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A Sadducean Question

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Question:  This may not be your field of expertise but I have tried asking other people with no luck. My church teaches that homosexuality is wrong, based on the teachings in Leviticus 18, and 1st Corinthians (and tradition!). However, I saw a documentary on tv that some people are born without a clear sex, and have a surgical procedure at birth that chooses their sex for them. I believe XXXX, the wife of YYYY is one such person. Anyway, what if the doctors had 'made' XXXX a boy instead of girl at birth? This seems a less clear situation than purely same sex relationships. For here we have a situation where two people are now happily married as man and woman, but only because of the choice a particular set of doctors. I remain confused.

Response:  Let me begin by saying that I understand that you are asking this question out a genuine desire for understanding. The sources who are suggesting this situation which theoretically poses "complications" for Christian teaching, however, seem to me clearly to have an ulterior agenda. When the Sadducees wished to discredit Jesus and His teachings, they lobed up to Him a hypothetical situation which, in their view, made nonsense of the resurrection (Matt.22:23-32). Jesus' response to them, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" tells us something about all such situational objections to God's Word. In the past I have often tried to make the point that the more one devotes oneself to the Bible, the actual core of all truth, the more everything starts to implode into one integrated system of truth, which, like a perfectly cut diamond, reflects the same brilliant light no matter how you turn it. That light is Jesus Christ, the truth of Him, the glory of Him, the wonder of Him. And in His response to the Sadducees He makes it clear that one has to start with scripture and faith in God's power to resolve any and all situations. God will do so, for all who truly love Him (Rom.8:28). Once there is true faith - in God, in His power, in Jesus, in the Word (all one and the same faith) - then even the most complex situations and hypothetical problems can be met with that faith. That is true even where there is no immediately clear answer, because the Bible, because God, because our Lord Jesus will guide us by the Spirit into safe paths. Jesus does explain to his interlocutors why their hypothetical objection is meaningless (i.e., there is no marriage in the resurrection), and He also proves the reality of the resurrection to the Sadducees by giving them a proof they cannot refute (God says He is [still] the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but that can't really be true in a meaningful way if these great believers were at that point no longer in existence - and if they really do still exist, then certainly they will be resurrected as God promises). But our Lord did not provide either explanation until He had first addressed the underlying fallacy of their position, namely their lack of belief in the truth of scripture.

That is really where we should begin with your question. For as to the wrongness of all porneia (illicit sexual activity), there can be no doubt that the Bible condemns it:

Flee sexual immorality (porneia). All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
1st Corinthians 6:18 NIV

Sexual immorality (porneia) includes all sexual activity outside of marriage, and therefore clearly includes any same sex sexual activity. It is one thing to commit a sin (God does forgive sins, although that does not mean He does not discipline us for them or that they do not have natural negative consequences that flow from them as well); it is far and away another thing, however, to allow oneself to fall into a pattern of sinning (without confession and repentance - essentially giving oneself over to sin); and still quite another to justify one's sinning by saying/thinking/arguing/implying that it is not sin after all.

God cannot be not mocked. It makes no difference at all that the entire world may agree with such self-serving self-justifications - it is God who is the Judge; it is God who will "judge the hidden things of men through Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom.2:16). Therefore it is not what we decide, even if "we" are a large denomination - that cuts no rug with God. It is only the truth that counts, and He makes His truth available to all who are really interested in seeking it. Other passages which make the issue crystal clear: Lev.18:22; 20:13; 1Cor.6:9; 2Pet.2:4-10; Jude 1:6-9. Note in particular Romans 1:24-27, where the practice of same sex sexual acts is the example that Paul is led to use through the Spirit to demonstrate the principle of men's hearts becoming so hardened that they can willfully violate God's obvious natural law (let alone things spelled out in the Bible).

This is where we have to start. We all have a sin nature. We are all drawn to do things which are wrong. We would all love to be able to justify the things which we are tempted to do, and there are many different types of temptations (not the same for every person - what tempts me may not tempt you and vice versa). But the problem with going down that road is that when we set ourselves up to decide according to our own fancy what is right and what is wrong, we blot out the conscience that God gave us and harden our hearts against the truth, and the danger, the very real and awful danger for putative followers of Jesus Christ, is that such a course of action has the potential to put our faith to death:

Every one is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give into it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give into a life of sin), produces death (i.e., the death of faith).
James 1:14-15

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin (i.e., involved in sin) which is not unto death (i.e., is a deviation rather than a complete turning away), let him ask [forgiveness on his brother's behalf], and life will be given to him (i.e., forgiveness and deliverance), that is, in those cases where those sinning are not [sinning] unto death (i.e., are not engaged in such a willful and continuous process of "deadly" faith destroying sinfulness).
1st John 5:16

Let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them (i.e., the Exodus generation) did and were killed by serpents. And let us not be complaining, as some of them complained, and were killed by the Destroyer. These things happened to them as an example to us and were written to warn us (i.e., to avoid similar apostasy) – we who live at the culmination of the ages (i.e., at the doorstep of the Tribulation). So let him who thinks he stands firm beware lest he fall (i.e., from faith; cf. Rom.11:22).
1st Corinthians 10:11-12

I do not know much about the medical facts of the cases of which you speak. I do know that if a man is a man, he is free to marry a woman who is unmarried, but, for a Christian, only in the Lord. And I know that if a woman is a woman, she is free to marry a man who is unmarried, but, for a Christian, only in the Lord. Given that "the time is short", and that marriage is an option which, in an ideal application of Christianity (where it will not lead to sexual immorality) we may choose to forgo for the Lord, I would have to say, when in doubt, don't get married. If that is not acceptable, then the individual person in question should ask for wisdom on this point, and the prayer of faith will be answered (Jas.1:5-8). It always comes back to faith, because faith is obedience, faith is choice (and everything which is not of faith is sin: Rom.14:23). We Christians have chosen for Jesus Christ once and for all, but that faith, that choice, that obedience will be tested and challenged as long as we are in the devil's world. During this struggle, the actual situations we face individually which may not fall immediately into any easy paradigm of scripture will be numerous enough, without inventing ones which we personally will never have to face.

But whatever the situation that poses problems for us, we have to start with basic truth: we belong to Jesus Christ and we are in this world to do the particular work He has called us to do. That includes for everyone prayer and communion with the Lord, Bible reading, being taught the Bible, learning and applying truth, and helping others to do likewise through whatever gifts, ministries and effects God has ordained for us (1Cor.12:4-6). Anything which hinders this process is disadvantageous; anything that does not directly support this process is potentially extracurricular - all things are possible, but not all are expedient (1Cor.6:12; 10:23). The point is that if we are truly living for Jesus Christ, most of these sorts of questions become mere curiosities in the light of the bigger picture of trying to please our Lord and striving to have a respectable offering to present before Him on that day.

Please see also the following links:

Political Action versus Biblical Christianity

Some Sensitive Topics II

Some Sensitive Topics III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Sin and Forgiveness

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

In Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, our Lord Jesus Christ (Col.2:3).

Bob L.


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