By Ed Vitagliano | AFA Journal News Editor

In 2003 the Episcopal Church consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire an openly homosexual man, triggering an all-out intra-denominational war between conservatives and liberals that mirrors conflicts in other Protestant churches.

The action on the part of the 2.4-million-member branch of the worldwide Anglican community highlighted the distinctly different approaches to Scripture taken by both sides of the conflict.
Conservatives argued that the Scripture is as clear on the subject of homosexuality as it can possibly be.

Advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality within the church responded by saying that things are not as simple as they appear. For example, presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church, said, “Homosexuality, as we understand it as an orientation, is not mentioned in the Bible.”

Dispensing with the Law
Not mentioned in the Bible? There could hardly be a clearer passage than the plain directive of Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (See also Lev. 20:13.)

How could an activist possibly evade the condemnation inherent within such a verse?

Most claim that the Levitical condemnation of homosexuality was only meant to keep Israel separate from the surrounding nations – and thus did not reflect God’s universal disapproval of such activity.

“The point is that The Holiness Code of Leviticus prohibits male same-sex acts for religious reasons, not for sexual reasons,” said Catholic priest Daniel Helminiak in What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. “The concern is to keep Israel distinct from the Gentiles.”

In their excellent book, The Same Sex Controversy, James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell disagree with this argument, insisting that Leviticus codifies for Israel how God felt about homosexuality in a universal sense. The proof? The Lord had pronounced judgment upon the non-Jewish inhabitants of the Promised Land for committing these very same sins. Because the Canaanite nations had “done all these abominations,” the inhabitants had defiled the land (Lev. 18:25, 27), and were to be expelled.

“[T]hese were nations that did not have the Law of God given to them on tablets of stone, yet God still held them responsible for their immoral behavior,” White and Niell argue. “Unquestionably, God’s prohibition of homosexuality wasn’t only a Jewish matter – it was something that transcended ethnic boundaries.”

Moreover, Helminiak’s argument proves too much. If the Levitical condemnation of homosexuality does not apply to all men everywhere, what about the other sins in Leviticus – such as adultery, bestiality, incest, and prostitution?

Clearly, White and Niell suggest, “such practices are immoral and reprehensible wherever they may occur, whatever the address or the locale.”

In their pro-homosexual tome, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott also try to undercut the force of Leviticus by noting that other (non-sexual) prohibitions of the Law are no longer practiced by Christians. They state: “Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the 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.”

But Levitical laws regarding diet, for example, are no longer observed “because God, in His own Word, has repealed them,” White and Niell said. “Where in the Bible has God abolished the prohibition against homosexuality? Nowhere!”

Some activists declare that the references to homosexuality in the Mosaic Law are only prohibitions against sexual acts committed in the context of idolatry and the temple prostitution that was rampant in pagan nations.

Ex-gay Joe Dallas, founder of Genesis Counseling and the author of three books on homosexuality, discounts such arguments. “If the practices in Leviticus 18 and 20 are condemned only because of their association with idolatry, then it logically follows they would be permissible if they were committed apart from idolatry,” he said. “That would mean incest, adultery, bestiality and child sacrifice (all of which are listed in these chapters) are only condemned when associated with idolatry; otherwise, they are allowable. No serious reader of these passages could accept such a premise.”

The only words that count?
Being able to somehow by-pass the Levitical code is extraordinarily important for homosexual advocates, since its condemnation of homosexual activity is so clear. It is not surprising, then, to find activists arguing that, since we are no longer under Law but under grace, the only words that matter are those of the New Testament.

For example, they ask, what did Jesus say about this issue? Keith Boykin, former executive director of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and author of One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America, said “the truth is that Jesus Christ said nothing negative about homosexuality.”

Did Jesus ever mention homosexuality? We can never know the answer to that question. All we do know is what statements the Bible records Jesus as saying. And it is true that, in the New Testament, Jesus does not mention homosexuality.

However, this is an argument from silence. Simply because Jesus did not condemn homosexuality does not mean He approved of it. Jesus never mentions rape or incest, either, yet that does not mean He approved of those sins.

In any case, the New Testament as a whole does address homosexuality. The apostle Paul, the author of almost half of the New Testament, explicitly mentions homosexuality in three passages:1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-28; and 1 Timothy 1:10.

In the latter two texts, for example, the apostle condemns homosexuals (the Greek word arsenokoitai) – along with thieves, fornicators and others – declaring that they are “lawless and rebellious,” and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Pro-homosexual activists, however, try to deflect the force of Paul’s condemnation away from modern-day homosexuality, claiming that arsenokoitai refers to abusive homosexuals, pederasts (adult men who have sex with pubescent boys) or homosexual prostitutes.

“The biblical writers never contemplated a form of homosexuality in which loving, monogamous and faithful persons sought to live out the implications of the Gospel with as much fidelity to it as any heterosexual believer,” said homosexual Rev. Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard, in his book, The Good Book: Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind. “All they knew of homosexuality was prostitution, pederasty, lasciviousness and exploitation.”

To the contrary, as James B. De Young argues in Homosexuality: Contemporary claims examined in light of the Bible and other ancient literature and law, the ancient world was very aware of “loving, monogamous and faithful” homosexual relationships. He cites Plato’s Symposium, for example, which speaks of homosexuals who “are wondrously thrilled with affection and intimacy and love, and are hardly to be induced to leave each other’s side for a single moment.”

Surely, then, the New Testament writers – especially a well-educated man like Paul – would have known that homosexuality consisted of more than pederasty or male prostitution.

But did Paul intend his readers to understand arsenokoitai in this manner – i.e., to denote the entire breadth of homosexual feelings and actions?

Absolutely, argues De Young, stating that the apostle’s use of arsenokoitai “suggests that Paul had in mind the prohibition of adult homosexuality in Leviticus.” His reason? Arsenokoitai, which literally means “male [sexual] beds,” is most likely an allusion by Paul to the Greek translations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, the latter of which is translated, “If there is a man [arsenos] who lies with [koiten] a man as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.”

Like Leviticus 18:22, Paul in these two New Testament passages does not differentiate between types of homosexuality (loving, non-loving; committed, uncommitted; caring, abusive), but puts the condemnation squarely on the same-sex act. Whatever the motivation, and however much two men or two women may claim to love each other, Paul says they are forbidden to have sexual intercourse.

This is also true about Paul’s clearest statement on the subject, Romans 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 ….”

Amazingly, activists claim that Paul is not condemning natural homosexuals (that is, men and women who are homosexual by nature), but heterosexuals who experiment with homosexual activities out of lust.

“The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their [sexual] calling, gotten off the true path they were once on,” said the late John Boswell in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.

However, as White and Niell state, in Romans 1 the focus is “upon the willful twisting of God’s truth, and the resultant judicial ‘giving over’ of men to the results of their own refusal to worship Him and acknowledge Him.”

In other words, rejecting God as Creator results in the rejection of the male-female created order. Just as such sinners sometimes willfully exchange God for idols, they also sometimes willfully exchange opposite gender sexuality for same-sex intercourse.

As confusing as homosexual advocates try to make this issue, Bible-believing Christians had better get used to such verbal sleight-of-hand. And they had better prepare themselves to answer it, because the arguments of “gay” advocates are creeping into virtually every denomination.

Of course, Christians could start by familiarizing themselves with another verse in 1 Corinthians 6. In verse 11 Paul concludes his list of sins – which includes homosexuality – with a statement of hope: “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”