Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Gay Apologists and Revisionists

Recently, one of my volunteers brought me an article clipped from the LA Times. The title of the article is "What the Bible really says about gays" written by a Michael McGough. The article highlights a liberal Christian apologist by the name of Justin R. Cannon and the website he maintains called The Truth Sets Free. Cannon, according to the article, apparently has done an extensive overview of the entire Old and New Testaments, and has concluded the Bible says very little about homosexuality, and it certainly does not condemn the practice.

McGough cites some of Cannon's objections to what he labels as the "conservative, fundamental, literalist" view of homosexuality and the Bible. For example, the condemnation against a male lying with a male as recorded in Leviticus 18:22 was not against the practice of same sex intercourse, states Cannon, but was directed against male prostitution. Also, Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed in God's judgment for being cities filled with flamboyant homosexuals, but because they refused to show proper hospitality. And, the so-called NT condemnations of what appears to be same sex practices found in Romans 1:26,27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 are really a condemnations of adult-child pederasty, not a healthy, sexual relationship between two, same-sex partners.

Amusingly, McGough reports on Cannon's arguments with earnest excitement, as if he has stumbled across an interpretative method of reading the Bible that had been secretly hidden away by repressive fundamentalists. In reality, Cannon's revisionism is nothing really new at all. Justin Cannon is merely standing at the end of a long, twisting line running through Church History filled with a vast assortment of goofballs, kooks, and weirdoes who conveniently "revised" the Bible to fit their personal beliefs.

I must say, though, I appreciate how McGough does distinguish Cannon's intentional liberal perspective of scripture from orthodox, Bible believing Christianity. McGough clearly points out how Cannon's arguments are designed to be alternative counter-points to the historic Christian understanding of sodomy, and are not necessarily meant to handle the text of scripture carefully. In fact, McGough concludes his article by writing, "The 'clobber passages' cited by Cannon can be shown to be less than weighty when read in their proper cultural context." He is quite correct, and that is the key linchpin that topples the arguments of Cannon and the many other homosexual Bible revisionists.

How do Christians committed to God's Word even begin to answer these charges? Some months ago I had a gay activist contact me through my website, Fred's Bible Talk. He was bothered by an article written by my friend Travis Allen on how to provide spiritual hope for individuals ensnared in the sin of homosexuality. By the way, I would encourage anyone to read Travis's article, as well as a study on revisionist argumentation (PDF format) which is insightful.

The activist and I had a spirited email interchange, but during the course of our debate, he leveled many of the same revisionist "arguments" this Cannon fellow is using.

I took the various discussion I had with the activist and worked my responses into a couple of posts in a question and answer format which are online at Fred's Bible Talk. I thought it would be good to adapt those two Q and A's here for the purposes of showing how Justin Cannon's arguments are totally unsound and DO NOT reflect the Bible's teaching on and condemnation of sodomy.

First, let me turn my attention to the claim that Leviticus 18 and 20 are only condemning idolatrous same-sex prostitution.

Chapters 18 and 20 in the OT book of Leviticus are two chapters of the Bible where fundamentalist Christians are accused of misinterpreting the scripture. Both chapters are a strong denunciation of a variety of sexual sin, including adultery, incest, bestiality, and sodomy. When reading both of these chapters in their entirety and context, it is clear God saw all of these sexual sins, including homosexuality, as perversion and declared them all to be an abomination. Yet, homosexuals will proceed to explain away the straightforward language of these two chapters.

I have encountered at least two specific arguments homosexual apologists use to defend their claim. I am sure there may be others, but allow me to respond to these two specifically:

1). First, they argue the book of Leviticus is no longer relevant for Christians today because the Christian Church is under the New Testament with Jesus Christ as our spiritual head. What applied to Israel as a nation of people no longer pertains to us who are in Christ. Homosexual apologists will argue, for example, that we as Christians obviously eat shell fish or any of the other so-called "unclean" animals Jews were forbidden to eat. This law, along with other similar restrictions God placed upon the people of Israel, passed away with the coming of Jesus Christ. The apologists will further argue the prohibition against homosexuality, once labeled as an abomination for the Jewish social codes, has also passed away. Hence, they conclude it is being hypocritical for Christians in our day to do away with most of the Levitical law, yet maintain the portions condemning homosexuality. We are to either keep all of it or none of it.

The general, secular world use similar rhetoric to reject the direct language of these two chapters as well, but with the implication that the Bible is an antiquated book with laws and commands no longer relevant for our world in the 21st century. I have often listened to Talk Radio pundits (several of them right wing Republicans) mockingly slander the Bible as being socially impractical when the political issue of same-sex marriage is raised in the current events of the day. Anyone seriously believing the Bible condemns homosexuality is likened to a back woods hill-billy who reads the Bible "too literally."

On one hand, there is some truth to this argument. The coming of Christ fulfilled the OT law. Those regulations governing the people of Israel as a theocratic nation during the Old Testament time no longer apply to Christians who are in Christ. We can, for example, look at Acts 10 where God reveals a vision of unclean animals to the apostle Peter and commands him to "rise, kill and eat them" (Acts 10:9-15). When Peter objects, God tells him that what He has made clean should not be called unclean. Clearly from the narrative of Acts, the coming of Christ put an end to the dietary laws God had placed on Israel.

So, is the homosexual's argument vindicated? One major rule of thumb when drawing comparisons between the OT and the NT and considering which OT commands and prohibitions are still relevant for a NT believer is to identify the OT laws repeated in the NT by Jesus and His apostles. Those OT commands that bind a Christian's heart to obedience will be re-issued, in a manner of speaking, by the NT authors. The declaration of homosexuality being an abomination before God is one such command. Homosexuality is,

-- Marked as unnatural perversion incurring God wrath in Romans 1:26-27.

-- Noted as being a sin that does not inherit the Kingdom of God and from which a person is washed and cleansed by Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

-- Stated as being contrary to sound doctrine and the gospel of Christ in 1 Timothy 1:10,11.

-- Moreover, in several places in the NT, the writers of scripture will discuss God's ordained purposes for marriage and appeal to the creation account of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 as the authoritative model for a biblical marriage. The absolute establishing factor for a marriage set by God is that it is limited to one male and one female. Scripture excludes any other combinations constituting holy matrimony. This was how Jesus argued against the Pharisees' view of divorce in Matthew 19. We will consider that passage in a moment.

2). A second line of argumentation from Leviticus 18 and 20 is the idea that the sins listed in these two chapters named as being abominations were sins performed in the context of idolatrous worship. So, when Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 state a man is not to lie (have sexual relations) with a male as with a female, the prohibition is against committing this act in the context of the public worship of false gods. Leviticus 18:21 specifically explains the reason for this act being declared an abomination is in the context of offering worship to Molech. It is then concluded homosexual relationships are biblical as long as those relationships exist between two consenting adults not involved with pagan worship or temple prostitution.

However, a glaring problem is created with this argument. There are sexual sins condemned in both chapters 18 and 20 other than homosexuality. Both chapters also condemn adultery, bestiality and incest as being abominations before God. If it is correct God genuinely approves of homosexual behavior and is only condemning homosexuality performed in the context of idolatry, is it then correct to conclude God also approves of adultery, incest and bestiality as long as these behaviors are not done for the worship of idols? Just singling out homosexuality as being "OKed" by God as long as it is performed in the proper context, while at the same time ignoring the other sins listed in Leviticus 18 and 20, does violence to the biblical text and forces a severe inconsistency onto the whole scripture.

When these two arguments are scrutinized, it is quickly discovered that neither of them honestly handles scripture. It is apparent the homosexual proponent wishes to intentionally revise the Bible to fit his or her preconceived beliefs. Rather than conforming to the teaching of scripture in the matter of homosexuality, they are making the scripture conform to what they want it to teach. This approach is an abuse of God's Word.

Pro-gay apologist will also commonly claim Jesus Christ endorsed a homosexual lifestyle because He never specifically condemned homosexuality as a sin. McGough notes this in his article when he writes that Jesus said a great deal about love and nothing at all about homosexuality. Further, Cannon's so-called "Bible study" which he claims is "comprehensive" (I take "comprehensive" to mean thorough and complete) doesn't even interact with any statements Jesus did make concerning marriage.

Cannon, like all homosexual activist revisionists, wrongly concludes that because Christ never offered an opinion directly against homosexuality, it is believed to be an endorsement - albeit a silent one - for the allowance of a "Christian," gay life-style. However, just because Jesus never said anything explicitly negative against homosexuality in all of His recorded sermons in all four gospels does not equate His approval of a gay lifestyle. Jesus never taught against drug use either, but I am sure a case can be made from scripture that He would not approve of a Christian habitually using cocaine. He also never made a direct opinion against incest and polygamy, but most gay "christians" would condemn those behaviors as sin. At least the ones I have asked, do so.

The truth of the matter, however, is even though Jesus never taught directly against homosexuality as a sin, He did say plenty in favor of biblically ordained relationships for us to draw a clear conclusion that Jesus would consider homosexuality to be sinful.

Turning to Matthew 19:1-9 (see also, Mark 10:1-16), we see an encounter between some Pharisees and Jesus on the subject of the lawfulness of permitting divorce. When answering their question, Jesus specifically pointed them to the original creative decree of God as it is recorded in the book of Genesis: A man leaves his parents, takes a wife and the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Admittedly, Jesus did not specifically mention homosexuality; this is a discussion on divorce. Yet, by His affirmation of the original creative order setting forth marriage as being between one man and one woman, Jesus established the bounds of what is a God ordained marriage relationship. There are at least three significant truths about marriage we can learn from this passage:

1) First, Christ's words eliminate any other relationship when He affirms a marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Simply put, there can be no God ordained marriage between one man and one man, one man and one horse (or animal of your liking), one man and his daughter (or other close relative), one woman and one woman, one man and three women. All other "relationships" are illicit, or go against God's ordained, creative order. Interestingly, as I have already noted, most homosexuals will be quick to condemn polygamous relationships. But, if they are pressed to provide any instance from the gospels where Jesus condemned polygamy, they can never provide one, because none exist. Jesus is as silent on directly condemning polygamy as He is on directly condemning homosexuality. Homosexuals who offer any condemnation against polygamy (or bestiality, or incest for that matter) have no authority to offer their condemnation if they are looking for words direct from the mouth of Jesus.

2) The Genesis narrative also establishes the important necessity of sexuality. Not only is it meant for intimacy between a loving couple, something homosexuals alleged they can experience in a loving, same-sex relationship, but sexuality is designed for pro-creation and reproduction. In the context of Genesis, from where Christ quotes in His response to the Pharisees, God states that men and women are to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). One of the key reasons God created sex is for the purpose of reproduction. Homosexuals cannot reproduce in the God ordained pattern. In a manner of speaking, the gay-lifestyle is parasitic, and from a strictly naturalistic point of view, this makes gays detrimental to society because they cannot physically reproduce within their own group. Moreover, many "Christian," gay advocates will claim God has made some individuals to be homosexual. Yet, this implies God has intentionally created a group of folks whose existence would go against everything we know about why God created: to reproduce and fill the earth.

3) In a related passage from Ephesians 5, Paul also appeals to Genesis 2:24 as he outlines the characteristics of a spirit-filled marriage. Paul, however, under inspiration, adds to the significance of the divine ordinance by revealing how marriage between a man and a woman pictures the relationship Jesus Christ has with His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The divine picture is ruined if same-sex relationships/marriages are "OK" in God's eyes.

These three points make it clear that Jesus did condemn same sex relationships. Even if He never condemned homosexuality outright, His definition of marriage in the context of explaining divorce demonstrates it is not an approved lifestyle.



Blogger centuri0n said...

Oh Fred: I can't wait to see the responses to this post.

Hope your weekend if free. :-)

8:15 AM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Just wait until I start blogging on King James Onlyism. =-)


9:14 AM, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

goofballs, kooks, and weirdoes...wow!..I'm hurt that you would say that to your Christian brothers and sisters. How very sad for you.

The Levitical law...remember it's all about CONTEXT!

Let's assume for a moment that yes, Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 are clear-cut prohibitions against all homosexual relationships. If we are to bring these passages into our current setting, putting aside the reasons why they were put in place originally and what type of worldview on gender and sexuality served as the basis for their establishment, then the only way we can remain consistent as Christians in the treatment of the Biblical text is to do the same with all the surrounding passages. To carry one prohibition across the centuries requires that we carry all the prohibitions along with it. This raises a problem for many Christians since most ignore the prohibitions against eating pork or shelled fish, shaving their hair near the temples, not marking their bodies with a tattoo, not touching a pigskin, wearing blended fabrics or having sexual relations between a husband and wife during menstruation among a long laundry list of other requirements and prohibitions.

Not only do we need to be consistent in treating all the law equally but we need to be consistent in applying the prescribed penalty for disobedience to the law. There exists a radical fringe of anti-gay people who call for the "death of homosexuals." Most Christians, even those who oppose homosexuality, are appalled by their violent rhetoric and yet, to truly honor the mandate of Leviticus concerning this prohibition, the radical fringe, no matter how offensive their position, are arguing for consistency in obeying all the law. How can the church decide the prohibition is in place and yet not the penalty for its violation? If they insist that this passage is still in place within our world then so must the penalty be, including death for those who engage in homosexuality as well as stoning for children who curse their parents.

“Thou shalt not lie with a man AS with a woman; it is an abomination.” (KJV)

Some affirm that this law is quite straightforward. Clearly from the previous sixteen verses, we know that these laws are written to men. Thus, some may say, this law forbids men to “lie with”, or have sex with, other men. This interpretation is flawed as it entirely ignores the phrase “as with a woman.” These four words cannot simply be understood to refer to lying sexually, since that is already indicated in the Hebrew word yada, translated “to lie with.” If the above interpretation were what the author means he could have just written, “Thou shalt not lie with a man; it is an abomination.”

“As with a woman” must have been added for some reason, and we must understand the context of this law to understand it fully. The status of women in that time was much lower than that of men, and women were even considered property of the men. This belief regarding gender relations is rejected by most of the Christian church today, but in order to make sense of this specific Jewish law we must keep in mind this context in which it was written.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow explains, “The whole structure of sexuality in the Torah assumes a dominant male and a subordinate female.” In other words, women were obedient to men, and men in that time would have been dominating and controlling in sexual encounters. The woman did what the man wanted and how the man wanted it. For a man in a sexual encounter to be treated as one would treat a woman, within the context of the time, the man would have be taking a lower status, as well as being sexually dominated. To do so would have been reducing him to property and in effect defiling the image of God, which man was considered.

Romans 1:26-27: It's about an ORGY filled with LUST, LIES, IDOLATRY AND DISHONORABLE PASSIONS. Think about a heterosexual orgy...men and woman not partaking of homo sex, only hetero...get the concept?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:10,11: Have you ever heard of pederasty? Paul is rebuking the young male prostitute, and the man who sleeps with him. Again...PROSTITUTION, just like hetero prostitution isn't cool.

Also, homosexuals aren't a group within a group...they are your brother, your boss, your next door neighbor, your doctor, maybe even sitting next to you in your pew at church...you may just not know it.

Creation: God knew there would be homosexuals, and homosexuals are a small fraction in relation to the world population. I don't think there was EVER a threat to the world and it being fully populated.

9:45 PM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Terry said...

I came across your Blog quite by accident recently and read with rapt interest. Since I am an evangelical, gay and Justin Cannon happens to also be a friend of mine, my attention was gained immediately.

First correction, the name of Justin’s website is Truth Sets Free and it is indeed a resource for those seeking answers to the struggle of homosexuality.

I begin saying I know Justin and I am evangelical because I don’t think this debate is ever going to be won either by the so called liberal or conservative side with academic rigor or debating skill. It will never be won by logic alone, and it certainly won’t be because the church suddenly awakens and says.. GEEZ we were wrong and homosexuals were right. It took a war to abolish slavery and even that didn’t eradicate prejudice from our lives. It took debate upon debate to allow women the right to vote and still the ERA blossomed in the 60's and 70’s. Look at what all this has gotten us; A ripe load of hatred, jockeying for position, name calling and distrust. SHAME! Shame on the church and shame on our country. You would think with all our academic degrees we would now understand this simple truth:

Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Certainly there is room for debate and certainly everyone I know on both sides wants to understand truth. However when I see someone in the spirit of debate use words like
“Justin Cannon is merely standing at the end of a long, twisting line running through Church History filled with a vast assortment of goofballs, kooks, and weirdoes who conveniently "revised" the Bible to fit their personal beliefs” I get angry, VERY ANGRY. Not because Justin is my friend, but because Justin is indeed a brother in Christ who, from all I can tell, is seeking God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Next, because Justin is the kind of man, from all I can tell, that genuinely looks to the word for answers to his life and the dilemmas of this age. And so do all the other gay Christians I know. We are not trying to JUSTIFY our lives any more than any evangelical is trying to justify theirs. We are simply on a journey like everyone else.. with many a fear and many a doubt. To take the opportunity to name call and to belittle is disgusting and is not Christian behavior.

I’m reminded of the command to be filled with the spirit. And then I’m reminded of the fruit of the spirit – lest we forget they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Mr. Butler, may I suggest that you add to your bio cold and bitter towards those who disagree with you, because that is the way you have treated your brother in Christ.

The problem for me is I use to be on your side Mr. Butler. I use to believe that homosexuality and genuine Christian faith were incompatible. But then I began to meet committed, faithful gay Christians. Simultaneously I began to meet many committed faithful orthodox Jewish folk. Strangely, I could identify with both! But after months of watching their lives something significant began to emerge… an undeniable similarity between orthodox Jewish folk and evangelical Christians.. it was their righteousness… let me make sure I say this clearly.. IT WAS THERE RIGHTEOUSNESS.. How can that be? Both Jews and Christian were depending upon their behaviors to gain them approval/acceptance to God. Sure, evangelicals deny this on the surface and blindly say we are saved by faith, but let’s be honest – we’re full of do’s and don’t’s. And as soon as someone enters into the dont’s category we begin to question the authenticity of that person’s faith and that is very thing that made Jesus so very angry when he was upon the earth. Don’t you remember how angry he was with the Jewish leaders because they were interested in very jot and tittle of the law and ignored the weightier things… Do I need to remind you what those weightier things were? I will.. justice, mercy and faithfulness. I think he called them blind guides. I can only imagine if he walked into the debates within the church his pronouncement would be the same.

Mr. Butler, even the bi-line of this blog sets one up for the type of argument you wish to engage in… smiting the theological philistines… I think you would be better off to leave the smiting to God.. one can certainly debate, discuss and disagree… but last time I checked, the scriptures did not include your name alongside the Holy Spirit.

I would remind you that the enemy is not flesh and blood, but it is the dark powers at work. It is not Justin, is not me or any other Gay Christian. Our enemy collectively is Satan and his forces and as Jesus is Lord of all (my Lord and yours) certainly we must agree to disagree sometimes and press on.

So, how do we tell who is right? That very problem was presented in Acts 15. Unless you are circumcised, some men said, you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I hear it all the time.. you can’t be a “practicing gay” and enter the kingdom of heaven. Let’s face it.. that’s what evangelicals think. And here it is in Acts - we have a similar thing.. the law clearly says to be circumcised just as clearly as you think it forbids committed, monogamous gay sex. Paul and Barnabas engaged in a sharp dispute and a huge community debate began.. must the gentiles be circumcised? I think it’s equivalent to the debate today.. must gay people be celibate? I love the answer in scripture.. God who knows the heart showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit JUST AS HE DID TO US. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their heart by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? NO! We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus we are saved, just as they are. The whole assembly became silent….

I think we need a good dose of this today. Certainly the people making this argument were circumcised.. so the burden they speak of was far beyond the mere curring of the penis' foreskin. You .. no we evangelicals need to honestly look at the Justin Cannon’s of this world and ask ourselves a question… do they exemplify evidence of God’s Holy Spirit at work in their lives? We need to look at those committed monogamous Christian gay folk who raise their children as Christians, give to our communities, serve the poor and bless our world with beauty If you knew Justin, or any of these others I speak of the answer to that question would have to be a hearty YES… and there are 1000’s more os us out there.. committed faithful Christians who happen to have a gay constitution and all we want is exactly what you want.. a suitable helper for this life. We would have to conclude just as the council at Jerusalem did that God has accepted them by faith just as he has us. (and now I’m one of both sides.. I am an evangelical and I am gay.. and God has made it clear that I am accepted.)

I am really okay if we disagree – I want Jesus’ love to be worked into me throughout my entire life. And I am not foolish enough to believe that I have enough wisdom, academic power or determination to be right on everything. But one thing I am.. willing to be wrong and changed by God’s Spirit.. I would encourage you to follow that example.

Just as I am,

11:00 AM, April 01, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Do to the volume of curse tirades I receive from homosexuals who have no ability to express themselves with out using pornographic language, comments are turned off.

6:14 PM, March 21, 2008  

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home