Bible focus part 1 – Bible says no?

First published on Benny’s Blog in 2010 and adapted for Accepting Evangelicals.

I remember the first negative comment I had on ‘Benny’s Blog’.

Anonymous said “You are an Evangelical and you presumably know your Bible yet you say homosexuality is fine ?

Accept the people, sins and all, but the practice is not OK and you should know it. Goodness, there are plenty of Biblical admonitions about it.  I`m not even an Evangelical and it seems crystal clear to me.”

I was actually amazed that it had taken so long.  When we launched Accepting Evangelicals in 2004, we immediately had a flood of the most awful emails expressing that hope that we would die a slow painful death and burn in hell – so actually, this mildly negative comment was not only long overdue, but also extremely polite and reserved.

What has not moved on however, is the mistaken belief about what the Bible does and does not say on the subject of same sex relationships.

It reminds me of the Little Britain sketch where the unhelpful bank clerk just keeps repeating “Computer says no”  – no discussion, no debate, no reasons – just no.

Far from there being ‘plenty of Biblical admonitions’ on the subject there are only a handful of verses which talk about homosexuality, and understanding  exactly what they mean or refer to is by no means straightforward.  Yet the perception remains in many people’s minds that this is an open and shut case.

Even Theologians  who are committed to a conservative line against same sex relationships, acknowledge that there is not much in the Bible to go on.   One such theologian is R.Hays, quoted in the Church of England’s official document on the subject “Some issues in human sexuality” (2003).   He talks about the “Slender evidence of the New Testament” in relation to homosexuality -and he is right.  It is mentioned on only 3 occasions, and only one of these contains any attempt to portray a theological explanation for why such attraction might be wrong.

The Old Testament is no better.  There are only 2 clear references, both in the same section of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) and the second is merely a reiteration of the first for the purpose of setting down a penalty for the ‘crime’.  Other references in Deuteronomy are almost universally understood to be about temple prostitution whether heterosexual or (by inference) homosexual, so contribute nothing to the current debate on sex relationships.

Other passages – eg the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 – whilst having a sexual component to them, are not principally about homosexuality, but about rape, inhumanity, and breaking the laws of hospitality which were deeply ingrained in fabric and culture of the Middle East.  Hence it was considered acceptable(even proper) for Lot to offer his daughters to be gang raped by the mob in order to protect his visitors!

On top of all this, Jesus appears to have been entirely silent on the issue, and if you are a lesbian, you can rejoice that there is even less to go on.   Leviticus refers exclusively to men, and only one of the three references in the New Testament (Romans 1) includes sexual attraction between women. 

So far from there being plenty of Biblical admonitions against homosexuality, the reality is that the Biblical evidence is both flimsy and fragmented.  We need to delve deeper to see what exactly is being considered in those verses and to see to what extent it might apply today.

The problem is, just like the Little Britain  sketch where the bank clerk says over and over again ‘Computer says No!’ –  there are many too many Christians who are content to roll out the same mantra time after time – ‘Bible says No!’ – without ever considering the evidence and what the Bible actually says.

That doesn’t mean that what the Bible says is unimportant however.  As an evangelical, I consider it  vitally important to build my understanding of the Christian faith on the Bible.

So over the next few months, we will be taking a close look at what the Bible says on same sex relationships, and what that means today.  We know, of course, that we are not doing anything new here, as many have trod this road before, but as long as there are people out there who think the same way as Mr/s Anonymous, I think it needs to be done.  We just hope and pray that all who care about this issue will be a little more responsive than the bank clerk in Little Britain.

Next time – Leviticus 18…

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10 Comments

  1. Nice cliff hanger 😉 can’t wait to read the next installment!

  2. Thanks again , Benny for your clear explanation. I totally agree and respect you and what you stand for. THANK YOU!

    Alec

  3. Well yes, but isn’t the real problem what you say towards the end: ‘As an evangelical, I consider it vitally important to build my understanding of the Christian faith on the Bible.’ – (a) because it implies that other Christians don’t take the Bible seriously, and (b) because it marginalizes Jesus, and arguably he is the one (and not the Bible) we should be building Christian faith on.

    • Hi John, Thank you for your comment.

      I completely agree with your second point about Jesus being the living Word of God in whom we put our trust and faith. I find the approach by which we view all scripture through the lens of Christ the most helpful in my own discipleship.

      On you first point however, it has been my experience that Christians of other traditions seem to be able to ‘dispense’ with parts of the Bible more easily than I can as an evangelical. That does not mean that they do not take the Bible seriously, but they find dismissing parts that seem anachronistic or outdated a much easier task than I do.

      I don’t think it has to be either extreme – of slavery to scripture at one end, or throwing the Bible away at the other. For me the discipline of an objective written word with which to grapple in alongside my subjective discernment of God’s will and purpose today is the one which I value – uncomfortable as it sometimes is.

      Thank you again for commenting.
      Benny

  4. This may be slightly off-topic but I have had a strong sense for more than a month now that the key to this whole issue lies in Romans 14. This chapter is never quoted in the context of the debate on gay sex, but almost every verse seems relevant. Yet when I try to apply it directly, it seems to lead to the traditional position having a veto on the issue, no matter how wrong-headed it may be.

    I would love to see an AE working group set up to see how we could apply this chapter both in practice and as a source of arguments.

  5. Pingback: Bible Focus part 2 – Leviticus 18 | Accepting Evangelicals

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