Biblical Witness Fellowship
Renewing the United Church of Christ

What Does the Bible Say About Human Sexuality?


A Report by Biblical Witness Fellowship

Renewal Movement of the United Church of Christ
 
 

While this summary simply reviews information published in many forms elsewhere, this is still one of the most frequently asked questions we hear, especially as those who desire to legitimize homosexual and bisexual behavior increasingly attempt to claim that the Bible speaks in their defense.

We have been accused of giving unnecessary attention to the issue of sexuality. The truth in this matter, however, was expressed eloquently in a recent presentation by a prominent representative of the Metropolitan Community Church to a predominantly gay and lesbian audience at a nearby University campus. In response to the question, “why is the church so preoccupied with homosexuality?” He replied, “They aren’t! They would just as soon not discuss it and have it go away! It’s us in the homosexual community. We are obsessed with the church. We are afraid that we are damned and are compelled to prove to them and ourselves that we are not!”

There is a second and more foundational reason why this matter continues to take center stage in the ongoing conflict between Christ and contemporary culture. In order for a post Christian worldview to redefine our western society founded on and saturated with Christianity, it would have to legitimize itself within the church and to emerge wearing acceptable religious vestments. If we are to be culturally converted to a general non-religiously specific Spirituality dedicated to justice, peace and the environment, with a situational morality of personal freedom and gratification, it will never do to simply denounce the Church and hope society gets over it.

That is why there has been such a deliberate and forceful attempt within the mainline church to overthrow Biblical revelation in three dimensions: 1) The Trinitarian person of God, particularly as it is revealed in the deity, atonement, resurrection and Lordship of Jesus Christ;  2) The natural moral order  revealed in the Biblical laws, commandments and teachings; and now finally 3) what it means to be human particularly in the Biblical revelation of a humanity reflective of God and sexually created for marriage and family.

It is this final attempt to redefine what it means to be human that is at the heart of the current sexual debate. Bill Johnson, the first openly homosexual man to be ordained in the United Church of Christ  (1972) and recently promoted to a prominent role in the UCC’s Homeland Board declared the terms of this conflict more than two decades ago when he wrote, “As long as the church is able to perpetuate the belief that marriage and the family are the highest forms of human relationship it will be able to perpetuate itself as a heterosexual family-oriented institution. . . Heterosexual relationships and marriage as traditionally experienced are basically unhealthy.” This is the underlying motivation in the current advocacy of `gay marriage’ which seeks not so much to confine homosexual relationships to a norm of lifelong monogamy but rather to redefine marriage fundamentally so as to demote it from a Divine mandate to a human institution.

This is also not a contention about love, hate or fear. The evangelical church welcomes sinners of all persuasions to be transformed by the love and grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Despite the constant name calling by her opponents and the secular media, and despite the sometimes humiliating behavior of those who would call themselves friends and members, the ecumenical evangelical church has largely recovered from the shock of the social paradigm shift of the last three decades.  Most congregations aggressively welcome people from every diversity with the love of Christ.  She has in fact taken the lead from the mainline church in ministering to those who are the victims as much as the participants in the disease, violence, ruin and chaos of the sexual revolution.

We do not regard anyone as less than ourselves or isolated from the offer of grace, nor do we consider any one form of sin to be more particularly grievous. If you are homosexual and reading this we appreciate your courage and very much want to understand you, have you in our churches, and share the faith that has transformed our lives. The idea that loving someone necessitates acceptance of their moral and behavioral choices or lifestyle, is, as any parent knows, nonsensical.

In considering what the Bible says about human sexuality we are not in this brief and insufficient context addressing whether the Bible is in fact Divine revelation at all. Much of the argument in defense of homosexual and bisexual behavior in the church dismisses the Bible as a humanly devised document, shaped by ancient culture that has little contemporary validity. Such argument frequently dismisses Leviticus facetiously, Genesis as myth, and the Pauline epistles as the ruminations of a misogynist. If this is the case then Christianity is simply a humanly devised religion among religions, and most of the whole show from stained glass windows, to pipe organs, to robed and paid clergy, to denominational bureaucracies are only a  pompous exercise in vanity, and sexuality is only a biological function.

Finally, in this presentation we are making no distinction between homosexual ‘orientation’ or bent, and behavior. It is not that we do not believe such a distinction is possible. Certainly from a heterosexual perspective in the evangelical ecumenical church such a distinction would be natural in as much as the normative expectation for unmarried people is that they will not engage in sexual activity with others. But in dialogue with the homosexual and bisexual advocates in the UCC they have made it very clear that they recognize no such distinction. For them to be it means to do it, and vice versa. Since this discussion is happening in this context then, we have accepted their assumption.

 

Bible Study

 

& TEXT: Genesis 1:26-28, 2:21-25

“Then God said,  “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

“So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God mad a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man . . . . .  for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.”

Interpretation: The intention and act of God to create in His own image is obviously heterosexual. His intent is clearly relationship, reproduction and the pursuit of His salvation purpose for earth by the global expansion of family life. The subsequent definition of sexual relationship is that “two shall become one” and the definition of intimacy is  “naked and not ashamed.”  These are both mandated to happen in the very first and primary covenant relationship, namely marriage. Marriage is defined with specificity.  Beginning in Genesis 4:19 with the episode of Lamech, the Bible depicts all alternative sexual relationships to monogamous marriage as instrumental to rebellion, strife, violence, degradation, or idolatry.    

Counterpoint: Those who would defend homosexual practice on Biblical grounds have not usually addressed this passage.

Question: Since this is the only context in which God clearly states we are made in His image, can we dismiss the context without reducing the statement from revelation to meaningless human wistfulness? If we are not made in God’s image then what is our value? 

 

& TEXT: Matt. 19:4-12, Mark 10:1-12

“Haven’t you read,  he (Jesus) replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate . . . . . vs. 12 “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and other have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.”

Interpretation: Jesus bluntly affirms the Creators intention in designing heterosexual humanity and ordaining marriage. In fact he places the covenant in the mouth of God. He reinforces the definition of human sexuality as ‘two becoming one’ in the covenant of marriage and goes on to specifically affirm chastity in singleness (vs.11-12)

Counterpoint: Jesus is silent on the subject of homosexuality and the ‘love of Jesus’ provides an ethical override to the commandments and laws of God pertaining to sexuality.

Questions: What does it mean that Jesus so emphatically reinforces the beauty and integrity of the creation intention for human sexuality? How seriously does he take the threat of sexual perversity to human well-being (see Matthew 5:27-30)?

 

& TEXT: Ephesians 5 (read the whole chapter for context, see also I  Tim. 3:1-5)

vs1 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among yourselves there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality”. .  .vs. 25,  “husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy” . . .  vs.28 “in this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies . . . .just as Christ does the church . . .For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Interpretation: Wow! Human sexuality expressed in the purity of self sacrificial love in the unity of marriage, where two become one is the paradigm of the very relationship between Christ and us, his church!  Praise God!

Counterpoint: This passage is rarely addressed, but increasingly eroticism outside of marriage is being presented as an avenue to Re-Imagining or redefining god in light of one’s own self fulfilling experiences. (e.g. Rita Brock’s, A Christology of Erotic Power)

 

& TEXT: Leviticus  18 - (read the whole chapter)

“The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees and laws, for I am the Lord  your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

“No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.

“Do not dishonor your father by have sexual relations with your mother . . . . Do not have sexual relations with your sister . . . . . .(v22ff).  Do not lie with a man as with a woman; that is detestable . . . . . Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled . . .the land vomited out its inhabitants.”   

Interpretation: There is a cultural sexuality and a Godly sexuality and each person makes a choice as to whom they will serve. The long list of perversities which characterize a “sexually liberated” culture stand in contrast to those for whom He is Lord! Far from a cultic description of details about priests garments which were images of holiness for purposes of illustration in a theocracy, this is an explicit restatement of God’s natural moral order, with detail that leaves little to the imagination.

Counterpoint: Leviticus has passages applying to dietary laws, hygiene, dress and such which we do not replicate in our time and therefore the sexual prohibitions are equally unapplicable.

Question: Are we moving from a culture in which Jesus is Lord and God’s Word is the primary rule of practice to become a Canaan or Egypt in which religions are synthesized and sexual prohibitions are removed? Many newly published books relate sexual ‘liberation’ to ecology. Will the land vomit us out as it did the cultures of Canaan and ancient Egypt?   

 

& TEXT: Romans 1:18-32

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all wickedness of men who suppress the truth  . . . . . .(v21) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator -who is forever praised. Amen.

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind; to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Interpretation: Whew! Did the author of Romans live in an American university city from 1960 - 1997 or the first century?! This is a seamless integration of New Testament revelation with the previous passage in Leviticus. This spells out the step by step process in which we have moved from the idolatrous existentialism of the 60’s to the Re-Imagining of the 1990’s, from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Tupac Shakur, from Oscar Wilde to the Daughters of Bilitis to Queer Nation. It very accurately describes the spiritual dynamic that lies beneath the attempt to legitimize homosexuality and to bizarrely call the era of sexual perversity in which we live an era of ‘enlightenment’.

Counterpoint:  This passage is not speaking about ‘natural’ homosexual relationships but about heterosexual men and women engaging in ‘unnatural’ relationships.

Questions:  Has God ‘given us over’ to a mentality that would legitimize homosexual practice? Has a ‘mental depravity’ set in that keeps us from connecting our personal sexual behaviors, spiritual rebellion, and narcissism from their cultural consequences? Is this why we no longer seem to make the natural connection between cause and effect?    

 

& TEXT: Genesis 18 & 19 . . . This episode of Sodom is too long to quote in its entirety but we would recommend that you read it all as well as a companion episode in Judges 19:9-30.

“vs. 20, Then the Lord said, “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry . . . . . vs. 26, If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. . . . For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it . . . . . ch19.vs4, before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom, both young and old - surrounded the house. They called out to Lot, ‘where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you . . .”

Interpretation: Both episodes have to do with a city or society that has so degenerated that bisexual violence has become rampant and no one is safe. God is so gracious that a small righteous remnant will elicit his grace and patience. We learn from the subsequent behavior of Lot’s sons in laws, his wife, and his daughters that sexual perversity is contagious rather than inherent.

Counterpoint:  Some have argued that this episode has to do with hospitality rather than sexuality. The stronger argument, however, is that the story reflects a violent society and has nothing to do with loving, faithful, non-violent homosexual relationships.

Questions: When a society legitimizes alternative sexual behaviors, do they then peacefully coexist in parallel reflecting simply different ways of expressing love and affection? Or is there an inevitable disintegration to a society in which 1 in every 5 women is raped, 1 in 3 children is aborted, STD’s are rampant, pornography is pervasive and ‘domestic’ violence, primarily between live-in lovers, becomes commonplace. (see Romans 9:28,29, Isaiah 1, Jude v3-7, II Peter 2:1-22)

 

& TEXT: I Corinthians 6:9,10 (see also I Timothy 1:8-10)

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves  . . . .will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Interpretation: Again the Bible is contrasting a cultural, amoral lifestyle with the behavior of those who know Jesus Christ as Lord. The point is the status of those who engage persistently in the listed behaviors without repentance.  Homosexual Scholar Boswell argued that the two Greek words used here ‘malakoi’  and ‘arsenokoites’ simply refer to those who are self indulgent or male prostitutes. The consensus of responsible scholarship, however, indicates that in the first century ‘malakoi’  referred more generally to those who give themselves  passively to homosexual acts and ‘arsenokoites’ (literally ‘male bed mates for males’) was used of those who engaged aggressively in homosexual acts.

Counterpoint: Beyond Boswell’s argument, Mollenkott and others argue that because homosexual acts appear in a list of sins common to all of us the passage does not constitute a valid prohibition.

 

& TEXTS: Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:20-23

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Ps. 51:5

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord searches the heart and examines the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9

“he (Jesus) went on: `What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean’.” Mark 7:20-23

Interpretation:  Of the three words used for sin in Hebrew ‘awon’ which refers to sin’s root is used in the Psalm.  The word means bent or twist and is sometimes translated iniquity. Each of us then from birth has a particular bent or twist or orientation that when gratified is sin. We cannot trust our own self-knowledge or instinct because we are innately sinners from birth who easily deceive ourselves into believing our actions are justified. This is why we needed Jesus to die for our sins and why we come to be saved from our sin by repenting, believing, receiving grace and being made new in Christ. This is why our behavior must be judged against God’s revealed moral order as a standard for right behavior rather than cultural norms or our own feelings about good and evil.

Counterpoint: Homosexuality and bisexuality are innate orientations which indicate that the associated behavior, because it is ‘natural’ to instinct must necessarily be good and justifiable.

Questions: How similar is the list Jesus uses in making his point in Mark 7 to that of I Corinthians 6, where Paul mentions explicitly in the Corinthian context what Jesus simply implies to his disciples? Are we as human persons innately good and capable of deciding for ourselves what’s right and wrong or are we innately sinful and quite capable of self-deception? How does bisexuality skew this issue?

 


 

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