The Death Penalty as our Only Hope

The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Tomas,

As promised, here is my follow up letter on what Scripture teaches about homosexual desires and actions. What I would like to do is note some of the key passages, summarize the issues, and perhaps say a few things about standard evasions—for that is what they are, evasions.

Of course, sodomy gets its name from one of the Cities of the Plain, Sodom.

“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” (Gen. 19:4–5).

The standard objection to this citation is that the men of Sodom were proposing to rape the angels, and that faithful loving relationships were not in view at all. But the sin of Sodom, sin that culminated in the scene outside Lot’s house, was far more encompassing than simply attempted rape.

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Eze. 16:49–50).

And Jude the Lord’s brother described the problem this way:

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

In short, this public attempt to rape the angels occurred in a much broader context, a context of luxurious living, contempt for the poor, idleness, pride, abominable practices, fornication, and going after strange flesh. In other words, the problem with Sodom was just what everybody thought it was—before some scholars got hold of it.

A homosexual prostitute is called “a dog” in Deuteronomy.

“Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 23:18).

Some might say that the problem here was the commodification of sex, not the homosexual act in itself. But this is not the kind of problem that can be solved by giving it away. Scripture teaches that free love is worse than merchandised love.

“How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment” (Eze. 16:30–31, ESV).

And John echoes the Deuteronomic insult by excluding these “dogs” from the New Jerusalem.

“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15).

Next we have the flat prohibition found in Leviticus.

“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” (Lev. 20:13).

Now it is possible to argue that this refers simply to anal intercourse (“as he lieth with a woman”) and not to other forms of homosexual behavior. For example, lesbianism is never mentioned in the Old Testament by name. But Paul, clearly reasoning from Old Testament categories, does mention lesbianism:

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Rom. 1:26).

The objection to the law in Leviticus is that we are inconsistent to keep the prohibition and not to keep the penalty. Why opposition to homosexual intercourse on the part of modern Christians, but no one is urging the death penalty for it? This objection misunderstands the nature of the Old Testament case law system. The death penalty in this instance was not a minimum penalty, but rather one of the options, depending on the circumstances. Centuries later, three righteous kings (Asa, Jehoshaphat and Josiah) banned the sodomites who had set up operations near the Temple, and they are praised in the text, even though they executed no one.

“And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made” (1 Kings 15:11–12).

“And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land” (1 Kings 22:46).

“And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove” (2 Kings 23:7).

So then, execution of homosexuals was not mandatory, not even in the Old Testament. But it was detestable, and these kings are praised for their work in shutting down the rainbow parades. That said, homosexual practices are worthy of the death penalty, which is affirmed, even in the New Testament.

“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:32).

At the same time, it is important to note that many of the things mentioned in Paul’s list here are sins that are in no way limited to homosexuals. Homosexuals are included, as the earlier part of Romans 1 makes perfectly clear, but all sinners, hetero and homo both, are under the wrath of a holy God. All of us die, and all of us deserve to. This is because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

Why does God not drop the hammer then? The answer is that God in His grace determined to save the world from its sin. He could have, in all justice, condemned the world for its sin, but in an exercise of grace upon grace He decided to save the world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

So the death penalty for homosexual lust and behavior still applies. The glory of the gospel is that Jesus died on the cross as a perfect substitute—for these sins and for all the others. In other words, the New Testament did not see an abrogation of the death penalty for sodomy. Rather it is in the New Testament where we see the ultimate fulfillment of it, a final execution for sodomy.

Jesus was executed by wicked men, under the wrath of a holy God—cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Gal. 3:13)—and among many other despicable sins that were imputed to Him, sodomy was certainly one of them. So New Testament Christians must not reject the death penalty for sodomy. Rather, we maintain that Jesus, who died for our sins, was not put to death for generic “sin,” but rather for all the detestable things His people had ever done. He died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).

This means that we do not seek to win the world for Christ by executing sinners. God’s plan and purpose is to fill up Heaven, not Hell. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13). Abraham was promised the world, but he was not going to inherit the world “through the law.” Rather, the world is going to turn away from all its sin—including sodomy, the desire for sodomy, and all justifications of sodomy—but it is going to do so in response to the preaching of the gospel and the responsive righteousness of faith.

So then, Christians do not set aside the death penalty for homosexual sin. Rather, we preach the ultimate fulfillment of that death penalty, testifying to the utter righteousness of it. When Paul talks about the sins that Christ delivers us from, he is explicit—Jesus saves us from among the malakoi, the effeminate, the soft ones, the passive, the catamites. Not only that, He saves us from among the arsenokoitai, the couplers of themselves to other men. He saves those who play the man with other men as though they were women, and He saves those who act like women in relationship to a man. He does the same for hertero-adulterers.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

How is it that any of us can be washed? It is because of that death penalty. How is it that those guilty of every vile homosexual desire, intention, or action can be washed, sanctified, and justified? Only because of the death penalty. If the Christian faith is not grounded on the righteousness of the death penalty for sinners, then the human sacrifice that was offered up in Jesus was entirely pointless. And if that is the case, we are all still in our sins.

More later, and thanks.

 

Cordially,

 

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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Dale Courtney
Member

You cite the example of Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah.

Why do you take their example as being prescriptive and not descriptive?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Doug — you know — so many folks engage in so much self- and other- destructive stuff because they’re hurt inside and acting out — not because they’re eager to flip God off.
They’re stuck.

You know — even in your own time with Hitchens you felt the pathology driving, right? — the mind, the rationalizations, being pulled along by the emotional psychological elephant.

Is it fair to say your blog here is an effort to put some balance across from the (unfairly, no doubt) stereotypical fundamentalist homophobic position?

Bro. Steve
Guest
Bro. Steve

Eric,

Just a question from the peanut gallery. Can you define the word “homophobic” for me?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hey Bro. Steve — I think your question is gentle and fair.
Of course, there’s no phobia usually entailed.
Oh contraire — in fact, there’s probably more LOVE coming out of Christian folk towards homosexuals & their advocates than you’ll find from other pro-modernistic-post-modernistic social warriors.

Nonetheless, backwater Bible folks are often accused of homophobia = (here’s your definition) a fear of mentally touching this lifestyle because of it’s perceived ickiness & foreignness, and which phobia is purportedly really the result of a secret attraction.
(Hence the evangelical fundamentalist homo basher who sneaks up to the big city to get gay action)

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Regarding the Sodom affair — Didn’t the city folk know those were angelic beings in Lot’s house?
Wasn’t that what they were trying to get at & into?

David
Guest
David

the passage in Jude that Doug refers to I think makes it pretty clear that the strange flesh is not angelic, but rather same-sex. The same flesh referred to Jude 7 “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” doesn’t refer to angels, I don’t think, as angels were sent to Sodom (Lot’s household) in answer to Abraham’s intercession. And the passage in Jude 7 clearly notes that the… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

David — I like your thinking pattern. I’m hearing you concede that the angels were the ones that the Sodom men were after. But you’re saying that “strange flesh” refers to the “male” identity and not the angelic nature, correct? I agree, BUT … May we not also consider the idea that these guys in Sodom knew that these angelic identities in male form were in fact angelic? If so, then their interest, their unquenchable desire to grab hold of these deities may represent more than “simple” homosexual lust. Their craving here was much more, though related. The real basis… Read more »

David
Guest
David

I think you are misreading what I wrote. Therefore I suspect you don’t like my thinking pattern. I believe the passage in Jude makes it very clear that the strange flesh the men of Sodom lusted after was NOT angelic flesh. It obviously was angels (although I think this fact was unknown to the men of Sodom) who were the targets of their lust, but the Jude scripture makes it clear that the sin (one of the sins, anyway) for which the cities (plural) were judged was not lusting after angelic flesh, but same sex flesh (as noted above). Ergo,… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

David,

Thanks for the engagement.
When the angels came to town, what does the text reveal about Lot’s initial reaction?
He bowed down.
Does the text give you a hint as to why?

I’m suggesting that it was obvious.
Angelic appearances cited the OT often (maybe universally) coincide with an immediate recognition by onlookers that these were not ordinary men, but divinities.

In this text, we have exactly that recognition from a man in Sodom.
Nothing in this text suggests it was other than a physical recognition.
I’m suggesting that all the folks in town knew it.

David
Guest
David

I think you’re reaching. Hard. There are many examples where the exact same root word is used and translated as “bowed down” where it is clearly people bowing down to other people (no angelicness involved). Strong’s, Blue Letter Bible etc, is your friend. There is either an aspect of worship, or an aspect of honour, or an aspect of greeting to what is done in this bowing down In the culture of the day it was expected that a traveller would be honoured, invited in, housed, fed. Lot clearly had a motive of attempting to protect these visitors as well… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

If you were to stipulate angelic recognition by Lot and by the men, would your understanding of the significance of the men’s sexual interest change?

What I’m reading is how sexual sin is connected into the spiritual realm.

David
Guest
David

No, unless you were to also stipulate that angels also visited Gommorah and the other cities which were destroyed. See Jude 7. Which is purely speculative.

So No.

zlee42
Guest
zlee42

Hi Doug, would your argument about not killing sinners also apply to capital punishment for murder? In other words, in your opinion, is it ethically right for a biblically faithful Christian to advocate for capital punishment for any type of crime at all?

ant
Guest
ant

I was wondering the same thing. Does it also argue against any Christians pushing for laws against any kind of sinful behavior?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi z —

We don’t advocate capital punishment as any kind of solution to our problems.

We advocate for justice AND for mercy.

Capital punishment is a helpful but unfortunate temporary fix at times.

We advocate & endorse the justice that any crime deserves mortal & eternal death — knowing that’s what every human deserves.
But in light of God’s love & mercy we advocate to see as much of that mercy in play in the here and now if it can be governed carefully.

zlee42
Guest
zlee42

It’s a legitimate question. On what basis do we determine the proper parameters and ethic for applying justice from a biblical basis? If on the one hand we say we should not literally apply the Old Testament sentence of capital punishment to those who practice homosexuality (part of God’s continuing/eternal moral prohibitions) for the sake of love , life, and the Gospel, but on the other hand we should still provide full justice in the form of capital punishment for those who commit murder? If our motive is love wouldn’t we want as much time as possible to present the… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Great questions! Back to front — You’ve assumed, I think, that time for any of us here in this state = further opportunity (at least from our point of view) of getting a change in the eternal state. As in, maybe they’ll repent, so let’s wait as long as possible. There is a point of view that says they also get that chance after death here. Just saying some of us don’t see this opportunity window closing here — so the issue isn’t that. Also, the Bible has never been taken “literally” even from those characters in it or writing… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Not certain what Doug would say, but part of the response is should Christians be focusing on getting every crime worthy of death an execution sentence, or should they focus on redeeming men? It is an argument against the concept that Christians just want death for all people. We want life. That said, it does not mean that certain crimes should never be capital crimes. And capital punishment may be appropriate for certain crimes in a righteous state. The Mosaic Law states that execution is a punishment for several crimes but the Law stipulates maximum sentences. Fines (a ransom) were… Read more »

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

Zlee, We should always deal with crimes the best way possible. A murder or rape, or such other crimes are very heinous and cannot be handled by our informed society, they should be kicked upstairs – to God in judgment. But when the crime can be dealt with here in time and history, we should have restitution, or other means to correct the misdeed. What is in view in God’s law is the true witness to the glory of God, as well as justice for the victim – how will he be paid to compensate? Don’t you know that we… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

Doug, I know this would be a huge undertaking, but would you ever consider doing a chapter by chapter sort of treatment of Brownson’s book? That’s one book that I know my peers and I are pretty overwhelmed by. It’s definitely the most nuanced treatment of the revisionist side I’ve encountered and there’s a lot brought up that I really struggle to answer satisfactorily. Your thoughts would be a huge help.

bethyada
Member

Paul uses the term arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Some argue that Paul coined the word (can others here give more information on this claim?). It means “to bed a man.”

Leviticus 20 states: And he who lies with a male in a bed as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; let them certainly be put to death, they are guilty.

The Greek specifically states arsenos koiten. The term in the NT comes straight out the prohibition in Leviticus.

Gabe
Guest
Gabe

I have never heard that the term “Dog” meant specifically homosexual prostitute in the OT before. Could Doug or anyone tease that out?

Jane
Member

I’d be interested to see that, too — but I find it entirely plausible. After all, the word “dog” in that context must mean something other than a literal dog. And given the things it’s surrounded by, male prostitute seems like a pretty good candidate. I realize that’s not actual exegesis, but it’s enough for me to be inclined to take his word for it barring hearing any actual refutation.

That said, I would be interested to see the background on it also.

bethyada
Member

Some modern translations use male prostitute.

Perhaps that is why you haven’t encountered it?

aztomt
Member

I looked into this, too. Verse 17 says explicitly that there are to be no male or female cult prostitutes in the land, using the Hebrew qadesh, which specifically means a cult prostitute. Verse 18 then uses euphemisms for both female (armour, used in combat not sanctioned by God) and male (a dog, a person of low status, a male prostitute) prostitutes. In this case, it seems to very dependent on context, as I looked up several other examples of the same word for dog being used, and it was either literally to a dog, or to a lowly person.