LATE LAST WEEK I got the email.
I can’t say much more about it than what you read in the title of this article. The news is too fresh and too sensitive.
But this question comes from a young person who’s sis came out as gay: “What does the Christian religion have to say about that?”
I’ve written about this many times in several of my books and in blog articles. But I don’t think I’ve covered that topic any better than I did in 100 Tough Questions about God and the Bible.
I’m not sure that anyone connected to the email I got would ever read the book. But if I put that short chapter in this blog article, perhaps some of them might see it – and get an answer to the question.
And who knows, maybe someone else would find help in the article, too.
What they’ll discover is that some Christians say it’s wrong to live the gay lifestyle.
But other Christians say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the gay lifestyle.
It’s not surprising that Christians disagree with each other. What’s surprising are some of the arguments they make to support their opinions.
Surprising and a bit unsettling.
Here’s the article from my book:
Why does the Bible say homosexuality is a sin? Don’t science and our own observation suggest that some people are naturally homosexual?
Christians are at each other’s throats over this question—at least in some churches—debating what to do about homosexuality.
Many churches forbid homosexuals from joining their community of faith. Other churches ordain them as ministers. That’s how far apart Christians are on this controversial topic.
Most churches pitch their tents in one of three major camps:
- I’m okay, you’re okay. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality.
- Gay is okay if you don’t have sex. There’s nothing wrong with having homosexual desires, but it’s a sin to act on those desires by engaging in homosexual sex.
- There’s nothing okay about gay. Homosexuality—the orientation as well as the act—is a sin requiring forgiveness and, if possible, healing.
There’s nothing okay about gay
Christians in this camp take their cue from the Bible, which in all the main English translations certainly seems to condemn homosexuality.
- “It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man” (Leviticus 18:22 CEV).
- “When a man has sexual intercourse with another man as with a woman, both men are doing something disgusting and must be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13 GW).
- “No one who is immoral . . . is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual will share in God’s kingdom” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10 CEV).
- “We also know that the law is not made for good people. . . . It is for people who are against God and are sinful . . . who take part in sexual sins, who have sexual relations with people of the same sex” (1 Timothy 1:9–10 NCV).
Christians who have pitched their theological tents in this camp say that if we take the Bible seriously and treat it as the Word of God, there’s no way we can do what is politically correct: accept homosexuality.
Instead, we have to do what is biblically correct: reject homosexuality as sinful. If we don’t, we find ourselves among an unfortunate group of souls: “How terrible it will be for people who call good things bad . . . who think darkness is light . . . who think sour is sweet” (Isaiah 5:20 NCV).
The spiritual cure for homosexuality, as far as these Christians are concerned, is the same as it is for any other sin: repentance and forgiveness.
Beyond that, some Christians say, homosexuals may be able to experience physical healing as well. Through counseling, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit, a homosexual can become a heterosexual. There are Christians who identify themselves as heterosexuals healed of their former homosexual desires.
Many Christians in this camp acknowledge that not all homosexuals will be freed of their attraction to the same sex. Counselors advise homosexuals who convert to Christianity to treat their desire the same way the apostle Paul treated his mysterious “thorn in the flesh,” a difficulty he never identified: “I was given a problem that caused pain in my body. . . . Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak’” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9 NIRV).
Gay is okay if you don’t have sex
Christians in this camp have a lot in common with Christians who say “There’s nothing okay about gay.”
Both groups treat the Bible as God’s Word—something that should not be ignored or overruled by conventional wisdom or political correctness.
The biggest difference is that Christians in this group see absolutely nothing wrong with having homosexual desires. They would compare that desire to any other sinful desire or temptation we might experience. There’s nothing wrong with the desire or the temptation. It’s wrong only when we give in to that sinful desire.
Many Christians in this group seem willing to accept the idea that some people may be naturally oriented toward homosexuality. Some compare this to the way many folks seem wired with a predisposition toward addictive behavior—folks who become alcoholics and drug addicts.
Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that if you’re an alcoholic, you’re an alcoholic for life. Your lifelong task is to stay away from alcohol.
In much the same way, a homosexual may be homosexual for life.
Some Bible-revering, tradition-minded Christian counselors are beginning to acknowledge that attempts to straighten out a gay person generally won’t work. Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse, professor of psychology at Regent University—founded by Pat Robertson, chairman of the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network and a former Southern Baptist minister—put it this way in his book, Homosexuality and the Christian:
A realistic expectation would not be a categorical change (from completely gay to completely straight), but rather modest shifts along a continuum of attraction.
I’m okay, you’re okay
Some Christians say there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality—in orientation or in sexual activity.
The question for many other Christians is this: How do pro-gay Christians justify their end run around what the Bible says on the topic?
Here comes a scholarly term: Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
Scholars who have studied the life and teachings of John Wesley (1703–1791), founder of the Methodist church, have come to the conclusion that when he faced tough theological problems, he studied them from four angles:
- Bible. What does the Bible say about it?
- Tradition. How have Christians throughout the centuries dealt with it?
- Reason. What seems like a reasonable way to deal with it?
- Experience. What does our personal experience suggest we do about it?
As far as many Christians in this camp are concerned, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral vote comes out in a dead heat—two votes against accepting the homosexual lifestyle to two in favor.
Two votes against: The Bible says “don’t.” Tradition is obvious; the church has a long history of rejecting homosexuals.
Two votes for: Reason says it makes sense for us not to tell someone else whom they can and can’t love. Experience reminds us that even among our own circle of family and friends, some are wired with same-sex desires.
Reason and experience seem to get a boost from science:
American Academy of Pediatrics: “Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation. . . . Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
American Psychiatric Association: “The APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the . . . assumption that a patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”
But what about the Bible? It’s God talking, many Christians insist. And he says “don’t.”
A tiny minority of Christians say the Bible translators got God wrong.
For example, the Queen James Bible, a gay-friendly translation, says one writer was talking about heterosexual men who were having sex with male prostitutes in pagan temples: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
The presumption: normal gay sex is okay.
Most Bible experts would call that creative and wishful thinking.
It’s more common for Christians in this camp to approach the Bible’s anti-gay passages this way:
Jewish law is obsolete. “Faith in Christ has come. So we are no longer under the control of the law” (Galatians 3:25 NIRV).
Paul was quoting the obsolete law. When Paul wrote in his letters that homosexuality is sinful, he was drawing from his studies as a Pharisee, an expert in Jewish law—remarkably, the same laws he said elsewhere were obsolete. That leaves some folks trying to figure out which Paul to believe—Paul who rejected the law or Paul who rejected homosexuality because the law forbids it.
When in doubt, follow Jesus. Jesus never talked about homosexuality. But he did talk about judging others and loving others.
Most Christians who embrace homosexuals as full members within the community of faith put more theological weight on those teachings. They argue that the rule of love trumps the obsolete Jewish law about homosexuality as well as the anti-gay teachings of Paul, a former Pharisee who they say may have been deferring to Jewish law.
Love others. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:34–35 THE MESSAGE).
Don’t judge. “Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. . . . You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:1, 5 NCV).
Gay minister V. Jill Sizemore, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, told me that when she has to deal with “those stubbornly ensconced in their argument of the infallible word of God,” she appeals to love:
“Put down the book that you would use to hurt me. Look into my eyes and tell me that you would have me scorned, bullied, discriminated against. . . . Now who is the pervert?”
She said that in her view, “Love trumps all arguments that clearly favor injustice of any kind.”
Many Christians, however, insist that God isn’t just about love. He’s about holiness, too. And they say their Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin—and that God won’t stand for it.
Several Christian denominations have split over the question of what to do about gay believers.
100 Tough Questions about God and the Bible, by Stephen M. Miller, chapter 47, pages 120-125, Bethany House Publishers.
so it’s a matter of how some one thinks? I lean towards judge not. It’s Gods right to judge. You can still like a person but not like how their living
Stephen M. Miller
Hi Karen. It always seems to be a matter of what one thinks. Do we think Paul knew as much about homosexuality as we do today? Do we feel we should take his words as a prescription for all time? Our thinking is going to lead us one way or another.
Still, I’m with you on the judging. I’ll leave it to the Judge. I’m down here to help people who are hurting and to point them to heaven. That’s a full-time job.
well said Steve.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Brian. It’s a tough topic.
Good morning Steve. 🙂 A timely article for me as just this past weekend, my husbands first cousin visited for the first time in 20 years. it was so wonderful to see her and we talked a lot about family history. after reacquainting we found out that three of her sisters have homosexual children. Both children of one sister are gay and additionally, this sisters son is having a sex change operation from male to female and lives with a woman. All of these sisters were initially shocked at the situation, they have grown to accept the situation out of love for their children but all are having trouble coping. they are questioning their parenting skills and that of their own parents. (BTW these sisters were raised in the church. Their mother,… the grandmother of these homosexuals… was raised in a boarding school from the age of 2 as her mother had died when she was toddler. they have an extensive knowledge of the bible.) as we talked further, I pointed out that for the previous generations, in this family, there were numerous family members that were never married. I had thought this quite odd at the time I was working on the genealogy ; but realized the indications. it made me think back to my own child hood and the kids with whom I went to school. I attended a girls school, 42 in my class. in the last 10 years, it has become known there are 3 of my classmates who live as homosexual. I was surprised. this made me really think about my own prejudices towards homosexuals and other who are different from me. I love my class mates. Since our class was so small, the entire class has become closer as we have grown older and have become reacquainted. I don’t want to judge them for their homosexuality; I’ve been friends with them since I was young. My point here is this, I love my class mates no matter what and their “choice” is really between god and themselves as individuals. it is not for me to forgive them. I don’t condone the lifestyle, by any means. But, I have to reconcile my love for my classmates with the idea that they are not living through Gods word. how can I judge them as I am such a sinner myself?
thanks for posting this Steve.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, Lisa. This is such a divisive topic among Christians. But I don’t see any harm in bringing love to a fistfight.
I guess the thing is, we just have to leave it to Love to decide and get out of our own way here. Our noted scholars vehemently disagree on original translations from Scripture on several topics, and for good reason: no one thought to post those now ancient writings on the Cloud! Duh! So we are left with the obvious choice of practicing and measuring everything against goodness, justice and mercy.
And one more thing for those still withholding acceptance or approval: if we haven’t walked in the shoes of the oppressed and actually experienced that specific pain of insufferable loneliness and cruel rejection just for loving someone that doesn’t ‘look like us,’ how could we then decide how love should be gifted to another? What right would anyone have to mandate the properties of love, or tell anyone who and how they love is wrong? How can the gift of love EVER be wrong? Those that claim to know are the ones not practicing it very well.
The older I get the more I realize how subjected I am to ageism on top of the blatant homophobia I have dealt with all my adult life. And I’m really annoyed that this maltreatment is coming from self-proclaimed followers of Christ. We have to get over it folks. Living in such ugly, social rejection leaves a people wounded. Those people being all of us.
Thanks Steve, for providing a space here to speak my truth. I pray your [edited out ID] friend can find acceptance from those who claim to love her the most.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, Jill, for your insights, your willingness to put yourself out there, and for the photo. I love that hat. Indiana Jill.
Oldsters dang well need a union. Heck, 99% of the country needs a union.
Gary Lee Parker
Steve, I amy get some arguments in what I am about to see, but I believe that there is a fourth way even though you only addressed three. First, I see that we need to differentiate between Homosexual Orientation and Activity. Second, when we divide the common appreviations LGBT into our defining, we look at the L & G where the homosexual orientation may be God-given for some, but sexual activity is not. I am becoming to believe that Homosexual Marriage as well as Heterosexual Marriage should not only be allowed by governments, but the church as well. Sexual activity before marriage and after marriage with multiple people is what I believe God is talking about as sin. Just as one man and one woman should remain faithful for life, one man and one man as well as one woman and woman should as well. I do not wnat to get into this discussion on divorce because that would complicate the issue. Third, we look at B which stands for Bi-sexual. This is a hard one to understand, but right not I believe that the person should go with the orientation, Homosexual or Heterosexual, that is stronger and treat the other one as sin if they are in a lifetime commitment with another person. Fourth, T stands for Transgender which simply means that they are actual a male when they are female or vice versa and having an operation to correct this can be all right as long as when they do that they will remain faithful to one partner for life in marriage. These are my thoughts which are still controversial and goes beyond, I believe, how you have discussed it. The question comes when a person is attending a church and being spiritually fed then the pastor comes our gay does this change how he or she is spritually feeding you then one must remain in that church at the pastor. After all, the pastor does not make the church but God does.
Stephen M. Miller
Hey Gary. Yep, it’s a complicated mess. We’re not going to be talking our way out of this one.
It’s going to be Love or War.
Peace to you, friend.
My comment about, “Paul quoted an obsolete law, he got it wrong” is preposterous.
No one is more qualified to write what he wrote than Paul. I think this kind of reasoning is an abomination to the spirit of the writers of the Bible. I also read the comment, “People are smarter today”, which is not true, we only have more accumulated knowledge. The apostles actually heard and spoke to Jesus, they are certifiable witnesses and more expert than anyone today.
The world is at the point of doubting God to appease Gays. In fact we are not doubting God, the Gays are, and they make a lot of noise !
That homosexuality is a sin is Biblical Fact and very clear in both New and Old Testaments. When the church accepts Gays in marriage and clergy, they are condoning sin. They then try to rationalize it. Sin can never be rationalized. If it could, then stealing (for example) could be OK, if it was done with love and with the intention to give it to charity.
Jesus said “we are to love one another”, which means even the sinner, but not the sin.
Bottom line, we must accept the word of God, and not make it up as we go along. When in doubt, trust the Bible and not Gay ministers who are suffering from a conflict of interest in vindicating themselves.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Mario. I suspect that a majority of Christians would agree with you, though many would not.
Just sent a comment that you might post. Realize I made an error. I said Paul ate and walked with Jesus, he didn’t. He talked to him though.
Really sorry for the error, please correct it or have me re-write it.
Dear Steve Miller,
This is an example of why I no longer buy your books. You seem to have no position on anything and sit on the fence and claim to quote various scholars, that you think are experts . Because of your crafty way of writing, you can always claim that what you wrote isn’t what you’re saying.
On this web site you answer “Karen’s comment” by saying, ” Do we think Paul knew as much about homosexuality as we do today? Do we feel we should take his words as a prescription for all time? Our thinking is going to lead us one way or another.”
By asking this type of question without answering it, you are implying we should doubt his qualifications. That he did not get it right from God? Or perhaps God himself is responsible for a miscommunication?
But when we look at scripture, his authority or qualifications are given in the following way.
Acts 9, however, tells of his dramatic conversion after seeing Jesus while on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9:15, the Lord said to Ananias regarding Saul, “He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.”
Acts 22:14-15 records that the Lord, speaking through Ananias said to Paul, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.”
In Romans 1:1, Paul said he was “called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” After obeying the command to “be baptized, washing away your sins” (Acts 22:16), “immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God”” (Acts 9:20).
So, instead of making an open ended comments that suggests that Paul may of made a mistake because we know more today, why don’t you give actual reasons for his alleged lack of authority.
When you make these comments, you plant doubt in your readers, and you contradict scripture in the process. Your comment was a mistake.
It would be a good idea to take that comment down before someone else reads it.
Stephen M. Miller
Hi, Mario. I purposely don’t take positions in my books on controversial issues. It’s because there are already so many souls, like yourself, eager to present their own views as God’s honest truth, correctly interpreted.
I want my readers to know that Christians have different ways of reading the Bible and understanding how it should relate to us today.
Some would argue, as you have done, that quotes intended for one person or for one group of people 2,000 years ago apply to all people for all time. Others would argue that we need to put the ancient words in context.
So I do raise the open-ended questions that scholars ask their students.
I find that some tradition-minded souls don’t like that approach. They prefer to color the world in black and white. Some aspects of this life and our faith are more colorful and complex than that. I try to encourage people to think about that, as they study their Bible and worship the Lord.