Time For Some Clear Thinking on Homosexuality and the Bible, Part One

I am absolutely appalled, alarmed and ashamed that so many people who claim to be Christian leaders and pastors are mangling Scripture, twisting theology, and dumbing down the churches as they jump in bed with the homosexual activists and push their unbiblical agenda.

These so-called leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves, and they have a lot to answer for as they deceive their flocks, pervert the Bible, and cause untold damage to the cause of Christ. And they are getting bolder as they seem to get more and more mentally and morally lax.

A clear example of this is how they either ignorantly or deliberately misunderstand and twist the cleanliness and holiness laws found in the Old Testament in general, and Leviticus in particular. It is quite common for both homosexual activists and deluded Christians to throw out the challenge that the laws forbidding homosexuality in the Old Testament also forbid things like eating animals which do not chew the cud, or fish without scales.

These critics who think they are quite clever argue, ‘if it is now OK to eat all foods, why forbid homosexuality?’ As but one example, I recently received this comment: “Bill, it’s not just the homosexual Christians we should be worried about. What about the cray-fish eating Christians, or indeed the mixed-fabric wearing Christians. Both these ‘Christian’ types distort God’s holy directions as laid out in His bible. What do you suggest we do, Bill?”

While this fellow thought he was being cute, all he did was reveal that secular homosexual activists know nothing about biblical theology or Old Testament legislation. Sadly of course, many believers do not know much more either, so it is worth looking at this whole issue in some detail.

To keep this discussion from blowing out, let me just interact with what we find in the book of Leviticus. In Lev. 11-15 we find laws concerning the clean and unclean. In Lev. 17-26 we find what is known as the “Holiness Code”. These are the main chapters dealing with holy and unholy, pure and impure, clean and unclean.

Admittedly, much has been written about these laws, and how they are to be understood today. Briefly, this legislation primarily had to do with the proviso found in Lev. 19:2: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy”. Israel was to be a holy and clean people before the Lord.

It was also to be clearly distinguished from the surrounding cultures. That in part explains the various laws about distinction, division, and separation. Holiness always implies separation, being set apart from that which is unholy, and devoted to that which is holy.

As Bruce Waltke explains, “The Israelites were commanded not to mix seeds or crops and not to mix different types of cloth in sewing. Therefore, the theme of purity was worked into the everyday life of the Israelites and safeguarded them from mixing their human seed with pagans. These purity laws inculcated the notion of holiness so that Israel would learn that they were to be a pure people, set apart for God.”

Or as John Goldingay puts it, “Israel’s holiness lies in distinctively belonging to Yhwh. Distinguishing holy and ordinary, and also pure and taboo, then contributes to its manifesting its distinctiveness over against other people. . . . Israel’s observance of these distinctions is an expression of its accepting its position as a people that God has distinguished from the rest of the world.”

And one must bear in mind the differences between the realm of the clean/unclean, and the realm of the holy/profane. Ceremonial uncleanness was particularly associated with Israel in Old Testament times, while moral holiness is forever enjoined upon all peoples.

Thus while it is true that we are no longer under the ceremonial and civil laws of ancient Israel, the moral laws remain. As Allen Ross explains, “To be free from the regulations of the law is not a license to be free from obeying what the law revealed.” He continues,

“The New Testament makes this very clear: moral imperfections and impurities – that is, the sinful activities that rendered a person unclean in the Old Testament – are still sinful in the new covenant and still require repentance and confession and forgiveness in order to comply with God’s standard of holiness. It is folly – it is dishonest – to argue that because the purification regulations of Old Testament Israel were fulfilled by the death of Christ, the sins listed in Leviticus are no longer sins.”

Goldingay ties this all together concerning the issue of homosexuality: “Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 explicitly disallow homosexual acts. Yet it also disallows many other practices (such as sex with a woman during her period) on the basis of a concern with purity and taboo, and in general such prohibitions are withdrawn in Christ.

“It has also been argued that the Levitical ban on homosexual acts also ceases to apply once Christ has made all things clean. But the context of these regulations in Leviticus implies that they are not simply concerned with purity and taboo.”

And Ross reminds us of the differences between the ceremonial and moral when we consider the means of absolution: “Homosexuality was never merely part of the purity problem that sanctuary ritual covered; it was a major offense for which there was no ritual law – it required forgiveness because it violated the moral code.”

It is worth looking more closely at Leviticus 18-19, so that I shall do in Part Two of this article: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/03/28/time-for-some-clear-thinking-on-homosexuality-and-the-bible-part-two/

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5 Replies to “Time For Some Clear Thinking on Homosexuality and the Bible, Part One”

  1. Hi Bill

    I am sure you are planning to bring up some of the following points, and therefore I, in a sense, am jumping the gun. I appreciate your exegesis, but as no one else has yet responded to your article, here is my argument from scripture; although it is not really my mine.

    My argument is simpler. I ask three (3) questions and supply biblical texts to address these:
    1. What did the Law of Moses say on this topic?
    2. What did our Lord and Saviour say on this matter? And
    3. What did the apostles say?

    Unsurprisingly, there is a sharp and consistent line.

    What did the Law of Moses say on this topic? See:
    Genesis 19; Leviticus 18 v 22; and Leviticus 20 v 13.

    What did our Lord and Saviour say on this matter?
    The Lord Jesus confirmed his commitment to Old Testament law in the following statements:
    Matthew 5 v 17 – 20; 7 v 21 – 23; 22 v 39 – 40; 23 v 23 – 24; John 10 v 35.
    The Lord Jesus also affirmed marriage as a male-female union and not homosexual; Matthew 19 v 4 – 5; Mark 10 v 6 – 7.
    The Lord Jesus also condemned homosexual behaviour in Matthew 15 v 19; Mark 7 v 22. Both these verses speak of the evils that come out of the heart. The evils include: ‘porneiai’ in Greek and translated ‘fornications’ plural, which includes all sexual behaviour as perversions, outside (Christian) marriage, such as: homosexuality, bestiality, and incest.

    What did the Apostles say?
    The Apostles also confirmed their commitment to the Old Testament law in the following scriptures:
    Romans 3 v 31; 7 v 12; Galatians 3 v 19 – 22; 2 Timothy 3 v 16 – 17; Hebrews 8 v 10; and 2 Peter 3 v 15 – 16.
    In addition, the Apostles in New Testament specifically condemn homosexuality:
    Romans 1 v 24 – 28; 1 Corinthians 6 v 9 – 11; 1 Timothy 1 v 8 – 11; and Jude v 7.

    For anyone with a high view of the scriptures, can there really be any doubt that homosexuality is sin? Clearly not! Nevertheless, we must expect false prophets and false signs, just as our Lord said. Nevertheless, for the sake of the gospel, we are called to boldly speak the truth, in the face of all such opposition, and take our share of sufferings.

    Bill, thanks again for your commitment to this.

    Blessings, Chris McNicol

    P.S. Homosexuals are saved in exactly the same way everyone else is; by believing in the free offer of salvation and repenting of our sins.

  2. Also, things like shellfish were “an abomination to you“, i.e. specifically to the Israelites, because it was a ritual purity law to keep them distinct from the surrounding pagan nations. But homosexual behaviour is just an abomination, without qualification. This is because marriage as one man and one woman is a creation ordinance long predating Moses. As Jesus affirmed in Matthew 19:

    [Jesus answered the Pharisees], “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    Above, Jesus Himself quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as real history, and the latter was explicitly stated to be the words of the Creator and His design for marriage from the beginning.

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  3. Leviticus? Go to almost any Pentecostal church in Australia and if tv is anything to go by even more in America, and you know that the OT laws don’t really apply anymore. Not even the ten. Except ‘Tithing’ which is enforced now on the gross salary instead of profit, on widows, disabled; and if we don’t follow this law we are cursed. Gee Bill, how could any of these pastors/leaders possibly be wrong?
    Russell Boden, UK

  4. Don’t forget that God cleansed the unclean when Jesus came to earth, since the instructions to Peter when he had the Vision in Caesarea (Acts 10:1-15) where all manner of animals, both clean and unclean where given to Peter and yet he did not want to eat the unclean things due to the law, but God told him that they are no longer common. God never once made things that were in the holiness part that were condemned to be allowed, like he did with the cleanliness issue. It is a distinction that they don’t bother to see, since they don’t want to see it.
    Ian Nairn

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