Editor’s Note: This email dialogue passed between a Christian and his friend who announced that he had embraced the sodomite lifestyle. The Christian is my son.
Initial Message From Friend
I hear you are quite “conservative” in your points of view. I only bring this up because quite honestly I hope to always consider you to be a friend. But I have always known you to be conservative and perhaps that is why I have never told you in person since my “coming out” process began four years ago. It is always scary and I still worry about how people in your life take the news.
If you don’t find that who I am, as a gay person, offends your sensibilities then I would love to stop by sometime and catch up.
The Christian’s Response
Though I am “quite conservative,” at least politically, I don’t know that I’m any more conservative than I’ve always been. Candor forces me to admit that I’m not totally surprised by your “revelation” contained in your message. But I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I didn’t share my concern for you.
Though I could emphasize the physical danger of homosexuality—the average homosexual male only lives to be about 42 compared to 75 for married men, and only 1 percent of male homosexuals live to be 65 or older—I’m more concerned with your spiritual welfare. My views regarding homosexuality have nothing to do with being conservative; they’re based on Biblical teaching.
If you accept the premise that God exists and revealed His will for man in the Bible, then you have to accept the teachings contained in it as absolute truth. The Bible explicitly and emphatically condemns homosexuality as a sin that will cause you to lose your soul. There’s no ambiguity—it’s called a spiritual death sentence if you die leading a homosexual lifestyle. I would be glad to share specific biblical teaching if you’re interested. But just know that I’m not trying to hurt you or denigrate your character in any way. I still consider you a friend, and I hope you accept what I’ve written in the spirit in which it’s intended—as someone doing what is in the best interest physically and, more important, spiritually, for his friend. I’d love to continue this dialogue, if you’re so inclined. And you’re always welcome in my home.
The Friend’s Reply
That is true, I’m sure you are likely not any more conservative now as you were then and your candor is appreciated. I’m sure that my “revelation” was not a surprise in that anyone who ever really knew me had to have had some insight into my true self.
While I appreciate your concern and the use of statistics that have been purported in research funded by religious groups I would describe as “anti-gay,” the flawed statistics imply that it’s somehow more dangerous or life threatening to be a gay person. To this I respond with the following thoughts:
If the statistic were true which it is not, the implication is that all homosexuals are promiscuous and I, being homosexual, am, by definition, a promiscuous person. I could take offense to the implication, but I will not simply because such statements are made in ignorance and quite frankly with an heir (sic) of judgment that all homosexuals are promiscuous and practice unsafe sex. I assure you that I have the same values that I was raised with and that I am not nor will I ever be a promiscuous person.
I concede that promiscuity does exist within the gay sub-culture. However, this stereotype has no more basis than any of the thousands of stereotypes that exist. (I will continue these thoughts in a moment.)
While I also very much appreciate your concern for my spiritual welfare, I take exception with the following statement: “If you accept the premise that God exists and revealed His will for man in the Bible, then you have to accept the teachings contained in it as absolute truth.”
I understand that life is a journey and believe that faith is also a journey and that I am but a pilgrim. I learned the same way you did that homosexuality was a sin and that to be a homosexual surely meant eternal damnation. So I began to reject religion—all religion—and reject God, because I couldn’t understand how he (sic) could make me gay and then condemn me for it. So I began to research the history of the bible (sic) and religion as whole. Basically, I questioned faith and God. After years of this I reached a conclusion. One that I felt is well founded and based upon fact and faith. God loves me as I am for I, yes a gay person, was made in his (sic) image as well.
No offense to anyone else, but I feel closer to God now than I ever did growing up, because I had to get to know him (sic). I had a “troubled” relationship with him (sic). I learned on my own what it means to be a man of faith and what it means to be spiritual. Most people take what is taught them on Sundays as fact. Not many people read the Bible and reflect on its meaning. They hear the “preacher’s” interpretation and accept it as their own—the traditional shepherd and flock. I challenge the concept that that is how it should be. I also take offense to the idea that liberalism is a bad thing.
Jesus was a liberal himself (sic). If you have truly read the Bible then you yourself can’t deny that Jesus Christ was “liberal.” I believe that God was speaking through him (sic) and that God speaks continuously, even today. As a “liberal Christian” I do not believe that the Bible is infallible. I do however believe it is the truth—that truth being love. Love for all without judgment.
It is common for those who consider homosexuality an “abomination” to “prove” their cause by quoting every scripture they can find pertaining to sexual sin and promiscuity. By doing this it is important to understand that we Christians in the gay community also are a hundred percent against sexual sin. The difference lies in the fact that we do not believe God has singled out any particular community or nation of people as “evil” or “sinful,” believing instead that God’s edicts are applied without prejudice to all peoples and communities; homosexual and heterosexual alike.
Therefore before calling homosexuality a sin, one should interrogate Scripture to find if this premise is even true. Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians are just repeating what they have heard from the pulpit or attempting to frame God’s will around their prejudices and fears.
The Christian’s Response
Concerning your contention that “I could take offense to the implication [that you lead a promiscuous life].” I didn’t mean to imply that you are promiscuous, only that your lifestyle is unhealthy. Any physical ramifications are less important than spiritual ones, so I’ll only address your biblical arguments.
You write “So I began to reject religion and reject God, because I couldn’t understand how he could make me gay and then condemn me for it. God loves me as I am for I, yes a gay person, was made in his image as well.”
This assumes God made you a homosexual. Certainly God loves you. But the question is this: Does He condone homosexuality? God loved the sinful world so much that He sent Jesus to die for all of us (John 3:16). That doesn’t mean He approves of all of our actions. Love and approval aren’t synonyms, and the former doesn’t necessarily imply the latter.
You write “I also take offense to the idea that liberalism is a bad thing. Jesus was a liberal himself. If you have truly read the bible (sic) then you yourself can’t deny that Jesus Christ was ‘liberal.’” Remember, you injected conservatism and liberalism into the discussion. I’m more concerned with the Bible’s teaching. Since “conservative” and “liberal” are terms with political connotations, I would prefer to set them aside when discussing the Bible and focus on what it teaches.
You write I do not believe that the Bible is infallible. I do however believe it is the truth, that truth being love. Love for all without judgment.”
If the Bible is fallible, how can it be true? Are some portions fallible and others infallible? Truth, by definition, precludes error. The Bible can’t be truth and fallible at the same time—that’s a contradiction.
You define truth as love, but that is your own definition, not the Bible’s. It teaches that we know truth by abiding in Christ’s word, which will make us free from sin (John 8:31-32). It is also the standard by which Jesus will judge our conduct at the last day (John 12:48-50). Jesus loves us, but His word says that certain activities are forbidden, and loving Him means obeying Him (John 14:15).
You write that truth is “Love for all without judgment.” Does that mean accepting homosexuality and not condemning it? Once in your letter you write, regarding statistics that you believe are “anti-gay,” that “such statements are made in ignorance and quite frankly with an heir (sic) of judgment.” Then, twice you use the phrase “prejudices and fears”—though the second time is in the singular—describing Christians who condemn homosexuality.
You state that truth is loving you without judgment, yet you judge various opponents of your lifestyle to be ignorant, judgmental, prejudicial and fearful. Those are awfully judgmental descriptives.
Do you maintain that all opponents of homosexuality are characterized by at least one of those traits? If so, does that mean you’ve decided opponents of homosexuality can’t possibly be correct? If that’s the case, then you’re being intellectually dishonest.
The Friend’s Response
As far as discussing the specifics of the Bible I know them. The specific passages most commonly used by “Christians” to condemn homosexuals and support their prejudice and fear are listed below. The problem with this is that the passages are taken individually without reviewing the context in which they are being written. Almost any viewpoint can be supported by selectively choosing passages out of context.
To each passage I respond thus:
Genesis 19:1-5 (KJV) And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
My Response: The key word here is “know,” the translation of the word Yada. The best translation is indeed rape. The men of Sodom intended to rape the angels. When taken in context with other passages the sin here is not directly that a man is to engage in sex with another man, but instead the evil that is in the hearts of the citizens of Sodom and indeed with rape in general. Ezekiel 16:49-50 states: “Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, overabundance of food, prosperous ease, and idleness were hers and her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominable offenses before Me.”
Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
Leviticus 20:13 (KJV)
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
My Response: For the two from Leviticus I will respond in combination. Both of these passages are taken from Levitical law. Laws that were to be followed by all Israelites until the Messiah established a new covenant. This new covenant was established when Jesus Christ died for our sins. To anyone who would quote these passages as support for their condemnation of me, I would ask them to explain how it is that they would enforce these Levitical laws only on homosexuals.
This attitude isn’t new. Early Christians didn’t want to let go of their “Laws” and were especially keen to enforce them on the Gentiles whom they considered an abomination (sound familiar?). It was Paul who pointed out that if any one tries to follow Levitical Law or enforce the Law upon others. God will hold us accountable for following each and every one of the Laws—no exceptions (Gal. 5:1-6).
If that were to happen then you would have to put your children to death for cursing or disobeying you, or kill someone for reading their horoscope. You could have as many wives as you wanted and if any of them cheated, they would have to be stoned to death. My point is this—“law” has no more bearing than all of the laws that are conveniently “left out” when using these passages to support the point of view that homosexuals are an abomination.
I also don’t want to discount the intent behind such laws either. The intent of Levitical laws was to promote holiness, respect, family, and health. All four tenets are as valid in today’s society as they were when the Levitical laws were written. Jesus responds to the nature of these laws in Matthew 22:34-40 ESV in which he replies to the question “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? “Jesus replies: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Deuteronomy. 23:17 (KJV)
“There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.”
My Response: To this passage I simply say that this one hinges entirely on translation. In the most widely used version, King James, translators used the word sodomite for the Hebrew word Qadesh as a generic term for what was then considered “unnatural” sex. Back in the start of the 17th century CE, when this version of the Bible was translated, the term “sodomite” referred to a person who engaged in what were then called “unnatural” sexual acts of any type. This is further supported by other translations of the same passage never mentioning “sodomites.”
ESV: (English Standard Version): “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute.”
LB: (Living Bible): “No prostitutes are permitted in Israel, either men or women.”
NIV: (New International Version) “No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.”
NLT: (New Living Translation): “No Israelite man or woman may ever become a temple prostitute.”
RSV: (Revised Standard Version): “There shall be no cult prostitute of the daughters of Israel, neither shall there be a cult prostitute of the sons of Israel.”
1st Corinthians 6:9-10 (NAS): “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NKJ)
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.
My Response: For both Corinthians and Timothy, the message here hinges on the translation definition of the Greek word arsenokoitais. This word is slang and has been translated as “sodomites” and as “abusers of themselves with mankind.” Neither is certain and therefore translation was ambiguous at best. To determine the true meaning behind the passage common sense and context must be used. God is not the author of confusion but of peace.
In an an article by Paul R. Johnson for Second Stone magazine titled “A New Look at Arsenokoitais” (1994 January/February issue) he wrote,
The Greek compound term arseno-koitais literally means ‘the male who has many beds.’ The word arsen means ‘male’, the adjective o means ‘the’, and the term koitais is defined as ‘many beds.’ Thus, the entire phrase means a male with multiple bed-partners; a promiscuous man. Everywhere that the word koitais is used in the plural in the Bible denotes promiscuity. However, when the same word is used in the singular form, the Bible gives approval because the singular denotes monogamy.
The original Greek text describes the two behaviors as malakoi and arsenokoitai. Although often translated by modern Bibles as “homosexual,” we can be fairly certain that this is not the meaning that Paul wanted to convey. If he had, he would have used the Greek word paid-erasste. That was the standard term at the time for male homosexuals. Thus common sense would conclude that he probably meant something different from persons who engaged in male-male adult sexual behavior and more likely towards promiscuity or selfish behavior (like that of the sodomites.)
Romans 1:21-31 (NAS) (excerpt)
…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 and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error…
My Response: In this passage the problem of course is, what is “natural”? The word “natural” comes from two Greek words phusikos and phusis. These words literally mean that which is a persons “natural disposition” and something that comes “instinctively” to them. In other words, it is who you are naturally; without reprogramming, counseling, or any other form of behavioral modification that attempts to change your behavior to that which society has deemed acceptable.
So what is natural? This perhaps is the crux for anyone questioning whether or not homosexuality is a choice. So let’s look at Paul’s use of the Greek phrase para physin which in this case is translated (perhaps with bias) as “unnatural.” But when used elsewhere in the Bible it is translated as “unconventional.” In First Corinthians 11:14, Paul uses the phrase to refer to long hair on men as unusual and not ordinary. In Romans 11:24, Paul used it to describe God’s positive actions to bring Jews and Gentiles together.
My point being, the term natural is subject to the inclination of the translator or even the person reading, however who is to say what is natural to God? We exist don’t we? What is “natural” to me is not to you and vice versa. So how is that homosexuals have existed throughout time and exist in nature everywhere. It can only be because homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature, affecting every species including humans. For some reason, in God’s magnificent plan of creation, He has planned us to be this way. “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God the Maker of all things” (Eccl. 11:5 NIV).
In closing, I did not take offense to any of your comments but I had to exercise my right to take exception. I also hope that you know that I am not taking aim at you and meant no offense in my response. I do still consider you a dear friend that I love, as I always have. You, as well, will always be welcome.
The Christian’s Response To These Arguments
I admit that your letter forced me to study intensely what the passages you listed teach, and I like to think I did so with an open mind by considering that you may have been correct.
Genesis 19:1-5 You write that “The best translation [of yada] is indeed rape.” Why? What linguistic scholar(s) maintains this? You can’t just say that since the best translation is “rape,” that “the men wished to rape the angels, and we know this because ‘rape’ is the best translation.” That’s begging the question.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by Vine, Unger and White lists several definitions for the English word “know” and its variations, but “rape” isn’t one of them. According to page 130 of Vine, et al., “The ‘knower’ has actual involvement with or in the object of the knowing. In Gen. 4:1 Adam’s knowing [yada] Eve also refers to direct contact with her in a sexual relationship.” The context of the passage you cite does not warrant translating yada as “rape.”
Yada is used in the context of rape in Judges 19:25. “But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.”
But the word alal, translated “abused,” clarifies that rape is discussed. No such clarification exists in Genesis 19:5, and the context doesn’t demand rape.
According to page 394 of The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, yada may involve sexual intercourse, but rape is not implied. That’s why alal was added in the Judges passage. Passages in which rape is discussed:
Deuteronomy. 22:25—Rape is listed as punishable by death here. “But if a man force (chazaq) her, the man shall die.”
Samuel 13:14, 22—Rape is also discussed using the English word “forced” which is translated from anah.
Lamentations 5:11—Rape is referred to as “ravished,” also translated from anah.
Isaiah 13:16; Zechariah 14:2—Rape is also referred to as “ravished,” though translated from shagal.
If rape was the sin under consideration in Genesis 19:5, any of these three words above could have been used. Or alal could have been added to explain the non-consensual nature of yada, but it wasn’t.
Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
You write that these were,
…taken from Levitical law. Laws that were to be followed by all Israelites until the Messiah established a new covenant… To anyone who would quote these passages as support for their condemnation of me, I would ask them to explain how it is that they would enforce these Levitical laws only on homosexuals… My point is, this ‘law’ has no more bearing than all of the laws that are conveniently ‘left out’ when using these passages to support the point of view that homosexuals are an abomination…
You seem to concede that God condemned homosexuality under the Law of Moses, but you maintain that the prohibition isn’t applicable under Christ’s covenant. Is this correct? Question: If you do concede that homosexuality was condemned under the Law of Moses, how could God make certain people that way, and then condemn them for it? That would make Him arbitrary and cruel.
Though the Law of Moses isn’t applicable today, couldn’t this be a lesson for us regarding God’s view of homosexuality? God’s moral law preceded and succeeded the Law of Moses. An example is God’s prohibition of murder in Genesis 9:6 before the Law of Moses was given and in force. It was wrong to murder before the Law of Moses, and it’s still wrong after the Law of Moses.
Both Leviticus passages refer to homosexuality as “abomination.” According to Ezekiel 16:50—a passage you cited—Sodom was destroyed for “abominable offense.”
You write “To this passage I simply say that this one hinges entirely on translation.” The translation in question is of the word qadash. The definition: “a male prostitute” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). Certainly promiscuity is condemned, but so is any type of homosexual activity, monogamous or not (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13).
1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:9-1
The Greek word translated “effeminate” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is malakos. According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, this means “of a catamite, a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness.” A catamite was a homosexual—specifically “a boy who has a sexual relationship with a man” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. So the “unnatural lewdness” refers to homosexuality.
The same lexicon gives the following definition for the Greek word arsenokoites: “one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite.” The emphasis is on what is forbidden is any sexual activity between males.
The context indicates “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV), “homosexuals” (NAS) isn’t dealing with promiscuity. Paul has already addressed “fornication”—general sexual sin—and “adultery”—sex with someone besides your spouse. The next two terms/phrases deal with a different class of sexual sin—homosexual sin.
You write, “In this passage the problem of course is, what is ‘natural’? . . . These words literally mean that which is a persons ‘natural disposition’ and something that comes ‘instinctively’ to them… So what is natural?… What is ‘natural’ to me is not to you and vice versa…”
Regardless of what “natural” means, what is condemned in Romans 1:26-27 is men leaving women for men and women leaving men for women. Obviously homosexuality is under consideration.
What is “natural”? The word in these two verses is defined by Thayer as “agreeable to nature.” The context indicates it is natural for men and women to share a marital/sexual relationship. It doesn’t indicate that what is natural for one person isn’t for another, and what is sinful is not being true to yourself. Look at the context—men leaving women for the same sex and vice versa is under consideration and condemned.
God made man, then made woman for him. The man and woman are to come together and “be one flesh.” Man and man are not. The same is true for woman and woman. Considering this is the only way for the species to continue—the compatibility of the male and female reproductive organs illustrates this—it’s what God designed as natural.
This is why Jesus gave His divine stamp of approval to this (male and female) marriage arrangement as God instituted it (Matt. 19:4-6). Nowhere in the Bible is divine approval given to homosexuality, to two women or two men becoming “one flesh.” It’s always—and only—a man and a woman.
We don’t read of any homosexual Christians in the New Testament. It’s never spoken of as an acceptable lifestyle, and there are no examples in the Bible of homosexuals acceptably serving God.
Paul addresses the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:18-19. Homosexuals existed, so why isn’t the husband-husband or wife-wife relationship ever addressed, if God approves of homosexuality?
Children are commanded to obey their parents in the New Testament. Paul even references the 5th commandment to honor father and mother (Eph. 6:1-2). Marriage and the family all revolve around man and woman coming together. That’s God’s plan. That’s what’s natural. Men turning to men and women turning to women for the marital/sexual relationship is not.
I would like to get back to your assertion that the Bible is fallible. If it is, why go to the pains to exegete passages of the book to make your case? If it’s errant, why bother? Which parts of the Bible are true, and which are false? Could it be that you’ve attempted to harmonize God’s word with the lifestyle you’ve chosen? To do so takes some extreme contorting of passages to make them mean, or not mean, what you wish.
You are interpreting passages from the viewpoint that God created you as a homosexual, so He must approve of the lifestyle. But set aside the issue of whether you were born a homosexual and consider this: Is it possible, just possible, that you’ve chosen this lifestyle? Is it even possible that psychological and emotional factors played a role in the emergence of this form of sexuality? If you grant the intellectually honest position and concede just the possibility that homosexuality is a choice and not the result of genetics, the biblical evidence opposing homosexuality appears strong and clear.
Again, I hope you receive this in the spirit in which it is intended. I have your best spiritual interest at heart.
(Editor’s Note: The friend never replied following the Christian’s last response).