Strange Flesh: Scripture & Sexuality
Updated: Sep 8
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but sexuality is in the I Am as the creator. The lust of the flesh may desire and justify all kinds of carnal pleasure, but only God can define proper sexuality as the designer and author of sex. These definitions have been widely agreed upon and understood throughout Jewish and church history, but have recently come under fresh scrutiny and challenge, so it may be time to revisit the texts and reevaluate the arguments for this generation.
There has been a recent cultural shift in the Western world which has challenged traditional sexual definitions and values, causing a lot of questions and confusion for people caught up in all the noise. I've spent a lot of time outlining these historical cultural dynamics in other articles (see Sensate Man: Science, Sex, & Societal Collapse as well as Generational Genocide), so I won't belabor them here, but it is important to understand that these questions and challenges are not new developments, nor are they unique to modern Western society. But as Western civilization continues in its decline into Decadence as every other civilization before it has, like those previous civilizations at this point in their lifecycle, Western man has increasingly abandoned the sexual restraints which produced a flourishing society and instead has pursued Hedonism and sexual pleasure which historically has wrought destruction on every society which embraced it. It is within this cultural context which traditional sexuality has come under question and biblical interpretation on these matters been cast into doubt. But questions and challenges can be healthy and beneficial as tradition should not be a sacred cow—Jesus himself challenged and even denounced the traditions of men many times. So these questions and challenges should not be dismissed or shut down, but genuinely engaged with and wrestled with.
Starting with the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, our society has pushed the sexual boundaries further and further. The Hippie movement challenged monogamy and chastity, but that only opened the door for further challenges. Soon heterosexual norms were under question, and now concepts of gender itself are being challenged. Again, none of this is new— it has all been done before—but we still must engage in the discussion in good faith. Within the church, these challenges of traditional sexuality are directed at scripture and our interpretation of certain passages, so we must be willing to take another look at the passages in question and investigate. The cultural zeitgeist driving these challenges is important to understand, as is the historical context, which the article Sensate Man addresses, but equally important is addressing the actual biblical arguments.
The myriad of angles of attack launched against the traditional understanding of biblical sexuality can be fairly overwhelming. The sheer number of arguments can be daunting at first, and that is indeed the point—quantity can win the day over quality. So while I cannot possibly address each and every argument presented in this season of society, most of them are variations of a few different categories.
The Arguments from Silence
This category of question alleges that scripture actually has very little to say about sexuality and therefore the stodgy old traditionalists are making much ado about nothing. Other variations of this argument point out that Jesus didn't talk about homosexuality at all, so it shouldn't be a major theological issue for the church either. This argument of course is a misdirection—an intellectual sleight of hand—as it asks us to focus on what Jesus didn't say rather than on what He did. It's not as if Jesus was silent on the matter of sexuality. He very clearly stated that God created mankind as man and woman, male and female, and that proper sexuality can only be found within a monogamous, life-long marriage between them.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." They *said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." -Mat 19:4-9 NASB
In both the Old and New Testaments, the only acceptable sexual practice ever given is between a man and a woman who are married. This should effectively end the debate as moral law, just as judicial law, does not have to detail every possible unacceptable case, but rather must only define the acceptable case. Every parent understands this basic and self-evident principle and every child attempts to subvert it. If a parent sets boundaries by telling their children, “You can play outside, but only in our backyard inside the fence”, then the child doesn't need an exhaustive list of all the places they cannot play outside. It is clearly in error to play in the middle of the street and then argue that mom or dad didn't explicitly forbid that specific location for a game of tag.
But the reality is that scripture doesn't just define the acceptable case—it also addresses a rather long list of unacceptable cases under the law. Leviticus 20:10-21 clearly addresses issues of adultery, incest, polygamy, beastiality, and homosexuality. Other passages such as Deuteronomy 22:13-29 and 23:17-18 address the sins of rape, consensual premarital sex, and prostitution. With the Old Testament law clearly defining the acceptable case, and detailing a rather encompassing list of unacceptable cases, it is difficult to argue that scripture is silent or vague on this subject. There are some sexual behaviors which are not explicitly discussed and condemned by scripture, such as pedophilia, pornography, voyeurism, masturbation, or sexual acts with inanimate objects such as sex dolls or robots. But again, we can make moral assessments of these—and all other possible behaviors—by going back to the only acceptable case defined by scripture. It is also difficult to argue that Jesus somehow dismissed the sexual morality definitions of the law through intentional silence as he explicitly agreed with the only acceptable case. If one might be tempted to believe He secretly disagreed with or nullified any of the law's stated unacceptable cases, again, refer to Jesus' own words affirming the law:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." -Mat 5:17-19 NASB
As we look at the New Testament, there is a clear shift or a fulfillment in ceremonial law, such as the eating of unclean foods, animal sacrifices for sin, or the practice of circumcision, but there is not a single case of the New Testament annulling or even diminishing the moral law by a single "letter or stroke." Everything that was deemed immoral in the Old Testament is also condemned in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles. Nothing has been taken away, but now there is an acknowledgment that not only are the actions sinful, but also the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Jesus did not relax the definitions of the law, He made them even more strict.
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." -Mat 5:27-28 NASB
The Witness Arguments
There are six main passages which are typically cited to form the traditional doctrinal stance and as with the argument from silence tactic, many have tried to undermine the Bible's position on this issue by claiming six verses is a relatively thin foundation to build any doctrinal stance upon. Supposedly, if this were a major issue, the biblical authors would have devoted much more time and verbiage to the subject. The insinuation here is that since it is not mentioned tens or hundreds of times, it is a very minor biblical issue which has been overblown in our modern society.
This is simply folly, however. The fact that this issue was mentioned even once in scripture should alert the reader that this is an important issue. The fact that it was mentioned six times in both the Old and New Testaments should alert the reader all the more. Note that what could be called the bedrock of biblical morality, the Ten Commandments, were only recorded twice in the whole Bible, yet they are not marginalized by Christians and theologians arguing for their obscurity or irrelevance. The fact is that many of Christianity's essential doctrines and theologies are not established by tens or hundreds of passages in scripture. For example, the virgin birth of Christ is only established in four different references in the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though it is prophesied about in a few passages in the Old Testament as well). Of course, the Bible itself is quite clear on the minimum numerical requirement of how the truth of any matter should be established and that number is not seven or more, but just two or more.
"...on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed." -Deut 19:15 NASB
"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED." -Mat 18:16 NASB
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. -Heb 10:28 NASB
It is indeed tenuous to form a theology or doctrine from a single passage of scripture, but two puts it on pretty solid hermeneutical ground and six different passages from both Old and New Testaments forms a very strong case. But the challengers argue that there are various reasons why these passages should not be taken at face value, often alleging they are ripped from their cultural and historical contexts or that they simply are being mistranslated.
The Translation Arguments
While I agree that cultural and historical context is important, God's moral law is not true in certain contexts and not in others. There are categories of sin which are subject to culture, society, and the individual, and the New Testament clearly lays out the rules of engagement on these issues (see the article Issues of Conscience: When Sin Seems Uncertain). Sexual morality simply does not fall into this category. No one in the church is seriously arguing that the traditional interpretation of passages condemning rape, incest, polygamy, adultery, or beastiality are not actually immoral according to scripture, but must be read within the specific cultural and historical contexts which they were written—at least not yet. But there are many voices, both inside and outside the church, calling into question the translation and interpretation of the passages which condemn homosexuality.
One of the popular arguments put forth by some rather liberal pastors, priests, and theologians purports that the Bible doesn't actually condemn homosexuality, but rather pederasty—the sexual abuse of a pre-pubescent boy by an elder. This practice was indeed common in Greek culture which largely viewed young males as fair game to their teachers or mentors. This behavior wasn't universally accepted in Greece, however. For example, while pederasty was basically institutionalized within Spartan culture, there were laws put in place in Athens to eradicate this predatory practice. But regardless of the localized cultural acceptance of pederasty, it was ubiquitous throughout ancient Greece and widely acknowledged. It should be noted however, that there is no corresponding evidence that pederasty was prevalent in ancient Jewish culture.
Nevertheless, a growing number of voices allege that several of the main passages in both the Old and New Testaments which have been used to condemn homosexuality, actually have been mistranslated and in reality condemn pederasty. A trendy allegation is that there was actually a DaVinci Code type conspiracy in the Western church to condemn homosexuality in the mid-to-late 20th century and so they changed the translations to match their agenda. Much noise has been made by these provocateurs about the word "homosexual" not appearing in any translation until 1946. That is certainly true, but the explanation hardly requires a conspiracy—the word "homosexual" wasn't invented until 1862 and didn't attain common usage until the early 1900's, so of course older translations couldn't have possibly utilized it.
That said, it is important to acknowledge that some earlier European translations, particularly Luther's German translation, did render the word now often translated as homosexuals as "child molesters." This was not how even earlier translations rendered the passages however, so the allegation that an injunction against homosexual behavior didn't arrive in scripture until 1946 is patently absurd. The Latin Vulgate, one of the earliest translations completed which predates Luther's by 1,000 years, rendered the phrases in question as "masculorum concubitoribus" and "neque masculorum concubitores" meaning those who have sex with men. So why did Luther's German Bible and others render these passages as "child molesters" in the first place? Well, because at that time, the term child molester had multiple meanings and connotations, including homosexuality. One must only look at an 18th century English-German dictionary to see that the German word knabenschander, used in Luther's translation of these passages, is defined as "a Buggerer, a Sodomite, a pederast." So the alleged conspiracy that a condemnation of homosexuality wasn't inserted into scripture until 1946 is so poorly researched, it's difficult to believe it is argued in good faith.
But the real question isn't how older Bibles rendered these passages, but rather what did the words used in the original languages actually mean? Proper translation requires studying the original texts, not playing a game of telephone by going through other translations.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word in question here is zakar as used in Leviticus 18:22 which states, You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination, and Leviticus 20:13 which states, If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them. The word translated here by the NASB as man is the Hebrew iysh, and the word translated as male in both passages is the Hebrew zakar. The recent argument is that zakar should be translated as boy, rather than male. If true, this would indeed change the meaning of these two passage from condemning homosexuality to actually denouncing pederasty or pedophilia. Those who have alleged this translation error have even gone as far as accusing the church of conspiring to not only change the translation from boy to male, but also changing the definitions in the Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries to hide their obfuscation.
Thankfully, we don't have to blindly rely on either an individual theologian or group of conspiratorial scholars' word on what zakar really means as we can actually double check their work by using the same method of translation they utilized—observing how it it used in other biblical passages to determine its meaning. So how is zakar used throughout the rest of scripture, and how was the word first introduced in the biblical texts? The latter question is quite important in translation efforts and is known as "the law of first use" as that usage often informs all subsequent usage. Well, it first shows up in the creation account in Genesis 1:27 when God states that He made man in His image, "male (zakar) and female (neqebah) He created them." Jesus quotes this passage in both Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6, translating the Hebrew zakar as the Greek arsen, and the Hebrew neqebah as the Greek thelus. Arsen again is an age-neutral term for a male, as is thelus for female. Paul also uses these terms in Galatians 3:28 stating that in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.
In the Hebrew Old Testament, there are times when zakar means a young male or boy, but that is made clear by the context which either assigns an actual age to the male in question, or else implies a young age. If no age is assigned or implied, zakar is an age-neutral term just meaning male. So, is there any indication or context given in the Leviticus passages which would restrict the meaning of zakar from the age-neutral male to the age-specific boy? No, there isn't. Therefore, male is indeed the accurate translation of zakar here—to render it as boy would require inserting age qualifiers which simply are not present in the original text. Leviticus is clearly condemning a man who lies with any male as he would a female, hence, this passage is denouncing homosexual behavior in general, not pederasty or same-sex pedophilia specifically.
The fact that Jewish history documents this understanding unequivocally puts the matter beyond dispute. The Jewish historian Josephus makes it quite plain when he wrote, "The law [of Moses] recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman... But it abhors the intercourse of males with males” (Against Apion 2.199). Before Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud stated that the Levitical texts regarding a man lying with a male could be "an adult or a minor" (b. Sanh. 54a), meaning that the prohibition of male-male relations was universal, not just limited to pederasty.
There is further evidence that would call into question rendering zakar as boy in this verse as there is a clear distinction in Levitical law between consenting in sin versus being a victim of sin. For example, if a woman is raped, though she technically had extra-marital sex just like the man did, it is only the man who was to be punished as she was an unwilling participant. So, if these passages are indeed referring to pederasty or pedophilia, then the pre-pubescent child involved would also be considered an unwilling victim of a predator, not a consenting partner. But the punishment for both the man (iysh) and the male (zakar) involved here is death, which indicates the sexual act was consensual and therefore both parties are to suffer the consequences. There is another instance in this passage where the unconsenting victim is also to be put to death (Lev 20:15-16), but that is in the case of beastiality, so there aren't the same moral implications of condemning an "innocent" animal to death as there are for people. Indeed, the entire Old Testament concept of blood sacrifices required animals to die for the sins of humans.
The next major alleged translation error is the rendering of the Greek New Testament word arsenokoitai. This peculiar Greek compound word seems to have been coined by Paul and is translated in many modern versions as homosexuals in two different verses.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals... -1Co 6:9 NASB
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that 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 immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching... -1Ti 1:8-10 NASB
The recent argument purports that Paul is once again only denouncing pederasty in these passages, not homosexuality. But if Paul intended to condemn pederasty, he could have simply used the well-known Greek word paiderastia, which specifically referred to that practice. But he went out of his way to not use that word, instead coining his own compound word in arsenokoitai. Now, as Paul invented his own word and it is only used twice in scripture with no usage in other Greek manuscripts, this is indeed a tricky word to translate. But it is just a compound word, so the natural way to define it is to simply identify the meanings of the two root words which have been combined into one. As we have already established, the Greek arsen simply means male, and the Greek koitai literally means bed and is the same word we derive the word coitus from, which means sexual intercourse. So Paul didn't need to explain his newly minted word because it was very self-explanatory. It meant males who sleep with males. There is no indication in the context or the Greek language itself that arsen means young boy here—it is an age-neutral term simply meaning male.
Paul was a religiously well-educated Jew who knew Levitical law by heart, so of course his Greek word choice would be informed by his Hebrew understanding of moral law, not apart from it. The Occam's Razor explanation (the simplest answer is usually the correct one) here is that Paul was trying to communicate Jewish moral law regarding sexuality in a language and culture which did not share those Jewish values, so he had to translate them. This should be apparent to everyone as he begins his indictment against the immoral by stating that The Law is good (1Ti 1:8), and then goes on to list that which goes against the Law of Moses—including males who sleep with males. While arsenokoitai may have been a brand new Greek word, it was an accurate rendering of a very old Jewish moral law which forbade men from sleeping with other men. Furthermore, the term arsenokoitēs (singular form) and cognates which appear in subsequent literature in early church history are applied broadly to male-male intercourse and are not limited to pederasts or clients of cult prostitutes.
But this rather obvious definition of arsenokoitai is rejected by the new challengers of orthodoxy who insist it must mean paiderastia even though it doesn't say paiderastia, and it must not mean what it clearly does say. In their desperation and denial, some have even argued—without evidence—that Greek compound words don't necessarily mean what their root words mean. They argue that when you put two words together, it creates a brand new word unrelated to the originals. This defies all logic as well as etymology, regardless of what language you happen to be studying. In languages, compound words like "bookshelf" and "fireplace" have meaning because of the root words they combine. There are obscure compound words whose meanings are not obvious, such as the English word "honeymoon," which seems to have no connection between the root words and the modern concept or usage. However, that is not because two random words came together in order to form a brand new meaning, but rather the original meanings were forgotten due to changes in language and traditions over time. It is believed that the term "honeymoon" originally came from the medieval Scandinavian practice of newlyweds (another compound word) drinking mead (fermented honey) for the first month (moon cycle) after their marriage which was thought to increase the chances of conception. When the term was first coined, honeymoon would have been easily understood by the speakers of the language at that time. So, do we know what arsen and koitai meant in common usage at the time Paul combined them? Yes, we do—they meant male and bed as a euphemism for sex.
The Nature Arguments
The next category of arguments often utilized are from nature. These usually come in some form of either pointing to various examples from the animal kingdom of homosexual behavior, or pointing to the notion that people supposedly are born with their sexuality or sexual identity. In either case, the argument uses the term "nature" or "natural" to determine that God therefore must approve of it. But the reality is that these are all variations of the well-known appeal to nature fallacy.
Just because a dog humps your leg doesn't mean that the dog identifies sexually as interspecies, and just because a monkey mounts another male doesn't mean he's gay—these behaviors in the animal kingdom have more to do with establishing dominance than communicating preference. But nor does either case mean that such behavior is valid, justified, ideal, or good. Even if for the sake of argument, we did actually observe that homosexual behavior was absolutely prevalent among the animal kingdom, that in no way, shape, or form justifies the practice for mankind. Animals also routinely copulate with multiple heterosexual mates, kill each other for social advancement, eat their own young, and a host of other behaviors which scripture vehemently condemns among human societies. The animal kingdom is not where we look in order to establish our moral compass—God's law is. Furthermore, as Christians we should know that the "natural" world around us is no longer functioning as God originally intended or designed—man's sin affected and corrupted the entirety of God's creation—and that includes the animal kingdom.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. -Rom 8:19-22 NASB
The more common variant of this argument though is the intrinsic or innate argument. According to this argument, simply because one is supposedly born with a certain set of desires or urges, it must mean that God approves. Surely God can't condemn my behavior if He made me this way! is the logic employed here. The smaller issue with this argument is that there is scant evidence that people are indeed "born that way." That was the original and expedient assumption, but science has yet to find "the gay gene," and not for a lack of trying. Further complicating this biological or genetic causal mechanism though is that now the narrative has shifted entirely in order to accommodate gender ideology. Where certain ideologues once hoped for a genetic explanation to justify homosexual behavior, now they reject any and all biological correlations to behavior in order to allow people to identify as another gender despite the very real and known genetic factors. The activists seem to want to have their chromosomes, and eat them too.
The larger problem with this argument is that it turns a basic premise of scripture on its head, arguing that man is essentially born sinless and without flaw. While the finer points of the doctrine of Original Sin are debated in Christian theological circles, scripture leaves little room to argue that mankind is inherently virtuous, good, or righteous. One of the fundamental theological messages of the Bible is that man is inherently sinful and incapable of righteousness. We are born into a sin nature, we live in sin, and we die in sin. This is why Christ came, because we were incapable of saving ourselves. This is also why Christ had to be born of a virgin, because to be born of a man would taint Him with the seed of sin (this is explained in chapters 5-6 of Romans). The whole point of Christianity is to repent of our sinful ways that we were born into, to die to our flesh, live by the spirit, and be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Scripture has not a single positive thing to say about human nature, the state we were born in.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” -Psa 51:5 NASB
Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward... -Psa 58:3 NIV
Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities. -Isa 64:5-7 NASB
"The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds." -Jer 17:9-10 NASB
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality (porneia), theft, false testimony, slander..." -Mat 15:19 NIV
As it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE. THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS; WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS; THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." -Rom 3:10-17 NASB
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned... -Rom 5:12 NASB
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? -Rom 7:18-24 NASB
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. -Rom 8:5-8 NASB
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. -Eph 2:1-3 NASB
In light of the overwhelming biblical testimony of the fallen nature of man, it is absolutely ridiculous to assert that simply because people are born with certain lusts or desires that they must inherently be good and pleasing to God. The Bible plainly states the exact opposite—than in our natural state, we cannot please God. This innate perversion of sexual desire is not unique to homosexuals or transgenders either—most heterosexuals are born with a natural desire to indulge their sexual appetites as well and to do so would equally be an "abomination" to God and a violation of His moral law. There almost certainly are genetic markers which predispose people to certain behaviors—be it violence, substance abuse, gluttony, etc, but that does not excuse murder, drunkenness, or any other sin, so there is no reason to believe behavioral genetics would justify homosexuality. "I was born this way" is not an excuse or justification—it is a biblical indictment against human nature.
The Love Arguments
This category typically employs some version of an appeal to emotion, stating that love is holy in all its forms and therefore God could not condemn homosexual love. A major problem with this argument is that scripture makes it quite clear that not all love is the same and that God holds us accountable to His definitions of holiness, not our own. In the New Testament Greek, there were four different types of love: phileo (brotherly love or friendship), storge (familial or protective love), eros (romantic or sexual love), and agape (perfect or unconditional love). The Bible goes to great length in defining the proper role and boundaries of each and is absolutely clear about the only acceptable application of sexual love being that of a monogamous, lifelong marriage between one male (zakar/arsen) and one female (neqebah/thelus). All other forms of eros are strictly and emphatically—if not explicitly—denounced and are categorized as lusts of the flesh, not proper love as God intended.
Other arguments in this vein claim that the issue isn't homosexuality, but promiscuity, so as long as homosexual love is a monogamous, lifelong commitment within the confines of marriage, God approves. But that is not at all what the Bible says. It defines marriage not as the holy matrimony of a male to a male, a female to a female, or an effeminate man to a male, but of one male to one female. God created males and females in complementarian fashion and designed their bodies for a specific form and function. He created marriage not just for the companionship and pleasure of the man and woman, but also for the perpetuation of the human race through the bedrock foundation of all human societies—the family unit (see the article Generational Genocide). Procreation is at the heart of God's design for marriage, a direct result of Godly sexuality, and intrinsically tied to the act of sex. Decoupling procreation from sex and treating it as solely an act of pleasure or gratification has led humanity to all sorts of depravity and evil, including justifying the murder any resulting offspring (see the article Life, Death, and the Gray).
Another common argument in this category again distorts God's definition of love and turns the tables on the traditionalists, labelling them as hateful bigots. Modern concepts of tolerance are typically inserted into the biblical instructions to love one another and not to judge, making anyone who identifies sin suddenly guilty of it. But even a cursory study of the scriptures would prove this assertion asinine. Jesus did not excuse sin or fail to point it out, He simply did not condemn people for it, but rather commanded them to "go and sin no more" (Joh 8:11). Likewise, He instructs His followers to also not condemn people, but to warn them of the consequences of sin, repent of it, and turn to the freedom and forgiveness found in Christ. The often misused passages about not judging one another use the Greek krino, which means to try, condemn, damn, or punish. That role is reserved for God alone on the great day of judgement of all mankind.
"Do not judge (krino) so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." -Mat 7:1-2 NASB
"Do not judge (krino), and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned." -Luk 6:37 NASB
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge (krino) another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge (krino) practice the same things. -Rom 2:1 NASB
But you, why do you judge (krino) your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. -Rom 14:10 NASB
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge (krino) your neighbor? -Jas 4:12 NASB
These passages are not forbidding followers of Christ from calling out sin, but rather to understand that none of us are without sin, so we should not cast stones, but be gracious with one another and forgive each other so that God will forgive us (Mat 6:12-13, Mat 18:21-35 et al). We should not condemn (katakrino) one another, but that does not at all mean that we should turn a blind eye to sinful behavior or redefine good as evil and evil as good in order to appease cultural sensibilities or personal preference. On the contrary, scripture calls for us to judge in this way consistently.
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." -Mat 18:15-17 NASB
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." -Luk 17:3 NASB
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. -Gal 6:1 NIV
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. -1Ti 5:19-20 NASB
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. -Jas 5:19-20 NASB
Do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!... I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge (diakrino) a dispute between believers? -1Co 6:2-3,5 NIV
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (anakrino). The spiritual person judges (anakrino) all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. -1Co 2:14-15 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern (dokimazo) what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Rom 12:2 ESV
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern (dokimazo) what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. -Eph 5:6-11 ESV
But examine (dokimazo) everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. -1Th 5:21-22 NASB
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test (dokimazo) the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. -1Jn 4:1 NASB
As we can clearly see, scripture does not ask us to be tolerant of sin or to think ourselves unable to identify it and call it out. We cannot define sin or condemn people for their sin, but we absolutely can use Gods definitions to hold ourselves and others to account. Not only are we to confront sin (with gentleness and humility, not with self-righteousness), but we are to judge it. The judging we cannot do is krino—to condemn, damn, or punish. But there are other forms of judging (involving Greek compound words again) which scripture actually commands us to do, namely anakrino (examine, investigate, sift, or question), diakrino (to try, separate, decide, or discriminate between), and dokimazo (to test, examine, prove, or scrutinize). It is not hateful, unloving, or unbiblical to call sin, sin. It is unbiblical to condemn people for their sin—we are to call them with gentleness to repentance and into the light of Christ. If they refuse and choose to continue in their sin, we are simply to disassociate with them. That will almost certainly earn us the dreaded "intolerant" label, but we are to fear God, not man.
Other Passages to Consider
In addition to previously discussed passages which seem to directly address this issue, there are a few passages which are a bit more indirect or vague which are often brought up. The first is found in Romans and the second draws from Jude which is a commentary on Genesis.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper... -Rom 1:22-28 NASB
While Paul certainly seems to be implying homosexual activity in this passage, he does not employ his coined word arsenokoitai here, instead using more vague terms like "degrading passions," "natural" and "unnatural functions," "desire toward one another," and "indecent acts." He does use the Greek word chresis, which is translated generically as "function" in the NASB but is actually specific to sexual intercourse. The NIV and ESV do a better job here translating chresis as "sexual relations" and "relations" respectively. So there isn't any question as to what Paul is referring to here, it's just not quite as direct as his use of arsenokoitai. But together with the use of his coined word in 1Co 6:9 and 1Ti 1:9, it makes a very strong case.
The challengers will quibble a bit however, and argue that Paul here in Romans may be referring to sexual activities tied to idol worship due to the context given. I actually do not necessarily disagree with that assessment, though the reason the challengers insert this qualifier is to then question if Paul is condemning all homosexual behavior, or just that which is tied to idol worship. That's a pretty ridiculous question given the entire witness of scripture, however. In the Old Testament, it wasn't just temple prostitution which was considered sin, but all prostitution. There absolutely were pagan fertility festivals, orgies, and all kinds of sexual immorality which took place in the context of idol worship, but scripture condemns both the idol worship and the sexual immorality separately—the latter is not simply guilty by association with the former and is considered perfectly acceptable practice if done outside the context of false gods. The Levitical law forbidding man to lay with a male as he would a female had nothing to do with idolatry and everything to do with sexual immorality.
The next pivot the challengers will attempt here in Romans is to claim that exchanging "natural sexual relations" for "unnatural sexual relations" in this passage may indicate that Paul is talking about heterosexuals who engage in homosexual sex. According to this logic, that would be condemned by God, but if someone who naturally desires same-sex partners engages in sex with them (at least monogamously, in a life-long marriage outside the context of idol worship), it's perfectly fine. This is just another intrinsic or innate argument, claiming that as long as you're born that way, it must be good and therefore God approves. It's not the act or the behavior God condemns, it's actually not being true to yourself which He hates! This again sets us up as a law unto ourselves and dismisses with prejudice the overwhelming testimony of scripture that human nature is fallen, wicked, wretched, deceitful, and destined for wrath and destruction. For some reason, the challengers don't give the same pass to rapists, murderers, drunkards, or child molesters who may also have simply been born with those desires and are just acting according to their nature.
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. -Jud 1:7 NASB
The final passage we'll address is found in Jude, but is referring to the story of Lot found in Genesis chapter 19, which also shares some similarities with a story of a Levite found in Judges chapter 19. In both passages, an angry and lustful mob shows up at the doorstep of a man housing guests which, according to the customs at the time, would make him responsible for any harm or damage done to them. These mobs demand to have sex with the male guests, and in both stories, the master of the house begs and pleads with the mob to desist from their wicked ways, and when that fails, offers women to the mob as a substitute. In the Genesis passage, the mob never gets a chance to act on their lust as the angels blind them, but in the Judges passage, the mob does have their way with the woman instead of the man. Jude draws from the Genesis passage to make a few points about wrath and punishment for the wicked in general, but does so by using sexual immorality as an example.
The first key word used here is ekporneuo which is translated by the NASB as "gross immorality" and simply as "sexual immorality" by the NIV and ESV. This word comes from the Greek porneia which is usually translated as sexual immorality in other passages, but is used here with the prefix ek, which means utterly or exceedingly. What makes this a case of exceedingly immoral sexual relations is that not only was it men desiring men, but the fact that angelic beings were involved. Though not explicit, verse 6 here subtly draws from another story found in Genesis chapter 6 (off topic, but see the article, Sons of Earth and Sky: The Nephilim) and compares it with the story in Genesis 19 as both involve angelic beings and sexual relations with mankind. The gross sexual immorality here is then called going after heteros sarx or "strange flesh" as rendered by the NASB and KJV. Hetero of course just meaning different while homo means same. The different that is taboo in this context is any form of interspecies relations.
Here I actually agree with the challengers that the Jude passage is weak in using as a proof text against homosexuality. The specific act it refers to is actually sexual immorality of a different kind. Though obviously in the story in Genesis 19, the mob was unaware the guests were angels and simply thought they were males. So, from the perspective of the mob, their desire was simply sodomy, but Jude is actually pointing out the strange flesh issue of Genesis 6 and 19. However, the passage’s purpose was to portray the depravity of these people and show why they served as an example of God’s judgment, so while it is impossible to read as biblical support for same-sex relations, it just isn't a strong argument against them on its own.
"For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." -Mat 19:12 NIV
God is a god of design and order, plan and purpose. When we stray from His precepts, we pervert His design, order, plan, and purpose which produces death and destruction rather than the life and abundance He intended. Choosing the narrow path of righteousness requires much self-denial and self-sacrifice and the flesh invariably will cry out. But we are new creations, dead to the flesh and alive in the spirit. We are not living according to the desires of the nature we were born with, but we have been born again and have taken on a new nature, a new heritage, and a new lineage. We've chosen to break the cycle of rebellion and the curse of death passed on to us through Adam and be adopted into the family of the last Adam, who is a life-giving spirit. Rather than pondering what gender or sexuality we identify with, we need to be thinking about which nature we identify with—the old self and the flesh, or the new man. In the flesh, we will have many struggles, temptations, desires, and appetites, and if we continue to identify with that flesh, we will inevitably first dwell on them, then fulfill them, and ultimately justify them once our conscience is seared.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. -Jas 1:12-15 NASB
Each of us have our own cross to bear, but we rarely have the ability to choose what it is. What we do have the choice in is to overcome it or be overcome by it. We are more than conquerors in Christ and in Him nothing is impossible. But we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and the flesh comes back daily, requiring us to nail him to that cross yet again. We are not to go after strange flesh, but to be strange flesh—new creatures apart from the world who do not indulge in our carnal nature, but die to it. And when all is said and done, our sacrifice will not be in vain.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS." -Mat 16:24-27 NASB
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. -Rom 8:16-18 NASB
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. -1 Pe 4:12-13 ESV