August 07, 2019

What Does The Bible Say About Same Sex Behavior?

Introduction

This is going to be controversial. Homosexual and lesbian behavior is an emotional issue that can disrupt relationships in the workplace. It is also an issue which has divided Christian organizations and church congregations. And of course, emotions often blind reason. But such behavior need not be divisive if we are willing to treat each other with respect and decency.

We are all required, certainly as adults, to develop our own attitudes and judgements about human behavior in all its forms. This issue is no different. We can start our search for answers by asking a simple question: What does the Bible say about same sex behavior?  Let us then interpret what we find through the lens of a 21st century Natural Theology.

I started this research project without any bias. To be blunt: I really do not care. What you do and what you think is your business. Your behavior will be judged by your peers and by God.

With grateful thanks for access to the New International Version of the Holy Bible, which can be found at Zondervan’s Bible Gateway   https://www.biblegateway.com/  and the copyright holder Biblica.

What Do We Find in the Bible?

Let us start with an obvious observation: what we read in the Bible was actually written by its very human authors. So what we really want to know is what did the men whose thoughts are recorded in the Bible have to say about homosexual and lesbian behavior?

The letters for “sex” are mentioned 77 times in the Bible. Most references involve warnings against having unclean sex or sex with neighbors, relatives and family members. There are only a few references that specifically deal with homosexual or lesbian behavior.

 

Genesis 

For context reference, read Genesis 19:1-11 in the Old Testament

Specific reference Genesis 19:4-5

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

In Genesis 19, the males of the village intend to use homosexual rape to humiliate Lot’s guests. Lot offers to substitute his daughters for the men to rape. Lot’s guests turn out to be angels. They save the day by blinding the men of the village. They cannot see the door to Lot’s house. After fleeing to live in another town, Lot commits incest with both his daughters.

The authors of Genesis, the first book of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament, use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the idea that God will punish men and women who are evil or ignore the word of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is divine retribution for the sinful sexual behavior of its male and female inhabitants. The idea that sinful people are punished is found throughout the Bible.

This story apparently has its roots in Mesopotamian mythology. Male rape is offensive. Female rape is offered as an acceptable alternative to male rape. Incest is acceptable behavior.

From the standpoint of 21st century Natural Theology, this story in Genesis cannot be accepted as the word of God. Neither rape nor incest is acceptable human behavior because they are acts of demeaning violence. Such acts contradict God’s commandments about love.

 

Leviticus

Specific reference Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in the Old Testament

Leviticus 18:22.

From a long list of prohibited sexual relations:

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”

Leviticus 20:13.

From a long list of punishments for various sins:

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

Leviticus is the third book of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament. Developed by many authors over a long period of time, the instructions of Leviticus emphasize ritual, legal and moral practices rather than religious beliefs. Moses, the man who gave us the Ten Commandments, leads a large number of Jews out of Egypt. He wants to establish a moral and stable social structure for his followers. Moses thus faces the challenging task of teaching them how to live according to the word of God. According to the authors of Leviticus, Moses created a long list of rules for the Jews in his charge. Many are backed by required ceremony and detailed ritual. Homosexual behavior is expressly forbidden. There is no direct mention of lesbian behavior.

According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was revealed to Moses by God and he then established the laws of behavior which still influence Jewish and Christian beliefs. He obviously believed he was communicating the will and word of God. Jews and Muslims have a high regard for Moses. Christians generally agree Moses conveyed some of God’s instructions and rules to humanity. Many of the rules found in Leviticus, along with the Ten Commandments, are simply common sense. Although many include ceremony and ritual that may seem excessive in the 21st century, they are useful guides to individual conduct, personal relationships, nutrition, hygiene, and other subjects of daily life. 

 

Judges

For context reference, read Judges 19:16-29 in the Old Testament

Specific reference Judges 19:22

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. As in Genesis, the males of the village want to rape the man’s male guests. Also like Genesis, the rape of women is offered as an alternative to satisfy their lust. After the man’s concubine has been raped, the man cuts her up into 12 pieces.

This is another story from ancient mythology. From the standpoint of 21st century Natural Theology, this story in Judges cannot be accepted as the word of God. Rape is not acceptable human behavior because it is an act of demeaning violence. God would not approve the dismemberment of the concubine described in this story. Both acts contradict God’s commandments about love.

 

Romans

For context reference, read 1 Romans 1:18-32 in the New Testament

Written by Paul to Gentiles and Jews

Specific reference Romans 26 -27

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

From Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The text found in 1.26 and 1.27 provides a blanket condemnation of both homosexual and lesbian activity as shameful lust. Paul clearly condemns what he believes is unnatural sexual behavior, warns such activity will deprave both body and mind, and believes such conduct may result in death. Paul explains that salvation for such acts is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

1 Corinthians

For context reference, read 1 Corinthians 6:1-20.in the New Testament

Letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth

Specific reference 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

– Paul lectures the congregation about immoral behavior. Men who have sex with men will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He also tells them you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were forgiven in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the grace of our God.  There follows a long admonition about sexual immorality. “You say you have the right to do anything – but not everything you do is beneficial.” “Your body is not meant for sexual immorality. It is meant to be united with the Lord. If you commit sexual sin, you sin against your own body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

 

1 Timothy

For context reference, read 1 Timothy 1:1-17 in the New Testament

Letter written by Paul to Timothy

Specific reference 1 Timothy 1:8-11.   

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

- Paul confirms that the law prohibits certain conduct, including homosexual behavior. Paul sent this letter to Timothy to encourage and guide him in his work. The Law he refers to is the Law of the Old Testament: largely the words of Moses found in the first five books of the bible (The Pentateuch).

Paul the Apostle (Saint Paul)

We have to admire the work of Saint Paul. During the middle of the first century he was a tireless apostle who established several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Saul (his Jewish name) or Paul (his name as a Roman citizen) could speak both Hebrew and Koine Greek, which gave him relatively easy access to both Jewish and Gentile communities. Paul’s friend Luke tells us about Paul's life and efforts in the Book of Acts. His epistles (or letters to his followers) are a fundamental part of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theology. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 7 have been attributed to Paul and 7 more may have been written by him. His teaching and beliefs are based on the Law described in the Old Testament and the theology of Jesus Christ.

It is clear from his letters that Paul’s newly formed congregations were tempted to adopt ideas from competing theologies and – worse – finding it difficult to live up to his moral standards. Paul clearly wants to protect and preserve the importance of the family. Thus he is against any sexual conduct which would weaken family ties. He also believes uncontrolled erotic behavior demeans the participant.

Paul apparently believed in the celibate life. The unmarried should remain this way unless they cannot control themselves: "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion."

Paul obviously had a significant influence of Christian Theology. Like Moses, he believes homosexual behavior is impious. He also lectures against lesbian behavior. 

Jesus

 

Explicit Statements

Jesus made no explicit statement about many social issues: homosexuality, lesbian behavior, pedophilia, abortion, bestiality, fortification, or rape. But of course he shared God’s values. That means his silence cannot be construed as support. Instead, we have to separate those actions which violate, injure, demean, cause the death, or otherwise harm another human (and are therefore sinful), from consensual acts between partners that do not cause any such ill-treatment (which may not be sinful).

 

Marriage

Jesus was a very strong defender of heterosexual marriage:

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?”

“What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

His heartfelt defense of heterosexual marriage affirmed the intent of the Mosaic Covenant which, for his Jewish community, was the Law.

 

Same Sex Relationships

It is likely his attitude about same sex relationships reflects the general cultural mores of his neighbors in Galilee. First century Jews frowned on these relationships for the simple reason they produced no children. Having lots of babies was highly desirable and the wealth of a man was often measured by how many children he had fathered.

Jesus would have been familiar with God’s plan and rules for our Cosmos. Jesus was thus aware that very few of us are absolutely female or absolutely male. Most of us are genetically and socially somewhere in between these two poles of sexual taxonomy. We are most likely male, with some degree of the feminine, or female, with some degree of the masculine. The further we are from our sexual pole, the more we exhibit the characteristics of the opposite sex.

Although it is unlikely Jesus was ambivalent about same sex relationships, his attitudes would have been influenced by the culture within which he lived and his knowledge of God’s laws. He would not condemn them. 

 

His Message

Jesus focused his message on personal conduct and our relationship with his father. He wants us to rise above mere animal behavior or the limitations of natural human emotions. His positive and constructive message is not focused on limiting human behavior, as we find in Leviticus and Paul’s letters, but rather on the joy of what we can become.

A thread of caring would weave itself into the compassion of his ministry for all people, of all ages, means and position. He was a teacher of men, a light of faith for women, and a safe haven for children. He knew God placed a great value on every individual, no matter how far he or she may have strayed from spiritual awareness. Because of these truths, we know that God is always with us, and we can become one with God’s kingdom on earth. Included in these thoughts is the concept that God wants us to love one another, and God will forgive those who earnestly and honestly seek to repent. Jesus taught that if we help another person, we are helping him (and God); the innocence of children is to be preserved; The Kingdom of Heaven is here (all around us); and God cannot help you unless you give him your trust. “If you believe in God,” Jesus said, “you are my brother or sister.” Jesus encouraged us to love our enemies, to refrain from judging others, and to treat other people as we would want them to treat us.

Jesus occasionally contradicted the Law (of Moses), an attribute that got him into trouble with the Philistines (who distrusted him) and the Sadducees (who mocked him). Jesus apparently believed that neither homosexual nor lesbian behavior is an unforgivable sin. He does not condemn. Instead Jesus offers hope, forgiveness, and salvation to all who sincerely wish to come to God his father. While the Law described in Leviticus focuses on rules and consequences, the message of Jesus is one of uplifting joyous love.

Jesus not only delivered his message to all who would listen, he was willing to die in order to prove the truth of his beliefs.

GOD

All too often in these discussions we fail to ask a fundamental question: “What would God want?” In the case of homosexual and lesbian behavior, the answer to this question is relatively simple. We know what God wants us to do and wants us to believe through the words of Jesus, who carried his message to humanity.

It is unlikely God has any specific objection to mutually consenting homosexual or lesbian behavior. Human DNA does not include any specific code to preclude such relationships. Although the emphasis of his message is on the creation of a loving family, with responsible male and female parents, God understands that homosexual and lesbian relationships will occur.

Conclusion

There is no reason why either Moses or Paul would have any knowledge of the natural laws of our Cosmos. We can understand why the emphasis of their work was on creating a stable, moral, and productive social structure within the communities they were establishing. We can choose to believe their work was inspired by God. Their words have been a source of wisdom for centuries. But the limitations of knowledge prevented them from taking a more holistic view of their tasks.

If neither Moses nor Paul understood God’s natural laws, what can we say about Jesus?

If we believe Jesus is God, the Son of God, or a man who was very close to God, then it is obvious he would share God’s knowledge and wisdom. We can choose to believe Jesus would have, during the course of his ministry, all the knowledge he needed to carry out his mission including the rules of Natural Theology. Instead of trying to explain them to his first century audience, Jesus delivered his message by focusing on positive, constructive and compassionate human behavior.

From the perspective of Natural Theology, consensual homosexual and lesbian relationships are a natural expression of human sexuality for a small percentage of humans. We accept them as such with our love and understanding: without any stigma. However, as Moses, Paul and Jesus have shown, our theological and philosophical emphasis should always be on the creation of loving, stable, heterosexual sexual relationships as a foundation for successful families and the reproduction of our species.

Astronomers tell us the Cosmos is in constant change, and our continuing observations appear to confirm this conclusion. Yet, it is also important to understand there is order underlying this transformation. There are laws of interaction and existence that guide the change we observe. God understands these laws – because he created them. With respect to homosexual and lesbian behavior, God gave us: Reality is a Unity in a Bipolar Cosmos and The Principle of Infinite Possibilities.

Both laws are described in:
Summa 21, 
The Natural Theology of a 21st Century Christian.



Ron

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May 23, 2019

Why Is God Identified as a Male?


The identification of God as a male (He, Him, His, Father) has become a source of some irritation and controversy.

Why isn’t God, some ask, identified as female? Does God have a feminine nature? If we were made in God’s image, as some allege, then why doesn’t God manifest a spiritual presence in both female and male forms?

Dennis Prager has created a video that explains his view of why God is identified as male. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YXzywDWc1k. Dennis bases his explanation on the idea the Bible was created by God to guide men, and by extension, boys. It therefore speaks to us as a man would to other men, and as a father would to boys.

While I admire his effort, Dennis misses the question people are really asking:

What or who is God?

To answer that question we have to examine the cultural environment within which the Bible was created and reframe the discussion in 21st century terms.

Ancient texts reflect ancient knowledge.

The text of the Bible was largely written by men who lived in a male centric agrarian social structure. The books of the Bible were selected and edited by men who also lived in a male centric agrarian social structure.  It should not come as a surprise that the resulting text is also male centric.

The men who authored the books of the Bible were influenced by contemporaneous religious beliefs. Male and female gods had human characteristics and exhibited human behavior. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and later on the Romans, believed in multiple gods who appeared in human form. Each god had a personality. Although Jewish beliefs in a single God were unique, even the male God they worshiped had a human form and a human personality.

But there is more for us to consider. Biblical authors were influenced by the contemporary human knowledge of the region within which they lived. Their perception of reality obviously incorporates ancient human knowledge. Ancient cosmology framed their thoughts about heaven. Ancient geology influenced their thoughts about Hell. Ancient physics modified their perceptions of God. Ancient medical science shaped their beliefs about the birth of Christ. Chemistry, biology, mathematics – all of the ancient human knowledge upon which they relied found its way into the texts they wrote.

Unfortunately, most of ancient human knowledge upon which they relied is obsolete. The sciences have evolved and become more sophisticated, but the text of the Bible has not changed.

God has no specific sex

While the wonderful wisdom of early doctrine will never be outdated, it needs to be expressed in 21st century terms. Since there is no neuter gender in the English language, we will probably continue to refer to God as masculine merely as a convenience and because that is our western tradition. But few educated people believe God is an old man who looks down upon us from a cloud. So what is the alternative?

Let’s start with our conviction God is a powerful, intelligent, and conscious force. God made heaven, earth, and all living things. That means God can alter the physical and not-physical Cosmos anytime and as often as he wants to do so. It also means God can present himself to us in whatever form or image he wishes. God can be male or female. God can appear in the form of a parent, brother, sister, relative, friend or stranger. God can appear to us in the being of a beloved animal, a beautiful image, or a breath of air. God will interact with us in whatever form serves God’s purpose.

When we say we humans were created in God’s image, we are acknowledging he created both the male and the female. In 21st century terms, God imagined an image of a life form he wanted to create and then awakened life in his creation. Like most of his creations - animals, plants, birds and so on - God used the female and male reproduction model to ensure a continuation of the species. We can expect him to continue using the male/female model of life as the basis of his creative efforts.

The argument about God’s sex is based on an ancient and obsolete concept: God is a person. But if God is a powerful, intelligent, and conscious force, and can interact with us in whatever form he chooses, then it is incorrect to think of him as a human person. God has no specific sex. God is neither male nor female, but God can be either male or female. We have a loving God who appears to us in whatever form he thinks will best suit his purpose.

The ultimate singularity

But if God is not a person, what is he? That remains a question for scientists, theologians and philosophers to ponder.

We cannot think of God as a material entity
or as a body of flesh.
God is the ultimate singularity,
a conscious force that surpasses
our inadequate perception of the Cosmos.

Let us be humble in our assessment of the divine.


Ron

Summa 21 includes an extensive discussion of the nature of God.
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