LIFE APPLICATION. Paul comes on strong about homosexuality in Romans 1. He’s against it: “Men on men did shameful things to each other” (1:27). The questions Christians face is this: Is God against it? As you understand the debate, why do some Christians say that Paul was not necessarily speaking for God? And why do other Christians say they feel uncomfortable with that take on the Holy Bible?
Notes from the footnotes in the Casual English Bible: “Christians are so divided over how to understand what Paul says about homosexuality that church denominations have split over this very topic. Some say they believe Paul is speaking for God when Paul writes this letter and others like it. Other Christians say they doubt that God would want blamed for what Paul wrote, and that Paul was expressing his personal opinion rather than revealing something God told him to say. These Christians argue that Paul would have been surprised that his letters ended up in the Holy Bible, and that if he had known it would turn out that way, he might have made some changes in his letters.”
Many Christians say that the contact they have with friends and family members who are gay suggests to them that this is not a lifestyle most people choose. It comes with the package. And since God gave them the package, it would seem unjust of God to condemn gay folks for being who they are. What’s troubling about this is that many Christians were raised to believe that everything in the Bible is intended as a message from God, even if it is simply a statement someone wrote in a letter. Other Christians question that way of thinking. They wonder why we should expect that everything someone like Paul would write in a letter was in perfect harmony with what Jesus would have taught, though this is a topic Jesus did not bother to address. They also wonder why Christians who embrace Paul’s stance against homosexuality oppose him on other matters of behavior:
- “I don’t let women teach. And I don’t put them in positions of authority over men” (1 Timothy 2:12 Casual English Bible).
- “In all the churches where believers meet to worship, women need to worship silently. They aren’t allowed to talk” (1 Corinthians 14:33-34 Casual English Bible).
- “I’d like the ladies to dress modestly and mildly. Not too showy. Keep it respectable. Don’t go crazy playing dress-up. No need for expensive clothes, fancy hairdos, or jewelry made of gold or pearls. Let the ladies dress like women devoted to doing good things for others” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 Casual English Bible).
- “A church leader needs to do a good job of running his own household. And his kids need to act respectfully and do what he says. I mean, come on, if a man can’t manage his own family how can he manage God’s church, full of families?” (1 Timothy 3:4-5 Casual English Bible).
Reprinted from Leader’s Guide & Atlas for Romans. For more on this topic, see 100 Tough Questions about God and the Bible.
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I guess Moses has some tall explaining to do then with his Abomination remark.
There is no question here unless one is looking to insert their own opinion over Scripture. As with anything else in Scripture the whole tenor of the Bible clearly answers this.
Stephen M. Miller
Hi, Tom. Many would say that the whole tenor of Scripture and especially the teachings of Jesus is to love people…not to denigrate people because of who they choose to love.
We make correctives to Scripture. We do that when we allow women to teach in church; Paul would not have approved. Perhaps, many Christians say, our attitude toward homosexuality is another needed corrective, based on what we now know from science, physicians, and our own observations of people we know and love.
Stephen M. Miller
Counterpoints from some Christians might include some of these:
1. We pick and choose which laws to obey and which to ignore. The abomination passage is in Leviticus 18. In Lev. 19 is another law. “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Lev. 19:27 NIV). We tend to ignore that. Maybe there are others worth bypassing.
2. We’re quoting a book from an anonymous writer.
3. Many scholars say these early books got passed done by word of mouth for centuries before anyone wrote them down. Maybe someone added “abomination” along the way.
4. If Moses said this, maybe he was wrong. Maybe God doesn’t want the blame for everything preserved in writing that the rabbis and later the church councils decided to include in the Bible.
I know these counterpoints are disconcerting, but there are Christians who embrace some of these.