The Biblical Perspective Concerning Homosexuality

by Dr. Phil Fernandes

Statement from debate conducted by Dr. Fernandes vs. Rev. Farley Maxwell, Oregon Chapter President of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Tonight’s debate deals with the question, “What is the biblical perspective concerning homosexuality?” It is my conviction that the biblical perspective is narrow and clear. The Bible unambiguously declares homosexuality to be a sin. Still, as Saint Augustine has written, we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner.1 But, if we really love homosexuals, we will plead with them to flee from their lifestyles before it destroys them both physically and spiritually. A recent study which analyzed 7,500 obituaries revealed that the life expectancy of a homosexual male is forty-one years. The same study also uncovered that the life expectancy of heterosexual men who stayed married is seventy-five years. Other results of this study indicated that the life expectancy of lesbians is fourty-four years, while women who stayed married have a life expectancy of seventy-nine years.2 If we love smokers, we will plead with them to change their unhealthy lifestyles; should we not do the same for homosexuals?

Before we examine what the Bible says about homosexuality, we must keep in mind that the Scriptures do not consider homosexuality the only sexual sin. All sex outside of a monogamous marriage relationship between a man and a woman is declared by God to be sinful. Still, this debate is centered on the question of homosexuality; therefore, I will now turn to what the Bible teaches concerning homosexuality.

THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF HOMOSEXUALITY

Genesis 1:27-28 tells us that God created mankind “male and female,” and He commanded them to “multiply and fill the earth.” Genesis 2:18 states that God decided to make for man a “helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:24 declares that a man “shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” It is clear from these passages that the intention of God’s creative purpose for human sexuality is a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. Sexual intercourse within God’s will is limited within the bonds of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. This conclusion is confirmed by our Savior Jesus Christ when He said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'” (Matthew 19:4-5).

The Bible tells us of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. Though homosexuality was not the only vice of these cities, the Bible makes it clear that this sin was one of the main reasons why God judged them. Genesis 19:1-11 speaks of the men of Sodom gathering at Lot’s house and calling out to Lot, saying, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with” (Genesis 19:5). Lot’s two visitors were actually angels who manifested themselves as men. Lot’s carnal attempt to rescue his visitors was his offer to provide the men of Sodom with his two virgin daughters (Genesis 19:8). But, the men of Sodom rejected Lot’s offer. Finally, the angels miraculously struck the immoral men with blindness (Genesis 19:11). Jude, commenting on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, wrote, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Leviticus 18:20-25 lists several sins that, if they become widespread in a society, will destroy that society. The sins listed include adultery, idolatry, infanticide, homosexuality, and bestiality. In this passage, God refers to homosexuality as an abomination. He states, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). God tells His chosen people that His judgment would fall upon the inhabitants of Canaan for practicing these vices; He warns Israel that His judgment will also fall on her if she partakes of the same sins. The Lord proclaims, “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25). This passage should be viewed as a warning to all nations, both Jew and Gentile. As Dr. Tim Lahaye wrote in 1978, “A homosexually lenient society will incur the wrath of God.”3

Under the Old Testament legal code, the Mosaic Law, the sin of homosexuality was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). However, Israel was a theocracy (ruled directly by God) and their religion was enforced by law. This is not the case in America. We are not God’s chosen nation; we are a pluralistic society. Therefore, the death penalty for homosexual sins should probably not be enacted in Gentile countries. Still, the fact that God ordered the death penalty for the sin of homosexuality in Israel reveals clearly that God considers homosexuality a heinous offense.

The New Testament is as critical of the homosexual lifestyle as is the Old Testament. In Romans 1:18-32, the apostle Paul speaks of man’s rejection of the true God, and the resulting descent into idolatry and gross immorality. Paul states that because men reject the true God, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them” (Romans 1:24). Paul declares, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Romans 1:26-27). After listing several other sins, Paul proclaims,
” . . . although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Paul’s condemnation of homosexual desires is obvious, especially when one examines the descriptive terms he uses: lusts, impurity, and degrading passions. He refers to homosexual acts as unnatural and indecent. Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality, in both thought and deed, is extremely clear. If a person accepts the Bible as God’s Word, he or she should admit that homosexuality is one form of sinful rebellion against God.

The Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 makes plain the fact that a person cannot be a practicing homosexual and a true believer at the same time. For Paul declares:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Though a practicing homosexual is not a true believer, there is hope. For in the following verse Paul clearly teaches that a homosexual can be saved. Paul states, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). The good news of the gospel is that Jesus can save anyone who genuinely trusts in Him alone for salvation. However, Jesus saves us from both the penalty and the power of sin. Though true Christians are not perfect, their lives will be characterized by righteousness and good works. For God changes believers from within. Believers don’t do good works to get saved; they do good works because they are saved (Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:26; Romans 3:31). Both Jesus and Paul teach that true believers are no longer slaves to sin (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:17-18).

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, two Greek words are used to identify homosexuals. The first is “malakoi.” This word means “those who are soft to the touch,” and it is used of males who submit their bodies to unnatural sex acts performed by other males. The second word used for homosexuals in this passage is “arsenokoitai.” This word means “one who lies with a male as with a female,” “a sodomite,” “a homosexual.” These definitions are agreed upon by scholarly works such as The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon,4 and the Greek dictionaries of the Strong’s Concordance5 and The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance.6 Greek scholars such as A. T. Robertson7 and Kenneth S. Wuest8 also identify these words as terms denoting homosexuality.

There is also universal agreement among the leading Bible versions concerning these two Greek words found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The major translations agree that these words denote homosexuality. The New American Standard Bible translates malakoi as “effeminate” and arsenokoitai as “homosexuals.” The New King James Version translates malakoi as “homosexuals” and arsenokoitai as “sodomites.” The New International Version translates malakoi as “male prostitutes” and arsenokoitai as “homosexual offenders.” And, the King James Version translates malakoi as “effeminate,” while translating arsenokoitai as “abusers of themselves with mankind.”

In 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Paul again used the Greek word “arsenokoitai” for homosexuals. In this scripture, Paul refers to homosexuals and other sinners as “those who are lawless and rebellious.” There is simply no way to honestly deny the fact that the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, declares homosexuality to be a gross sin. The biblical perspective concerning homosexuality is narrow and clear. The Bible calls homosexuality a sin.

Not only is outward homosexual behavior a sin, but the Bible also condemns homosexual desires. This was seen in Romans 1:24-27, where Paul denounced homosexual lusts as “degrading passions.” Jesus agreed with Paul that sin originates in the heart of man (Matthew 23:25-28). Jesus stated, “but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Therefore, according to the Bible, sexual sins can occur in one’s thoughts even if one does not partake of any sexually immoral behavior. This is why the Bible states that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

ARE HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES INHERITED?

Some proponents of homosexual rights claim that many people are born homosexuals; they had no choice in the matter. Homosexuality is viewed not as an acquired or learned behavior, but as something that is determined by a person’s genetic makeup.9 However, there is no undisputed evidence that homosexuality is genetically determined.10 Many psychologists and psychiatrists who counsel homosexuals still view homosexuality as an acquired behavior.11

Several factors seem to discredit the notion that some people are born homosexual. For instance, many homosexuals have changed their lifestyles and become heterosexual.12 But, how could this happen if they were genetically programmed to be homosexual? Also, there are many known cases where the identical twin of a homosexual is heterosexual. If homosexuality is genetically determined, this would not be the case.13

Still, even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that homosexual tendencies are genetic, this would change nothing. For the Bible teaches that all men inherit a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5). Because of our sinful nature, we naturally sin (Romans 3:10, 23). Still, the Bible holds us accountable for our sins and commands us to repent and turn to Jesus for the power to say no to sin (Mark 1:14-15; John 8:11, 31-36). Many infants are born addicted to nicotine or cocaine. But, we do not protect their right to smoke cigarettes or snort cocaine. Since we know these habits are unhealthy, we attempt to help them discard those destructive tendencies. If a man inherited a tendency towards violence, no one in their right mind would defend his right to beat people. If homosexuality is genetic, we would still be required to persuade the homosexual to flee this destructive lifestyle.

The good news of the Bible is that we can say yes to God and no to sin. Without Jesus, we are slaves to sin (John 8:31-36). But, with Jesus, we become new creations and slaves to righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:17-18). The homosexual who admits that he, like all men, is a sinner who cannot save himself, and genuinely turns to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation becomes a new creation. The Holy Spirit will indwell the former homosexual and empower him or her to flee from the destructive homosexual lifestyle.

The apostle Paul rejects the idea that a believer cannot refrain from giving in to temptation. He states:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Homosexuals can, as many have done, flee their sinful lifestyles by turning to Jesus for salvation. It is my earnest prayer that homosexuals would choose Jesus and reject their immoral lifestyles.

SHOULD HOMOSEXUALITY BE LEGAL?

We have shown that the Bible clearly calls homosexuality sinful. Now the question arises, “Should it be legal?” Americans live in a free country. This country does not enforce every detail of Christian morality. Still, the American concept of freedom is the freedom to pursue happiness, so long as one does not infringe on the freedom of another. Due to unhealthy practices such as anal intercourse (which is destructive to the body), the ingestion of feces (called rimming), the drinking of urine (called golden showers), and the insertion of one’s fist into another’s anus (called fisting),14 homosexuality has become the breeding ground for many dangerous diseases. Some of these diseases (such as Hepatitis B and Tuberculosis) can be spread through casual contact.15 Though AIDS apparently cannot be spread through casual contact, there are many homosexual diseases that can be spread this easily. Therefore, for the protection of society, homosexuality should be outlawed. Homosexuality is a public health issue; it is not a civil rights issue. We must never forget God’s warning to Israel that widespread homosexuality will defile a nation (Leviticus 18:20-25).

Since God instituted human government to protect the well-being of its citizens (Romans 13:1-4), Christians are biblically justified in their attempts to return homosexuality to an illegal status. If homosexuality is not outlawed, America will become a diseased nation. This is not homophobia; it is theophobia, a healthy fear of God (Proverbs 1:7; Galatians 6:7).

Homosexuals need Jesus to save them from their sin. But, let us never forget that we are all sinners. Except for the grace of God, none of us would be saved. God’s love drove His Son to Calvary to die a horrible death for our sins. Let us come to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness. Those who come to Him will not hunger, and those who believe in Him will never thirst (John 6:35).

ENDNOTES

1 Saint Augustine, City of God, abridged, ed. Vernon J. Bourke (New York: Image Books, 1958), 304.

2 “Homosexuality: A Lifestyle Leading to a Deathstyle,” National Liberty Journal, February, 1995, 5.

3 Tim LaHaye, The Unhappy Gays (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1978), 201.

4 The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981), 75, 387.

5 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Iowa Falls: Riverside), “Greek Dictionary,” 16, 46.

6New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1981), “Greek Dictionary,” 1635, 1664.

7 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1931), 119.

8 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 32 (2nd section). See also Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament, An Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 392.

9Roger Magnuson, Informed Answers to Gay Rights Questions (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 1994), 81-90.

10 Ibid., 83.

11 William Dannemeyer, Shadow in the Land (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 46-51.

12 Magnuson, 84.

13 Ibid.

14 Gene Antonio, The AIDS Cover-Up? (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 33-41.

15 Ibid., 19-20, 44-45, 62-63, 99, 119-122.