouraged and befriended on their journeys toward Christlikeness.
And second, I recognize that this one short post leaves much unsaid. It is important for Christians to regain a holistic perspective of what Scripture reveals about who we are and who God is. Such a perspective roots us in deep, good soil. But it doesn’t necessarily answer questions like, “What do I do with my own same-sex desires?” or “How do I treat with dignity and love my gay colleagues, friends, and relatives?” In short, it doesn’t adequately reveal how to lovingly live what’s true, as Jesus surely does. As the Apostle Paul put it, “If I…know all mysteries and all knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2). We’ll get after these topics more in the months to come.
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