IS GOD HOMOPHOBIC: Making sense of why the Bible teaches that homosexual practice is sinful

homosexuality-church-word-press

On the 4th of July, 2015, the Humans of New York Facebook Page posted this image…

People of New York
The post was shared tens of thousands of times and attracted 100’s of thousands of ‘likes’. Even Hillary Clinton commented: “Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you – there will be lots of them.”

Many people today, both inside and outside the church, are asking questions:
> What could God possible have against homosexuality?
> How could it be sinful when so many gay people claim that they were born that way?
> Surely it can’t be that bad if no one is getting hurt? 

When explaining the words to his song “Take me to Church”, singer/songwriter Hozier said: “Sexuality, and sexual orientation – regardless of orientation – is just natural. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.” 

Certainly Hozier seems to be representative of many young adults in society today. The Barna Research Group conducted research a few years ago in order to determine what unchurched young adults think about the church. Perhaps not surprisingly, 91% said they found Christians to be ‘antihomosexual’. President of Barna, David Kinnaman, went on to say: “When you introduce yourself as a Christian to a friend, neighbor, or business associate who is an outsider, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: antihomosexual, gay-hater, homophobic. I doubt you think of yourself in these terms, but that’s what outsiders think of you.”

So regardless of whether someone is Christian or non-Christian, pro-homosexuality or anti-homosexuality, this is an issue that affects everyone. Hence the question:

HOW DO WE MAKE SENSE OF WHY THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS SINFUL? 

(Note: This is not about whether or not homosexuality is sinful, or whether or not all homosexuals go to hell. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual practice is sinful, and that Jesus died for all sinners (including homosexuals). Anyone who trusts in Jesus to save them will be saved. I’ve written about this here.)

Here’s three things that might be worth considering… 

#1 IF A GUY RISES FROM THE DEAD AND THEN CLAIMS THAT THE BIBLE IS TRUE, SHOULDN’T WE JUST BELIEVE HIM?

Andy Stanley said: If you are new to Bible study, I can understand why you may have questions or even doubts. You may be interested to know that some of Jesus’ own followers had a difficult time believing some of this stuff… I’ll tell you why I believe Adam and Eve were actual people. I’m a simple man. If somebody predicts his own death and resurrection and then pulls it off, I’m with him. I don’t really care what he says, I’m with the guy who rose from the dead” (Deep & Wide, p254-255).

The fact is, there will always be reasons to doubt the Bible…
> Some of the miracles can seem unbelievable.
> God can act in ways which seem confusing from a human point of view.
> Several of God’s laws can come across as harsh or pointless or unjust.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to say: “The God I believe in wouldn’t do that” or “I can’t believe God would say something like that.” But the God Christians believe in is the God of Jesus. And the Bible Christians believe in is the Bible that Jesus treated as God’s very own words.

Christians don’t believe in Jesus because of the Bible. Christians believe the Bible because of Jesus. 

#2 CAN WE EXPECT A TIMELESS GOD TO AGREE WITH THE MORALITY OF ALL PEOPLE ACROSS ALL TIMES?

Tim Keller argues that if God exists for all people in all places across all times, then it’s only logical to expect that we will sometimes disagree with Him. Why? Because we don’t agree with all people in all places across all times. So unless our understanding of God is the only right understanding and everyone else is wrong, we have to accept that there will be things God declares to be sinful which we may not agree with.

In his book, The Reason for God, Keller explains how he responded in a similar way to a lady who found the doctrine of judgement offensive…

In one of my after-service discussions a woman told me that the very idea of a judging God was offensive. I said, “Why aren’t you offended by the idea of a forgiving God?” She looked puzzled… I went on to point out that secular Westerners get upset by the Christian doctrines of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture sees Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about “turning the other cheek” makes absolutely no sense. It offends people’s deepest instincts about what is right. For them the doctrine of a God of judgment, however, is no problem at all. That society is repulsed by aspects of Christianity that Western people enjoy, and are attracted by the aspects that secular Westerners can’t stand.

Why, I concluded, should Western cultural sensibilities be the final court in which to judge whether Christianity is valid? I asked the woman gently whether she thought her culture superior to non-Western ones. She immediately answered “no.” “Well then,” I asked, “why should your culture’s objections to Christianity trump theirs?”

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgment. (The Reason for God, p70-71)

Right now, a large number of people in Western countries object to the Bible describing homosexual practice as sinful. And there’s good reasons to do so.

But it must at least be acknowledged that not all Westerners object. In fact 100 years ago very few of them would have objected. And certainly as we look at different cultures throughout history, there has been all sorts of different beliefs about homosexuality. What makes our view so much better than others?

#3 DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE RIGHT AND WRONG FOR OURSELVES?

C.S. Lewis said: “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock”.

Before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God was the One who determined right and wrong. But after the fall, it appears as if Adam and Eve somehow gained the ability to determine right and wrong for themselves…

When Satan was tempting Eve, he said: “God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

And then after they ate of it, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7).

So sin entered the world. And with it came a desire to run our lives the way we see fit. And that includes developing our own sense of morality.

Therefore, when a person enters into a relationship with God, they give up the right to determine right and wrong for themselves.

Sometimes this will mean letting go of some things which we believe are sinful if the Bible doesn’t describe them as sinful. For example, the Bible never explicitly teaches that smoking, gambling, dancing, going to night clubs, playing cards or drinking alcohol is sinful (in fact, God even commands us to drink alcohol as part of communion). But if we had have asked the average church member 50 years ago about such things, they wouldn’t have hesitated to tell us how sinful they are.

At the same time, this will also mean accepting some things as being sinful if the Bible describes them as sinful. For example, up until recently many Christians didn’t have a problem with polluting the environment. They simply determined right and wrong for themselves, and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t wrong to destroy the world that God created. The same could be said about racial prejudice, the oppression of women, or ignoring our obligation to refugees. Over the years, Christians have had to shift on all of these issues. They’ve had to adopt some things as being sinful simply because the Bible describes them as sinful.

So when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, Christians don’t necessarily understand why it’s sinful. They may not even like that it’s sinful. They simply submit to the God who has the right to determine right and wrong for His children.

If we believe that God willingly sent His own Son into the world to die on our behalf, surely we can believe that He is good. And if we can place our life and eternity into His hands, surely we can place our morality into His hands also? 

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