Question #1: Dear Bob, I thank you very much for your encouragement along the path. What do you think about the present trend towards gay marriage, and what should we as Christians do about it?
Response #1: Thanks for your e-mail and for your question. I am very pleased to
hear that these materials continue to be of some help.
On marriage in general, while this and related ethical issues are slated
to be covered in Bible Basics part 6B, "Peripateology", there are some
materials currently posted to the site:
"The Marriage of Adam and Eve" (in SR #3)
"The Marriage of Adam and Eve" (in BB 3A - slightly revised from the above)
A conversation about divorce and remarriage.
What does it mean in 1st Corinthians 7:14, "the unbelieving husband is sanctified"?
Divorce and Remarriage
More Divorce and Remarriage
Feelings of Guilt about Remarriage
I have a quite a bit more of this sort of thing which is not yet posted to the site. I know that this does not address the main thrust of your question, so let me say a word or two about that. I try my best to stay entirely clear of politics. It's not that I don't have feelings and opinions, but they are entirely unimportant when considered in the light of God's truth. If it is a question of what is right or wrong for an individual believer to do or not to do something, I am certainly very happy to explain everything I believe the Bible has to say on the subject (along with the scriptures and interpretations that have led me to that view, answering questions patiently as long as the other party is engaged in genuine dialogue rather than rhetoric). But in my view, what the state says (or should say) or is doing (or is possibly going to do) on this and a whole variety of controversial subjects just doesn't have any deep meaning for a true Christian who desires and is trying to walk the walk Jesus wants him or her to walk.
After all, there are plenty of things that are entirely legal and yet are also horrendously sinful, so the issue of what the law may say is not really at the heart of the matter. We are constrained to obey the law for conscience' sake and out of the fear of God (Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-21), as long as it does not constrain us from doing what God would have us do or force us personally to do something we should not. That is an extremely high standard. If memory serves, the clearest case in the New Testament of believers being justified in disobeying the duly constituted authority was when the Sanhedrin prohibited the apostles from teaching or proclaiming the gospel in the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:28-42). While I would certainly not want to pre-judge any particular individual situation before the fact, it seems pretty clear to me that the legal demands and constraints of our present society very rarely approach to this level. Many of Jesus' contemporaries felt that paying taxes to the Romans was essentially sinful, but we know His answer: “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's”.
As I often say in such contexts, Peter and Paul's commands (cited above) to obey what for almost all of their audience were the Roman imperial authorities are very telling. Rome had established paganism and emperor worship as the state religion, and Christianity was not a religio licta, that is, a tolerated "religion". So if people who were being persecuted for their faith are told to hang in there and take it, it seems to me that contemporary Christians need to take several deep breaths before they begin to take up the "good fight" in political terms, no matter what they may think the "good fight" is.
It is true that we are a democracy, and the argument is very often made that we Christians should participate, and enthusiastically so, as part of our Christian duty. While I do see that there is something to that argument, and while I do endorse giving back to our country (serving her in some positive way, whether in the Peace Corps or Marine Corps or what have you), and while I certainly would never tell anyone that it is ipso facto wrong to vote or to become involved in political campaigns or lobbying etc., it strikes me that at best these things are pointless, and at worst, dangerous.
Why pointless? To take one example of policy, no matter what we do as a nation, the Tribulation will arrive on time, and if my reading of scripture is correct, nothing is going to stop antichrist from rising to power here (see the link in CT 3B: “The Rise of Antichrist”). The situation in the Middle East is certainly part of the picture, but whether we decide to try and conquer it all, or blow it all up, or win over all their hearts and minds, or give up entirely and put a fence around this place, the end result is going to be the same – God knows exactly what everyone will do and when and how they will do it. That doesn't mean that elected officials shouldn't try and do what's best, but that is their problem. For you and I and every other Bible-believing Jesus-following Christian, these things are truly out of our hands. And since it ultimately wouldn't matter if they were totally under our control, it seems to me a waste of time to worry about it.
This isn't fatalism. What we do is terribly important – our acceptance of Jesus, our spiritual growth, our preparation for and implementation of the ministries to which we have been called are of the greatest importance both here and now for us and our fellow believers, and for our rewards in eternity. On that great day of judgment, Jesus is going to be much more concerned with who we helped personally than who we voted for (if He will be concerned with the latter at all). On the other hand, what we do as believers in terms of growth, sanctification, witnessing, praying, helping others, ministering the Word and whatever other gifts we have been given, these things DO affect our country. If the example of the nation Israel tells us anything in this respect, it is that "you get what you deserve". A nation of apostates gets egregiously bad leadership and egregiously bad things happen to them, socially, economically, internationally, every way. A nation containing a large number of truly righteous believers, on the other hand, is protected by God, both visibly and invisibly. In terms of electoral politics, if we want a David, we need to be a God-fearing people pursuing the spiritual lives that our Lord desires. But when there is no "remnant" of good and true believers, we don't have to worry about who to vote for because David won't even be on the ballot. We are likely to have to choose between Ahab and Abimelech (and there is nothing to choose between them). And we don't have to worry about which economic, social, or international policy to pursue, because bad things are going to happen to us if we reject the Lord no matter what we do.
Why dangerous? When Christians start thinking that what they do politically is more important than what they do spiritually the end of all things is in sight. And in this country in particular, the game of politics is so attractive and so addictive that once a person has bought into political change as some sort of solution having something to do with God, it has the potential to corrupt everything else and destroy the person's faith if taken to extremes. Left or right, I really feel that the people who get involved in and end up giving their hearts to political solutions inevitably do themselves much spiritual damage.
On the gay marriage / civil union question, I think that as far as individual believers and their own personal situations are concerned, scripture is so clear as to give even the most reluctant person a very clear answer – if they are legitimately looking for one (and not doing like the survivors of the Babylonian invasion did with Jeremiah, only looking for the answer they wanted: Jer.42). But in terms of getting political about it, one finds that politics and political goals very easily and very quickly become far more important than what the Bible actually says. This is an occupational hazard when one has committed oneself to fighting the symptoms instead of the disease. We are the disease, and the only cure is obedience, both in sanctification and in our positive walk with the Lord through spiritual growth.
Case in point is on the abortion issue. I have had more than one e-mail from someone upset with me because I am very clear in my belief that the Bible teaches the commencement of life at birth, not before (see the link: in BB 3A “The Human Spirit”). To me, this is a very important teaching to get straight, because it so clearly demonstrates God's complete control over life, and the dominance of the spiritual over the material. And it is not a question of whether abortion is a good thing or a bad thing, a right thing or a wrong thing for that is obvious and not in dispute – people get upset with me about this not because they disagree with this point of life given at birth or any aspect of my exegesis, but simply because think it might undermine their political argument and persuasiveness as far as other believers are concerned. In other words, they put political influence and manipulative power over other believers ahead of what the scriptures say. That slippery slope inevitably infects everything else in their spiritual lives.
Please see also the following link:
In SR #4 “Politics and Society” (part of the “Integrated Satanic World System”)
In Jesus Christ who is the truth.
I am struck by how much we know and knew about the arrival of "KATRINA" and yet did relatively nothing to prevent to near total property devastation that occurred and the loss of thousands of lives. This dispersal of people though out the nation of people affected by this event seems to have some apocalyptic dimensions. I'm meditating on the question: What is it in me, in mankind that inhibits taking advantage of clear warnings of disaster right here on earth, not to mention the Tribulation awaiting our future history?
In Jesus Christ, Our Lord, At All Times,
There is indeed much to ponder. I am left with three observations
which I think can teach us much about what is about to befall us:
1) the accelerating speed with which we are collectively coming to digest and shrug
off catastrophes of previously un-imagined proportions without feeling the need of asking the obvious question, why? Not that I think New Orleans or New York or anywhere else is more or less in need of a divine wake-up call. Jesus made it very clear that disaster which befalls part of a people is meant to warn an entire people and that attributing greater blame to those upon whom the monitory blow fell is, besides being a misinterpretation, to miss the entire point (Lk.13:1-9);
2) the ease with which the thin veneer of civility is stripped away and some of us return to our "natural state" - it is folly to think that any U.S. community would react any differently - this is a preview of coming attractions. True, the response of many brave individuals on site and from around the country wishing to help and willing to sacrifice much in so doing is an uplifting sight. During the Tribulation, however, Jesus tells us that "the love of the many will grow cold" (Matt.24:12), precisely because of the fatigue of ever increasing wickedness, no doubt accelerated by disaster upon disaster, and because of the fact that all of us will be in the same boat instead of most of us merely looking upon the sufferings of others from afar.
3) the almost complete psychological dependence we have come to have on government. As I have often said before, I don't put any stock in politics, and, knowing more about government than I would ideally care to know, am not surprised by bureaucratic failure and insensitivity to whatever degree. However, what has struck me is the general feeling from all parts of the political spectrum that somehow our government should (and with the right tweaking will) be able to cope with any disaster that may come from the Hand of God, no matter how severe. That is to say, I would have thought that in the face of such a massive storm, one beyond the living memory of any of us, we might have taken at least a moment to express a bit of awe and humility, and to understand that apart from the mercy of God any number of tragedies and disasters could and would swiftly overwhelm us. Therefore we need to look to Him for our salvation, temporal as well as eternal. This is exactly the lesson that Israel and later Judah also refused to learn.
Still and all, I saw a couple of things that caused me to praise God. A woman with a baby and nothing else sitting by the side of the freeway in New Orleans smiling and remarking, "As long as you have faith in God, you're going to be alright". And a poor man in Mississippi who had lost the little he had telling how "he had passed this test" and how that he considered himself blessed by God. These things will surely be jewels in their crowns for all eternity, and it caused me to remember that the heartaches and disasters I and my brothers and sisters in Christ go through in this life are all to the good - our eternal good – as long as we stick doggedly to our faith. If we do, God may even use our misfortunes to condemn the world, encourage others, and reward us abundantly in the life to come. I hope that I can remember this woman and this man and their powerful testimonies for Jesus Christ – not fair sounding words in time of plenty, but words refined like silver from the midst of the crucible. God is faithful to us – will we stay faithful to Him? If we do, we too may have the opportunity to condemn the world and encourage other believers with our words of faith. After all, history as God has constructed it has as its primary purpose the winnowing out of those who want nothing to do with God from those who are determined to respond to Him and His dear Son our Lord. Without trials, tribulations, heartaches and disasters, faith could never be tested, and could never be demonstrated as genuine. And it is just such times, especially in unexpected times of catastrophe, that the quality, consistency and determination in our faith in God is revealed.
In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 1:6-7
The world thinks we are crazy, but we live for the One who has
overcome the world.
In Him who is able to deliver us from every lion's mouth and every deadly pestilence, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I thank you very much for you and your scholarly teaching. Can you
comment on the following internet article excerpts regarding homosexual
behavior? I have no knowledge of the Greek words that seem to be an
important part of his presentation, namely, arsenokoites, malakoi,
but the illumination in my heart and all that I do know tell me that all
of this is a substantial distortion of Bible truth.
The Six Bible Passages Used To Condemn Homosexuals.
Genesis 19:5: "Bring them out to us that we may know them."
“Know" simply means know! No hint at homosexuality exists in the original Hebrew. No later Bible references to Sodom ever mention homosexuality as the sin of Sodom. Many modern translations add words to the text to create the lie that the people of Sodom were homosexual. "SODOMY" is not a biblical word. The average person assumes that the Bible clearly condemns male-to-male sexual intercourse as "sodomy" and that the city of Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality, which is seen as the worst of all sins in the Bible. These assumptions are based on no evidence at all in the Bible.
I Corinthians 6:9: "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. So do not be deceived;
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the realm of God."
The Greek words translated "effeminate" and "homosexual" do not mean effeminate or homosexual!
I Timothy 1:9-10: "Law is not made for a righteous person but for those who are lawless and
rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and fornicators and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound (healthy) teaching."
The Greek word translated "homosexual" does not mean homosexual!
The word translated as "homosexual" or "sexual pervert" or some other similar term is Greek arsenokoites, which was formed from two words meaning "male" and "bed". This word is not found anywhere else in the Bible and has not been found anywhere in the contemporary Greek of Paul's time. We do not know what it means. The word is obscure and uncertain. It probably refers to male prostitutes with female customers, which was a common practice in the Roman world, as revealed in the excavations at Pompeii and other sites.
"Soft" does not mean "effeminate." The word translated "effeminate in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is Greek malakoi and means "soft" or "vulnerable." The word translated "effeminate in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is Greek malakoi and means "soft" or "vulnerable." The word is translated as "soft" in reference to clothing in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 and as "illness" in Matthew 4:23 and 9:35. It is not used anywhere else in the New Testament and carries no hint of reference to sexual orientation. Malakoi in 1 Corinthians 6:9 probably refers those who are "soft," "pliable," "unreliable," or "without courage or stability." The translation of malakoi as "effeminate" is incorrect, ignorant, degrading to women, and impossible to justify based on ancient usage compared to the meaning of "effeminate" today.
I am not familiar with the website but have heard similar arguments
before. As an overview, it seems clear to me that any secular person
reading the Bible merely as an academic exercise could not help but come
to the conclusion that the active practice of homosexual intercourse is
condemned by scripture. One does not need extensive and detailed
exegesis of the passages the author cites to come to this conclusion. It
is self-evident from any English translation with which I am familiar,
none of which makes any effort to distort these passages for the benefit
of that point of view.
It is true that there are many passages in scripture whose true meaning and significance is not immediately obvious from a brief consideration of the English translation. Scripture has to be understood in its context, in its historical framework, and, especially important, in its original language. As a result, one often encounters "problem passages", that is, scriptures which seem to contradict what one has previously believed about the teaching of the Bible overall. This may be due to a misunderstanding of the passage in question, but is also occasionally the result of a broader and more general misunderstanding of a particular principle of scripture as a whole. In the latter case, "problem passages" are actually our best friends in the world, for without the Spirit's use of pieces of the Word which don't match our preconceptions, we would possibly never change our views so as to come to understand the truth.
The one thing that is an extreme rarity (actually I have never bumped into it at all) is a whole host of passages which, while they seem to teach one and the same thing, actually do not. This is a far different thing from a doctrine or teaching that really has no clear scriptural support where a "problem passage" leads the seeker of truth to the truth and away from an erroneous doctrine which is unsupported by scripture. The author of this article is guilty of a rhetorical fallacy in trying to equate the two. It would be one thing if scripture never directly addressed the question of homosexual behavior (as, for example, it does not directly address the question of drug abuse), and yet various teachers in the church were preaching against it anyway by claiming that the Bible did so when it did not. Quite to the contrary, the prima facie case given by an unbiased English reading of the passages the author himself quotes places the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of those who would wish to claim that what seems so clear from the English translation is somehow not clear at all.
This is a game played by many who have a particular social or political agenda. For example, white supremacists and racists going back to before the Civil War have used and continue to use the Bible to "prove" their points. Of course, there are no passages of scripture that provide any proof whatsoever for any sort of racial superiority (except for the supremacy of Israel in the plan of God – and only believing Israel at that). This state of affairs thus requires such advocates to manufacture "proof" by using creative translations ("from the original Greek and Hebrew" of course!). Jesus told us that we would "know them by their fruits", and as always this is an excellent litmus test.
Principle: if what the person/group is seeking to "prove" from the Bible is prima facie not obvious from the Bible and indeed contrary to a common sense understanding of what the Bible is all about, then one should be very leery of giving such interpretations any serious credence.
Corollary principle: if the persons have a political or other agenda, they should receive even less consideration. One good way to tell is to ask the question, "Does this person / these people have other things to say about the Bible, or is this the only time they are interested in what the Bible has to say?” To me, this question is the killer. People who only go to scripture to prove one particular agenda item they hold near and dear are going to be wrong and get it wrong approximately 100% of the time, if only because they are not viewing their pet issue in the context of seeking the truth of God's Word, but rather of using God's Word for their own purposes.
With that said, I will briefly try to address the individual passages (although I think you can tell from the above that the exercise is largely pointless):
1. Genesis 19:5: The word "sodomy" is a red-herring in this argument. The Hebrew verb yad'ah very frequently refers to intercourse (as in "Adam knew his wife and she conceived": Gen.4:1). The context of Genesis 19 makes a mockery of the author's argument. Why did the angels have to strike the men of the town with blindness if all they wanted was "intellectual knowledge", and why did Lot offer his daughters up in their stead to be raped if the context is not sexual? Finally, the claim that scripture never connects Sodom and forbidden sexual behavior is false (Jude 1:7; cf. 2Pet.2:5-10).
2. Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13: Not specifically addressed in the piece. One wonders why, unless, of course, the words "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" and "they must be put to death" are too clear for comfort.
3. Romans 1:26-27: Also not addressed and for equally obvious reasons. Paul's words in any translation clearly describe same-sex fornication in vivid detail which is then condemned in the strongest terms as being typical of unbeliever behavior.
4. I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:9-10: The Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai used here are common words in Greek for homosexual behavior. The first is still used in modern Greek as an epithet for the same, and was in common use in the ancient world (even coming into Latin in Plautus' comedies). It does mean "softy", but a consideration of the English vocabulary for such things (or any other language for that matter, "sweet" in German, if I am not mistaken) shows that just because a metaphor is involved does not disqualify the term from having a specific meaning in this regard. As far as arsenokoitai is concerned, no Greek reader who had never before heard this word would assume it meant what the author wants it to mean. It would require a reversal of subject and object in the two elements to bear his meaning. The most obvious meaning from the etymology is "those who lie with males". It is not as common as malakos, but is not unattested. It occurs in contemporary literature and inscriptions with the traditional meaning. The author claims "we don't know what it means", but by “we” he is not referring to the scholarly community in general. The statement that "it is not found anywhere else in the Bible" is hardly convincing since it occurs in two passages, 1st Corinthians 6:9 and 1st Timothy 1:10, and in both contexts in direct juxtaposition to other words for sexual deviance (malakoi and pornoi respectively).
It is clear what the scriptures are saying. Engaging in certain forms of sexual activity are forbidden by the Bible, and, of all sins, such deviation is among the most egregious violations of God's law that human beings can commit. For porneia is even more physically, psychologically, and spiritually devastating than most other forms of sin, that is to say self-destructive to those who engage in it (cf. 1Cor.6:12-20). I think that the fact that many of those who have decided to continue to sin in such a way instead of returning to God in repentance, and even go so far as to justify their behavior, speaks volumes about the truth of the foregoing principle. Greedy people, liars, haters, etc. seldom have recourse to the Bible to try and show that they are not really sinners. For it is one thing to be tempted towards any sort of sin including this sort of sin (we are all tempted). It is another thing to be defeated by sin (we are all defeated at one time or another and are disciplined for it). And if instead of fighting sin as believers we give up and give in to it, stop resisting and "accept" our weakness, we will find that our faith will quickly erode. But to go past fighting to surrendering, to actually embracing and justifying what we are doing because we are bothered by the guilt is one of the quickest ways to destroy our faith all together. Such behavior is worse than the sin we are trying to justify from the point of view of our spirituality, because energizes the process of apostasy (see the link: in BB 3B "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").
Finally, I wish to make it very clear that I have no animus towards those who describe themselves as "gay". In my understanding of the sin nature, we all have serious weaknesses, serious proclivities to sin, and those weaknesses and proclivities are not the same for every individual (any more than eye color, or height, or intelligence, etc., are exactly the same). It is also true that just as environment can affect our physical characteristics to some degree (e.g., a malnourished youth is unlikely to grow as tall as he/she would have done on a balanced diet), environment and upbringing can also affect our ability to control our sin nature (e.g., if we are extraordinarily lazy by nature but grow up with very strict and demanding parents, that inherent laziness is likely to be under better control than it otherwise would be). Ultimately, however, we all have to face the issue of sin with the free will God has given us. We will never win the victory against it apart from Him and His help, but seeking to justify what we want to do when it is clearly sinful is a recipe for spiritual death.
Everything the Bible calls sin is sin, and much more besides (see the link: in BB 3B "The Nature of Sin"). I am more tempted to some sorts of sins than to others, and what I am particularly tempted to do may not be a serious problem for you and vice versa. But with the help of the Spirit, the Word of God, and a commitment to following Jesus in sanctification and holy living, we can, indeed we must, learn how to "put aside the sin which so easily besets" (Heb.12:1). It doesn't take a biblical scholar to see that, if instead of setting ourselves to resist sin to the point of blood (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1), we set ourselves up as the arbiters of what is sinful and what is not, exempting all conduct in which we are prone to indulge, we are making a mockery of scripture and of God – and God does not allow Himself to be mocked.
In Him with whom there is not a shadow of turning away from the truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,