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.
If I understand you rightly, you are asking for an overview of the scriptural case against homosexual practices. This is not because you need to be informed that Scripture is hostile to such things. Rather, as you put it, “so much ingenuity” is expended on making the Bible say things it doesn’t really say, it is sometimes difficult to know what to say in response.
This question needs to be addressed on many levels. First, as I am sure you know, the world of homosexual practice is as hostile to the Scriptures as the Scriptures are to them. Everybody with sense knows where everybody stands. The reason for all the exegetical ingenuity is that it is a tactical move, designed to soften Christian opposition to the sexual revolution. The sexual revolutionaries don’t give a rip about the exegesis, but there are many advantages to be found in saying to the new Eve, to the Christian church, something like “did God really say?” They are not so much trying to justify their own rebellion as they are trying to entice low-wattage Christians to join them in that rebellion by means of a slow drift. Being low-wattage, they won’t of course understand what has happened until after sulfurous hailstones start to fall out of the sky. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
But for whatever reason, when it comes to sexual matters, as the Westminster Confession says about special pleading with regard to divorce, men are prone to “study arguments.” And because we care about souls, the arguments must be answered somehow—either by refuting the lies or by stating plainly what the texts plainly say. We do this, not because these arguments are valuable in themselves but because the souls deceived by them are valuable.
So I want to divide this into two categories. The first has to do with what Scripture says about the created order and nature, and what nature says. The second will be what certain particular texts say (think Leviticus). I may have to get to this second category in a follow-up letter.
So this, in summary, is the Christian case against homosexual desire and practice. The Lord Jesus, in teaching on divorce, appeals directly to the creation order. He says “from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). He points to what God did in the Garden as the basis for His instruction on sexual ethics.
“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt. 19:4–5).
Jesus looks at this and sees “one man, one woman, one time.” Divorce is not in view, and only comes into the picture later on because of sin, because of hardness of heart. On the same basis, for the same reason, we may exclude any number of other distortions and perversions. As with all distortions, they exhibit varying degrees of seriousness. Bestiality is out because there was no helper suitable for Adam among the beasts (Gen. 2:20). Polygamy is out because God took one rib from Adam’s side, not three ribs (Gen. 2:22). It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve, and Suzy, and Mary. The fruitlessness of solo sex is out because it was “not good” for Adam to be alone (Gen. 2:18). And homosexuality is excluded because it was Adam and Eve and not, as the joke goes, Adam and Steve (Gen. 1:27).
And that last text contains worlds.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).
God is a divine draftsman, and He has given us an image of Himself. How has He drawn His image for us? He has drawn this image quite carefully, and He did it by creating us as male and female. The attempts to rearrange all this, and substitute in male/male or female/female are one kind of impudence. And the more recent attempt to create buckets full of alternative genders is even worse.
Now when faithful Christians recoil from the glorification of homosexual sex, they are usually recoiling on this level. They are not (usually) reacting to a detailed knowledge of what homosexuals might be doing in bed, because they usually don’t know much about that. What they are pulling away from is the image of two dudes in tuxes on a wedding cake, or a photo of a reception where the groom and the groom are kissing. This recoil is not a phobia—it is more like the reaction the art world would have if some vandal painted a Groucho nose and glasses on the Mona Lisa. The resultant cartoon is grotesque, a caricature. The reaction is “why would someone do that?”
The sexual consummation of a marriage is private—not because it is something to be ashamed of, but rather because it belongs to the couple alone. But the fact of that sexual relationship is public, which is why people are invited to weddings. And when we look at any given bride and groom in the front of the church, we are looking upon the image of God. Moreover, given the fact that our world has fallen into sin and is in desperate need of redemption, we also see in every wedding the restoration of the image of God in and through Christ and the church.
So to put two men there, or two women, is to deface God’s creational intent and, on top of that, it is to deface His gospel that is in the process of restoring our wreckage of that original creational intent. In short, the glorification of homosexual unions is an attempt to murder God, burn His image in effigy, and overthrow His gospel. It is no trivial thing.
The world’s attempt to cover up this reality—hatred of God conveyed through hatred of His image—has been two-fold. On the question of the public image, their response has been unrelenting propaganda—coupled with severe discipline for anyone who challenges the authority of that propaganda. This is where all the court cases for evangelical bakers, florists, and wedding photographers are coming from. They are in the process of outlawing our refusal to glorify that which must never be glorified.
Their second response—and I am sorry to have to bring this up—is to normalize, as far as possible, homosexual practices in heterosexual relationships. They have not been entirely successful in this, but they have been far more successful than I would like.
Birth control has been abused by many married couples in a way as to make them almost as fruitless as a homosexual couple would be. Detached from fruitfulness, detached from procreation, the teleology of sex has become Pleasure. Now God is the one who made the sexual act pleasant, and nobody in their right mind should revolt against that. But He also made eating pleasant—and the biological purpose of eating remains providing nourishment for the body. So when someone pursues the pleasures of eating alone, and has a vomitorium installed at their house, we are not hesitant to call that kind of thing an eating disorder. So I am not talking about enjoyment of sex as a problem. I am talking about the enjoyment of sex detached from the creational design.
The problem is that when married couples fall into the trap of thinking that the side benefits are the whole point, this opens the door for a homosexual catechism. Anal intercourse is a parody of intercourse because there is a vast difference between the anus and the vagina. But what about fellatio? Is there a vast difference between a man’s mouth and a woman’s? Not really. Catechized in this way, some heterosexual couples can start to think that homosexual sex “isn’t all that different,” and depending on the way they are living, it might not be.
But I would not be mistaken here. No one can read the Song of Songs carefully without seeing an exultant approach to heterosexual lovemaking, one that includes all kinds of creativity in the foreplay. I am not talking about exuberance in foreplay. I am talking about the simple substitution of alternate sexual acts for old school intercourse. When the heterosexual sex gets to be a certain kind of weird, this is not scriptural creativity. It is heterosexual kink aping homosexual kink. And that is a set up.
One more thing, and I will get to the particular texts in my next letter.
“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: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:26–27).
We are told in Genesis that male and female together constitute the image of God. We are taught here in Romans that abandonment of the woman by the man is unnatural, and that abandonment of the man by the woman is unnatural. It follows from this that natural sex is theologically rich. In Paul’s sense here, nature is a good theologian. The converse is also true—homosexual sex is theological distortion because it mars the image of God. It should therefore not be surprising that abandonment of the natural use of the woman is a straight road into theological impoverishment—which is what every form of idolatry is.
I have probably generated even more questions, which I will try to get to after my next letter. Thanks again.