Homosexuality and the Bible 4

bible-light G’day Mate! Greetings from “Down Under.” The next text that has been reinterpreted by those who claim the Bible does not forbid homosexuality is ROMANS 1:26, 27. This is a key passage to a New Testament understanding. Let us see how it has been traditionally interpreted, how it has been reinterpreted, and then appraise the reinterpretation.

Traditional View: Paul is describing the pagan world in their refusal to acknowledge the being and character of the invisible God. In judgment, God lets them go, which means He turns them over to the futility of their minds and hearts. When a culture’s view of God is distorted this is reflected in the perversion of that culture’s sexuality. Thus Paul portrays homosexuality as a symptom of a fallen culture and an example of the abandonment of natural sexual relations between males and females created by God.

Reinterpretation: The main argument here is not that Paul is describing true homosexuals (inversion) but rather heterosexuals who act in a homosexual way and therefore against their nature (perversion). I quote one Christian author, “What Paul seems to be emphasizing here is that persons who are heterosexual by nature have not only exchanged the true God for a false one, but have also exchanged their ability to relate to the opposite sex by indulging in homosexual behavior that is not natural to them” (Ramey and Mollenkott pp.65, 66). By comparison, then, this passage is not speaking about “true” homosexuals who act according to their nature and therefore cannot be used to condemn “true” homosexuality.

Appraisal: There is nothing in the text or in the cultural background of his day that would suggest that Paul even recognized such a distinction between a “true” and a “false” homosexual, between exploitive homosexual relations (such as pederasty) and loving ones (between consenting adults). In fact, among the Greeks there was a distinction made between pederasty and adult homosexual relationships. The former was looked down upon and the latter accepted. But in the Roman world of Paul, both were considered scandalous and severely criticized.

Paul uses words for men and women that emphasize gender (arsenes, theleias) and shows he is not talking about a sexual orientation, but rather that which is biologically natural. So Paul’s statement that homosexual practice is against nature doesn’t mean against one’s natural orientation, but rather against the intention of the Creator. After all, the context speaks of creation and God’s invisible attributes being revealed in what He has made. As Emil Brunner said in his Commentary to the Romans (Westminster Press, pp. 18, 19), “The most natural and basic relationship among men is that of the sexes for in this way God gives life to everyone.”

{An aside: could the sinful practices listed in v. 29, 30 be justified if those who did them naturally committed them? Some think that “against nature” means contrary to the world of nature and they cite the fact that there is homosexuality found among the animal kingdom. But Scripture teaches that nature is distorted and in turmoil because of sin. Also, what animals do should not be a template for human behavior since we have been created in God’s image.}

Next week: 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10

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