Has God Indeed Said..? A Biblical Perspective on Sexuality, Part 2
by Andrè Van Mol, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Winter 2011
Part 1 of the series dealt with pre-marital sex, the biblical model of sexuality, porneia, adultery and polygamy. As a correction to the section regarding porneia in Part 1, it should have stated that forbidding fornication “. . . came from the Tanakh (the Old Testament)” rather than “. . .came from the Tanakh in the Old Testament.”
To recap our central theme, God set forth precisely what He thought about sexual relationships in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them;” and in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (NASB). Jesus cited these passages again in Mark 10:6-9 and Matthew 19:4-6, closing each by stating, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” This is about a timeless covenant, a union both physical and spiritual, which is the biblical standard: sexual intercourse exclusively within a heterosexual covenant relationship of marriage where our male and femaleness exhibit a wholeness of the expression of the image of God that neither gender can portray alone. Were sexuality never again mentioned in Scripture after Genesis, the standard would still have been set. Ultimately, we are told the covenant between husband and wife is symbolic of a greater union, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32, NKJV).
Sexuality and the rights of women
It has been put forth that women in the Bible had few rights, sexually or otherwise. It’s not so. The Proverbs 31 woman had ample rights enumerated—property purchaser, businesswoman, philanthropist, artisan and so forth. Even in the case of culturally sanctioned polygamy, Exodus 21:10 ordered, “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights” (NKJV). Rights indeed existed. Paul made clear in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). USC’s D.B Nagle notes in his text, The Ancient World, Reading in Social and Cultural History, that Christianity and Judaism “gave greater equality to women” (Fourth edition, p. 250).
Some have claimed that prostitution was only wrong if religiously linked, such as with temple prostitutes. This is mistaken. Leviticus 19:29 states, “Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness” (NKJV). Leviticus 21:9 stipulates, “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.” Big sin, big penalty. 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 cautions, “. . . Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh’” (NKJV). This back reference to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the standard for sexual relations—one man and one woman in marriage—makes clear that prostitution would be wrong.
Cleanliness codes and biblical sexual prohibitions
Sexual prohibitions are repeated in the New Testament (NT), but cleanliness codes related to foods generally are not. The biblical standards for sexual interaction given in Genesis 1:27 & 2:24 predate the law of Moses and its cleanliness codes. Leviticus 18 and 20 are often singled out by authors claiming that limiting sex to marriage is like forbidding ham sandwiches. Yet these chapters are about sexual practice—incest, adultery (understood as a very broad term, as previously noted in the writings of Philo Judaeus), same-sex intercourse, bestiality, etc.—not foods. Jesus set aside food restrictions (Matthew 15:11, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” NIV 2011). Yet Jesus and Paul repeat the sexual prohibitions. Note Matthew 15:19-20, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person . . .” (NIV 2011) and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you . . .” (NKJV). These sexual prohibitions are timeless commandments meant for our well-being of mind, body and spirit, and to empower right relationships.
Jesus was not sexually permissive
Revisionist teaching has it that Jesus abolished sexual prohibitions in the Sermon on the Mount, yet that passage proves this claim empty. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NKJV). Jesus was raising the standard, not lowering it. As professor Robert Gagnon wrote in The Bible and Homosexual Practice, Jesus was making it clear that, “It is not enough to refrain from fornication and adultery. One must also refrain from actively imagining one’s sexual involvement with another woman” (Abingdon Press, 2001; p. 205). Dr. Gagnon also clarifies, “The essence of love in Jesus’ understanding, though, was not maximizing free self-expression for others. For Jesus, love involved orienting others away from self-interest and in the direction of the interests of the kingdom of God . . .” Professor Gagnon commits a subchapter to “Deconstructing the Myth of a Sexually Tolerant Jesus” (pp. 196-209). In John 14:6, Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (NKJV). Love and truth, truth and love. Love without truth is hypocrisy and the running companion of negative enablement and codependency.
There are many biblical passages on same-sex sexuality, and none are positive or affirming. The prohibitions are repeated in the NT, not removed. Jesus made clear what He thought about sexual relationships: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh’” (Matthew 19:4-5, NKJV). He is quoting from Genesis 1:27, 2:24 and 5:2, with passages predating the Mosaic law. This is before the cleanliness codes and should not be rejected with them as some try to do.
What about David and Jonathan? Weren’t they gay? 1 Samuel 18:1 reads, “. . . the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (NKJV). In 2 Samuel 1:26, David says to Jonathan, “Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women” (NKJV). The love described here is brotherly, male bonding, “bromance,” which can be very deep yet non-erotic. The same holds true for the account of Ruth and Naomi. This strong fraternal (or sororal) bond is common in ancient and modern world literature. A byproduct of our sexually obsessed culture is the idea that a potent but non-sexual same-sex relationship is mocked as one hiding something else. Trying to read homosexuality into these texts says more about the reader than the subjects. The preconceptions and ulterior motives of critics get projected onto the Bible, so they see what they want in Scripture rather than what is really there.
1 Samuel 18:3-4 notes that Jonathan and David made a covenant, meaning a promise between the two, in which Jonathan is described as removing his armor and outer robe (not stripping nude) and giving it to David as part of that agreement. It is a custom and promise of protection—my armor and weapons are for your use—as well as a demonstration that one has nothing of harm to hide from the other. It’s not a near Eastern strip tease. In 1 Samuel 20:41, David and Jonathan “kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so” (NKJV). They “wept together,” not “they had sex together.” Kissing is a common greeting and a parting custom in the world even today. And have you never cried when leaving a best friend whom you knew you might never see again?
Were David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi gay? Not by the texts we have. The same kind of misreading, ignorance of history and misrepresentation of customs and practices is done to claim Jesus was gay and that Paul was a self-loathing homosexual. The critics miss much.
New Testament verses dealing with same-sex sexual behavior are many. Romans 1:26-28 describes that, “. . . women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman . . . men with men committing what is shameful . . .” (NKJV). 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 warns, “. . . Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. 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 and by the Spirit of our God” (NKJV). Note well the “and such were some of you,” indicating Christians abandoning same-sex sexuality. The biblical language wastes no time addressing orientation or motives, but speaks to the commission of the sexual sin—sodomy, catamy, women lying with women, adultery and so forth. It leaves no question it is the practice that is being specified, and there is no exemption for motivation or orientation. 1 Timothy 1:10 speaks of the “sexually immoral” and “those practicing homosexuality,” among others, as being “contrary to the sound doctrine” (NIV 2011). Jude 7 notes, “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” Ephesians 5:30-32 teaches that heterosexual marriage is the symbol of Christ and the church. Homosexual unions do not meet the requirements.
For further reading regarding same-sex sexuality, I have some suggestions. For men attracted to men, read Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas (Harvest House, 2003). For women attracted to women, consider Anne Paulk’s Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Harvest House, 2003). For addressing gay theology, I value Joe Dallas’ The Gay Gospel? (Harvest House, 2007) and Dr. Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001). The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality by Joe Dallas and Dr. Nancy Heche (yes, Anne’s mom) (Harvest House, 2010) provides one-stop shopping on the entire topic.
To anyone espousing a more sexually permissive position, I offer a few thoughts. Our human capacity for self-deception is boundless. All of a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, even when they end badly (Proverbs 21:2, 14:12). Are you allowing God to direct your sexuality and how it is expressed, or are you allowing your sexuality to direct your view of God and the Christian life? Is your chief concern how quickly you can push aside Scripture to get on with your intentions? Are you simply trying to generate a theological case for behaviors you have already determined in your heart that you will act upon?
Statements supporting loosened sexual standards for Christians inherently involve a degraded view of Scripture and its authority, and conform to the description of doctrines of men used to subvert Scripture (Matthew 15:8-9 and Isaiah 29:13). It is reminiscent of those in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 who “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires” will accumulate false teachers for their “itching ears” (NKJV). Please consider that every “you shall” and “you shall not” in the Bible is included for our benefit that we might have a minimum of suffering and needless harm and a maximum of abundant life. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 provides a succinct distillation of biblical sexuality—well worth memorizing.
Genesis 3:1 recounts of the serpent leading Eve into temptation by questioning God’s commands, “Has God indeed said . . . ?” Those casting doubt on biblical instruction often seem to be doing the same thing.