When the Church talks about homosexuality we tend to take a hard line stance. There is a rush to condemn this behavior that you do not see in many other “christian” issues. There is no push back against liars, adulterers, tax frauds, etc.. that comes close to the pushing back the Church gives the topic of homosexuality.
For whatever reason this one issue, this one sin, above all others creates anything from rabidity to passive aggressive bigotry. I use the word bigotry literally as most often, in my experience, just using the word homosexual is all it takes to start the process. No specifics need be known. No worries if the person is living the life or had a fantasy once, or is just effeminate but straight. Bring up this word, and condemnations are on the tips of the tongues of all the “righteous”.
It’s fascinating to watch all the ways people come at the homosexuality conversation. From the open, and frankly most honest of the christian Fred Phelps from http://www.godhatesfags.com (This is an openly gay bashing man claiming to be a christian, that does not receive as much condemnation as homosexuality does in any church I know of). To the “love the sinner hate the sin” passive aggressive, faux smile, soft voice approach. Some how it’s supposed to be “ok” to condescend to someone if you can mask it in soft voice, fake smiles and have some way to deny culpability in wrong doing. It reminds me of “Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live. See Church Lady here… Or, perhaps it’s more like how we say the rudest things about someone but preface it with, “bless their liddul heart”, or, “I don’t mean to gossip, but…”
The claim that our judgement and preaching is “for their own good” is the same rationale as the adults in Waco used to burn themselves and their children to death. Or the same rationale for a Kool Aid additive suggested by Jim Jones. “It’s for their own good!”
This isn’t to suggest you can’ have healthy discussions on the topic as a christian. And it’s not to condemn every person who ministers to this community. In fact I’m not addressing any one particular person nor a specific group. But the over all public view of the Church’s fruits, and behavior are the basis for my descriptions. And as a member of that Church, if you aren’t condemning the behavior and trying to adjust it, you are, in fact, allowing it and are thus culpable.
This fruit of the Church is akin to it’s behavior during Emancipation, or women’s right to vote, or when some good ole conservative christians grew the KKK into what it is today. The same fight is being fought today on Gay marriage as you saw with interracial marriages years ago. While I wasn’t there, I’m old enough to remember the generation just after that time period and how they discussed the topic. And I’ve read some, as well as spoken with people of both races and interracial couples from the period. The church spoke out against it, with the same vigor and vile as they do today about homosexual marriages. I suspect future generations will look back at this time frame and use the phrase, “not true christians” about this period to justify this bit of history same as many will do today at those moments in history.
According to Paul dissensions and factions or not fruit of the Spirit, but are benefits of the flesh. There are little actions in this discussion on homosexual marriage that can build any unity. And judging by the fruit of what we see happening today, and how it’s roots are based on Biblical arguments, I chose to challenge what I was taught (I grew up SBC) against what they Bible actually says.
According to Jesus, He prayed for the Unity in the Church (John 17) that is lacking today. And Paul claims that through works, we grow in knowledge and unity, and by default doing the wrong works teaches us the wrong things and the subsequent fruits of that life direction would be dissension and factions.
So, to test what I was taught, in scripture I had to strive to separate my presuppositions from my vision of the words in print. Judging the Church by it’s apparent fruits, I went at it with the assumption something was wrong, rather than to justify my beliefs. I understand why I believed what I did going into this study. I needed to see if there was any arguments that held up to Biblical scrutiny that I hadn’t considered before.
And I’ll share what I discovered in Romans 1. A view that doesn’t break any rules of study, but is NOT what I was raised to believe. Please understand, if you are against challenging your faith, this isn’t for you. And fifteen years of debating this and other topics in person and on the internet, I’ve learned one thing that is a rule before all others. Few in the faith, have enough faith, to challenge their faith.
First some background…
The commandment: NET with notes.
The rules for Israel: NET with Notes.
Why Sodom and Gomorrah were laid waste: From Ezekiel, NASB
Romans 1 is often used to condemn Homosexuals. Which is necessary to justify many of the Church’s positions GLBT issues. The verses are accepted with little fanfare as a condemnation. And, to be honest, the surface seems to be just that. However, my goal here is to consider this most obvious glance could be wrong, and test my beliefs. So could it mean other than what my presuppositions lead me to see? Are we honest enough to face that?
However, if we dig into it and explore possible interpretations, without getting real creative we have some options that I think are not explored and by some of the much more learned scholars out there, perhaps flat out ignored and not taught.
I am going to concede the easiest conclusion would be just what is taught. But I’m going to suggest the most obvious isn’t always the message and in fact is often affected by our presuppositions. While I tend to take scripture literal unless I can’t corroborate it, I think there is a more obvious than the affected obvious our presuppositions present. Another observation, the people who read Romans 1 as a straight up condemnation of GLBT lifestyles, will take other verses and dance through hoops to avoid the obvious. 1 John 3:9, 3:6, 5:18, 1:3-7, Gal 5:16, Romans 8:9A.
3:9 If you are born of God you won’t continue a sin lifestyle, and you can not sin because his seed is in you.
5:18 is mostly the same.
3:6 if you still sin you don’t know Him and haven’t met Him.
That’s what they say, but we can’t take them serious because the conclusions are not what we expect.
So, in the hope of more honest study, I contend if it’s justifiable to deny the obvious because it doesn’t make sense to us, then it should make sense to consider what makes sense to us, isn’t the obvious. What I propose, is to take the scripture, and outline the section on the topic and see what is the most obvious from the text, which has no presuppositions.
Romans 1:18 For the [[ I. ]] wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because [[A.1.a.] that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature,[A.1.b] have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though [A.2.]they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 [[ B. ]]Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in edge God any longer,[[ C. ]] God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. NASB
I. The subject of the discussion is [ wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,]. It’s important to not drop into the middle of the conversation to the homosexual parts and try to force them as the subject. What Paul discusses are people who God has acted upon for their ungodliness and unrighteousness.
A. The people who suppress the truth are also people who…..
..1. .God had revealed himself to and made himself evident, or proven himself too AND they understood what was evident.
…2. They no longer paid Obeissance to God. Or, they had stopped following Him.
…3. They then speculated on substitutes for God.
…4. Their heart was darkened, the light no longer present. Their lifestyle changed is the image this phrase casts. Like a person moving from Capitalist to Communist.
…5. They became fools, or they lost their way.
…6. They then worshiped Idols.
So, this subject is a group of people who had known God, and turned their backs on worshiping Him, and created their own Gods; devoting their lives to the idols they created. Within that group we see two types of people.
One is the group that have impure hearts, [Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity].
The second are those who have depraved minds, [ God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,]
……..The ones with impure are exemplified by:
………….God hardened their hearts so that their bodies would be dishonored. This was done, BECAUSE they worshiped the idols they created. (vs24-5)
…………Their hearts, their desires, changed to the unnatural. Homosexual sex is the example. However, like Ezekiel showed regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s only a result of the ill heart.
…….The ones with the depraved minds are described as:
………….to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
………….as well as encouraging others to follow along.
If we wish to isolate the homosexuals out in this passage and disregard the rest, we miss on a few key points. First that slanderers and gossipers are as bad off as the homosexuals are. And those that encourage such behavior are worthy of death. The same condemnation people like to quote to the homosexual community. We also ignore that God turned their heart loose, SO THAT they would become the homosexuals in these examples. I would contend, there are plenty of homosexuals who have not worshiped Idols, or even idolized things over God, but are still completely and solely attracted to the same sex IF they have a romantic interest. I can’t see this “type” of homosexual as falling under the descriptions above.
The people we discuss here are foremost people who have abandoned God under idolatrous circumstances and have encouraged others to do the same and join in their misbehavior. This is a way more limited description than to use it as a blanket condemnation for all of the GLBT community.
God let them go to follow their idols and the celebrations they had for their idols.
That was done SO THEIR BODIES would be dishonored. (God dishonored them. When he turned His back he caused the following. That’s how it reads.)
What if you had a homosexual who wasn’t suppressing the truth of the ONE GOD, and denying it for idol worships… That person isn’t even addressed in this passage. A homosexual who wasn’t leading people to debauchery, and slander, and gossip, and encouraging them to ignore God. How would Romans 1 apply to them?
The bottom line is simple. The Romans 1 doesn’t apply to the GLBT community at large, but to a particular group of homosexuals Paul was referencing.
These observations are not made to justify, defend, discredit the sins of homosexuals. In fact it doesn’t address the sins of homosexuals at all. In my view those sins are between them and God. This paper is SIMPLY to discern the focus of Romans 1. And to disavow that the passages are applied to a whole group of population present today, that, in fact, they do not apply to.