Friday, September 23, 2011

The Prohibition of Homosexuality

In this post we will look at three modern objections to the biblical prohibition of homosexuality. They are:

First, that the prohibition's connection with the ceremonial Law no longer makes this ban enforceable.
Second, that barrenness was the reason for the ban, not homosexuality in and of itself.
Third, we will look at the reason why homosexuality and its connection with idolatry.

Homosexual Prohibitions Are Ceremonial

In the following scene from the television show The West Wing, the "acting President" Jed Bartlett takes a "right-wing" talk show host to task over a literal interpretation of Leviticus 18:22-24. While I expect that no Hollywood writer would ever take the time to speak to a Christian to learn the answer to Bartlett's diatribe, believers should learn how to respond to this ignorant rant.

So what is the response of a Christian to this rant? Very simply, Israel was under a different form of economy. It was a theocracy in which God was the supreme ruler. The fact that "President" Bartlett brings up a number of the other ceremonial laws, and we will deal with those in later posts. What I want to focus in on is the prohibitions of homosexuality.

Many people that advocate homosexuality, especially in the liberal denominations, state that because these laws are located with the ceremonial and dietary laws, and that these laws were done away with (Acts 10:15), it follows that these laws were also done away with.

The "Sin of Barrenness"

The question that must be asked is why did Yahweh ban the practice of homosexuality? Some say it was the sin of barrenness. First, barrenness was considered a curse by the ancient Israelites (Gen. 16:1; 1 Sam. 1:3-8). Children were considered a blessing from Yahweh (Psalm 127:3). The blessing of the land was connected to children (Gen. 15:5). It would then follow that homosexuality would be frowned upon because it produces no children. Further, it is not homosexuality that is necessarily condemned, but the refusal to have children.

If you believe that homosexuality is abolished because of its connection with the ceremonial law, then you must also believe that the bans on rape, incest & bestiality are illegitimate, and that we can now engage in those practices. I wonder how the good Catholic "President" Bartlett would have responded to this during his selective diatribe? The sexual laws, however, are not connected with procreation. Putting homosexuals to death would make no sense, considering the fact that heterosexual marriage would be a more appropriate punishment.

Romans 2:12-15 states that the Gentiles do not have the ceremonial Law. The law against homosexuality, however, extends beyond Israel (Romans 1:26). Further the Gentiles have no covenental stake in producing a new generation. The Jews did. This is why Yawhew judged the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:1-3, 24-25). This is the context that "President" Bartlett failed to take into consideration during his diatribe. I diatribe, coincidentally, sparked by wounded pride. Further, the punishment for homosexuality was brutal. Death by stoning. On the other hand, those that violated the dietary laws were considered unclean and banished from the camp for a specific period of time.

If barrenness was a sin, then menopausal women in that time were sinful, since they no longer could bear children. If barrenness was a sin, then no one other than Jesus himself advocated sin, since he sanctioned singleness (Matthew 19:11-12) as did Paul (1 Corinthians 7:8). Contrast these teachings with the clear prohibition of homosexuality in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7).

Connected to Pagan Worship

Others say that the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality was due to its close association with the pagan worship that existed in Canaan at the time of the exodus and conquest by Israel (Deuteronomy 23:17). Part of the worship practices at that time was to engage in sexual activities with temple prostitutes, female and male (1 Kings 14:24). We also see a condemnation of heterosexual pagan worship in Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27.

While homosexuality is often associated with idolatry it is not connected with idolatry. Sexual infidelity is often used as a metaphor for idolatry (Hosea 3:1; 4:12), but it has no direct connection with idolatry. Sexual sin (hetero & homosexual) is immoral at all times and not just when associated with idolatrous worship.

It is important to point out that while idolatry may lead to sexual sin (Romans 1:22-27), they are different sins. The Mosaic Law does distinguish between idolatry (Exodus 20:3-4) and sexual sins (Exodus 20:14-17).

The Core Issue

Homosexuality is no different from any other sexual sin. Rape, incest and bestiality all fall into the condemnation of God because they pervert the teleological design of human sexuality into something that it was not designed for. While homosexuality may by connected to barrenness since no children can come from a homosexual union naturally, it is not because of barrenness that homosexuality was condemned. Lastly, while there was a connection in ancient times to homosexuality and pagan religion, idolatry and homosexuality are two separate and distinct sins that must be dealt with separately.

The reason why homosexuality is a sin is because God says it is a sin. That prohibition is sounded throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. Which brings us back to "President" Bartlett's rant from The West Wing. The answer to "President" Bartlett is simple. In Christianity, there is to be no one who calls himself a Christian that engages regularly in homosexual practices, or a number of other practices. If this is the case, then that person is to be removed from the church, until he comes to repentance, or dies in his sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Unlike the theocracy of Israel in which these persons were given capital punishment, the church is to remove these persons from the church.

This answer did not work for the writers of The West Wing. Instead of doing the hard work of getting the story straight they opted for the easy cheap shot. Then again should we expect the world to give Christianity a far shake? According to the Scriptures the answer is no.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later - Reflections on 9/11

My first recollections of that morning were the frantic voices of Mark & Brian, the morning drive-time DJs on Los Angeles' KLOS radio station. You see, I always have slept with on. Their frantic talk of a horrible "accident" in which a jumbo jet had slammed into one of the World Trade Center towers work me at just before 6 AM that dreadful Tuesday morning. Immediately, I donned my bathrobe and ran to the front room to turn on the TV. There in front of my eyes was the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center. I sat on the arm of the sofa and was shocked. I called for my room mate, who was still asleep in his room, to come out and look at what happened. No sooner had I called him, I witnessed the second plane slam into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I knew then that America had just changed. She would never be the same again. I got physically sick.

Soon the reports of a plane slamming into the Pentagon filtered out. I had to get ready for work. How anyone could demand people to work on that day was, and still is beyond me, but I guess when the dollar is more important than your employees you'll do it (Integra Marketing was my employer at the time). I dragged myself away from the TV to shower for work. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life. I did not want to miss anything.

It was after the shower and as I was dressing for work, that the reports of the Pentagon attack began to air. Again, a wave of nausea passed over me. Then the towers began to fall. I watched in utter horror and morbid curiosity as the South Tower began to fall onto itself. My thoughts were for the people that were in the floors above the impact zone. There was no way they could have escaped. There were reports of people who, rather than wait for a slow death, took their lives by leaping off the Towers and into eternity.

By the time I got on the freeway to head to work, the reports of United 93 were airing. This plane crashed in Shanksville, PA. What was not known at the time, was how the passengers fought to stop the Muslim terrorists that had hijacked the plane. They fought, and as fighters truly exemplified the American spirit of fighting against injustice. It was also around this time (7:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time) that the North Tower fell. Oh how I wanted to just turn around and go home.

When I got to work, everyone was in shock. Instead of the usual music on the office radio, one of Los Angeles' all-news station was on chronicling the days events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA. People were in no mood to work. Everyone's emotions were raw and on their sleeves. It was sad. That Tuesday was one of the slowest days I have ever had to endure in a work environment. I hope to never have another day like that.

For the next week, the TV was on either Fox or CNN. I don't think I watched as much news during that week than in any time prior or since.

It's been ten years since those attacks. Attacks that were not only motivated by hate, but by religious hate. Particularly, the hate of Muslims performing Jihad on "the great Satan". Now, there are those that claim conspiracy and "inside job". These people need help. Sadly, most of the 9/11 "truthers" are just as fanatical as the Muslims that piloted those aircraft on that fateful day. I won't go into their conspiracy theories, sufficed to say that anyone who has actually dealt with conspiracy theories knows that the effectiveness of a conspiracy is severely limited by the number of conspirators, time from the event, and the ability of the conspirators to remain in contact with each other. A conspiracy the size of 9/11 requires a number of people "in the know" of a massive proportion. I won't go into it in detail, but there is no way, in my mind, that a conspiracy required to pull of 9/11 is just too massive. Someone should have talked, but no one is talking, not out of fear, but because there is nothing to say in that regard.

There are others that claim that the hens of U.S. foreign policy finally came home to roost on 9/11. Perhaps the people that espouse this view are right. However, the best and most simplest explanation is that 19 whack-jobs actually hijacked these airplanes and used them as flying bombs specifically against strategic symbols (financial, military & possibly political in the U.S.). Ultimately, God was in control, and both allowed and decreed the events of September 11, 2001 to happen. I struggled for many years to understand why those events, and subsequent tragedies happened. The answer came a few years later as I read Luke 13: 1-5 (ESV). I understood why these things were allowed to happen.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
 It was verse five that struck me. Jesus said, "...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Jesus states this twice, and if Jesus said something twice then it behooves us to pay attention to what He said. You and I are no better nor no worse than the 2, 977 victims and the 19 terrorists that died that day. Unless we repent, however, we too will perish as they did.

So reader, let me ask you are you ready to repent?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Verse Abuse - Translation Misinterpretation

While most of the abused verses in the Bible lie on the laps of tradition, and personal misinterpretation, there are a small group of verses that have been misinterpreted by the various translation committees of a particular Bible version. A number of these are well known, and some others are not. We will be looking into a number of them in this series.

Today, we will be looking at Exodus 20:13 which has been translated by the King James Version as, "Thou shalt not kill." What is telling, is how the modern translations have rendered the Hebrew word "raw-tsakh" ("kill" in the KJV). A brief survey of the translations I use the most (English Standard Version, New American Standard, New International Version & New King James Version) shows the Hebrew has been rendered as "murder". The reason why this is important to look at is that this verse has been used by certain Christian sects and cults to justify a pacifist view regarding war in general, and what is called "just war" in particular (I will not be exploring this issue in this entry, however the reader is free to "Google" that topic). This verse has also been used to justify opposition to the implementation of capital punishment.

I believe that the following are fair definitions of "killing" and "murder":

  • Killing is the taking of the life of a human being.
  • Murder is the taking of a the life of an innocent human being without just cause.
This is why many criminal codes divide homicide into a number of different categories that reflect this main distinction.

That said, we must look into the broader context of the Mosiac Law in order to understand what God was demanding from the people He called His own. The main reason for the Mosaic Law is that Yahweh wanted His people to to be unique from the nations that surrounded them. Therefore, killing motivated by hatred or anger was distinguished from unintentional killing, from capital punishment, or from just war. The key factor being intentional deliberation as opposed to emotional reactions.

This misinterpretation by the translation committee of the King James Version is one of the few that modern translations have addressed. There are a couple of others that modern translation committees have not had the courage to touch because of the tradition laid down by the King James Version. We will be addressing some of these in future posts.

Of course the exposure of this verse forces us to ask the question of whether or not a person can a particular version of the Bible. To this I say that a person can trust the vast majority of the English translations available. There are a couple of notable exceptions, with the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation, being the most notorious of mistranslated Bibles. The reason I say this is that while other English translations have translation errors, these errors do not affect  historical essential Christian doctrine, such as the deity of Jesus and the Trinity. The New World Translation deliberately mistranslated verses that demonstrate these doctrines to support their own heretical views regarding these doctrines. So what is the best way to ensure that you are not getting a mistranslated Bible version? Very simply, use a number of Bible translations in your Bible study.