Before Citing the Bible, Be Sure to Read it First

“Before citing the Bible, be sure to read it first” was the headline in the June 15, 2013 Faith and Values section of the Indianapolis Star.  I agree. But unfortunately, the author didn’t follow her own counsel as she applied a revisionist understanding of the Bible in her defense of same sex marriage. The essential argument was that the Bible is silent, saying nothing about “two loving, committed, consenting adults” in a same sex relationship likened to marriage.  Is the Bible silent?  No, it is not!

In the Old Testament, the Creation account establishes marriage as a union of male and female. The Law of Moses addresses a wide range of alternatives, prohibiting all of them including specific reference to homosexual relations.

In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed marriage in his rejection of divorce, clearly stating what marriage is,  But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  Mark 10:6-8a New International Version

Did Jesus then reject those who failed to live by the creation model?  Absolutely Not!  Jesus modeled radical grace, without which none of us would be accepted. But Jesus also called us to live within the moral bounds of Scripture.

The apostle Paul lifted up marriage modeled after the example of Christ and the Church, specifically addressing husbands and wives. 

Granted, neither Jesus nor Paul nor Moses specifically addressed “the possibility of two loving, committed, consenting adults” in a same sex marriage, but that begs the question. It was not addressed because such an idea was beyond the pale, outside of the stream of teaching that our evident gender distinctions are designed for union in the marriage of one man and one woman.  The Bible is consistent throughout that sexual relations are for marriage between a man and a woman; not in any other relationship.

For those who experience same sex attraction, we follow the example of Jesus in showing loving compassion, inviting all to share in the radical grace of Jesus; and to join with us in obeying Him. But we cannot reasonably cite Jesus or any other part of the Bible, or the supposed silence of the Bible, in support of same sex marriage.

***

For those interested in reading further, what follows is a point by point response to the Indy Star author’s revisionist handling of Scripture.  Paragraphs in quotations are taken directly from the article, followed by my response: 

“If we limit our understanding of marriage to what we find in scripture, then none of us are in compliance. The Bible records faithful and dedicated patriarchs having multiple wives and concubines. It was commonplace for a man to have children with the servants. Married women were considered property to be passed on to heirs when a man died. Wives who did not produce male offspring could be divorced.”

This point betrays serious lack of understanding of what the Bible is saying, confusing the frankness of Scripture on the reality of certain sexual behaviors with the clear teaching on what is acceptable and blessed of God. Yes, polygamy and concubines and other bad behaviors are acknowledged but not approved.  By the nature of progressive revelation, many of those matters were addressed in the law of Moses with clear direction opposing all homosexual relations.

“If we turn to the Bible, particularly the stories of Jesus, to guide us on who we should allow in our groups or associations, then our doors must be wide open. There are no instances where Jesus excluded anyone based on religion, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, criminal history, gender, health, economic or social status or sinfulness.”

The wonderful truth expressed here is that Jesus modeled radical grace, without which none of us would be accepted, and giving hope to every person.  But we dare not ignore Jesus’ equally radical call to righteousness and the command to “leave your life of sin.” A fair reading of the Sermon on the Mount will not allow the conclusion that Jesus was indifferent to the impact of sin, but insisted on repentance, turning from sin to righteous behavior.

“The Bible only has seven passages that even address the question of homosexuality and those references are always in the context of a situation where there is potential for abuse or exploitation. They are teachings against prostitution, rape and pedophilia. None of them speak directly to the possibility of two loving, committed, consenting adults.”

This assertion is simply false.  Of the seven passages I assume she references, there are two texts involving attempted homosexual rape (Genesis 19; Judges 19), but the primary prohibitions to same sex relations in the Bible, in the law of Moses (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) and Paul’s letters (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10) use words for homosexual behavior that do not connote force and certainly include “consenting adults,” no less a violation of God’s design for sexual expression.

“The scriptural teachings that are undeniable and consistently clear always focus on welcome, not exclusion, love, not condemnation, understanding, not discrimination, and God’s amazing grace, not human judgment.”

This last statement betrays even more that the author has failed to take her own counsel and “read the Bible first.”  Scripture is filled with strong statements of condemnation against those who violate God’s holy standards, with even particular focus on sexual sins because of the likeness to idolatry, turning to other gods in place of worship and honor of the one true God, the LORD (Yahweh).

But for all people no matter what sins we have in our past or present, hope is found in the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The whole range of sins delineated in Scripture have a common element, rebellion and disobedience to God.  But the call to repentance and to faith in Christ is a powerful and reassuring hope. 

And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

This brief article is obviously unable to address all the points and counter points of the same sex debate.  But for those who want to know what the Bible says, take it all seriously.  A great resource for wrestling with every relevant passage on this subject is Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001) A more recent book that makes the case without appealing to Scripture is Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What is Marriage: Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, 2012)

 

 

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