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The Bible and homosexuality

"The Bible and homosexuality" Continued...

Some have suggested that the Sodom and Gomorrah episode does not point to judgment on homosexual prac­tice, but relates only to coercive homosexual practice. But Genesis 19:4–5 indicates that homosexual conduct was characteristic of the entire city and was a primary reason for God’s judgment (cf. the ESV Study Bible note on Jude 7).

Some object that the phrase “contrary to nature” in Romans 1:26–27 shows that Paul is only talking about people who “naturally” feel desires toward a person of the opposite sex but who then practice homosexuality. Paul says, “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26–27). According to this view, Paul is not saying anything about people who “naturally” feel desires for a person of the same sex, for such desires would not be “contrary to that person’s nature.” However, this is reading into the text a restric­tion that has no basis in the actual words that Paul wrote. He does not say “contrary to their nature,” but “contrary to nature” (Greek para physin), a phrase that is used several times in literature outside the Bible to speak of all kinds of homosexual conduct as something contrary to the natural order of the world. In other words, Paul is not saying in Romans 1:24–27 that some people switched their innate heterosexual urges for contrived homosexual urges, but rather that people exchanged or left behind sexual rela­tions with a true sexual complement (someone of the other sex) to gratify their inward urges for sex with members of the same sex. Paul sees such people as choosing to follow their desires over God-ordained creation structures.

Finally, there is an objection from experience: some homosexual “couples” have faithful, fulfilling relation­ships, so why should these be thought immoral? But experience should not be used as a higher standard for moral right and wrong than the teaching of the Bible. In addition, many studies indicate that, particularly among male homosexuals, long-term one-partner relationships are uncommon, and the widespread pattern is many sex­ual partners, often numbering many hundreds over the years. An additional harmful result of homosexual con­duct is often immense damage to the family structures of a society and also to physical health (e.g., various studies have shown a significant reduction in life expectancy for homosexual males compared to the general population).

Same-sex Marriage?

Proposals for governments to recognize “same-sex mar­riage” should be evaluated in light of the Bible’s teaching that one role of civil government is to “praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). Government recognition of a relation­ship as a “marriage” carries with it the endorsement and encouragement of that relationship by a society. Married couples enjoy many protections and benefits (legal, finan­cial, and interpersonal) that society has granted in order to encourage marriage and signal that the institution of mar­riage brings benefits to society as a whole. So the question is really whether a society, through its laws, should give approval and encouragement to homosexual relation­ships that both the Bible and most cultures throughout history have considered to be morally wrong rather than “good,” and that also bring significant harmful conse­quences. Governmental recognition of “same-sex mar­riage” would imply a requirement to allow homosexual couples to adopt and raise children, and this would rob many children of the opportunity to be raised in a home with both a father and a mother, which is by far the best environment for them. In addition, government recogni­tion would likely soon carry with it governmental prohibi­tions against criticizing homosexual conduct.

Conclusion

Homosexual conduct of all kinds is consistently viewed as sin in the Bible, and recent reinterpretations of the Bible that have been raised as objections to that view do not give a satisfactory explanation of the words or the context of the relevant verses. Sexual intimacy is to be confined to marriage, and marriage is to be only between one man and one woman, following the pattern established by God in creation. The church should always act with love and compassion toward homosexuals, yet never affirm homosexual conduct as morally right. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers the “good news” of forgiveness of sins and real hope for a transformed life to homosexuals as well as to all sinners.

Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publish­ers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wayne Grudem
Wayne Grudem

Wayne is professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary. He has authored 20 books and was the general editor for the ESV Study Bible.

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