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.