This is an article primarily about what the Bible says about homosexuality, not about culture, or individual people and relationships. But because culture and individual people and relationships are involved I am going to say that in the United States and a lot of the western world a cultural shift has been going on where there is now not only a substantial population that accepts homosexuality as well as a number of the LGBTQ objectives, but same-sex marriage and some of the LGBTQ objectives have become law in many places.
From being rejected in the not-too-distant past LGTBQ objectives are now promoted on public and commercial media networks. So they are part of both main street media and public education. The movement has swept the culture to the point that LGBTQ practitioners have identified themselves both as victims and cultural heroes very similar to the black cause with its history of civil rights abuses and slavery.
That is not by any means to say that there have not been civil rights abuses of LGBTQ practitioners. Setting aside the biblical issue of whether LGBTQ is allowed or disallowed by scripture, the participants in this behavior have been mistreated socially far worse than people with what are generally accepted as social ills in the sexual arena. Presidents and top leaders have had affairs and mistresses and people winked. Even with the me too movement I doubt that behavior is over. People use prostitutes, and don’t have groups chasing them to beat them up. Philanderers are recognized as participating in a activity harmful to society but they have not been treated as badly simply because they are participating in hetero versus same sex activities. They didn’t automatically lose their jobs, get beaten up, or worse. That behavior is changing somewhat with this movement and that is a good thing.
Even beyond that, this is a powerful, emotional issue because so many of us know, have family members, have met, and work with people in the LGBTQ community, and many of them are nice people. Many are loving people, talented people. We are talking about friends and associates, even loved ones.
While you can find scoundrels in any class of people including the church, many LGBTQ people are talented, loving, people who may even hold high positions in different aspects of society like media, business, and government. Because of these relationships with people that have good qualities in their life it becomes very hard these days emotionally for even ardent traditional conservative people of faith not to want to avoid having to take a stand against homosexuality and LGBTQ objectives.
So the question then becomes not whether these are nice, talented people who have something possibly to contribute but whether same-sex marriage and LGBTQ objectives are something the word of God allows.
Homosexuality in the Church and Bible
While there are clear verses in the Bible that talk about homosexuality, there are disputes over what they mean and how they should be applied today. Evangelical, fundamental, and most mainline churches speak loudly against homosexuality although the number appears to be diminishing some. On the other hand, some Episcopal, some Lutheran, Presyterian, and other liberal Christian churches reject that view and accept homosexuality to the point of ordaining gay bishops, and accepting gay marriage.i
Furthermore, the acronym LGBTQ, stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Some churches are now including this in the discussion saying that people with these orientations not only should be accepted, but they are worthy of being leaders in the church.
First of all this is a discussion of sexual nature, attraction, and intercourse. There is no ban on men loving men or women loving women. On the contrary, our command is to love all. And people have been making close personal friends with people of the same sex since Adam. That is not an issue. There is no ban on same sex friendships. The issue is whether same sex sexual relationships are endorsed or not in the bible.
Homosexuality means same sex. It is a scientific term but the term “same sex” is gaining popularity over homosexuality. They mean the same thing and have the same connotation as regarding marriage and sexual relations. Everyone acknowledges that biblical verses talk about homosexuality. They argue about the interpretation of the verses. For example;
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Lev 18:22 ESV)
and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:27 ESV)
As stated above, to the majority of Christians, these verses speak loudly against accepting homosexuality in any form. Homosexuality is thus clearly defined as a sin. Moreover, it is a very serious matter as this behavior can result in ministers being defrocked, and members being disciplined. To the majority of Christians, homosexuality identifies a behavior, an act that is sinful. There is no biblical mention of any kind of acceptable homosexual relationship, and the argument is that if the act is sinful then there is no allowable relationship allowed for which this activity is an integral part. On the other hand, heterosexual marriage is allowable, and even honored, because while sex between unmarried partners is sinful, sex between married partners is an honorable act.
Liberal proponents use multiple arguments to counter these mainstream ideas. They argue that Levitical laws are not necessarily binding as we do not practice many of them, i.e., an eye for an eye, stoning people caught in adultery, etc. They argue that Leviticus 18:22 only refers to anal intercourse, not the forming of a loving bond between two people of the same sex who wish to cohabit together. Some even cite that the translations are biased and do not present the truth in their current form. For example, according to the National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA) interpretation, the verse should read, “And with a male thou shalt not lie down in beds of a woman; it is an abomination. That is, “rather than forbidding male homosexuality, it simply restricts where it may occur.”ii
While the point that many of the Levitical laws do not apply to the Christian Church has validity, the passage in Romans is not limited to Levitical Law. Paul is talking about what homosexuality represents in a letter to Christians. We are Christians so he is talking to us.
Since the argument is that the verses are mistranslated by biased translators it becomes important to look at the meaning of the words.
Romans 1:18-27 directly addresses same sex relations in Paul’s epistle. A look at the context of shows this:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom 1:18-25 ESV)
The context here is ungodliness and unrigheousness of men. This is clearly talking about behaviors that God does not want us to do. In this explanation Paul writes that he is talking about people that know God. This is very harsh language, as harsh as anywhere when talking about people being foolish. In this context we see that Paul is writing about believers worshipping idols. As a bi-product of this idol worship, these believers dishonored their bodies, because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
Then we get to Romans 1:26-27 where it talks about same sex relations of both women and men:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:26-27 ESV)
In Romans 1:26 we read that God calls their passions (desires) “dishonorable” and it calls same sex sexual relations “unnatural”.
At this point I want to address the fact that no matter what the reason that people do this behavior it is still called dishonorable and unnatural. That cannot be emphacized enough. I have read the argument that what is bad here is worshipping idols and the behavior looked at here is pointed out as bad because they were worshipping idols. That is faulty logic. Yes, they fell into this behavior because they worshipped idols. But the behavior is unnatural and dishonorable no matter what the cause. Another way to look at it here is that one ungodly behavior led to another.
I have also read the argument that this does not apply to loving relationships in committed relationships because this is talking about believers worshipping idols. Again, that does not negate the fact that these verses define sexual relations between a man and another man or a woman with another women as unnatural and dishonorable.
However, homosexual activists say these verses could only be used to condemn heterosexuals who go against their own heterosexual nature and engage in homosexual activity.iii Their argument is that the sin lies only with those who have had a heterosexual orientation because the sin is going against your orientation. We will address the term orientation later in the article, but first, gay articles also teach that translating these verses in Romans chapter one with the current words shows prejudice because they are mistranslated. They stake their claim on the context of the idolatry and the plural of the men and women in the verses claiming that what is described is an idolotrous, sex-crazed orgy.
First, the words are not mistranslated:
In Romans 1:26 “…dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.”
Dishonorable is pathos, meaning passion especially inordinate affection,
Natural is phusikos, translated here means physical,
Relations is chresis, which means employment or use, specifically in this case, sexual intercourse,
“Are contrary to” is para, used with the accusative, means contrary, against
In Romans 1:27, “leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness”,
Leaving is aphieÌ, translated putting aside or forsaking,
Natural is phusikos, translated natural here means “physical”,
Burned is ekkaioÌ, which means to be inflamed or burned with desire,
Lust is orexis, which means excitement of the mind,
Working is katergazomai , which means working or performing,
Unseemliness is aschemosynen, which means shame or indecency.
Comparing these meanings to the way the verses were translated, we see that verses 26-27 are not mistranslated. They also could be translated, “women exchanged sexual relations for those that are contrary to nature” and (men) putting aside the physical use of the woman, lusted in their excitement one toward another, men with men performing indecently…” This is clearly describing homosexual behavior as unnatural and indecent. That fact that it is cited within the context of the idolatrous situation does not negate the condemnation of homosexual activity,
The sin described in Romans 1:27, according to some homosexuals, is only for those who are heterosexual and do homosexual acts. Their reasoning starts with the logic that the phrase leaving the natural use of the woman means that the individual at one time had a heterosexual orientation. Therefore only those who have had a heterosexual orientation can sin because the sin is going against your orientation.
There is nothing to justify that logic in Romans 1:27. First of all, orientation is a recent invention. The Bible does not teach that anyone has a hetero, homo, or bi orientation. It simply states that people are created male and female. In order to establish what a verse says you have to use the logic of the bible and sexual orientation is not in the bible. The bible talks about behavior, and whether it is godly or not. People have tendencies to do all kinds of behaviors, some godly and some not. Exercising, some people tend to be walkers, and some tend to be runners, and some ride their bicycles. Do we say that one has a walking orientation and the other has a running orientation and the third has a cycling oriention. No, we don’t. We say that one likes to walk, one likes to run and the third likes to cycle. But we know that they are activities that they are choosing to do. The bible doesn’t talk about orientation, it talks about behavior.
On the other side, Leviticus 18:22, pro-homosexual activists point out, is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality as it is a condemnation of men who are heterosexual sleeping with meniv
In response, Leviticus 18:22 does not require that a man have heterosexual tendencies first. There is absolutely nothing in the context to justify that reasoning. Again, the bible doesn’t recognize sexual orientation, just sexual behavior that people like to do, some ordained by God and some not. And everytime someone makes a choice to do a second option over the first does not mean that they had a tendency to do the first option at all. That is a faulty argument. An example of two possible choices might go like this:
Deciding to not take the ferry, the Smiths took the air shuttle to the island.
This shows how the Smiths made a choice between the using water and air transportation. There is no indication whether the Smiths ever took the Ferry before or were inclined to, only that it was one of the possibilities. Just like there are two sexual behavior possibilities, there are two transportation possibilities in our examples. The biblical phrasing, putting aside the physical use of the woman gives the status that one of the options for men sexually is heterosexuality. There is absolutely no indication of an assumed tendency to do the first option. It is just a statement that the option exists. Likewise, the phrasing “lying with mankind as with womankind” is stating two options. It does not give any basis for assigning tendency or orientation on the reader.
So, again, the wording in “Women exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and men with men performing indecently” states the unacceptability of the homosexual act irrespective of the context of what led them to their choices. Furthermore, the argument trying to incorporate orientation into the verbiage has no basis.
Despite gay Christian activists’ claim that homosexuality is not fully explored in the bible and the sections that are claimed to be anti-homosexual are really against idolatry, abusing male prostitutes, heterosexuals going against their own nature and so forth, the fact is that there is no biblical basis for any same sex sexual relationship, and consequently the marriage ceremony that would make that sexual relationship honorable in the bible. We will see next in the article numerous references to biblical heterosexual marriages without a single reference to a valid homosexual one. And that, coupled with the fact that the only references to homosexual activities are against them precludes any endorsement as allowable of same sex marriage on biblical grounds.
In Genesis and in every place mentioned in the Bible a marriage is defined as a man and a woman. It says in Gen 2:24:
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Same sex marriage might be allowed if the words were a person and their mate. These words are gender specific, a man and his wife.
Remember, these words were also quoted by our Lord in reference to marriage in Matthew 19:5. The Lord did speak on what a valid marriage was!
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph 5:25-30 ESV)
Notice the “gave himself up for her” in verse 25. Its a him and a her! Look at all the hims and hers in that example.
When you look at marriages in the bible its always a him and a her:
Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. (1Ki 3:1 ESV)
Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” (Jdg 21:1 ESV)
So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to Jarha his slave, and she bore him Attai.
(1Ch 2:35 ESV)
Its always a him and a her, a man and a woman in the marriage being discussed!
Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. (Psa 78:63 ESV)
Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. (Jer 29:6 ESV)
When discussing the end of marriage by death or divorce if sexes are mentioned its a him and a her, a man and a woman:
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. (Rom 7:2 ESV)
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (Mat 5:31 ESV)
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1Co 7:10-14 ESV)
This last section gives two scenarios. The first is a believing man and woman, you know that by the pronouns, his wife, her husband. There are no verses with “his husband” or “her wife”!
The second scenario is a married believer with an unbelieving spouse. They are not to get divorced. More than that, it itemizes two and only two combinations. A man with an unbelieving wife, and a woman with an unbelieving husband! Paul itemizes the two available combinations: a man with an unbelieving woman, and a woman with an unbelieving man. Why wouldn’t Paul include man with unbelieving man and woman with unbelieving woman if they were available. The answer is that he didn’t include them because they are not available.
I am saying that there are many verses in the bible that talk about marriage and if it mentions genders it gives a man and a woman. I have shown that the bible talks about marriage in a multitude of contexts in the Old Testament and the New and it is always a him and a her. In the Old testament multiple marriage was allowed for reasons beyond this article. In the New Testament it is one man and one woman.
Marriage and Sex Outside of Marriage
Central to the issue of homosexuality are the issues of marriage and sex outside of marriage.
While there are some questionable heterosexual practices in the Old Testament, in the New Testament marriage is the only place where sex is allowed.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb 13:4 ESV)
Adultery and fornication, sex outside of marriage for anyone, are forbidden. Whoring, adulterous affairs, fornication, and other sexual misdeeds are treated as serious sins.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (Luk 16:18 ESV)
Look at the pronouns. The Bible only gives this guidance for dissolution of a marriage between a man and a woman!
Even heterosexual men who look at women with the desire to have them sexually is sinful, according to Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:28.
So where does the rationalization come that somehow it is okay for a man to desire sex with other men if Christian men are not supposed to desire sex with anyone other than their wives any way? Is it because adultery and fornication have become “acceptable” in the churches that this step to homosexuality has less meaning? Perhaps, but the truth is that all sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage are forbidden. To follow them is to follow the lust of the flesh, not the spirit of the Lord.
Summary and Conclusion
Acceptance of same sex marriage has no biblical basis. While there are numerous references to heterosexual sexual relationships, both goodv and shameful, there are no good references to homosexual sexual relationships. Since all the sexual acts of homosexuality are shamefully discussed biblically and the text is completely devoid of any endorsing verses, there is no basis to allow for a godly relationship based on homosexual sexual interactions. With all the verses that positively talk about women and men marrying, there isn’t a single verse that endorses same sex marriages.
Verses that endorse sex within marriage only include:
Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.Heb 13:4
The verses that give the basis of marriage are based on heterosexuality:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.Gen 2:24-25
There are no verses that refer to a man and his husband, or a woman and her wife.
The pro same sex marriage argument is too much of a stretch. It doesn’t fit with the context of scripture.
However, despite the biblical logic against the acceptance of homosexuality there are a number of churches that accept homosexuality. This is causing more division in the church. A major emphasis that I have seen to allow this is the simple “love” premise. Boiled down it’s they are good, loving, talented people and we should love and accept them because the basic message of the gospel is love. The logic includes things like the following statements: What can can be wrong with let loving LGBTQ people marry or lead us? Aren’t some of them high quality individuals that are leaders in the community? These are our friends, loved ones, and co-workers. More and more people are doing the LGBTQ thing in their church so we should do it too.
Again, the accusation is that it is not loving not to accept and include people who choose these lifestyles to be not only part of us but we should do weddings for them and let them be our leaders.
But, the simple love argument can be used to accept a ton of ungodly situations: people who choose to co-habitate instead of marry including serial monogamy and polyamory. And how do you “biblically base” the love life of a bisexual besides multiple marriage? It can justify affairs between loving partners of any marital status. That a person is loving and therefore acceptable can be used to justify any sin, lying, stealing, you name it. The simple love argument is too simplistic and is really unbiblical. It negates the truth that good people can be mistaken.
Christianity is not a democracy. The number of churches endorsing same sex marriage won’t make it any more or less right than the number of churches endorsing slavery two hundred years ago made that right or any of the other controversial doctrines that churches have dealt within the centuries since the apostles.
As much as it appears otherwise sometimes, the word of God is not something that is just reasoned out. It isn’t just what makes sense to the community or the leaders in charge or any human at all. What sets the word of God apart and makes it holy is that it has been revealed to us as the will of God.
Sometimes the revelation that is in God’s word is not something that we want to hear. A common refrain from almost any area of life is “how could something that feels so right be wrong?” As a child of the fifties one of the things so many reasoned and said felt good was free love. Free love is another term for casual sex. My generation reasoned, “Who gets hurt by that?” “Make love, not war.” I heard the question so many times, How can it be wrong when it feels so right and doesn’t hurt anyone? Or why do we need a ceremony when we can just say we are married or living together. But it is wrong because it doesn’t build the relationship that God says is best. Likewise for same sex relationships.
Sometimes the things that nice, otherwise loving people want to do are not the things that God wants us to do.
Sometimes I look around at myself and others as adults as we congratulate ourselves that we’re not like these crazy toddlers who throw fits because they just want something so bad and just keep screaming for something because it’s what they want. But what I have learned as a grandparent is that we still want those things and sometimes just as bad. We have just learned not to throw the fit like a two-year-old does, but sometimes now we are so much more calculated and cunning and use calculated behaviors and cultural tools like social media and more to obtain our want. We say that anyone that doesn’t agree with us is mean and hateful. We talk up to everyone we know about how what we want is a good that we are being denied and try to gather support. We use every tool at our disposal.
We are in the middle of a great cultural battle deciding whether this long-standing issue of faith, this standard, that has been held for thousands of years shall stand.
That’s why I am going by the ancient doctrine against same sex marriage and homosexuality on this one. I see no evidence that it has been mistranslated or erroneously taught for 2000 odd years. Our heavenly Father knows best and while He loves all people He doesn’t allow same sex marriage as painful as that may appear to some.
i. In a recent news article about my neighborhood titled, “Pa. Episcopal diocese OKs split over Bible, homosexuals” (Joe Mandak – Associated Press Writer – 10/6/2008 9:40:00 AM) “MONROEVILLE, PA – Clergy and lay members of the theologically conservative Pittsburgh diocese voted overwhelmingly Saturday to break from the liberal Episcopal Church, with which it differs on issues ranging from homosexuality to biblical teachings on salvation.
Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven said the vote means the Pittsburgh diocese is now more firmly aligned with the majority of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, which is more conservative than the communion’s 2.2 million-member U.S. church.”
The article goes on to say that dividing is perhaps the most “egregious” act the church can do. About how the breakup over this major issue developed there was this statement:
“The church became as gray as the culture,” said Alison McFarland, who voted for the split. “Undefined Christianity became the problem, and now the church is indistinguishable from the world.”
iii. The Bible, Christianity & Homosexuality, Justin R. Cannon, available at http://www.truthsetsfree.net/bible.htm
iv. The Bible, Christianity & Homosexuality, Justin R. Cannon, p11
v. The entire book of Song of Solomon is a heterosexual love story.
(c) 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Revised 2019