Churches and ministries are coming under increasingly aggressive pressure from militant homosexuality. Some homosexuals are combing websites looking for sermons and statements that they can use in the media to ridicule Christianity and build sympathy for their cause.
When challenged, many Christians and even many pastors, struggle to defend and explain their position in a way that is Scriptural, consistent, and loving. Homosexuals and the media often point to other Old Testament verses that forbid things that Christians now eat or use. How do we explain that?
Well, here’s a short briefing paper that I hope will answer some of these questions, and also help Christians and pastors to explain the Bible’s teaching in a loving way. Below you will find a bullet point summary of the paper (each point is explained in fuller detail in the paper). For further reading, please see the books referenced in the footnotes. And a huge thank you to my Research Assistant for the huge amount of work he put into this paper.
Homosexuality, polyester, and shellfish.
What do these three things have in common? Well, they are all mentioned in the Bible as forbidden by God. And the latter two come up in conversations about the first. The charge is often that Christians are being inconsistent – we allow polyester and enjoy shellfish, but we still condemn homosexuality.
The real question is not why Christians are inconsistent. The real question is why and how Christians do make a distinction between homosexuality, polyester, and shellfish. Because they do, and it matters.
The short answer is because Scripture demands that we must. The long answer is that when we take into account some basic hermeneutical principles and some Scriptural principles, we realize that we must relate differently to homosexuality than to shellfish.
Basic Hermeneutical Principles. Our interpretation of Scripture is based on the following convictions:
- Scripture is an authoritative revelation of God.
- The central unifying theme of Scripture is Jesus Christ.
- Old Testament law is divided into three main types: civil, ceremonial, and moral:
- The civil laws were given to a unique nation (Israel) for a unique purpose and time.
- The ceremonial laws pointed to Christ’s sacrifice and were abolished by His sacrifice.
- The moral laws define sin and continue in force.
- Homosexuality falls under the moral law.
- The punishments for the moral law have changed.
- The Old Testament needs to be understood in light of the New Testament.
- The Old Testament law is still relevant today.
So, since the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, and we can distinguish between various Old Testament commands, what does the Bible say about homosexuality?
Relevant Scriptural Principles. Our position on homosexuality is based on Scriptural principles:
- God created all things, including sexuality.
- All humans are God’s creation.
- Sex has a limited role and purpose in life.
- Sin impacts all of life, including sex.
- Homosexuality is a consequence of sin.
- Scripture states that homosexuality is sinful behavior.
- Homosexuality is not the only sin in society.
- Sinners, including homosexual sinners, can receive salvation.
- Believers cannot be characterized as having a homosexual life.
- Victory over sin, including homosexuality, is possible.
Basic Relational Principles. Our interactions and relationships will be based on Scriptural principles:
- Remember that salvation is more important than being heterosexual, or outlawing same-sex marriage.
- Homosexuality is being used as a cultural battleground.
- Fear and hatred of homosexuals are not proper responses.
- Christians need to show grace to those who misunderstand.
- Addressing the issue of homosexuality gives the church a unique opportunity to witness.
- All ministry on earth (apart from Christ’s) is from sinners to sinners.
- Love sometimes demands non-approval.
Therefore the difference between homosexuality, polyester, or shellfish is not a reactionary choice between homophobia or vestiphobia or ichthyophobia. It is not an inconsistent personal preference.
It is a principled decision based on divine revelation.