By: Justin Wishart
With the push to make gay marriage a fundamental human right, Christians are being forced to defend what most people once took for granted – that marriage is between a man and a woman. Public Christian figures are consistently asked to explain their views and are attacked as ignorant or even bigoted if they uphold the traditional definition of marriage. The traditional view of marriage is now so maligned, that Alberta’s premier even called any legislation protecting the right of Christian marriage commissioners to not perform gay marriages “frightening”. This despite the fact that Freedom of Conscience is an actual fundamental human right listed in the Canadian Bill of Rights.
The pressure to conform has caused some Christians, and whole denominations, to accept and advocate for the inclusion of homosexual marriage. This article is primarily in response to this new trend within the Christian church. Possibly a Christian has not really considered what the Bible actually says about homosexuality or they have, as we will see, reinterpreted Scripture in what they feel a more palatable way. Maybe they wish to focus on loving and accepting people as they are, which is admirable, without having much consideration to moral imperatives outlined in Scripture. It could be that the Christian frankly thinks there are much more important things to consider.
However, if we think that the Bible is the authority of our morals (which is a standard creed within Christianity), then we must find out what the Bible says. It is important to note that when dealing with people who don’t think of the Bible as the standard for morals, they will not be very impressed with this argument. Other arguments must be developed. At best, this can be used with such people only to explain why you hold to your view.
Our response to this controversy should always be compassionate – God places limits on our actions so we can experience joy in the safety of His boundaries. Biblical prohibitions exist not as an attack against any group of people but as a sign that the Creator cares for His creation. But compassion does not mean compromise. So, this article will focus on giving a biblically based answer that is easy to remember and quick to present. In upcoming blogs, we’ll discuss how we can present these biblical truths with compassion to a culture hostile to the Christian faith. You can also check FBB’s September newsletter for more info.
At first glance, the biblical answer to this moral debate seems straightforward. We can simply look through the Bible and find verses like this:
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
“… understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:9-10)
There are other verses that seem straightforward, but much work has been done to reinterpret the actual meaning of these passages away from the traditional church position. For example, one can say that anything found in Leviticus can be taken with a grain of salt since these rules only applied to the nation of Israel which was a theocracy. There are many rules and regulations that Christians do not now think we should follow, which the Israelites did. Do we think eating pork is a sin today? No. Therefore, as the argument goes, it is justified to assume we don’t need to follow Leviticus on the rules about homosexuality as well.
What about the New Testament passages? These too have been argued as incorrectly understood and translated by modern Christians. Some base their argument on translations from the Greek. They say the Greek word ‘arsenokoite’ which has been translated into the English Bible as ‘homosexual’, can be used to describe male prostitutes or temple prostitutes.Daniel Helminiak wrote in his book ‘What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality’:
“Recent research on the Bible shows that, at the very least, the same-sex acts that are the focus of biblical concern were not what we mean by “homosexuality” today. Put the Bible back into its original cultural and historical setting, and it becomes blatantly obvious that the Bible conceived of the matter very differently in a very different world. Even more, this research shows that the Bible is basically indifferent to homosexuality in itself… The Bible supplies no real basis for the condemnation of homosexuality.”
People who hold this view, argue that the translators mistranslated the Greek word into the English and so prohibitions against homosexuality acts are more a reflection of the translator’s pre-existing theology. At first glance, what seemed very biblically clear might not be so clear after all.
But do we then have to become experts in KoineGreek to biblically defend the traditional definition of marriage? Is the Bible is really speaking against prostitution or pagan sexual perversions, or against homosexuality as we understand it today? There has to be a simpler way to explain why homosexual marriage is against scriptural teaching without going into a long technical translation discussion, or even an in-depth biblical study.
The Definitional Argument Against Homosexuality
Questions about whether one is born homosexual, much in the same way one is born black or white, or other peripheral considerations will not be addressed in this argument. The question before us is whether the Christian Bible views homosexual acts or marriage a sin: What does the Bible say?
First, consistently throughout the whole of Scripture marriage is always defined as being between a man and a woman.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Jesus then re-affirms this passage:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
There are many verses that talk about marriage and it is always between a man and a woman. This simply means that the Bible consistently, without exception, defines marriage between a man and a woman either explicitly or is simply assumed. The biblical definition never includes homosexual marriages. If God wanted us to include homosexual marriage, He would have said so.
Premise One: The Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Second, Scripture consistently instructs us that sex is only permitted within the confines of marriage.
“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
A full reading of 1 Corinthians 7 would make this premise abundantly clear but as before, you will only get positive reinforcement on this teaching and you will not find the Bible advocating for sex outside of marriage. Thus, sex can only be enjoyed in a marriage context.
Premise Two: The Bible teaches that sex should only happen within a marriage.
With these two premises, we can now make an easy-to-remember argument that the Bible instructs against homosexual activity and by definition against homosexual marriage. Here then is the argument:
1. The Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
2. The Bible teaches that sex should only happen within a marriage.
3. Therefore, sex is only biblically permitted between a man and woman in a marriage context.
4. Therefore, homosexual marriage does not fit the biblical definition of marriage and as such homosexual sex is therefore against biblical teaching.
No long and sustained argument is needed to demonstrate what the Bible teaches on this subject. This argument is easy to biblically support and easy to understand. The Bible is clear on this subject regardless of how one interprets ‘arsenokoite’, and regardless of how one views the laws from Leviticus. The question then moves from the easy task of explaining what Scripture says to the harder task of whether Scripture is an authority in our lives.