The Hermeneutics of Homosexual Christianity

Fuller Seminary’s young evangelical scholar Daniel Kirk, reviewing the book Gay Conversations with God by James Alexander Langteaux, speaks of “grow[ing] in [his] understanding of the place of homosexual Christians in the body of Christ.”

There can be no doubt that homosexuals (like all other sinners) can be — and should be — converted to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  But the notion that practicing homosexuals stand within the body of Christ (and I’m assuming Dr. Kirk is using this expression to denote actual soteric inclusion in Christ’s body, as opposed to objective inclusion in Christendom by baptism) stands in radical contrast to 1 Cor. 6:9–10, where we read:

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 homosexuals [malakos], nor sodomites [arsenokoites] nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Malakos refers principally to male prostitutes, and arsenokoites to homosexuals as a class.  Paul’s point is quite clear: those whose lives are dominated by these sins (like the sins of fornication, covetousness and drunkenness, which he does not class as less spiritually fatal than homosexuality) have no part in Christ’s kingdom.

Paul goes on to write, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11) clearly suggesting that some of his Corinthian readers had been homosexual but had been washed of this (and other) sin and declared righteous on the basis of the atoning work of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  His point is that homosexuals can — and should — be converted but that in conversion, they leave their homosexual life (and their covetous and drunken life) behind.

Nor does Paul indicate that that these sins may never creep back into the believer’s life.  The apostle who wrote Romans 6–8 would hardly suggest that sin longer has a place in the Christian’s life, which is a continual spiritual struggle.  But it is a struggle that Christians are expected gradually to overcome in the Holy Spirit’s power, and if one professes faith but drifts back into an unrepentant, sin-dominated life, he can expect nothing but spiritual death (Rom. 6:21; 8:6, 9, 13).

Because Professor Kirk is a trained NT scholar and in fact a specialist in Pauline theology, we should not be surprised, given his comments cited above, that he has been “wrestling with the question of [the permissibility of] homosexuality.” For the fact is that not once in Paul’s writings — or the rest of the Bible — would one get the impression that practicing homosexuals (like practicing extortioners and idolaters and drunkards) can expect anything but God’s judgment, and certainly not soteric inclusion in Christ’s body.

The Hermeneutical Twist

Daniel offers an interesting twist in his hope that God will in the end bring persistent homosexuals into his body while they continue in their homosexuality:

At the end [of my investigations], while coming to a tradition[al] position about male and female as God’s intention for sexual intercourse, I left the door open like this: God can surprise us.

In particular, I pointed to the issue of circumcision in the NT, where a clear commandment, pertaining to participation in the covenant promises of Abraham, was overturned. God told Peter, “I have made this clean.” At least in theory, it might not be the case that the Biblical stricture has the last word.

In short, Daniel argues, since God canceled a clear command from the OT in the NT, maybe he will cancel the prohibition against homosexuality, too.

This is a wishful example of category confusion if there ever was one.  In Romans 4:1–12 Paul contends that Abraham was given the rite of covenant circumcision after his justification precisely to exhibit that God’s comprehensive covenant plan was designed to include the entire world, not just the Jews.  Circumcision was a temporary rite to mark out covenant inclusion in the OT — and it was always intended to be a temporary rite and one day to be replaced.  Its obsolescence was built in.

This is why the food-cleaning episode in Peter’s vision recorded in Acts 10 to which Daniel refers specifies laws of the old covenant designed to erect a barrier between Jew and Gentile.  Those laws have been canceled — and in the redemptive-historical plan of God, were always designed to be canceled.

This is far from the case with the universal moral stipulations of the old covenant, including the prohibition of drunkenness and homosexuality.  And this explains why in Romans 1:24–27 Paul identifies homosexuality as the ultimate sin of an apostate human race which, along with other sins, renders one worthy of death (v. 32).

Of course, once we amble down the road of the hope that God might once day cancel his prohibition against homosexuality and allow practicing homosexuals into the body of Christ, we might walk a little further and suggest he might also change his mind and welcome unrepentant, persistent pederasts, child molesters, rapists and murderers into the family of God.  At that point, it is not clear what role repentance or sanctification — or, indeed, salvation from sin — has to play in the Biblical conception of salvation.

Dr. Kirk has already made clear that the OT law is not binding on anyone today and is therefore, in a purely denotative sense, a classic antinomian, and in stating that “we [Christians] do not do anything or adopt anything simply because it is in the Bible, but always as the people whose OT Bible story has found a surprising climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus” might wish to explain how specifically we might discover God’s ethical stipulations in the “surprising climax” — apart, of course, from God’s written revelation.  Perhaps these stipulations will dissolve into a subjective hope that “it might not be the case that the Biblical stricture has the last word,” and we simply can devise our own system of ethics.

This was the position uttered many years ago in David Comstock’s Gay Theology Without Apology.  David counseled his fellow homosexuals in the church to quit trying to reconcile their practices with the Bible, which clearly and unreservedly condemned them.  Rather, he suggested they adopt an epistemology and hermeneutics of subjectivity — allowing ethics to rise from within themselves and not imposed by external authority.

It was, at least, an honest strategy in that it did not attempt to enlist the Bible on its side.

Dr. Kirk, too, is honest in implicitly acknowledging the Bible’s seemingly ubiquitous opposition to homosexuality.

One only wishes that his wishes would be in harmony with God’s written revelation — and not for a scenario that abandons the universal ethical stipulations of God’s holy Word.

6 thoughts on “The Hermeneutics of Homosexual Christianity

  1. The way this post is written, the notion that ‘practicing homosexuals cannot actually be included in Christ’s body and will not inherit the kingdom of God” seems to hinge, at least in par, on what was written by Paul in 1 Corinthians. However, is there not considerable scholarly debate over the historical meaning and usage of the words ‘malakos’ and ‘arsenokoites’? Can you please provide references or cite evidence which suggest that the actual historical meanings of these words actually included “homosexuality” in general (which could include a faithful, monogamous relationship between two members of the same sex)?

  2. Alex,

    I’m fully aware of the scholarly debate. A good (short) summary with documentation is here:

    http://christianstudies.wordpress.com/tag/arsenokoites/

    Notably, most of the morphological and exegetical evidence sides with the tr. “homosexual” or “homosexual conduct.” More significantly, almost all the scholarly weight until the rise of Western homosexualization sides with “homosexual” or “homosexual conduct.” If one argues that this was obviously the case due to the traditional stigma of homosexuality, the current lack of stigma might explain alternative, non-traditional interpretations. In any case, if ‘arsenokoites’ carried a more specialized denotation in the canon, it’s hard to explain why the patristic church so plainly did not grasp this at a time when homosexuality was often more widely accepted culturally than in subsequent, more “traditional” eras.

  3. Andrew makes clear that no sin is good many times in the article. Why is homosexuality such a touchy subject? Until fairly recently it’s become taboo. One cannot discuss it in schools, the churches are okaying it, and The main argument in favor of homosexuality, at least as far as I’ve gleaned, is that one cannot resist it and one finds it pleasurable. If a society is taught that an impulse towards pleasure is irresistible–and he believes that teaching–it becomes impossible resist, and a new order is established. But if one identifies these leanings as temptations, like the urge to smoke, they can soon be forgotten if ignored. It’s all about where we place ourselves. As Hamlet notes to Gertrude (and she’s in a legally binding monogamous relationship):

    “Refrain to-night,
    And that shall lend a kind of easiness
    To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
    For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
    And either [ ] the devil, or throw him out
    With wondrous potency.”

    James 1:13 clearly states: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

    And now…a bit on The Mouse Problem: http://youtu.be/uK92NYwBMts

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