I don’t blog much about my faith and I’ve never really talked about politics before. I am a born-again evangelical — just about anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes talking to me will figure that out. And though I enjoy talking about my faith and sharing my testimony with just about anyone who I’ve known longer than an hour, I avoid talking about politics. That’s because many devout, Bible-believing Christians are also devout conservatives — and I am not. My political views are separate from my faith and they seldom ever meet — except when gay marriage becomes the topic of the day. So today, I’m inviting a flame-war by discussing why I do not oppose gay marriage.
First, a word from my sponsor
First let me get a few things straight for my Christian brothers and sisters who are ready to call me an apostate blasphemer and whatnot — and for my dear friends who are not evangelical, Bible-believing Christians that think I’m playing for their team, too:
- I believe the Bible to be inerrant and God-breathed
- I believe Jesus is the son of God, the Father, who is the creator of heaven and earth
- I believe Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins and rose again three days later
- I believe there is no way to the Father but through Jesus
What the Bible says about homosexuality
That first bullet point is crucial because my view of homosexuality is a Biblical one. I believe the Bible to be true and therefore I believe the things it says about homosexuality to also be true. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 18 says the following:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
I don’t accept this one single verse as a Biblical argument against homosexuality. My reason is simple: theology and sound doctrine come from exegesis, not a single verse. I am not a theologian; I have not attended seminary and I hold no advanced degrees. However, I have read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and I have attended unaccredited courses on Biblical teaching where I learned about the process of biblical exegesis. In a nutshell, good exegesis is where you read a passage and answer three questions:
- What did it mean then?
- What does it mean today?
- What is the universal or timeless meaning?
Context of Leviticus
You get meaning from context. The reason I object to this verse as an argument against homosexuality is simply context; it’s one of about 613 other commandments directed to the Jews of the ancient Middle East.
Leviticus 18 is a whole chapter dedicated to sexual “don’ts”, all of which seem like generally good ideas. It even includes a verse on sacrificing children to Molech in case you were a little confused after an episode of Oprah. Then, in Leviticus 19 you see this commandment:
“You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.
All of Chapter 18 addresses sexual issues of some sort (Molech was a fertility god). But then chapter 19 covers some miscellaneous prohibitions like the one above and even one against tattoos and piercings. And back in chapter 17, you get solid rules on sacrifices and eating blood. So, when you study the historical meaning through the adjacent verses, you feel like you’ve got a solid case for a universal and modern rule… even though you glazed over the child-sacrifice thing. But once you read the adjacent chapters, you find that all of these commandments are stuck squarely in the Old Testament. If you disagree, then you are free to sacrifice your children to the spaghetti monster or any other non-Molech deities… and prohibited from wearing any Fruit of the Loom’s with a cotton blend, lest you be stoned.
Keeping Leviticus Relevant Today
It’s a real theological challenge to argue in favor of a contemporary and timeless meaning that commands a prohibition of homosexuality — while also arguing in favor of poly-cotton blends, labradoodles, and earrings.
You have about 83 verses in three chapters — chapter divisions which didn’t exist until a few hundred years ago (which means that these commandments weren’t grouped in chunks of ‘keep these, toss those’). This verse, and all of Chapter 18 ( as well as 17 and 19), were meant for pre-Christ Jews, not us. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of Leviticus 18, from no-incest through the no-sacrificing-kids thing are all really, really good rules. I’m not making a pro-Molech stance here. I’m simply stating that if this one verse is your argument against homosexuality, you’ve failed your reading assignment.
Going into the New Testament
Our exegesis isn’t complete. One verse in the Old Testament directed to a specific audience isn’t enough. Let’s go to chapter one in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Now we have a different story. Paul is describing homosexual relations as ‘contrary to nature’, ‘shameless, and ‘dishonorable passions’. The astute reader observes that this there is no prohibition of homosexual acts; merely statements as to their moral uprightness. While in audience and in context the verse in Leviticus stays in Leviticus, this verse in Romans appears to not be so easily tamed. Then, I read this in 1 Corinthians chapter six:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Here, rather than make a prohibition, Paul states that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. He’s not saying, “don’t you, the people of Corinth, continue committing homosexual acts.” It’s not like we have a time and audience -specific commandment. He’s stated the same fact about the morality of homosexuality to two different, albeit first-century, audiences. Those statements weren’t captured in the context of culture; every unrighteous act he cites is one that exists today.
Historically, Paul is addressing the fact that the Corinthians had committed unrighteous acts and they have now been justified through Jesus. Our timeless principle is that any who commit these sins are unrighteous, but can be sanctified by Jesus. If we create a contemporary meaning where homosexuality is righteous, then why can’t idolatry, theft, and adultery also be considered righteous?
Back to bullet point number one
I believe the Bible to be the inerrant voice of God. He didn’t speak in words, sentences, or chapters. He spoke to us with a book; we should take care to read and interpret it as a such. I don’t cling to homophobia or close-mindedness. I hold fast to the truth of scripture. Homosexuality is a sin on the same level as adultery, drunkenness, and theft. It’s one sin of many that we can commit, one of any that Jesus can forgive. It doesn’t matter if you were born gay or straight, you’re a sinner either way.
Redefining sin is the only way you can limit the depth of God’s grace.
And then there’s politics
Yes, homosexuality is a forgivable and redeemable sin. Homosexuality is not a sin greater than others; God’s grace can still cover it.
So then, why don’t I oppose gay marriage? To be clear, I don’t support it. I don’t support sin. Period. But understand two things:
- I am a Libertarian. I believe that the government’s role should be limited to maintaining liberty, an infrastructure, and national security.
- Marriage a religious institution. Historically speaking, religions and family traditions or cultures have ordained marriage. Only in the modern era have governments had dominion over it (e.g. marriage certificates, requirement for ordained minister).
Government-mandated Morality is Tricky
God presides over marriage. He will recognize the marriage of two men as sinful, regardless of whether the government approves. God does not approve of fornication —though the birth-control pill is legal. He doesn’t approve of stealing, yet we have imminent domain. He prohibits murder even though we have the death penalty. He prohibits idolatry, but we’re allowed to worship other gods.
And yet, the birth-control pill can prevent abortions. Imminent domain is needed for highways. Executing a murderer saves lives. We can worship any god, or no god, with full permission of the government.
Let the Government Govern, and let God be Sovereign
Curiously absent from the Bible are commandments for how our governments should operate. In fact, the New Testament only commands that we submit to whoever is in authority. With sin being a global issue and grace a global solution, it makes sense that Jesus commanded people, not politicians, to make disciples. It’s for that reason that we have no religious mandate to institute God’s moral will into our governments, nor do we have any prohibition thereof.
Moral Will and the government
I know from history, using a government to institute a religion’s moral will has never turned out well. Whether it’s a Christian theocracy or any other, history books tell me that theocracies limit freedom. I am vehemently opposed to using the government as a tool to institute God’s will. This is because I am a Libertarian — not a Conservative.
I believe the government should guarantee as much personal freedom as possible without limiting the freedoms of another. The United States was founded under the auspices of inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A government whose laws protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will protect God’s moral will as a result. But if a government sets its eyes on guaranteeing God’s will, its citizens will lose all three of those rights in the process.
Yes, I believe gay marriage is sinful. It doesn’t matter if gay marriage is legal, because God doesn’t approve of it. We must remember that marriage belongs to God, not the government. Because Jesus the Christ is the only way we are redeemed of sin, we are commanded to make Christians of all nations, not to make Christian nations. Governments operate under God’s sovereignty — not ours. If we pass laws that prohibit gay marriage, we give the government dominion over marriage while limiting liberties of homosexuals—all in an effort to give the government the illusion that it, rather than God, is sovereign over, and capable of defining, sin.