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

Friday, April 25, 2008

Debunking Gay Christian Apologetics [pt. 2]

Slouching Toward Gomorrah

I wanted to return to my response to an email I received from "Christian" gay apologist, Rick Bretlinger. You may recall in my first article on this subject I noted how both Rick and myself have utterly different presuppositions when dealing with human sexuality as proclaimed in scripture.

Rick believes the Bible no where condemns consensual, lovingly committed homosexual relationships. The sort of relationships we often see played out on made-for-TV movies between two preppy, sweater wearing men or flannel wearing women. He would further argue that anti-gay Christians have erroneously placed upon their reading of scripture the faulty philosophy of complementarity, or the idea that only a male/female model is blessed of God for marriage.

In fact, Rick points out that the complementarity model isn't reasonable and if a person really studied about marriage in the Bible, he or she will discover that it was hardly the hearts and flowers, white dresses and tuxedos type portrayed on Focus on the Family. There were slave marriages, concubines, and even polygamy, and in the OT culture, those things were accepted as being "family values." Homosexual marriages should be culturally accepted now in the same way slave marriages, concubines, and polygamous marriages were in biblical times. What needs to be done, argues Rick, is to abandon the bad, complementarity presuppositions and re-read the Bible in light of true, God centered homosexual relationships.

I, on the other hand, start my presupposition where Jesus directed us: back to Genesis. God originally created marriage to be complimentary between one man and one woman. The Bible could not be any clearer as to who the participants are to be in divinely ordained marriage. The man and the woman become one flesh in marriage, engaging in the sexual intimacy God designed for the marital relationship. This is not only stated by Jesus our Lord, who as the sovereign creator of the universe directly created Adam and Eve, but also re-stated by His apostles, especially the Apostle Paul in his epistles.

There is no doubt that the entrance of sin into the world drew men and women away from the ordained standard for marriage. Slave marriages, polygamy, and concubines are a product of sinful men warping God's created order. But contrary to homosexual apologists, the mention of these sinful deviations in scripture does not offer an affirmation for their beliefs. In fact, in all of the passages where these sins are discussed, never does God condone them as being acceptable. Furthermore, God's establishment of laws regulating these sins does not support the homosexual's position, either, because those laws were given to keep man's sin in check. As one reader commented under the first post, in all the instances in scripture where homosexual behavior is mentioned, it is always negative. That is quite a telling picture.

So, these distinctions do reveal for us there is certainly two fundamental presuppositional starting points that shapes how we understand human sexuality as defined in scripture. I believe my position is the one supported by scripture, and when we consider the passages dealing with homosexuality, I believe my presuppositions adequately explain how we are to understand them.

Rick provides for me his next challenge by writing,

You assume that the Sodom story is about homosexuality when homosexuality is never the issue in any of the 48 passages where Sodom is mentioned in the Bible. I deal with Sodom on multiple pages of my website. ... Anti-gay evangelicals, including the former Assistant Director of Exodus International (Bob Davis) and Dr. Rob Gagnon, THE MOST vociferous anti-gay evangelical alive today, also admit that the story of Sodom is not dealing with consensual homosexual relationships. ... Our ancient spiritual ancestors, including authors of scripture like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel never linked Sodom to homosexuality. Instead, if they mentioned Sodom's sin, they mentioned inhospitality. Don't you find it odd that none of the 48 Biblical references to Sodom identifies the sin of Sodom as homosexuality.

Interspersed with his claims, Rick provides me links to three articles to consider. One on the issue of inhospitality and the Sodom story of Genesis 19, a second one that states how anti-gay evangelicals (of which I am one, I guess) say the real story of Sodom has nothing to do with homosexuality, and then a third one that appeals to the Babylonian Talmud as teaching that the sin of Sodom had nothing to do with homosexuality, but was general sins of inhospitality and heterosexual immorality.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been a classic illustration of how God dramatically judges gross, immoral sin. Genesis 19 tells of God's two angels coming into the city of Sodom. Lot sees them and convinces them to stay the night at his home. Sometime during the evening, a great crowd of men from the city press around Lot's house demanding he bring out the two angels so that may rape them.

In spite of Lot's rebukes and his sickening offer of his virgin daughters to satiate their perverse lusts, the men are only stirred up to acts of greater violence so that even after they are supernaturally struck blind by the angels, they still grope for the door of Lot's house in pursuit of their sexual sin. The angels literally have to drag Lot, his wife (who is still destroyed with the city), and two of his daughters, out of Sodom before God consumes the city and the surrounding suburbs with fire out of heaven.

The emphasis of the story is clear: the men of Sodom were so given over to sin that they had no fear to publicly join together in openly brutalizing two men in a homosexual gang rape. Yet, as clear as the details are in this text, gay "Christian" apologists attempt to minimalize the severity of this passage. The arguments they put forth to revise the events tend to fall into a handful of categories.

The more extreme liberal minded will say the events never happened or the story is an exaggerated retelling of Judges 19. Others who want to maintain some integrity of the account will say the sin attempted by the men was not a homosexual gang rape but an unrestrained act of inhospitality. They merely wanted Lot to bring out the men so the could get "to know" them; to have a friendly chat so as to determine what their business was in Sodom. When Lot refused them, they over-reacted with violent anger. Thus God's judgment was directed at their overall inhospitality and not homosexual sin.

Still another revisionistic approach is a modification of the inhospitality argument. The gay apologists acknowledge the facts of the text: The men of Sodom wanted to gang rape the angels. However, their behavior was an extreme aberration of a much larger attitude of inhospitality prevalent throughout the city. In order to bolster their arguments along this line, gay apologists point out that in all the other references to Sodom in the Bible, never is homosexuality mentioned. It is only sins of severe inhospitality. Thus it is concluded that it is inappropriate for modern day evangelicals to use the Sodom story as an example of God's condemnation of loving, consensual, homosexual relationships.

Rick's position seems to fall into the camp of this last approach, but is it tenable?

Let me consider his questions and challenges.

What about those other 48 passages that mention Sodom? Well, in a manner of speaking Rick is correct. Other passages describing the sins of Sodom do not mention anything about homosexuality, particularly consensual homosexual relationships. However, if we check those passages, we find they don't mention any of the sins of Sodom and Gommorah for which they were judged. The vast majority of them speak of Sodom and Gomorrah in metaphorical/ prophetic terms when describing the severity of judgment God will bring upon humanity, particularly the nation of Israel. For example, a good portion of those passages speak to how the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem will be made like unto Sodom and Gomorrah in that after God judges the land it will be uninhabited, or that Jerusalem will be utterly overturned and destroyed. Hardly any of those passages speak to inhospitality, let alone homosexuality as a sin.

Is the homosexual apologetic vindicated, then? Let's see. The prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 1:7-17) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:48-50) speak to the "sins" of Sodom and Gomorrah in some detail. Ezekiel is the one specific text that many gay "Christian" apologists use to make their case that the sins were not homosexuality, but inhospitality, so let me turn to it.

When first considered, Ezekiel's words in 16:49 seem to focus upon social injustice. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of Israel were guilty of excessive pride, fullness of food, idleness, neglect of the poor and needy. This sounds like our current day life here in these fine United States: We are prideful, have plenty to eat, have way too much free time on our hands that we pursue sinful things, and forget those who genuinely have need. But, note verse 50. There was one extra sin that is often overlooked in the polemics of gay apologists.

The people were haughty and committed abominations.

The word "abominations" describes unique sins that utterly disgust God and for which He will greatly judge. In the holiness codes of Leviticus 18 and 20 where God speaks against the various sexual perversions the people were not to engage, same-sex intercourse is singled out as being called an abomination. The people's lack of want, pridefulness, and idleness led them to not only being hardhearted against those in need, but brought them to the place where they pursued sexual sin, including homosexual activity. So while it may be true that the broader sin is a lack of inhospitality on the part of the people of Sodom, a more specific sin that resulted from the attitudes of inhospitality was homosexual sex sin; a departure from God's intended design for the expression of sex as being one man and one woman. (I'll consider the gay apologist's rebuttal that this is homosexual sin in the context of idol worship in a later post).

Now what about these leading anti-gay apologists saying Genesis 19 is not a story about God condemning consensual homosexual relationships? I personally do not believe Genesis 19 is God condemning consensual homosexual relationships, either, but it is condemning homosexual activity in general, in this instance, in the form of a gang rape of two males. Rob Gagnon[1], who is singled out by Rick as being the most vociferous anti-gay evangelical living today, does say this passage is not addressing consensual gay relationships, but that is not entirely all of what he did say. Gagnon writes,

Traditionally, Gen. 19:4-11 has been regarded as the classic Bible story about homosexuality. However, to the extent that the story does not deal directly with consensual homosexual relationships, it is not an "ideal" text to guide contemporary Christian sexual ethics. Nevertheless, many go too far when they argue that the story has little or nothing to do with homosexual practice; that instead, the story is only about inhospitality and rape. ... the inherently degrading quality of same-sex intercourse plays a key role in the narrator's intent to elicit feelings of revulsion on the part of the reader/hearer. [The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 71. emphasis mine].

Gagnon makes it clear that the inhospitality is the degrading quality of same-sex intercourse. This is recorded for the purpose of giving a glimpse of perversion talking place in Sodom and why God had to justly judge the town. What I see here from Rick when he says Gagnon doesn't believe the passage has anything to do with consensual homosexual relationships is selectively citing from him while ignoring the entire argument he makes against homosexual practice in the 10 pages that follow. Though it is true consensual gay relationships of the upper Manhattan/West Hollywood variety are not under consideration in Genesis 19, that does not mean homosexuality as a practice isn't in view, or that only mean spirited, inhospitality to strangers is the main concern.

So what about Sodom being mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud? Rick attempts to argue that even the Babylonian Talmud, the collection of oral tradition among the Jews, does not mention that homosexuality was the motivating cause of why God destroyed Sodom. The references in the section of the Talmud speaking to the "men of Sodom," Sanhedrin 109, and about how they "pervert their bodies," and then Rick argues that the phrase "pervert their bodies" is a euphemism for heterosexual adultery.

I certainly believe that is a clever dodge, but is his conclusion suggesting the Jews thought homosexuality between consenting adults to be proper behavior? That same-sex intercourse is as blessed and honored of the LORD as sexuality expressed between one man and one woman? I believe he would be extremely hard-pressed to find any positive affirmation in any Jewish literature of antiquity.

As much as Rick wants to revise not only scripture, but also other historical documents, the biblical record is clear: The sin of Sodom was an attempted rape of two men by a gang of men. Later NT revelation only affirms this in 2 Peter and Jude. It goes beyond just general inhospitality and it is the sin of homosexuality that makes the judgment of Sodom so unique. Also, and most importantly, Rick's revisionist apologetic ignores the vast body of teaching from God's people through out redemptive history proclaiming the sinfulness and perversion of homosexual behavior. It is why homosexual behavior has historically be termed "sodomy" and why those who practice homosexual behavior have classically been described as "sodomites." This idea that God approves of homosexuality in the context of benign, lovingly consensual adults is foreign to what has been historical believed by Jews and Christians.

[1] Just a note about Dr. Gagnon. I have found him to be something of an interesting enigma. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination, probably one of the most liberal denominations in our current day. He maintains a website that hosts his scholarly articles answering gay apologists in his denomination, along with email exchanges he posts between himself and his detractors, and audio lectures and debates. In fact, I am surprised he hasn't been dismissed from his denomination.

At any rate, he operates his apologetics against gay "Christian" apologists from a position of higher criticism. So for example, he adheres to the J, E, P, D theory of the OT, speaks about Q for the NT, and even distinguishes between the epistles of the Apostle Paul and Deutero-Paul. Yet in spite of his higher critical panderings, he is one of the most lucid, clear thinking defenders of the biblical sexual ethic against the on-slaught of pro-gay, "Christian" revisionists of scripture. If a person can wade through his passing comments on higher criticism, his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice, though a little pricey, is hands down probably the best written treatment on the subject a person will find anywhere.



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