HOMOSEXUAL HERMENEUTICS AND ITS DEADLY IMPLICATIONS: A PASTORAL REFLECTION

HOMOSEXUAL HERMENEUTICS AND ITS DEADLY IMPLICATIONS: A PASTORAL REFLECTION

Shin, Samuel S

I. INTRODUCTION

Few who reside in the San Francisco Bay Area would describe homosexuality as a sin. Since the area represents one of the largest contingents of the gay population in North America, very few would question the legitimacy of homosexuality as an “alternative lifestyle.” In fact, homosexuals now claim legitimacy based on the equal rights that are afforded to people of different color or gender. They see no difference between the racial distinctions of African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, etc., and sexual orientation since they contend that both the ethnic distinction and the sexual orientation distinction is an inherent trait. Thus, to the homosexual, being gay or lesbian is no more out of place than being a woman or being black.

How is the church to respond? Recently, major denominations like the Episcopalian Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Methodist Church have battled within their particular denominations a rising tide of homosexual influence and power.1 CNN.com reported the acceptance of the first gay bishop in the Episcopalian Church.2 Christianity Today discussed the increasing schism within the Presbyterian Church USA due to the homosexuality issue.3 Leading Christian journals and magazines have wrestled with the issue.4

The controversy has affected government as well. Former President Clinton implemented his now infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, a compromise in accepting homosexuals in the military so long as those who choose the gay lifestyle do not reveal their sexual orientation. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage, leading to a constitutional challenge in the Massachusetts state legislature. And not to be outdone by Massachusetts, San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsome, has unilaterally proclaimed the legitimacy of gay marriage and the local government’s responsibility to officiate such unions. This of course has led to President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment declaring marriage solely between a man and a woman. There is no area in American culture, society, and life that will be left untouched by this matter.

Homosexuality, its acceptance or rejection, is deeply personal because so many Americans find the issue to be the core of what they believe to be most sacred, the family. Even bastions of conservatism, like the Southern Baptist Convention, have dealt with this issue on the convention floor, with the expulsion of a few churches known to accept gay clergy. What was known in the past as both taboo and hideous, a mental disorder, has now been accepted as reasonable and respectable.

Is this an issue of human rights? If so, what impact does this have on the evangelical world? Are gay rights movements of the 1990s and 200Os the equivalent of women’s rights movements of the 1920s and 1930s? Do they have the same philosophical power of the 1960s civil rights’ movements on racial equality? How should the church respond to the growing tsunami of homosexual ideals and values, which will not so easily disappear? Should it embrace the movement? Should it vilify it? Should it promote change and healing?

There is now no denying that Christians have been forced to take a deep look at this critical issue. In the past homosexuality has been regarded as a sin and a moral evil. It has been held in disgust, and any homosexual or even homosexual tendency was driven from the church. But whether the church is ready to confront homosexuality or not, homosexual issues are already impacting the church in ways it cannot deny. Can Christians then continue to ignore homosexuality in and outside of the church, simply because they find it distasteful? Jesus’ exhortation to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” would seem to rebuke such a stance. Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and it would be right to assume that Jesus’ ministry today reaches into the AIDS hospices and the gay bars. Jesus broke all cultural norms by eating with “sinners” like tax-collectors and prostitutes. Whether or not one holds the position that homosexuality is a sin against the Lord, the cry for ministry and gospel preaching to this group of people is still relevant and necessary.

John Cardinal O’Connor, whom many considered to be the “Pope of New York City,” was vehemently opposed to the homosexual lifestyle. He preached against homosexuality as that which went against the standards of God. Yet, he volunteered in hospitals caring for those dying of AIDS. His service was often unheralded as even his patients did not recognize who he was. The secular press lambasted him as a man of contradiction. But for Cardinal O’Connor it was far from being a contradiction. Sin is based on the standard of Scripture. This does not remove, however, the compassion and love that is required of all Christians to care for a lost world.

Jesus set an example for us when he said, “Love your enemies,” and then forgave his executors as he died on the cross. As a fallen people, sinners should show mercy to sinners. Henry Fairlie correctly states that “sin is the wreckage of the love of which we are capable. To acknowledge it in ourselves is to recognize what loving creatures we might have been, to realize how pitifully we diminish our capacity to love.”5 Today’s Christian, particularly the conservative evangelical, has been quick to condemn, yet slow to embrace. As a result, the gay community and the evangelical church have become so polarized that gays and lesbians consider the presentation of the good news of Christ as nothing more than mere politically conservative rhetoric.

The question whether homosexuality is a sin is a legitimate one. In fact it is one that must be weighed heavily if there is to be honest dialogue between both sides. Henry Fairlie points out that a lack of love has been the ultimate cause of our sin. For the church to disengage the gay community and condemn homosexuals as “sinners” without love or a desire to see genuine restoration is to be blinded by the speck that Jesus defines as hypocrisy (Matt 7:3-4). Homosexuality must not be viewed through human lenses, but through God’s lenses. If it is a sin, then God will deal with this sin as he does with all sin, with the utmost severity. But like all sin, in light of the cross, where sin abounds, grace abounds more. This does not, however, give Christians license to sin wantonly so as to abuse the grace provided through the means of the cross. Sin must be confessed as sin, placed at the cross, or the sinner will face the just retribution of God’s wrath. Thus, if homosexuality is not a sin before God, then obviously God will not punish the believer for a homosexual lifestyle. However, if homosexuality is a sin before God, and a certain contingent within the church denies homosexuality as sin, then it will be judged as unconfessed sin, a sin where there will be no mercy remaining.

Much is at stake then in defining homosexuality in the context of sin. For the Christian, the word of God is the absolute standard, and without it, all things become relative to humanity’s fallen standards. Thus, biblical theology becomes the key to unlocking the future of the gay movement in the church, whether it must be embraced or rejected. If homosexuality is a sin, then it is to be condemned as such. But like all sins, through God’s mercy and grace, there is forgiveness and healing available to those who genuinely repent. So the fundamental issue of homosexuality’s sinfulness, a position that supporters of homosexuality in the church vehemently disagree with, is a crucial one. If it is proven that homosexuality is a sin, then it will determine not just the biblical and theological ramifications of the ethics of homosexuality, but it will also set the tone of ministry to a group of people who might possibly need to hear the gospel.

II. WHAT IS SIN?

Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary defines sin this way:

“Sin” as a characteristic of human beings is manifested in the committing of “sins,” individual acts of rebellion against God and against expressions of his intentions for humanity. . . . Sin is not to be identified simply with violation of the moral standards of society, though individual sins as violations of the divine intention for human interactions, are violations of human moral standards as well. Rather, sin in its basic sense is always ultimately against God Himself rather than against mankind or any human person.6 [italics mine]

This is exactly right. Sin, when viewed on the horizontal plane, gives an incomplete picture of its effect. Sin must be viewed in light of God, and this comes from a vertical perspective (God to humanity). David Wells defines sin as “an attitude toward God which is characterized by disobedience and defiance and indifference which expresses itself in thought, word, and deed and produces patterns of settled disposition and contact.”7 Sin is outward aggression against God, rebellion against the Creator. It is the creature’s attempt to displace the Creator. It is the refusal to allow God to rightfully be God. Many refuse to use the word “sin” as a term to describe the base nature of humanity. Instead, words and phrases such as “mistake” or “mental lapse” have come to the forefront. Today, psychology defines sin. Responsibility is an archaic word. No one is willing to admit fault. Henry Fairlie, in his treatise on sin, writes:

There is in these essays an implicit-at times, an explicit-criticism of psychiatry, of the excuses that it finds for us, and of the shallowness of the adjustments and accommodations that it invites us to make. Its explanations are our substitutes for the idea of sin, and in nothing is this more obvious than in the mirthlessness with which it encourages us to be interested on our lesser disorders, while it frees us from the dark night of the soul in which we must wrestle with our evil.8

Every person needs to come to know their own dark night of the soul. But today’s blame-shifting culture has taken the grotesque face of sin and shaped it into one that might not necessarily be attractive, but at least bearable. There are now excuses for that dark night, and God has been psychologized out of the picture. God, the ultimate standard for morality, has been replaced and now the new point of reference is “me.” Millard Erickson sees sin as

placing something else, anything else, in the supreme place which is his. Thus choosing oneself rather than God is not wrong because it is the self that is chosen, but because something other than God is chosen.9

Sin is not in relation to how we deal with others, but how we approach God. We as sinners are marked by the terror of sin and the depravity of humanity that has resulted. John Calvin comments on the apostle Paul’s view of sin: “Paul removes all doubt when he teaches that corruption subsists not in one part only, but that none of the soul remains pure or untouched by that moral disease.”10 Charles Hodge adds:

Every man in virtue of his being a moral creature and a sinner has in his own consciousness the knowledge of sin. He knows that when he is not what he ought to be, when he does what he ought not to do, or omits what he ought to do, he is chargeable with sin. He knows that sin is not simply limitation of his nature, nor merely a subjective state of his own mind, having no character in the sight of God.11

Sin is not relative to societal changes. The very “consciousness” of the sinner holds him or her culpable. No person can remain absolutely neutral in regard to sin. Being moral creatures compels us to feel the eternal effect of sin, regardless of society’s current laws, values, or mores. Sin’s fabric is woven throughout human existence. Denying human culpability of sin is denying the nature of sin itself, Such denial then comes to a head against the very nature of God’s justice.

III. THE IMAGO DEI (THE IMAGE OF GOD)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 NASB)

To understand sin then, one must refer back to the time of Adam and Eve, a time when sin first entered the world. The image of God and its shattered visage in humanity is an important link in the identification of the sin of homosexuality. This image is what truly separates mankind from the animal kingdom. Externally, our bodies can closely resemble certain animals. Whether it is the ability to communicate, or the containing of similar generic code, it can be noted that the human body is similar to other animals, like many primate species. But there is something that does separate humanity from other animals, including primates, and it is the uniqueness of being image-bearers of God himself. Charles Hodge comments:

In making man after His own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to His own nature as a Spirit. Man [is] thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world and raised immeasurably above them. He belongs to the same order of being as God Himself.12

God has granted human beings a special place, and any attempt to undermine this truth undermines God himself, who is the giver of such truth.

John Calvin adds:

While it would be of little benefit to understand our creation unless we recognized in this sad ruin what our nature in its corruption and deformity is like, we shall nevertheless be content for the moment with the description of our originally upright nature. And to be sure, before we come to the miserable condition of man to which he is now subjected, it is worthwhile to know what he was like when he was created.13

Following sin, the image of God had gone through a devastating disfigurement. Before the fall, humanity was encased with the sheer image and likeness of God.14 But sin has invaded all of humanity, and the net result has been the perversion of the once glorious image of God. John Calvin depicted the imago dei as one that was twisted and barely recognizable, though not lost completely.15

This insight, particularly in light of Karl Earth’s interpretation of the imago dei, is critical to the theological relationship between the imago dei and human value. Though both see the imago dei ominously in light of the seriousness of sin, Barth argues that the image was completely lost at the fall, while Calvin believed it to be frightfully deformed, but not completely lost.

In Earth’s rendering of the imago dei, he finds that the male/female language of Gen 1:27 can only refer to that relationship. That is, the male/female aspect of the imago dei is crucial to the interpretation of the text. He writes:

In Genesis 1 we were told that God created man in His image, i.e., as man and woman. In Genesis 2 we were told how He fashioned this image. And now in the final statement we are told that it was without blemish, that, as male and female he was right in the sight of God and therefore in his own sight, because it was God’s will that he should not be alone, because in the woman God had created and brought him helpmeet.

But what have we been actually told? . . . [W]e can only conclude that what we are offered is an account of the divine basis of love and marriage as the fulfillment of the relationship between man and wife.16

The image of God, according to Earth, is rooted in the sexuality of the man and woman. The image of God is not a part of the human sexual process; rather, the nature of humanity is in conjunction with the relationship between men and women. Barth adds:

Man can and will always be man before God and among his fellows only as he is man in relationship to woman and woman in relationship to man. . . . The fact that he was created man and woman will be the great paradigm of everything that is to take place between him and his fellows. The fact that he was created and exists as male and female will also prove to be not only a copy and imitation of his Creator as such, but at the same time a type of history of the covenant and salvation which will take place between him and his Creator. In all His future utterances and action God will acknowledge that He has created man male and female, and in this way in His own image and likeness.17 [italics mine]

He has created man and woman to represent the image of God. Thus, same-sex sexual relationships do not reflect the image of God that God had always intended in male-female relationships. When Adam and Eve first sinned before God, there would be an eternal effect upon the imago dei. Calvin’s representation of a perverted image, rather than one completely destroyed, appears to be the accurate interpretation. Anthony Hoekema argues against Earth’s total loss of the imago dei, saying:

We must, however, criticize Earth’s view of the image as being an inadequate reproduction of the biblical data. In Earth’s view the image is purely relational, and therefore purely formal: the capacity for confrontation and encounter. But the image of God is surely more than mere capacity.18

Indeed, Barth has limited the power of the image of God and forgets to emphasize Christ’s redemptive work on the cross as that which renews the image of God in the process of sanctification.

But what Karl Barth does add is quite valuable to the discussion on this subject. There is an important aspect of the image of God that defines the smfulness of homosexuality. The lost image is buttressed by a sinful and depraved heart that does nothing to repair the image of God. Instead, it continues to pervert that image and widen the gap between God and humankind. If Karl Earth’s epistemological basis of the image of God is coordinated to the relationship of man and woman, then the ramifications of a same-gender sexual relationship would not only impede the image of God but continue to disfigure that image ad infinitum. Genesis 1:26-28 confirms for the reader that the male-female relationship is embedded in the image of God. Earth’s error, however, seems to be an overemphasis on one aspect of the image of God, albeit an important one. A good interpretation of the image would be an integration of Calvin’s and Barth’s perspective. Hoekema agrees with Barth, commenting:

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'” (v. 18). The Hebrew expression rendered a “Helper suitable for him” is ‘ezer k(e)negdo. Neged (the word translated as “suitable”) means “corresponding to” or “answering to.” Literally, therefore, the expression means “a help answering to him.” The words imply that woman complements man, supplements him, completes him, is strong where he may be weak, supplies his deficiencies and fills his needs. Man is therefore incomplete without woman. This holds for the woman as well as for the man. Woman, too, is incomplete without the man; man supplements woman, complements her, fills her needs, is strong where she is weak.19

For Hoekema, Barth’s appraisal of the ontological state of the imago dei is correct, but as stated earlier, Barth’s view would seem to sell short the redemptive, atoning work of Christ. Hoekema finally summarizes his view of Barth’s imago dei:

Man and woman together as the image of God. . . . Man’s existence as male and female means that man as a masculine being has been created for partnership with another being who is essentially like him but yet mysteriously unlike him. It means that woman is the completion of man’s own humanity, and that man is wholly himself only in his relationship with woman.20

To these theologians there is no denying the duality of God’s image. When God first created “man,” he created them, man and woman alike (Gen 1:27). Homosexuality contradicts the essence of the text. It shatters the intention of God’s divine image in humanity to reflect his glory in the God-ordained relationship between man and woman. Man and woman are to complement one another, to be his image together.

Henri Blocher criticizes homosexuality along the same lines. He also finds that homosexuality is sinful because it detracts from the God-given sanction for a man and a woman to represent the image of God together. The “being-with” as he points out, is an integral part of that relationship between man and God. He writes:

We have seen that the being-with of the man and his neighbor reflects (and should serve) the being-with of man and God. If the fundamental being-with is face-to-face partnership with the other sex in diversity, then our proposition is confirmed and sharpened. The face-to-face relationship with the Lord signifies for mankind respect for otherness in supreme and transcendent form and for the primary distinction – that between Creator and creature. Immediately we can understand why the apostle Paul makes a close association between idolatry and homosexuality (Rom. 1:2227). This sexual perversion as a rejection of the other corresponds to idolatry in its relationship to God, the rejection of the Other; it is the divinization of the same, the creature.21

There is enough biblical warrant against homosexuality that we could stop here. The gay and lesbian relationship is one that continues in sin, repeatedly rejecting and distorting the image of God, without any pursuit for repentance and forgiveness. It goes against the standards of ethics and morality set in the word of God. It undermines the very ontological and functional being of God. God is a God of three persons. The Trinity is the perfect relationship, and when God made man in his own image, he created the interconnectedness that would reflect the image of the communion of the Trinity. To break that connection is to shatter that visage, and that is what sin is, the active aggression and opposition to the will of God. However, current homosexual theologians who advocate homosexuality are dependent on arguments against certain biblical passages that seem to clearly condemn homosexuality.

IV. OTHER BIBLICAL WITNESS

Ultimately for the Christian, Scripture is the final arbiter on the issue of homosexuality and sin. The homosexual agenda has recently caused theological maelstroms that have affected virtually every mainline denomination.22

The question then becomes whether homosexual-advocated interpretations of Scripture are within the bounds of scriptural truth, or whether they stretch the truth to dangerous tensions. The following are the major texts in Scripture that deal with the homosexuality issue.

A. Gen 12:4-11

Before they lay down, the men of the city…

The dramatic elements surrounding this biblical scene outline some of the key components of the homosexual-biblical debate. The Genesis 19 account of Sodom has been one of the major passages used to denounce homosexuality. Words like “sodomy” and “homophobia” (the fear of homosexuals and homosexuality in general), according to Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, could very well have first been coined by this text.23 One leading homosexual-advocacy scholar, John Boswell, has noted that there were four different inferences that one could make regarding the destruction of Sodom:

(1) The Sodomites were destroyed for the general wickedness which had prompted the Lord to send angels to the city to investigate in the first place; (2) the city was destroyed because the people of Sodom had tried to rape the angels; (3) the city was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to engage in homosexual intercourse with the angels; (4) the city was destroyed for inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord.24

Clearly the position of pro-homosexual interpreters is to steer clear of the apparent sexual ethical theme of Genesis 19 and focus on the laws of hospitality and Lot’s possible breach of such laws.

However, upon further examination of the biblical text of Genesis 19, to assume that hospitality failures were the cause of God’s divine judgment upon the city seems a bit understated. In the midst of the story, there were other sins that Sodom was found guilty of that complemented the accusation of the homosexual sin. Take Jer 23:14, which reads:

But now I see that the prophets of Jerusalem are even worse! They commit adultery, and they love dishonesty. They encourage those who are doing evil instead of turning them away from their sins. These prophets are as wicked as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once were. (NLT)

Or note Ezek 16:49-50: “Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and did loathsome things, so I wiped her out, as you have seen” (NLT). These passages display the distinct conclusion that Sodom was condemned not for a failure of hospitality but for the act of homosexuality itself. There is no doubt that the rest of Scripture views Sodom not as an unwelcoming, unfriendly city, but as a city of wretched sin and in complete disregard of the holiness of God. In fact Jeremiah lists adultery, a sexual sin, as one example of their sin, which casts doubt upon Boswell’s attempt to take sexual wrongdoing out of the city’s list of sins. Some have also argued that since homosexuality is riot mentioned in these texts, it was not considered to be sinful. Yet, omission or silence of a specific sin, in a particular list, does not preclude homosexuality as a sin. It might simply indicate that the biblical writers were emphasizing different perspectives. Paul frequently provided lists of sins, but that hardly meant that these were the only sins that people committed.

Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis, gives a three-point explanation on how this text might be misinterpreted:

(a) Statistics are no substitute for contextual evidence (otherwise the rarer sense of a word would never seem probable), and in both of these passages the demand “to know” the guests is met by an offer in which the same word “know” is used in its sexual sense (Gen. 19:8; Jdg. 19:25). Even apart from this verbal conjunction it would be grotesquely inconsequent that Lot should apply to a demand for credentials by an offer of daughters, (b) Psychology can suggest how “to know” acquired its secondary sense; but in fact the use of the word is completely flexible. No one suggests that in Judges 19:25 the men of Gibeah were gaining “knowledge” of their victim in the sense of personal relationship, yet “know” is the word used of them, (c) Conjecture here has the marks of special pleading, for it substitutes a trivial reason (“commotion . . . inhospitality”) for a serious one, for the angels’ decision. Apart from this, it is silenced by Jude 7, a pronouncement which Dr. Bailey has to discount to a late stage of interpretation.27

To ignore the sexual context of Genesis 19, and all of the turmoil that surrounds it, is to neglect the context and true meaning of the passage. Richard Lovelace writes:

The Hebrew reader would recognize homosexual practice as one aspect of this depravity, one which is highlighted here because the action which Genesis 19 presents as an epitome of the city’s abandonment is a violation of the law of hospitality to strangers.28

While it is true that inhospitality does take place, placing the whole weight of the destruction of the city on this infraction does grave damage to the essence of God’s justice and the author’s intent in the passage. Kidner correctly refers to Jude 7(29) and also 2 Pet 2:6,30 which leave no cover for homosexual advocates who argue that Sodom and Gomorrah were not punished for the sin of homosexuality. The prohomosexual exegetes’ only answer to these two biblical texts has been to question the legitimacy of Jude, arguing that Jude is nothing more than a later interpretation. Thus, it would belong in the same category as the Book of Jubilees and should be classified as an unreliable source. However, Jude is recognized not as extra-biblical, but canonical literature supported by 2 Peter. The attempt to undermine recognized Scripture reveals the disregard for a high view of Scripture. Adds Lovelace:

Even if the author of Jude were suggesting that the Sodomites were so depraved that they sought sexual union with any partners forbidden by the Law of God, the expression of this licentiousness proverbially connected with the Sodomites was their omnivorous sexual lust manifest in the assault on Lot’s companions.31

The sin was real, and it would take exegetical gymnastics and an assault on biblical canonicity to interpret the text in a way that avoids the conspicuous connection between homosexuality, sin, and God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.

B. Lev 18:22; 20:13

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. . . . If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them.

This passage from Leviticus would seem to display an outright prohibition of homosexuality. Those scholars who favor a homosexual reading of these texts refer to these two passages as being part of the “Holiness Code” of Israel. The code consists of a list of untouchables, from meat with blood to certain seeds. In the midst of this code is the warning against homosexuality. Scanzoni notes that these prohibitions were to prevent ethnic pollution, idolatry, and uncleanness.32 She argues that these two texts do not apply to the gay community today because

Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the Israelite Holiness Code is to be invoked against twentieth-century homosexuals, it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, and having marital intercourse during the menstrual period.33

Another theologian, Bruce Williams, also contends that the Leviticus text cannot be used to prohibit homosexuality in the church. He writes:

Pro-gay reinterpreters have sought to refer the Levitical proscription to the Mosaic cultic ordinances superceded by the New Testament, or to the religious belief and practices of Israel’s pagan neighbors, or to the use of homosexual contact as a means of degrading a male adversary (i.e., by treating him as a woman), or to the infertility of homosexual relations in light of Israel’s need to increase its population. It is also claimed that the condemnations assume deliberate perversion by men whose inclinations are ordinarily homosexual.34

Thus many pro-homosexual interpreters believe Leviticus to have no relevance for the church today. They argue that the text was wrapped in the pagan fertility cults of the time and remains an anachronism of Jewish culture, which was often considered taboo. Also, homosexuality was not condemned by Jewish priests because of the nature of homosexuality itself. Rather, its close relationship to pagan idolatry made it objectionable; and it was never rejected, in and of itself. Lastly, as many of the Levitical laws have been “done away with” by the early church, so too have these laws.35

In essence when one examines the cultural and temporal context of these passages, there are too many discrepancies for their argument to be valid. The premise of these arguments lies with one single presupposition: Leviticus does not speak to the church of today. Such a message is a mere circumvention, opposing the stark reality that the book of Leviticus is a part of the canon, and therefore, must not be ignored on the basis of hermeneutical expedience. While it is true that there was a holiness code that was required of the people, it must be remembered that that code was established to protect God’s covenant people from the evil of idolatrous worship. The isolation of homosexuality as simply a part of idol worship without having any implications today is treacherously erroneous. Richard Lovelace asserts:

The practices listed in these chapters include incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, bestiality, spiritism, and cursing one’s parents. One act is mentioned which from our perspective has only a cultic or symbolic significance -intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period -but homosexuality is mentioned in the immediate context of adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice. Unless modern readers are prepared to say that most of the acts on this list are wrong only in the Canaanite and Egyptian context and could be right today, their argument for the exemption for homosexuality is weak.36

Sadly this has actually taken place. An Episcopal biblical scholar named William Countryman has gone to the extreme of following Lovelace’s logic:

In his book Dirt, Greed, and Sex, [he] adopts a biblical theology that allows homosexual practice. Fortunately, he has the courage to admit that his method of interpretation also makes prostitution and sex with animals legitimate options for Christians (as long as such acts are done in love).37

Clearly there is a limitation to what one can say is excluded from church doctrine. The Pentateuch contains many ethical and social laws that are still held valid today. Gordon Wenham agrees:

For most Christians it is self-evident that the moral rules enunciated in this chapter [Leviticus 18] still apply today. The NT writers assume that the laws on incest (w. 6-18; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1ff.), adultery (v. 20, e.g., Rom. 13:9), idolatry (v. 21; cf. 1 Cor. 10:7ff.; Rev. 2:14), and homosexuality (v. 22; Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9) still bind the Christian conscience.38

It is quite clear that the NT prohibits adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual perversion (such as bestiality). The relevance of Leviticus stands on its own accord, and its cogent condemnation of homosexuality is surely binding, not just on the Israelites of the biblical era, but also on Christ’s church today.

C. Rom 1:26-27

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 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 their own persons the due penalty of their error. [NASB]

This oft-quoted text by both sides of the homosexual argument remains at the heart of the debate. Paul’s statements regarding homosexuality have been perceived as a dangerous threat against the Christian pro-homosexual position. So pro-homosexual advocates have attacked this text with much vigor, attempting to undermine the premise of Paul’s argument with exegetical legerdemain. Their position is that Paul is not necessarily concerned with those who are natural homosexuals, that is, homosexuals born with the disposition to be gay. Rather, Paul condemns the fact that natural heterosexuals have been tempted to turn to the homosexual or lesbian relationship. John Boswell writes:

What is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparent heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans 1, in (act, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on.39

One must realize that John Boswell’s study53 on these two words is not bereft of merit. It is obvious from his work that he has gone to great lengths to come to his conclusions. Yet, what Boswell forgets to see is the obvious. Paul condemns homosexuality not because he has an aversion to homosexuals, but because the rest of Scripture has also condemned homosexuality as a sin.

This scriptural study has not been exhaustive. I did not refer to Judges 19 (although it is a reflection on Genesis 19), Deut 22:5, nor the Jonathan and David relationship, along with the Ruth-Naomi relationship. Both of these relationships have been noted by certain exegetes as homosexual and lesbian relationships. But it would seem likely that here pro-homosexual exegetes and theologians have consistently extended the boundaries of basic biblical exegesis and hermeneutics to fit their biases and agendas.

IV. DISMISSING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY AND INERRANCY

In spite of the nature of this debate (based on biblical evidence), homosexual theologians argue that Scripture is not the ultimate criterion in validating homosexuality in the Christian church. Stanton Jones, in arguing against the pro-homosexual use of Scripture, writes, “There are only two ways one can neutralize the biblical witness against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of Scripture.”54 It is my contention that homosexual theologians have succeeded in doing both of these things. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart identify the approach of valid exegesis:

The believing scholar insists that the biblical texts first of all mean what they meant. That is, we believe that God’s Word for us today is first of all precisely what His Word was to them. Thus we have two tasks: First, to find out what the text originally meant; this task is called exegesis. second, we must learn to hear the same meaning in the variety of new or different contexts of our own day; we call this second task hermeneutics.55

As pro-gay exegetes interpreted Scripture, clear biases and a lack of regard for context have often led to faulty exegetical and hermeneutical outcomes and assumptions.

However, one could say that this was due to a very low view of Scripture. Care was not taken because biblical purity was not a concern. There is no denying that many of the scholars began their research with the presupposition that at the very least the Bible is not inerrant. Some have even decided to reject any form of biblical authority regarding homosexuality. Gary Comstock writes,

We have not been sufficiently skeptical of the patriarchal framework within which these passages occur. I would suggest that our approach to the Bible become less apologetic and more critical -that we approach it not as an authority from which we want approval, but as a document whose shortcomings must be cited.56 [italics mine]

He continues to question Scripture’s authority by stating,

Not to recognize, critique, and condemn Paul’s equation of godlessness with homosexuality is dangerous. To remain within our respective Christian traditions and not challenge those passages that degrade and destroy us is to contribute to our own oppression. . . . Those passages will be brought up and used against us again and again until Christians demand their removal from the biblical canon.57 [italics mine]

Maury Johnston picks up where Comstock leaves off by declaring these predictable words,

The Bible is not the Word of God, but the words of men, in which and through which we believe the living, active, constantly contemporary Word of God comes to men. . . . What most fundamentalists fail to take into consideration is that the Christian Church really has no need for an infallible BiWe.58

Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong has made similar comments in regard to the authority of Scripture. He writes,

Other religious leaders at the highest levels in Catholic, evangelical, and even mainline traditions have weighed in with similar statements. They all seem to assume that there is a clear sexual ethic in holy scripture. The debate, however, rages on because, first, the sexual references in holy scripture are not consistent and, second, the authority of those texts which can be quoted literally has been seriously eroded. The Bible has been used in this way before, and it has not prevailed. … So when religious leaders claim support of scriptures for their own homophobia, it becomes quite clear that something besides truth is operating in them. The Bible is an ambiguous document about specific sexual practices. Perhaps this is what those who think of themselves as “Bible believers” have so much difficulty accepting. . . . Even one of the biblical instances that is quoted to demonstrate the Bible’s clear denunciation of the “sin of homosexuality” (Rom. T) confronts us with the strange idea that if we fail to worship God properly, God will punish us with homosexuality!59

Spong’s obvious distaste for biblical inerrancy and his penchant for biblical distortion is fully explained by this statement:

The fact remains that these so-called laws of God, which God was supposed to have written on tablets of stone, or the excessive claims made for Holy Scripture in general, which involve the assertion that the Bible is somehow “the inerrant word of God,” are today indefensible, regardless of who utters those claims or any variation on them. … To build a new basis for ethics, we must learn to look in a different place. We look, I believe, not outside of life for some external and objective authenticating authority, but rather at the very center and core of our humanity.60

Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard College, likens the evangelical condemnation of the sin of homosexuality on the basis of Scripture to the German people’s acceptance of anti-Semitism and the holocaust based on their understanding of Scripture:

Although most contemporary Christians who have moral reservations about homosexuality, and who find affirmation for those reservations in the Bible, do not resort to physical violence and intimidation, they nevertheless contribute to the maintenance of a cultural environment in which less scrupulous opponents of homosexuality are given the sanction of the Bible to feed their prejudice and, in certain cases, cultural “permission” to act with violence upon those prejudices. This is the devastating theme of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s 1996 book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, published to much dismay in Germany. Goldhagen argues that it was the cultural permission of Germany’s Christian anti-Semitism, based of course upon a reading of the Bible, that allowed the nasty work of the Holocaust to be done not only upon military specialists but by people whose attitudes were based upon centuries of Christian teaching. . . . The combination of ignorance and prejudice under the guise of morality makes the religious community, and its abuse of scripture in this regard, itself morally culpable.61

Even though Gomes is not debating biblical inerrancy, his reference to Christian anti-Semitism in the Hitler era “based of course upon a reading of the Bible” and the connection he makes to today’s “moral reservations about homosexuality” being rooted in Scripture, is Gomes’s case for undermining the relevance of the Bible as a absolute moral authority. Thus it is tantamount to an ultimate rejection of the Bible as a valid voice against homosexuality.

Finally, Maury Johnston puts the nail in the coffin of biblical authority:

Literalism is antithetical to the responsible life to which Jesus the Christ called his followers. It is also a denial of the continuing revelation of the Holy Spirit. . . . Those who use certain . . . passages from Paul’s epistles as the proof that God condemns Gay people are selective literalists. Their irresponsible use of Paul’s writings gives evidence to their inability to cope with the reality of Gay love and Gay people and perhaps more often their inability to cope with sexuality and/or their own Gay feelings. Their homophobia, not their faith, is revealed.62

Mainline denominations and many biblical scholars and theologians have tumbled down the slippery slope of biblical errancy faster than anyone could have predicted. Since Scripture is no longer the basis of any moral judgment whatsoever, acceptance of homosexuality is no longer a question of sinfulness, but a question of “social justice.” And this justice is not founded on God’s absolute moral justice, but a justice dependent on the capricious mores of this current world.

Ironically, in spite of their sentiments towards the inspiration of Scripture, these theologians continue to use Scripture to debate evangelical theologians. But the upshot of this debate is the gross misinterpretation of the several passages that condemn homosexuality.

By rejecting the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, these theologians lack the ultimate power and authority that Scripture can bring. Carl Henry says it best when he writes:

Yet it is clear from the history of theology and philosophy that efforts to preserve the reality of the living Creator-Redeemer God apart from the authority of the scriptural word always falter. Even the neo-orthodox theology of “divine encounter,” emphasizing as it did the distinctive impersonal self-revelation of God, soon emptied into existentialist alternatives and finally into death-of-God speculation. The triune God is indeed the “ontological premise” on which the historic Christian faith is founded, but the case for biblical theism seems to require his definitive revelation in the inspired Word of Scripture.63

Scripture is the ultimate standard of reference because God has made it his inspired and inerrant revelation to humanity, as he writes in 2 Tim 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” [NIV]

V. THE MORAL-SOCIAL CONTROVERSIES

Other arguments for gay acceptance came from the Kinsey Study in 1948. Kinsey concluded that at least ten percent of the American population (or approximately twenty-five million people) is gay. If this were true, most homosexuals would argue that something regularly practiced by so many people could not be morally wrong. But the Kinsey report was anything but objective and scientific. Joseph Gudel designates four reasons for the skewed conclusions of the Kinsey report. First, twenty-five percent or fifty-three hundred of his interviewees were prison inmates. Incarcerated individuals would obviously have no access to having heterosexual relationships even if it was that person’s desire to do so. Forty-four percent of these inmates admitted to a homosexual relationship in prison. Second, he used several hundred male prostitutes as part of his sample. Third, his methodology for choosing many of the other interviewees was on a “volunteer basis.” That is to say, most of his volunteers were already practicing homosexuals. Finally, Kinsey did not say that ten percent of the entire U.S. population was homosexual. Rather, he affirmed that ten percent of white American males were “more or less” exclusively homosexual for at least three years of their lives between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five.64

Recent developments in medical research, particularly in the field of genetic studies, have been instrumental in commending homosexual behavior to the world and even to the church. Homosexual advocates in the church now appeal to these new biological and technological breakthroughs as new grounds of acceptance. An article by William A. Henry in Time underscores this finding:

Whatever its ultimate scientific significance, however, the study’s social and political impact is potentially even greater. If homosexuals are deemed to have a foreordained nature, many of the arguments now used to block equal rights would lose force.65

Thus, the logic flows, “if one is born gay, one is not responsible (even if it were wrong) for its effects.” Such thinking stands on flimsy ground because Scripture never links responsibility to genetics. Since both homosexuals and heterosexuals have a predisposition to sin (Rom 3:23), no person is held blameless for sin as a result of one’s sexual orientation. Heterosexual orientation too might also be genetic, especially if one argues that homosexual orientation is genetic, but that does not give one a license for adultery and promiscuity.

In terms of medical research, the premise of the whole argument is misplaced. There has been a shift from the classification of sin, to a justification towards “natural tendencies,” an argument homosexuals used in arguing against Rom 1:26-27. The neglect is in the underestimation of sin. It is a horrific affront to God, one that has labeled all sinners as “God’s enemies” in Rom 5:10. Thus, if one concedes that homosexuality is a sin, then even the findings of medical research are inadequate. The depraved nature of sin goes far beyond medical justification.

A tendency to sin medically does not justify a continued penchant to sin. If one has kleptomania, that does not mean that one can steal freely and not worry about the consequences. If one is mentally insane, then he or she is not free to kill on the grounds of mental insanity. If a heterosexual lusts after someone of the opposite sex, even though on biblical and biological grounds one could argue that this person is acting in accordance with his or her genetic makeup, this does not excuse such a person before God in acting out sexual fantasies. Morally, we are all responsible for a sinful nature. Biblically, we are condemned for the first sin (Romans 5:12-13), but we are also saved by grace despite our sinfulness through the righteousness of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (whether it can be even proved if homosexuality and heterosexuality are genetic traits). We are all hideous before God’s eyes. Yet, forgiveness and redemption come in Christ. Thus, it is Christ, not medical research, that all sinners must turn to in humble repentance and worship.

The Kinsey study speaks for itself. Its flawed results do not leave much room for its legitimate use. Also, recent surveys have concluded that the figure for the number of homosexuals in the United States is approximately from the one/two percent mark, sharply lower than Kinsey’s findings. However, this number will surely grow in the coining years as the media promotes gay acceptance, and as the post-modern culture no longer enforces any moral standards. Homosexuality is no longer an alternative lifestyle, but now it is the admired lifestyle,66 as it penetrates the schools67 and is promulgated to the emerging generation.

Some have argued that homosexuals have not been granted the human rights that they deserve. This might be true, but once again the emphasis has shifted from the responsibility for sin to human rights. Perhaps the church has neglected a critical responsibility to reject hatred and speak out against malicious and deleterious prejudice against the gay community. Yet the homosexual is as much in need of a Savior as the heterosexual who attends an evangelical church faithfully. Jesus did not cringe and cower amongst the worst of sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, beggars. He embraced them (Matt 9:12), but he never, ever embraced and condoned their sins. His loving words to the adulteress on the street was not “I accept you and I love you and your sins,” but “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

VI. IS HOMOSEXUALITY A SIN? A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE, CONCLUSION, AND AN APPROACH

My first ministry was to Amherst and Smith College students in the Pioneer Valley in Amherst, Massachusetts. I suppose that before the time spent in the Pioneer Valley, my exposure to anything gay was limited to nothing more than hearsay and third- and fourthhand myths and legends. I remember walking through the streets of Northampton and witnessing two women engaged in explicit kissing in open view. It was my first up-close encounter with homosexuality, and my shock and bewilderment then led me to believe that I had been sheltered from this unknown world. I slowly discovered that this was true also of mainstream America and evangelicalism.68 In that day, even mainline denominations had not fully embraced the gay lifestyle as they have done within the past few years.

Smith College, an all-women’s college, is a breeding-ground for the lesbian perspective. In fact, Northampton69 was labeled by Newsweek as “Lesbianville, USA.”70 I was well-informed of the indoctrination program that Smith College leads all first-year students through in regard to sexual orientation (my wife and sister-in-law are Smith College graduates). The program was more than just informative. One could say that it was intended to influence a young woman to question her sexual identity, regardless of her exposure to homosexuality. Preaching, ministering, and loving people during this era was a difficult challenge.

My current ministry is situated in the hotbed of homosexuality, the San Francisco Bay Area. It is where homosexual advocacy has its strongest roots, and the evangelical church is relatively silent in the midst of such fierce opposition. The largest and most influential churches politically (like Grace Cathedral) are bastions of the gay lifestyle. But it is not just the city that is now in the control of gay advocacy groups. One by one the surrounding suburbs also are falling to this surging homosexual agenda. Hayward School District is considered to be one of the most pro-gay districts in the area. Gay dances are a regular in the Hayward schools, and gay-biased curriculum is imposed on the students in the schools. Gay activists are on the offensive, and there does not seem to be any abatement of such activism any time soon.

The church has an enormous test ahead. Can it stand firm against the sin of homosexuality (in the devil’s lair, so to speak) and yet be a purveyor of grace and love without compromising the gospel? This question can be the church’s blessing or bane in respect to homosexuality. In this, prayers of faith and mercy are of utmost importance.

The issue of homosexuality has pervaded every sector of life. To cast it aside as unimportant is to reject the call of Christ to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus, it is crucial that we realize the ramifications of homosexuality, both biblically and morally.

I would conclude that homosexuality is a sin for two obvious reasons. First, it continues to damage an already perverted image of God by neglecting the male-female nature of the imago dei. When a man has intercourse with another man, it goes against the very “nature” (cf. Rom 1:26-27) of God’s intended plan. But not only does homosexuality do this on a functional level, it also does this on an ontological level. The makeup of the Trinity is relational, the perfect relationship. When God created man in his image, “He created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). Man and woman together, in their relationship to each other, now reflect the perfect relationship of the Trinity. Thus, when there is an aberration of that relationship, like homosexuality or bestiality, there is no longer a reflection of that perfect relationship.

second, biblical evidence clearly condemns homosexuality. Many scholars have attempted to exegete the passages to favor their position. But the end result is either a misinterpretation of Scripture, or a rejection of Scripture’s infallibility, or both. Circumvention of the passages through personal biases and forced presuppositions allows much room for contextual and exegetical misconstrual. The burden of proof lies heavily with the homosexual advocates, who are left with a Bible that unequivocally condemns homosexuality at all levels. The avenue of denying Scripture’s reliability, inerrancy, and validity would seem to be the only route to follow.

In all of this, we must never forget that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Evangelicals must continually balance the right condemnation that is due the gay lifestyle in light of biblical truth, and yet continue to extend the grace that Christ gives to all sinners so long as there is still time for repentance. Surely, fundamentalist Christians wearing, “God hates fags” T-shirts at rallies undermines not just the moral standing Christians can take on the issue but also the gospel mandate to save such sinners as both homosexuals and immoral heterosexuals. While the church has been slow in reaching this large and growing segment of the population, by God’s grace that there are ministries that are doing much to stem the tide of the pro-homosexual agenda without undercutting the gospel of grace.71

Stanton Jones has this important insight, exhorting the church to condemn sin and yet to love as Christ loved:

Persons of homosexual inclination are under the same moral call as we all are-to respond to the offer of divine mercy and forgiveness through the gift of Jesus Christ, to offer our lives as the only gift we can give in return. If we love him, we will obey his commands. And his will with regard to our sexuality is either that we live chaste lives of dependence upon him, or that we strive to build a marriage that models Christ’s love for the church before the watching world, aided by the uniting gift of sexual intercourse. All of us should strive anew to live by this holy standard.72

The answer for Christians who long to live the life our Lord calls us to live begins and ends at the cross. As sinners saved by grace alone, we have no other right response than to continue to share this good news with the lost, which of course includes homosexuals. This is not a concession to homosexual advocates in the church, who are attempting to undermine the church founded on biblical principles of God’s hatred of sin and God’s bountiful mercy to humbled sinners. God will judge sinners. Christians are responsible to show mercy to sinners as sinners saved by that very mercy. Thus, our actions, our thoughts, and our compassion will be the vehicle God will use to bring homosexual sinners, like all the rest of us, to a place of saving grace. After all, it is the work of God’s kindness to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4).

1 Other major mainline denominations have accepted gay clergy, such as the United Church of Christ and the Episcopalian Church.

2 CNN, “Episcopalians Approve Gay Bishop,” 2003. (6 August 2003).

3 LaTonya Taylor, “Talk of Presbyterian Split Grows” Christianity Today. (21 November 2001).

4 See Christianity Today (July 19, 1993), and Christian Research Journal (Summer 1992 and Winter 1993).

5 Henry Fairlie, Tlie Seven Deadly Sins Today (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), 193.

6 Allen C. Myers, ed., Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 951.

7 David Wells, Gordon-ConweU Lectures, Lesson 12 (July 12, 1993).

8 Fairlie, Seven Deadly Sins, 29.

9 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 58.

10 John Calvin, Institutes of tlie Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 2.1.9.

11 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Abridged (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 284.

12 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 262.

13 Institutes, 1.15.1.

14 The two terms, “likeness” and “image” are synonymous and not two separate entities. See Anthony Hoekema, Created in Cod’s linage, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 13 f.

15 Institutes, 1.15.4.

16 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1960), 311.

17 Ibid., 186-87.

18 Hoekema, Created in God’s Image, 52.

19 Ibid., 77.

20 Ibid., 97.

21 Henri Blocher, in the Beginning (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1984), 102-3.

22 At this writing, the Episcopalian Church USA has accepted gay marriage and ordination. The United Methodist Church and die Presbyterian Church (USA) reject both gay ordination and marriage. However, the vote to institute such changes in the denominations’ standards is continually closing, and it might only be a matter of time before these two denominations accept homosexual theology and practice in the church.

23 Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978), 55.

24 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 93.

25 Ibid., 94.

26 H. Kimball Jones, Toward a Christian Understanding of the Homosexual (New York: Association Press, 1966), 67.

27 Derek Kidner, Genesis (TOTC; InterVarsity, 1967), 136-37.

28 Richard Lovelace, Homosexuality: Wliat Should Christians Do About It? (Old Tappan: Revell, 1978), 101.

29 “And don’t forget the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with sexual immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and are a warning of the eternal fire that will punish all who are evil” [NLT].

30 “Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and swept them off the face of the earth. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people” [NLT].

31 Ibid., 102.

32 Scanzoni, Is the Homosemal My Neighbor? 60.

33 Ibid., 60-61.

34 Bruce A. Williams, American Protestantism and Homosexuality: Recent Neo-Traditional Approaches (New York: Brace Williams, 1981), 67.

35 Lovelace, Homosexuality, 88.

36 Ibid., 89.

37 Stanton L. Jones, “The Loving Opposition: Speaking the Truth in a Climate of Hate,” Christianity Today (July 19, 1993): 24.

38 Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 260.

39 Boswell, Christianity, 109.

40 NASB, NRSV, NIV renders this phrase as “against nature” or “exchanging natural for unnatural.”

41 Boswell, Christianity, 111.

42 Ibid., 114.

43 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 92-93.

44 James Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1988), 64.

45 Ibid., 64.

46 H. Koester, “φυsgr;ις,” TDNT 9:262-63.

47 Don Williams, The Bond That Breaks: Will Homosexuality Split the Church? (Los Angeles: BIM, 1978), 80.

48 Boswell, Christianity, 106-7.

49 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 243.

50 Boswell, Christianity, 107.

51 Fee, First Epistle, 244.

52 Ibid., 244.

53 Richard Hays has written an article refuting John Boswell’s exegetical work of Romans 1, among other passages. Richard Hays, “A Response to John Boswell’s Exegesis of Romans 1,” JRE 14/1 (1986): 184-215.

54 Jones, “Loving Opposition,” 20.

55 Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 13.

56 Gary David Comstock, Cay Theology Without Apology (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 1993), 39.

57 Ibid., 43.

58 Maury Johnston, Gays Under Grace: A Gay Christian’s Response to the Moral Majority (Nashville: Winston-Derek, 1983), 40-48.

59 John Shelby Spong, Wliy Christianity Must Cliange or Die (San Francisco: Harper, 1998), 156-58.

60 Ibid., 158-60.

61 Peter J. Gomes, The Good Book (New York: Avon, 1996), 146-47.

62 Johnston, Cays Under Grace: A Gay Christian’s Response to the Moral Majority, 52.

63 Carl F. H. Henry, “The Authority of the Bible,” in The Origin of the Bible (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992), 25-26.

64 Joseph P. Gudel, “Ethical Apologetics,” Christian Research Journal (Summer 1992): 22.

65 William A. Henry III, “Born Gay?” Time (July 26, 1993): 37-38.

66 Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” is the preeminent example of the admired gay lifestyle. While some homosexuals frown on the television show as a proliferation of a stereotype, most homosexuals, and heterosexuals for that matter, see the show as praise for the gay community. “Queer Eye” projects gay men as being hip, cool, stylish, and in. The show has even been able to take what used to be a derogatory word, “queer,” and turn it into a word of approbation. CNN reported, “Now ‘queer’ is sneaking into the mainstream-and taking on a hipster edge as a way to describe any sexual orientation beyond straight. Jay Edwards, a 28-year-old gay man from Houston, has noticed it. ‘Hey Jay,’ a straight co-worker recently said. ‘Have you met the new guy? He’s really cute and queer, too. Just your type!'” (http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/11/05/offbeat.queer.evolution.ap/).

67 Elizabeth Schainbaum of The Daily Review reported that in April “the school board passed a resolution supporting gay sensitivity training, classroom discussion of gay families and homophobia, openly gay staff and a safe environment for gay teachers and students” (http://www.dailyreviewonline.com/Stories/0,1413,88%257 E10973%257E675933,OO.html). She adds, “California laws protect gay staff and students from harassment and discrimination, and they support discussing homosexuals in a historical context or in terms of their being a minority group.” The irony is that schools are duty bound to promote homosexual agendas as a support system for homosexuals. This, however, fails to recognize that those parents who do not wish such pro-homosexual bias on their children have no choice. This has been a longstanding critique of Christian ideals being introduced in schools. Today’s Christians face many points of harassment and discrimination. And yet, schools continually deem Christians a viable target. The double standards held to by those who espouse such views are quite blatant.

68 It wasn’t too long ago that many evangelicals believed homosexuality was a non-issue amongst evangelical Christianity. In a paper I wrote on the subject for a seminary class, David Wells wrote (this was in 1993), “The Protestant world more generally [has been affected by the homosexual debate], but I am not aware of too much within Evangelicalism.” At that stage, perhaps the issue did not breach the safety net of the evangelical world. But that net has surely been stretched and I believe it is closer to snapping than ever before. The distinguished preacher of Eden Chapel in Cambridge, England, Roy Clements’s (who has also spoken at many evangelical seminaries, including my own Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) “coming out of the closet” (see Roy Clements’s website for his current positions on his faith and his actions, http://www.royclements.co.uk/) was a shocker to all of evangelicalism. This event could possibly be a defining moment for evangelicalism. Clements had been a standard bearer for evangelical orthodoxy, and to have someone of his stature revert to the gay lifestyle further emphasizes evangelicalism’s blindness to homosexuality within its own camp. Truly, Clements’s action has been a clarion call to evangelicals, waking them up to the rising tide of homosexual influence and growing power. Since then, evangelical denominations (cf. the National Association of Evangelicals, www.nae.net) have taken the offensive in answering the homosexual agenda.

69 Northampton was once Jonathan Edwards’s home town. I would imagine his heart would break at seeing what Northampton is like in its current condition.

70 Barbara Kantrowitz and Danzy Senna, “A Town Like No Other,” Newsweek (June 21,1993): 40.

71 Ministries like Exodus International (http://www.exodus-international.org/), Where Grace Abounds (http://www.wheregrace abounds.org/), National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (http://www.narth.com/), and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX, see www.family.org) are organizations that are impacting the homosexual community with an alternative to the gay lifestyle. However, the church itself has not made ministry to the gay community, or even awareness of such a ministry need, a real priority.

72 Jones, “Loving Opposition,” 23.

SAMUEL S. SHIN*

* Samuel Shin is pastor of Wellspring Covenant Community Church in San Leandro, California. He has a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His email address is samshin@wccc.net.

Copyright Trinity International University Spring 2005

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