A few months ago, in the heat of the tragic teen suicides that came about from intolerance of homosexuality, I saw a man on television who was apologizing for wishing death on gays from his facebook page. This member of an Arkansas school board was contrite for the violence in his words, but maintained that his values pertaining to homosexuality would remain, as he felt homosexuality was condemned in the bible. This concept, while foreign to me, is interesting, as it used to justify so much judgement and separation in our society. When my daughter came home from school one day saying that a classmate had two mommies, my response was, “Two mommies? How lucky is she?!” What does it actually say in the bible that will cause some people to be upset by my line of thinking?
*Note: We wanted to include as many perspectives as possible along with Michael Berg, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Father Vincent Swann on this issue—and so we are also including a more conservative voice below as well.
Excerpt from Issues Facing Christians Today
There are four main biblical passages which refer (or appear to refer) to the homosexual question negatively: (1) the story of Sodom (Genesis 19:1 – 13), with which it is natural to associate the very similar story of Gibeah (Judges 19); (2) the Levitical texts (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) which explicitly prohibit “lying with a man as one lies with a woman”; (3) the apostle Paul’s portrayal of decadent pagan society in his day (Romans 1:18 – 32); and (4) two Pauline lists of sinners, each of which includes a reference to homosexual practices of some kind (1 Corinthians 6:9 – 10; 1 Timothy 1:8 – 11).
Reviewing these biblical references to homosexual behavior, which I have grouped, we have to agree that there are only four of them. Must we then conclude that the topic is marginal to the main thrust of the Bible? Must we further concede that they constitute a rather flimsy basis on which to take a firm stand against a homosexual lifestyle? Are those protagonists right who claim that the biblical prohibitions are “highly specific”–against violations of hospitality (Sodom and Gibeah), against cultic taboos (Leviticus), against shameless orgies (Romans), and against male prostitution or the corruption of the young (1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy), and that none of these passages alludes to, let alone condemns, a loving partnership between people of homosexual orientation?
But no, plausible as it may sound, we cannot handle the Biblical material in this way. The Christian rejection of homosexual practices does not rest on “a few isolated and obscure proof texts” (as is sometimes said), whose traditional explanation (it is further claimed) can be overthrown. The negative prohibitions of homosexual practices in Scripture make sense only in the light of its positive teaching in Genesis 1 and 2 about human sexuality and heterosexual marriage. Yet without the wholesome positive teaching of the Bible on sex and marriage, our perspective on the homosexual question is bound to be skewed. The essential place to begin our investigation, it seems to me, is the institution of marriage in Genesis 2.
Heterosexual Gender: A Divine Creation
Firstly, the human need for companionship. “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). True, this assertion was later qualified when the apostle Paul (surely echoing Genesis) wrote: “It is good for a man not to marry” (1 Corinthians 7:1). That is to say, although marriage is the good institution of God, the call of God, the call to singleness is also the good vocation of some. Nevertheless, as a general rule, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God has created us social beings. Since he is love, and has made us in his own likeness, he has given us a capacity to love and be loved. He intends us to live in community, not in solitude. In particular, God continued, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Moreover, this “helper,” or companion, whom God pronounced “suitable for him,” was also to be his sexual partner, with whom he has to become “one flesh,” so that they might thereby both consummate their love and procreate their children.
Heterosexual Marriage: A Divine Institution
Having affirmed Adam’s need for a partner, the search for a suitable one began. The animals not being suitable as equal partners, a special work of divine creation took place. The sexes became differentiated. Out of the undifferentiated humanity of Adam, male and female emerged. Adam found a reflection of himself, a complement to himself, a very part of himself. Having created the woman out of the man, God brought her to him, much as today the bride’s father gives her away. And Adam broke spontaneously into history’s first love poem, saying that now at last there stood before him a creature of such beauty in herself and similarity to him that she appeared to be (as indeed she was) “made for him”:
This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman’,
for she was taken out of man.
There can be no doubting the emphasis of this story. According to Genesis 1, Eve, like Adam, was created in the image of God. But as to the manner of her creation, according to Genesis 2, she was made neither out of nothing (like the universe), nor out of “the dust of the ground” (like Adam, v. 7) but out of Adam.
Heterosexual Fidelity: The Divine Intention
The third great truth of Genesis 2 concerns the resulting institution of marriage. Adams’ love poem is recorded in verse 23. … Even the inattentive reader will be struck by the three references to “flesh”: “This is… flesh of my flesh… they will become one flesh.” We may be certain that this is deliberate, not accidental. It teaches that heterosexual intercourse in marriage is more than a union; it is a kind of reunion. It is the union of two persons who originally were one, were then separated from each other, and now in the sexual encounter of marriage come together again.
It is of the utmost importance to note that Jesus himself later endorsed this Old Testament definition of marriage. In doing so, he both introduced it with words from Genesis 1:27 (that the Creator “made them male and female”) and concluded it with his own comment (“so they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate,” Matthew 19:6) Here, then, are three truths which Jesus affirmed: (1) heterosexual gender is a divine creation; (2) heterosexual marriage is a divine institution; and (3) heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention. A homosexual liaison is a breach of all three of these divine purposes.
Dr. John Stott is Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church, Langham Place in London. He founded John Stott Ministries, the US branch of Langham Partnership International, providing scholars with the materials and opportunities to learn and teach the Bible.