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Changing the Theology of Sin


Does the Bible regard same-sex intercourse as intrinsically sinful?

This is a very important question to answer.  If the Bible, and therefore God, regards homosex as sin, then that settles the case.  If not, there are a myriad of possibilities waiting to be revealed to a waiting world who endorses anything and everything.  To the church however, the Bible as the revealed Word of God and not the world decides on what is sin.  The true church can never, not take a stand against sin and evil.  The church has to exhibit its own salvation to the world and has to call the world to responsible and accountable conduct.

Issues reflecting on homosexuality are pervasively and hotly debated in the political, religious and academic spheres in South Africa.  Even more so since the Constitutional Court gave the government until first December 2006 to amend legislation to make provision for same-sex marriages.  The order by the court points to genetic causation, the rightness of caring homosexual relationships, the antiquated life view and obsolescence of the Christian Holy Book and the fact that tolerance should supersede the absolutes of religion.  The church on the other hand no longer with an unanimous voice appeals to the explicit negative statements regarding same-sex relationships, principles of sexual holiness, the long tradition of rejection of homosexual relations in church history and the unnaturalness of homosexual marriage.

Biblical scholars no longer take for granted that homosexual conduct is sin.  Such acceptance of the Bible is regarded as uncritical reading of an ancient text.  There is today a call for the critical reading of the Bible, meaning that the Bible must be freed from the assumed outmoded moral standards, as well as the cultural and personal biases of the authors before the interpreted message could be applied to contemporary contexts.

Nowhere is this overthrow of the old reading of the biblical text, the old moral order more evident than in how homosexuality is seen today.  The popular culture today, in its hierarchy of values, put the joys of sex far above the obedience of Scripture.  It is a new faith, a new religion with its own set of presuppositions and hermeneutical lenses through which the Bible is read.  It is a religion for this world, here and now, refusing to recognize any higher moral order or moral authority;  there are no absolutes in the universe.

Thus it is now believed and taught outside and inside the church that the old Christian moral code that condemned sex outside of marriage and held homosex to be vile, immoral and unnatural was rooted in prejudice, biblical bigotry, religious dogma and the wilful wrong interpretation of Scripture64.  Today it is understood by homosexual apologists that the Christian moral code which for two millennia rejected the legitimacy of homosexual conduct, was repressive to a minority group, an impediment to human fulfilment and responsible for the ruin of countless gay and lesbian lives.

With the judgment of the South African Constitutional Court still fresh in our minds, it is obvious that within secular society all lifestyles are deemed equal.  Love and its natural coexistent sex, are healthy and good, irrespective of whether it is exercised within a hetero, homosexual or bi-sexual relationship  All voluntary sexual relations are permissible, desirable and morally equal and neither the state nor the church should prohibit it65:

"The principle – all lifestyles are equal – is to be written into law, and those who refuse to respect the new laws are to be punished.  To disrespect the alternative lifestyle marks one as a bigot.  Discrimination against those who adopt the alternative lifestyle is a crime.  Homophobia, not homosexuality, is the evil that must be eradicated."

The new moral code is based on enlightened reason and respect for all.  When the state wrote the Christian moral code into law, it codified bigotry.  But when we write our moral code into law, we advance frontiers of freedom and protect the rights of persecuted minorities.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association de-listed homosexuality as a disorder.  Anyone who today still considers homosexual conduct a disorder is a bigot and guilty of homophobia, the irrational fear of homosexual persons.  In a very real sense words have become weapons.  By being called homophobic or heterosexist by the homosexual apologists, the onus to prove one’s character shifts from the gay and lesbian to the heterosexual opponent.  The reason being that homosexuality is no longer regarded as sin but as a valid sexual preference on par with bi-sexuality and heterosexuality.

The Bible and sin

What is the origin of sin?  The question begs the answer.  In answering this question one has to be careful not to fall into the trap of speculation, but to remain sober and objective.  We have to deal with the concrete fact of sinful man before a righteous God, calling upon God to accept him as a sinner.  And what is to be done with man’s sin?

The American Tract Society Dictionary defines sin as follows66:

"Any thought, word, desire, action or omission of action, contrary to the law of God, or defective when compared with it."

Its entrance into the world, and infection of the whole human race, its nature, forms, and effects, and its fatal possession of every unregenerate soul, are fully described in the Bible, Ge 6:5;  Ps 51:5;  Mt 15:19;  Ro 5:12;  Jas 1:14-15.

As contrary to the nature, worship, love, and service to God, sin is called ungodliness;  as a violation of the law of God and of the claims of ma n, it is a transgression or trespass;  as a deviation from eternal rectitude, it is called iniquiry or unrighteousness; as the evil and bitter root of all actual transgression, the depravity transmitted from our first parents to all their seed, it is called “original sin,” or in the Bible, “ the flesh,” “the law of sin and death,” etc., Ro 8:1-2;  1 Jo 3:4; 5:17.  The just penalty or “wages of sin is death;”  this was threatened against the first sin, Ge 2:17 and all subsequent sins:  “the soul that sinneth it shall die.”  A single sin, unrepented of the unforgiven, destroys the soul, as a single break renders a whole ocean cable worthless.  Its guilt and evil are to be measured by the holiness, justice and goodness of the law it violates, the eternity of the misery it causes, and the greatness of the Sacrifice necessary to expiate it.

“Sin” is also sometimes put for the sacrifice of expiation, the sin offering, described in Le 4:3, 25, 29.  So, Ro 8:3 and in 2 Co 5:21, Paul says that God was pleased that Jesus, who knew no sin, should be our victim of expiation:  “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;  that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Eastern’s Bible Dictionary refers to various kinds of sins mentioned in the Bible, (1) “Presumptuous sins,” or as literally rendered, “sins with an uplifted hand”, i.e. defiant acts of sin, in contrast with “errors” or “inadvertencies” (Ps 19:13) (2) “Secret”, i.e. hidden sins (Ps 19:12);  sins which escape the notice of the soul (3) “Sin against the Holy Ghost” (q.v), or a “sin unto death” (Mt 12:31-32;  1 Jo 5:16), which amounts to a wilful rejection of grace67.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionery (K-Z) renders the following definition68:

"The voluntary departure of a moral agent from a known rule of rectitude or duty, prescribed by God;  any voluntary transgression of the divine law, or violation of a divine command;  a wicked act;  iniquity.  Sin is either a positive act in which a known divine law is violated, or it is the voluntary neglect to obey a positive divine command, or a rule of duty clearly implied in such command.  Sin comprehends not action only, but neglect of known duty, all evil thoughts purposes, words and desires, whatever is contrary to God’s commands or law.  (1 John 3.  Mt 15.  James 4).  A sinner neither enjoys the pleasures of nor the peace of piety.  Among divines, sin is original or actual.  Actual sin, above defined, is the act of a moral agent in violating a known rule of duty."

Original sin, as generally understood, is native depravity of heart to the divine will, that corruption of nature of deterioration of the moral character of man, which is supposed to be the effect of Adam’s apostasy;   and which manifests itself in moral agents by positive act of disobedience to the divine will, or by the voluntary neglect to comply with the express commands of God, which require that we should love God with all the heart and soul and strength and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves.  This native depravity or alienation of affections from God and his law, is supposed to be what the apostle calls the carnal mind or mindeness, which is enmity against God, and is therefore denominated sin or sinfulness.  Unpardonable sin, or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, is supposed to be a malicious and obstinate rejection of Christ and the gospel plan of salvation, or a contemptuous resistance made to the influences and convictions of the Holy Spirit.  Matt 12.

Spurgeon discusses the overall influence and presence of sin in a person’s life in one of his sermons69:

"Our opinion is that men, after they are converted, and begin to examine themselves in the light of God’s Word, if they are at all like us, find sin everywhere within them; - sin in the affections, so that the hearts lusteth after evil things; - sin in the judgement, so that it often makes most serious mistakes and honestly puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter – sin in the desires, so that though we try to curb them, they wander hither and thither, whither we would not; - sin in the will, so that Lord Will-be-will proves that he is still very proud, and wants to have his own way, - and is not willing to bow submissively to the will of God;  - sin in the memory, so that the most godly people can often recollect a snatch of a bad old song which they used to hear or to sing, far more readily than they can remember a text of Scripture; which they wish to treasure up in their memories, for memory has become unhinged, like all the rest of our faculties, and is quick to retain evil, and slow to retain that which is good."

We are living in a point of time, loosely referred to as post-modern times, where sin is no longer given any meaning.  Sin has been redefined into non-existence.  The concept of “sin: has been thrown out of post-modern man’s vocabulary.  The very Bible that relates the origin and awfulness of sin in the Genesis narratives is evoked by post-modern theologians to redefine some deeds of sin as gifts of God to mankind.  Sin, especially sexual sin, thus finds itself in a situation where it can flourish without biblical restraints.  It is as if God is giving Christians today more visual instruction in the horrible effects of sin than ever before, yet modern man seems not to notice.

The conscience of society, however, will not allow itself to be scorched into silence.  The roots of godly righteousness, the legacy of the Christian faith, will sprout guilt feelings in the souls of even sinful post-modern man.  The innate sense installed in man to discern right from wrong during man’s created origin will not allow itself to be pushed into historical oblivion.  Sin separates man from God and brings a terrible harvest for all eternity.  In an effort to appease his guilty conscience modern man practice “good deeds” to ratify the “sins” of his past:  social inequalities, human rights for ill-defined minority groups (for example homosexuals, pedophiles) and social ills (for instance poverty, slums, prisons, prostitution and substance abusers).  Forgiveness of sin by a righteous loving God is replaced by “social activism” as modern man’s way to salvation.  The facts, however, show that social conditions are not a “sin” to go against, neither is it the cause of its spreading.  Sin is spreading because modern man does not want tot confront it, let alone punish it.

Whoever does not want to become guilty, by either going along with isn or tolerating sin, has to take a stand against sin.  Resisting sin is an absolute must.  The battle against sin means not only recognizing sin, but also investing precious time and energy fighting it and radically defining it in its original meaning so that modern man can never plead “not guilty” because of a lack of knowledge.  Sin needs to be defined in terms of the Bible, in God’s “language”, so that modern man can have a standard against which he can contrast  his own sinful skills, attitudes and desires.  Sin is not an old fashioned, antiquarian concept but the worst enemy that modern man will ever have to face.

Modern society is saturated with much knowledge about the Bible.  Every university produces its fair share of theologians.  Yet the one thing lacking in their spiritual makeup is a godly hatred of sin.  More and more the modern church tolerates and nurtures sin within its structures.  The context of their modern co-existence with secular societies in the global city demands a redefinition of sin to the extent that the modern church society has become indiscernible from the secular societies by compromising sin in her midst.  Sin is tolerated, nourished and eventually institutionalized beyond the restrictions in the Bible.  The sinner is tenderly handled, saved through cheap grace, all in the name of a false brotherly love that shows little similarity to godly love.  So instead of taking a stand of hatred against sin, the church sympathizes with sin and allows it to grow strong and take deep root in the fertile soil of the church’s pews.

We all know the power of lust, which is in our flesh.  Eve lusted for the fruit.  David lusted for the wife of Uriah.  Amnon, son of David, lusted for his sister Tamar.  The men of Sodom lusted for the male visitors in Lot’s house.  The men of Gibeah lusted for the male Levite visitor in the old man’s house.  Lust has an overpowering force and will not be confined within the boundaries of the commandments of God.  Through lust sin upon sin is born70.  Blinded by their sensual desires modern man completely disregard the commandments of God.  The usual consequence is sexual sin, premarital and extramarital sex or sexual relations with members of the same sex (homosex)71.  Such behaviour is almost taken for granted today and even the Legislator is prepared to protect modern man’s right to unbridled sexual indulgence with members of the same sex and all of this in the name of “human rights”.  Homosexuals are the only minority group that is based on sin (the sin of homosex) and being recognized within constitutional legislation of several countries72.

What cannot be ignored is the Christian attitude toward homosexual behaviour since the inception of the Christian church.  The phenomenon of homosexuality has been present with Christianity through the centuries.  It was never absent and required periodic denunciation.  From the middle of the second century to the end of the nineteenth century, the records show that homosexual offences were declared sinful73.  There is a remarkable consistency in the Christian attitude of about two thousand years in the assessment of homosexual relationships in the light of the Biblical pronouncements.  It has always being judged as sin.  Homosexual conduct was consistently and without  exception rejected because it was deemed to be contrary to the will of God for mankind.  It was regarded as sin.

Early Christian authors including Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Basil of Ceasarea, Gregory of Nyssa, the participants in the Councils of Elvira and Ancyra, the author(s) of the Apostolic Constitutions, John Chrysostom and Augustine all expressed sharp disapproval of homosexual conduct74.  From history it is clear that the church fathers unanimously and unreservedly condemned male homosexual behaviour.

The early church councils of Elvira (Spain, 305 -306 C.E) and Ancyra (Asia Minor – 314 C.E) both denied homosexuals baptism and catechetical status until they renounced their homosexual behaviour.  Homosexual acts were thoroughly and severely dealt with in the Penitentials 75(570-1010 C.E.), the ordinance of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen- 789C.E) cited the position of the Council of Ancyra to formulate a general condemnation of homosexuality and Liber Gomorrhianus (1051 C.E.) that condemned various homosexual acts.  The Council of London at Westminster (1102) condemned those participating in “the shameful sin of sodomy” by anathema until they demonstrated through confession of their sin and penance that they were worthy of absolution76.  Thomas of Aquinas regarded the least homosexual act more sinful than any other kind of lust and he ranked only bestiality as being more depraved than sodomy.  The reformers Luther and Calvin both rejected homosexual behaviour.

Only in the twentieth century did a shift occur to a more tolerant attitude towards homosexuality.  In 1964 Thielicke, the German philosopher lodged a strong appeal for social and religious toleration of homosexuality.  This implied that understanding rather than denunciation was to be the Christian attitude towards homosexuality.  The Kinsey reports (1948, 1952) left their mark on the church as well.

As early as 1963, in stark contradiction of the Bible and church history, a committee of the Society of Friends in England argued that homosexuality was a natural, morally neutral condition on par with left-handedness.  Likewise, the Rev. Wood of the United Church in Christ in America suggested that the church should sponsor pro-homosexual activities, for instance, “drag” dances; and that the church should conduct same-sex marriages.  Since then the rivulet had become a river of change to the current point in time where five countries in the world have institutionalized homosexual behaviour as a minority human right.

However, it is abundantly clear from Scripture, the writings of the early church and church history of nearly 2000 years that homosexuality in orientation and conduct violates the creation order, sexual intention and patterns for male and female roles for marriage.  It arises from the same internal disobedience and rebellion as did the Fall recorded in the opening chapters of the Bible.  Homosexuality comes under definite condemnation of God, as sin.  In all its manifestations, whether it is in the form of rape and violence (Genesis 19;  Judges 19-20) or as consenting behaviour among adults (Leviticus 18, 20; Romans 1).  Although homosexual orientation is not directly referred to in the Bible, the prohibitions are broad enough to cover the lustful inclination, the impure thoughts associated therewith as well as the act.

De Young77 very thoroughly establishes the intrinsic character of homosexuality in his evaluation of homosexuality in the light of the Bible, the socio-historical background of the Bible and church history.  The Bible, as the Word of God, sufficiently portrays it as sin.  No other reading or understanding is possible.  Thus it was understood by the apostles, the early church, the patristic fathers, the church fathers and subsequently by the church in all her denominational manifestations throughout the ages up to this point of time.

Homosexual rape is the only sin described in the unfolding of events pertaining to the fall of Sodom.  This sin is portrayed as the zenith of all sins of Sodom and begs the special judgement of God that will bring about the destruction of Sodom and the town’s inhabitants.  That homosexual rape was the sin of Sodom is the only possible interpretation that fits the micro and macro literary context and structure of the story (Genesis 19).  Homosexual rape is also the  sin of the incident in Gibeah (Judges 19-20).  Homosexuality reveals itself as ritualistic or cultic sin, usually between two males, and practiced by the pagan nations surrounding Israel.  Homosexuality in all its manifestations, whether ritualistic, cultural or as consensual, is condemned in no uncertain terms in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Kings.  As sin, homosexuality comes under the condemnation and judgement of God, whether it is in the form of violent rape or as consenting behaviour among adults.

This truth is also substantiated within the New Testament.  The literary structure of Romans 1 places homosexual behaviour under the judgement of God.  It is a self destructive sin, generating from within itself the energy to enslave and destroy the homosexual, a judgement that God places on people who suppress the truth. Paul intentionally argues that homosexuality is a sin to which God has abandoned people as a consequence frot the sins of sexual impurity, shameful lusts and a depraved mind (Romans 1:24-28).

Paul’s use of malakoi and arsenokoitai in 1 Cointhians 6:9 and arsenokoita in 1 Timothy 1:9 leaves no room for doubt that all forms of homosexual expression are wrong and therefore sin.  De Young summarizes the biblical view on homosexuality as follows78:

"Homosexuality is sin, not just impurity nor an ethical failing limited to Israel’s cultic system.  The terms that introduce the lists refer to those who are “wicked” (1 Cor 6:9), “lawbreakers”, “rebels”, “ungodly”, “sinful”, “unholy”, and “irreligious” (1 Tim 1:8-10 in the NIV).  All or almost all these terms refer specifically to sin, not impurity (such as the word uncleanness would communicate)."

Gay theology and sin

Some of the most frequent arguments from the Gay and Lesbian minority are that condemnation of homosexuality had been based on a “literal interpretation of a few texts from the Bible”.  Furthermore it is assumed that these texts are restricted to a particular historical context and thus not applicable to the modern context without revision.  Other arguments that have been added to support the revisionist viewpoint of sin are “the etiology of human sexuality and modern Biblical scholarship …. (and) discrimination based on old interpretations of Biblical texts”79.

Mack, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Washington80, is a prime example of how the biblical texts are to be revised, reinterpreted and twisted to make homosexuality into a gift of God rather to regard it as the sin it is.  He argues:

"Either God created people who find romantic love among those of their same gender or this condition is a fall from grace, a sin.  Since the incidence of same-sex love occurs in all times and cultures in approximately the same proportions, many have come to consider it a part of God’s creation.  The attraction is inherent to the createdness of each person.  The realm of sin, in biblical terms, has to do with those areas over which we have some control."

As is typically the case with gay and lesbian apologists Mack’s argumentation is flawed with personal assumptions based on subjective personal experiences and insights rather than the Word of God.  The point of departure is not the Word of God but the phenomenon “same-sex love” occurring in nay given population.  The fact that it does occur renders it a gift and not a sin, “createdness” rather than a “fall from grace, a sin”.  Hidden behind his argument is the modern notion that people are born “gay” and have no say or control in the matter of their own sexuality.  This kind of reasoning is especially evident when it is ipso facto used to justify bi-sexuality, pederasty, transvestism, pedophilia, polygamy, polyamory and other sexual deviations.

But does the fact of a sexual sin’s occurrence render it a gift of God?  The current homosexual context would have us believe that the homosexual condition did not exist before 186981.  This faulty assumption consistently clouds the objectivity of pro-homosexual theologians and causes their arguments to contain much subjective theological nonsense.  It is abundantly clear from ancient sources that mutuality in homosexuality as well as homosexual orientation are not modern phenomena.  The ancients could think of love, whether heterosexual or homosexual apart from actions82.

Rabbi Yoel Kahn83 affirms that the modern context rather than the Bible must be the point of departure when he says:

"We begin from an entirely different perspective than our ancestors.  If we grant that homosexual acts are not inherently sinful, then can a homosexual relationship be sanctified?....... I do not propose merely that we politely overlook the historical Jewish teaching condemning homosexual behaviour but that we explicitly affirm its opposite:  the movement from to’evah to kedushah.  This transformation in our Jewish standard, from a specific act to the evaluation of the context in which acts occur, seems to be entirely consistent with Reform Jewish thought and practice, ……. the situation of the gay and lesbian Jews among us points out the need fro new categories in our thinking."

It is clear from the argumentation that there is a wilful move to justify homosexual relationships irrespective of what the Bible and Christian tradition teach.  The affirmation of the opposite, that is from to’evah (abomination) to kedushah (sanctification), from sin to gift from God is the only way to get around the bibilical condemnation of homosexuality.  The modern sexual context demands “new categories” of thinking and homosexual apologists have become apt reformists or revisionists of biblical texts which condemn homosexuality.  One such thought pattern exemplifies such a “new category” of thinking84:

"There is no univocal Judeo-Christian tradition against same-sex marriage.  It appears that the Israelites fleeing Egypt were opposed to same-sex marriages they witnessed in Egypt and that opposition is reflected in the admonitions in Leviticus against same-sex male intimacy.  At no point, by the way, does Leviticus condemn same-sex female intimacy or marriage.  Nothing else in the Old Testament is telling on the issue of same-sex marriage."

And also:

"Christ’s teachings recorded in the Gospel books of the New Testament, contain no condemnation of same-sex unions or intimacy.  Instead Christ’s message relentlessly emphasizes charity to others, compassion for those different from oneself and God’s equal love for every human being.  Some early Christian authors, notably St. Paul and St. Augustine, were anxious about sexuality in general and male intimacy in particular, …."

This mindset would sometimes go beyond what can be reasonably deduced from the biblical narratives.  The Metropolitan Community Church was founded by an openly homosexual former Baptist pastor Troy Perry85.  It is the largest  denomination catering for religious homosexual people in the United States of America.  According to the Church’s website, members underwrite the following86:

  • Homosexual behaviour is not a sin in God’s eyes.  Instead, the teaching that homosexual behaviour is sinful is the result of twisted teaching of “homophobic” men.
  • The references to homosexual behaviour in the Bible really don’t mean what they say.
  • Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not because of homosexual behaviour but because the people there ignored the poor and needy.
  • Jonathan and David were homosexual lovers.
  • Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers.
  • Christ lived an alternative lifestyle and he loved other men besides John.
  • Christ wore a purple robe to the cross as a connotation of his homosexuality.

The above statements have the net result that the biblical texts condemning homosexuality are stripped of their literal meaning and that the sin of homosexuality is turned into a gift from God to mankind.  This deliberate twisting of Scripture revises all texts in the Bible denouncing homosexuality.

All the direct and indirect references in the Bible to homosexuality and homosexual conduct, and there are more than thirty such references, condemn it as a sexual perversion and therefore a sin in the eyes of God.  Reverend Chip Aldridge of the pro-homosexual group Reconciling Ministries network says:

"When persons simply say that the Bible views homosexuality as a sin, they are dealing with a specific, narrow interpretation of the Bible."

But how broad in the process of interpretation do you have to be to simply disregard the following biblical rejections of homosexuality:

Genesis 18:20-21:  "And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave;  I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry, which has come unto me;  and if not, I will know."

Leviticus 18:22:  "You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman: it is an abomination."

Leviticus 20:13:  "If a man also lies with a man, as he lies with a women, both of them have committed an abomination:  they shall surely be put to death;  their blood shall be upon them."

Deuteronomy 23:17-18:  "There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.  You shall not bring the wages of a harlot, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD your God for any vow:  for even both of these are an abomination unto the LORD your God."

1 Kings 14:24:  "And there were also male prostitutes in the land:  and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel"

1 Kings 15:12:  "And he took away the male prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made."

1 Kings 22:46:  "And the remnant of the male prostitutes, who remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out  of the land."

2 Kings 23:7:  "And he broke down the houses of the male prostitutes, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the idol pole."

Job 36:14:  "They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean."

Romans 1:26-27:  "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections:  for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another;  men with men working that which is shameful, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was fitting."

1 Corinthians 6:9-11:  "Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived:  neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you:  but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

1 Timothy 1:9-10:  "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane,  for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave traders, for liars, for perjurers, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."

The meaning of these verses are obvious and straight forward and it boggles the mind to see how anyone can interpret them as anything different than condemning of homosexual behaviour.  It is not a case of broad interpretation or narrow mindedness in reading what the Bible says concerning sin or even a specific, narrow interpretation of the Bible, but rather a case of wilful decision to change the meaning of the text to suit modern notions and presuppositions concerning homosexuality.  Gay contextual theology demands a total denial of the implicit meaning of these verses to explain away their affirmation of homosexual behaviour.

A biblical theology of sin

Martin Luther wrote87:

"The heinous conduct of the people of Sodom is extraordinary, inasmuch as they departed from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female, which was implanted by God, and desired what twas altogether contrary to nature.  Whence comes  this perversity:  Undoubtedly from Satan, who, after people have once turned away from fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he beats  out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature."

It has been argued that nothing would have made Paul approve homoerotic behaviour.  The common view that sexual orientation was not recognised in the ancient world is problematic, because of the speech of Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium where sexual orientation is clearly intended.  Those who claim that something like the modern category of an exclusive, innate homosexual orientation did not exist in antiquity, therefore, seem to be wrong.

For Jesus and Paul the only legitimate sexual union for Christians is that between one man and one woman in permanent, exogamous and monogamous marriage.  All other forms of sexual intercourse is contra God’s intention and design as depicted in Genesis 1-3;  such sexual intercourse, inclusive of same-sex intercourse is porneia, that is sexual immorality.

The number of Scripture portions that speak directly on the issue of homosexuality shows that homosexual practice was not as marginal an issue as some would like to think.  Frequency of mention should not be equated to degree of importance.  The fact that Paul cited the issue of homosexuality three times is more than enough to establish that Paul regarded homosexual conduct as an extremely serious offence in which Christians should not be engaged.  If Paul was opposed to homosexual conduct, the likelihood of other New Testament authors having a less rigorous stance is non-existent.  According to the Apostolic Decree cited in Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25, non-Jews did not have to be circumcised but they still had to abstain from porneia.  That porneia would have included same-sex intercourse is evident from the fact that the prohibitions of the Apostolic Decree derived from the laws of Leviticus 17-18.

The exegesis of Romans 1:18-32 confirms that the Bible portions referring to homosexuality are part of a much larger Biblical philosophy of life that consistently portrays only one model for sexual relations:  that between a man and a woman in lifelong monogamous partnership.  On the descriptive level, throughout the Bible there is not a single hero of faith that engages in homosexual conduct:  no patriarch, no matriarch, no prophet, no priest, no king, no apostle and no disciple.  The Song of Solomon is devoted to singing the praises of committed heterosexual love.  Every proverb of wisdom saying refers to heterosexual, not homosexual, relationships as fitting for the lives of the faithful.  In short, the universal silence in the Bible regarding an acceptable same-sex union, combined with the explicit prohibitions, speak volumes for a consensus disapproval  of homosexual conduct.

Paul’s own views did not depend on any one theory or model of causation but rather on the male-female complementarity embedded in creation.  All could access this truth through either Scripture of nature.  A Biblical theology of sin should recognise that the Bible not only denounces homogenitality, but homosexual conduct in all its variations, whether it stems from innate orientation or not.  It is not the innateness of one’s desires or passions that guides a person in discovering the truth about human sexuality.  Rather it is the material creation, the physical and observable, the bodily intention and design of humans themselves that guide a person into the truth of the nature of God and the created nature of human sexuality respectively.

Paul did not separate personal humanity from biological humanity, the so-called ordered ontology of being a human.  A human has an essential created structure which is sexually and personally differentiated, as male and female.  Sexual differentiation at both the personal and biological level is an aspect of the structured being (ordered ontology) of human life.  The Genesis narrative cannot be ignored;  it establishes the norm of heterosexuality (male and female;  male or female), which the rest of the Bible assumes as natural whenever sexual morality is addressed.  And it is important to realise that Paul understands homosexuality to be among the departures from this norm, and therefore a sin. 

The sexual identity of a person carries moral implications and this sexual identity is a created status.  Homosexuality denies the realities of gender and bodily sexual differentiation.  Paul’s understanding of human nature goes deeper than popular custom.  He understands that male and female were created for each other with complementary sexualities grounded in the distinctive observable design of their sexual organs, and that this arrangement had been legitimized since creation only by marriage.

The sins in Romans 1:26-31 also correspond to Exodus 20, but homosexuality replaces adultery.  In Romans 1 Paul mentions homosexuality as a particular non-Christian sexual sin and then lists non-sexual sins.  In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 he mentions various sexual sins;  here the list is more comprehensive.  Every sexual act that the Bible calls sin is essentially a violation of heterosexual marriage, whether existing or potential in  character.  The focus of Paul is then on the act, which implicates the desire or orientation as well.  The Genesis textual data is  quoted by both Jesus (Mat 19:3-8) and Paul (1 Cor 6:12-20; Eph 5:21-32).

The theological structure in which Paul places his condemnation of relations contrary to nature is a weighty one indeed.  Nothing in Scripture or in the Christian tradition of the first centuries counterbalances is judgement.  Arguments in favour of acceptance of homosexual relations find their strongest arguments in empirical investigations and contemporary experience.  At the end of this study I am not persuaded by Boswell’s (1980) argument for heterosexuals engaging in homosexual acts or Scroggs’ (1983a) proposal for a pederasty model for the understanding of Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

There can be no valid appeal made for a third natural sex or alternative sexual orientation within God’s created reality.  The socio-historical background and the exegesis of the relevant Bible portions do not support such an appeal to the textual data.  Homosexuality should be rejected as an abnormal expression of sexuality because biblical sexual morality is defined by heterosexuality.  The attitude to homosexuality is throughout the Bible uncompromisingly negative. Only if one turns to extra biblical authorities can one approve of the practice of homosexuality, but then, the Bible, the church’s one authority for faith and practise has been abandoned.

Porneia (sexual immorality) is closely linked to the attitude towards homosexual conduct.  Porneia is all extra-marital sex.  There is a total incompatibility between porneia and the Kingdom of God.  Homosexuality is clearly sexual conduct outside of heterosexual marriage and trhus to be regarded as porneia.  Therefore, it is wrong and in terms of the biblical evaluation thereof, it is denounced as sinful conduct.

In summary I conclude that Paul is concerned in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 to offer evidence of attitudes and behaviour that represent sin, that is, the  distorting effects of godlessness.  Homosexual conduct is one such sin.  Paul rebukes what the considers sinful behaviour and call people to repentance.  In Romans 1:26-27 there is an unambiguous indictment of homosexual behaviour as a violation of God’s intention for humanity.  Al the Scripture portions (Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10) regard homosexual activity as immoral and to be renounced.