Conservative Evangelicals and Homosexuality - The Bible and Homosexuality (Part 5)

What does the Bible say about homosexual or same-sex relationships? That's the key question to answer given the preceding blogs in this series (see the end of the blog), which have argued that the Bible is where God has spoken to us and thus expressed his right authority over us. In short, the Bible speaks positively of sexual relationships only within the context of heterosexual marriage and negatively of all other sexual relationships, including homosexual relationships.

In this blog I'll focus on the positive.

1. The Bible is Positive About Sex

Let's be honest, Christianity has a negative image with regards to sex. Perhaps because of the way society has changed in the last 50-100 years, it seems that Christians are usually on the back foot, opposing change and apparently opposing sex. It doesn't help that the Roman Catholic Church has continued to emphasise celibacy and virginity as more spiritual states.

However, Biblical Christianity, although recognising the boundaries, does not have a negative view of sex. Quite the opposite. It's quite clear that God created humans as male and female to have sexual relationships which he blesses and considers good (Genesis 1:27-28, 31; 2:24-25). And it should be noted that both Jesus and Paul in the New Testament pick up this teaching (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-16; Ephesians 5:31). Within the Bible we even find poetry celebrating sex in the book Song of Songs and a command for married couples to have sex (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)!

The positive view of sex in the Bible, sits within a bigger framework of the positive view of marriage. You might have noticed that all the quotes above are speaking within that context. If you know the story of creation, you will know that there is a sense in which the pinnacle of the creation is found in the creation of humanity and then, in that creation, in the relationship of husband and wife. From that point on, the Bible is constantly extolling and protecting marriage (e.g. Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 24:5; Hebrews 13:4).

So we can say that the Bible is positive about sex. However, we need to be clear that this positive attitude is within the framework of marriage and marriage, in this framework, as the passages above show, is always heterosexual.

There are a number of problems here for those who want to argue an affirming position for same-sex sexual relationships. Some suggest we shouldn't call them marriage, but we are OK to bless them. The problem here is that the only place for sexual relationships in the Bible is within marriage. Alternatively, some suggest that if same-sex sexual relationships are faithful then why not allow for them to be marriage and thus legitimise the sex. The problem here is that the marriage relationship in the Bible, rooted in creation and in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, is male and female.

It's worth noting as an aside that people often say that Jesus never taught about homosexuality. If we mean we don't have him recorded as using the word, then fair enough - a bit like Jesus never taught about the Trinity! But by teaching about marriage and referring to the creation plan, Jesus did of course affirm the boundaries for sex within heterosexual marriage. As we'll see in the negative teaching on sex in the Bible he also dealt with transgressions of those boundaries.

A further significant element of the broader framework is that the Bible uses marriage as a picture of something greater - the relationship that he has with his people. So in the Old Testament God is pictured as the bridegroom and Israel as the bride (e.g. Isaiah 54:5; 62:5; Ezekiel 16 and especially the book of Hosea). This theme is picked up by Jesus and applied to himself (e.g. Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14; 25:1-13). Jesus' apostles then also apply it to him (Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:6-10; 21:9).

It seems to me that this has a number of indirect implications on our question. First, the picture of marriage works because of the clear differentiation between husband and wife, a differentiation that is lost in a same-sex relationship - God and his people are not the same. Second and related, within marriage, it seems to me that the husband and wife are given different roles and Ephesians 5:25-33 particularly brings out how this relates to Christ and the church. Again this is lost in a same-sex relationship. In both cases, I suspect one could argue that different members of a same-sex relationship take on different roles, but that seems to undermine the fact that God chose to make the distinction on the basis of male and female. Thus the positive biblical teaching of marriage is undermined by attempting to be inclusive of a same-sex marriage.

I think the positive teaching of the Bible on sex and especially the relationship to this bigger framework explains why the Bible is very negative about any transgressions of the boundaries that the Bible put on sexual relationships, but that is for next blog in this series.

Other Posts in the this series:

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