So what about today? Does the Leviticus 20:13 still apply today in a judicial fashion? Or could it? I will be getting to that shortly, and will be clear as a bell in my reply. But to the murky, all things will remain murky.
But a few observations first. These initial observations are my imitation of asking for a coin — since I have been asked their imitation of whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Believe it or not, not all questions are raised in search of an honest answer.
Those who raise this particular question do so because they believe it to be a loaded question, applying solely to those few Christians who still take the whole Bible as altogether good, straight up. But this is, I would suggest, a loaded question for lots of groups. Let me suggest three others besides the one I am (cheerfully) in.
First, Sharia law not only allows for the execution of homosexuals, it is a form of law that is being practiced today (in this aspect of it) in various parts of the world, and the regimes that do it have their secular apologists here making excuses for them, and this would include our present administration. A bunch of people who taunt me with verses from Leviticus voted for a presidential candidate who sends billions of dollars in aid to places that still stone the homosexuals. Remind me again why I am supposed to feel sheepish on this issue. So there is that.
Second, another group would be the homosexuals themselves. In Proverbs 8, Lady Wisdom declares that all who hate her love death (Prov. 8:36). Note that Wisdom is a lady, not another dude. Over the course of the last generation, numerous homosexuals have pursued a self-loathing death wish in such a way as to sentence thousands of other homosexuals to death. This is apparently okay to do, provided the motive is an internal and insistent state of lust, an external state of arousal, and the instrument of death is not using a condom. How many in North America died from AIDS again? The number I read recently was somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million. So looking at the raw numbers, it seems to me that killing homosexuals is pretty much a non-priority for me, but has a great deal more oblique appeal for those who worship at the Altar of Orgasm. So there is that too.
A third group would be the ethical relativists who say that there isn’t anything wrong with anything, and the atheists, who need to say that, whether or not they do. They tell you first that it doesn’t matter what anybody might want to do . . . until they find out what somebody might want to do. Then they stoutly insist that they do not live in moral universe where — you could finish this for me — adults are punished for consensual sexual acts. What they actually need to do is learn how to finish their sentences earlier. They need to say that they do not live in a moral universe, period. Oh. Now what? If there is no absolute moral standard, then anything goes — including the worst forms of absolutism. Assuming that they would want to say that a society that executed homosexuals would be the “worst,” I would then reply that there is only “a worst” form of absolutism if you believe in absolutes. So relativists need to get used to the idea that their high horse, the one they need to get down off of, is actually one of those circus ponies that they use to give rides to three-year-olds.
One other thing. Some might feel that by veering off into a discussion of the greatness of the gospel, and its message of a substitutionary death for all our sins deserving death, as I did in my previous post, I have done a tricksy thing. I have been coy, declining to answer whether or not I believe the law in Leviticus could ever be legitimately applied in one of my postmillennial republics down the road. I will answer that question, but I wanted to do it in two parts this way.
What I have written earlier is the grand theme of the New Testament. It is all gospel, and that is what we were told to lead with. Only in this way can we distinguish the scriptural definition of justice from what the Lord has actually commanded us to do.
What He has commanded us to do is to preach the gospel, pure and simple. Apologizing for Scripture is not a good lead in to this, and so that is why this subject keeps coming up. Unbelievers insist we preach the gospel to them from a deficient book, and I insist on preaching it from a perfect book.
That said, here is a direct answer to the question. Could I ever envision such a penalty ever being applied by a civil magistrate prior to the Last Judgment? Certainly. Here is how I put it in 2005, on this blog:
The same thing is true of homosexuality. The Mosaic code did allow for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. But for those benighted brethren who read Leviticus the way some people’s children read Moscow’s zoning laws (clunkity clunkity clunkity), they need to be reminded that this was not a mandatory penalty. It was not a minimum penalty — that was my reason for citing the fact that two of Israel’s kings were commended for actions that did not include executions. And, bringing the same principle down to the New Testament, we find the same glorious forgiveness offered to homosexuals that is offered to everyone else. As St. Paul says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [catamites], nor abusers of themselves with mankind [sodomites], 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). . . Homosexuals commit sodomy, heterosexuals commit adultery, and thieves steal. Welcome to planet earth. But Jesus came to forgive sins. Christ saves sinners, all kinds. Not only that, but He welcomes them into His church. Notice what he says to the saints of the church in Corinth. Such were some of you. There was no requirement for those in the Corinthian church with a homosexual past to go jump off a bridge, thus fulfilling in a vigilante way the intent of God’s law given to Moses. Christ has come, and He has brought healing with Him. Those who want to clamp mandatory, inflexible penalties on us because of one verse in Leviticus want the Bible to do for them something it simply refuses to do. The Bible jumps through no man’s hoops.
But some will notice what they will call sleight of hand here. This is what happens when people comb through my words without reading them. “Yes, they will say, but notice that even if you don’t believe in the death penalty for homosexual behavior in all circumstances, you have (by implication) said that there could be occasions when it is called for. Admit it!” Okay, I admit it. And I will even give you one instance of the kind of thing that I think calls for it. The recent revelations of homosexual abuse of boys by various predatory priests over the course of many years is the kind of problem that I think should be addressed (in the civil realm only) with a tall tree and a short rope. Not only am I not ashamed of thinking this (because of Leviticus, in context), I believe that those who are willing to defend such predators should be ashamed of themselves. But there is no reason why such a homosexual predator, justly condemned to die, could not turn to Christ in faith and be received by Him into glory. Christ died on a gallows too, and He died to save sinners just like that and worse. He died with the Father’s judgment of homosexuality upon Him. He rose again from the dead so that we could rise with Him, and so that our old patterns of sin would no longer have dominion over us.
So I am not dismissing that one verse in Leviticus. It is righteous and holy and good, provided it is understood in context. The law is good, Paul tells us, provided it is used lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8). He notes certain men who want to exposit the law, but they don’t know what they are talking about (1 Tim. 1:7). So in a discussion of homosexuality, which is rejected with vehemence as gross immorality across both testaments, if folks try to equate it with our common acceptance of BLTs, clam chowder, and polyester, you may assume their hermeneutics instructor was Amelia Bedelia.
I believe that certain unspeakable things will be going on in Boy Scout tents within about five years — with our current tolerance pimps making it all happen — and they will be things that could best be addressed by a judicious use of the strongest form of disapproval a culture has. While I believe that the judicial law of Moses ceased when the nation of Israel ceased, as the Westminster Confession teaches, I also believe the general equity of the law remains. I believe that the general equity of the law includes this strong rejection of homosexual behavior. I also believe that the law of the Old Testament was the model for our common law system, and our system should work in the same way.
By the way, no need for any comments saying that I have confounded homosexuality and pedophilia. I haven’t, and am just giving an example of the kind of same-sex behavior I could see supporting the death penalty for.
But look what I just did. I cited an application of Leviticus 20:13 that could still have broad societal consensus, even in these jaded days. This being the case, what you will have to do is bookmark this page, wait about ten years, and send your outraged cries up to the skies then. By that point, a large number of boys will have been ushered into the fellowship of these men, and there will have been at least two HBO series exalting the lifelong friendships that resulted, and it will then be obvious and apparent to all (in 2023) that I am an incorrigible hater.
So make sure to give me a jingle, and demand your apology then. I will still say no, but at least you will have checked.