Why Homosexuality Isn’t A Sin

May 17, 2013 in Theology · 18 comments

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We all have an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and evil. We all have moral law written on our hearts. We don’t all have perfect knowledge of that moral truth and we all fall far short of living up to moral standards, but in general we recognize the universal and transcendent nature of morality.

We know what is sin and what isn’t. We have a deep intuitional realization that murder and rape and theft are wrong. We know that when we hurt another person, whether through words or actions, we’ve done something wrong. We don’t need the Bible to tell us that, we don’t need the church to tell us that — we already know it. This is why the Bible isn’t, and doesn’t need to be, an exhaustive rule book. It’s why the Greatest Commandment resonates so deeply within us — not because it’s something we’ve never heard before, but because it’s something we already knew, whether we realized it or not.

Sin breaks that innate moral law. It lessens who we are as humans. It demeans ourselves and it hurts others. Sin is self-centered and self-serving. It corrodes and destroys relationships, it exudes arrogance and pride and greed and hate. And we know this. We know when we put our own wants and needs above those of others. We know when we hurt other people. We know when we look inward and not outward. We know when we sacrifice love for hate, peace for war and life for death. We know.

And given that understanding of our moral intuition and the nature of sin, it seems abundantly obvious that two adults who find mutually consenting physical and emotional fulfillment in relationship with one another, when that relationship in no way harms anyone, least of all themselves, simply aren’t sinning.

The only opposition to this conclusion must defer to culture prejudice or religious dogma. The Biblical authors seem to have some things to say on the subject, and we should take what they have to say seriously. We should carefully exegete the relevant Biblical texts, rooting our study in the close examination of language and culture and context. But such study shouldn’t subvert moral standards that we already know to be true. Even if a Biblical text explicitly condemns homosexuality, that doesn’t mean it is expressing a universal moral standard that is applicable to all times, places and people.

The Bible implicitly endorses slavery. The Bible explicitly endorses patriarchy. Both positions are wrong — but in those cases the Bible provides us with a message that runs counter to our moral intuitions. It’s not a matter of choosing to follow our sinful hearts or God’s perfect will. For our hearts, opened and listening, do reflect God’s will. We are created in the image of God and are uniquely positioned to function in relationship with him. We need to listen to our hearts, and listen to the love that we know, deep down inside, to be true.

17 comments… read them below or add one

Nick Falvo May 18, 2013 at 2:04 am

I understand where you are coming from with this idea, but why do you, as with so many others, admit there is language in the Bible that rejects homosexuality as a sin, when in fact that is never explicitly stated in the actual text? You must not recognize that you legitimize the zealot’s position when you recognize something that is not Biblical truth. I think if you addressed that, at least in part, your thesis would be complete, but thank you for your words.

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Dan May 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I understand what you’re saying…but think the case against some of the so-called “clobber passages” isn’t as strong as some would have you believe. It just isn’t. I wish it was, but my current understanding is that, at best, it’s a gray area. And I think that’s ok.

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Ryan June 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Torah rejects homosexuality.

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Dan June 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

How is this at all a helpful comment?

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Scott May 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

I’ve always thought that the only way homosexual relationships would be viable is if trajectory theology is applicable here. You mention how this plays out with slavery & women’s roles, which I also believe we were headed on a trajectory that goes beyond the direct words of Scripture on these 2 issues. I think these are both solely social issues, not falling into the moral realm. However, I’m not convinced that homosexuality is simply social with no moral factors (you look at morality in this article). Homosexuality is addressed in Scripture with other moral sin (i.e. 1 Tim 1:8-11), but never only tied to social issues. This makes me believe it isn’t God’s plan for relationship between 2 people. But, even more, I look at natural theology/general relation, considering the bodies of men & women, and I don’t think I can see that we were naturally created for same-sex relationships.

Those are just some thoughts I have had.

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naduck May 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Often when homosexuality is mentioned, it is mentioned in terms of lust (e.g. they gave themselves over to lusts) but lust is an inherently self serving action. Biblically, lust is defined as being a self focused seeking after someone or something else. When one lusts for a woman they seek self gratification, using her as the means of doing that. Remember when Jesus spoke and said when you lust for your neighbors wife in your mind, it is like doing it in the flesh and you are sinning?

Most apologists will tell you the problem isn’t with being attracted. Noticing a girl has a pretty smile or nice arms isn’t the problem – that is just human nature. It is dwelling in almost pornographic obsession, using thoughts of her to gratify yourself. It is selfish and denies her worth as a human being. Could a homosexual relationship really be considered the same as lust, in this context, if it is based in selfless, monogamous love then?

I am simply not as convinced it is a sin.

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Dan June 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm

You think slavery is solely a social issue, not a moral one? Women’s rights and human rights are just social issues, not moral issues? I think those are deeply moral issues, and that morality should inform how we function socially.

I find the so-called “natural argument” against homosexuality to be utterly unpersuasive. To me, it amounts to little more than saying “hey, the parts don’t fit, it must be wrong!” Does the fact that we don’t have gills mean that it’s “wrong” to swim? That since we don’t have wings it’s “wrong” to fly in an airplane? This cuts the other way as well: the “natural” standard is not monogamy, but rather attempting to procreate as much as possible with as many mates as possible. Does that mean that a heterosexual monogamous relationship isn’t “natural” and is therefore wrong?

To say that “homosexuality is addressed in Scripture with other moral sin” is to oversimplify the text. The context, vocabulary and grammar of the relevant “clobber” passages doesn’t necessarily offer a straightforward condemnation of committed homosexual relationships.

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mickholt May 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I will say that the way homosexuals are treated by the bulk of Christians is deplorable and not at all in line with Jesus’ teaching. That, according to the bible, he says nothing specifically about them or the practice does not mean it is not sin.

You reference the “Greatest Commandment” which I assume you’re referring to “Love thy neighbor as yourself” but that is not the Greatest Commandment. Jesus said love thy neighbor is “like” it. To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart soul mind body and spirit – depending on your translation – is the Greatest. if that is the case, and I believe it is, then a sin can simply be doing or not doing something that God does not approve of because if he does not approve of your action then you cannot be loving him as completely as he loves you.- if that is the case, and I believe it is, then your supposition…

“And given that under­stand­ing of our moral intu­ition and the nature of sin, it seems abun­dantly obvi­ous that two adults who find mutu­ally con­sent­ing phys­i­cal and emo­tional ful­fill­ment in rela­tion­ship with one another, when that rela­tion­ship in no way harms any­one, least of all them­selves, sim­ply aren’t sin­ning.”

…fails because their relationship hurts God – the only moral authority in the universe.

Having said all that, the misguided notion, by most Christians that homosexuals are in anyway inferior, more tarnished, less loveable or are any further away from a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ is just plain wrong. Paul says all have sinned. All encompasses, well, all. Every single one of us falls sort of God’s glory.

But to argue that homosexuals are not sinning is to say that what the Bible says a lie – and if that’s the case, and I FIRMLY believe it is not, then God is too. And if that’s the case, then how can we, any of us, put our hope and faith in him?

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naduck May 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm

“But to argue that homosexuals are not sinning is to say that what the Bible says a lie”

It is saying no such thing. It is simply saying we may not have a full understanding as to what this particular scripture actually meant. There are apologists on both sides of the issues and there is a debate on this – it isn’t as clear cut as it is made out to be. When you put your faith in the Biblical interpretation that homosexuality is inherently sinful you are putting your faith in men, not God. Men translate, determine what means what, and are entirely fallible, capable of being swayed by personal feeling and bias, just like anyone else.

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mickholt May 31, 2013 at 9:28 am

Personal feeling are at the core of the problem. You don’t want to be seen as a hatemonger.- and I get that. However, a plain reading of Leviticus says for a man to lie with another man is sin, most translations say “abomination.” You might want it to say something else because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings but that does not change what God said.

To argue that men translate God’s word incorrectly and God does nothing to stop it calls into question your faith that God is all powerful – you may not be of that mind – I don’t know. But if you are like minded in that and believe that God created the universe it is a bit short sighted to think that he could not keep his word from being mistranslated – He may allow it to be misused, sin does rule the planet right now, but I doubt he’s going to allow man – His creation – to fundamentally alter His word. You wouldn’t right? Why would you think he would?

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Dan June 1, 2013 at 9:05 am

Or are personal feelings the solution to the problem?

“that he could not keep his word from being mis­trans­lated” New World Translation?

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daeshamartin November 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Paul says that following leviticus is means to slavery. You dont know the scripture therefore you have no right to quote it

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naduck May 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I love this post and totally agree with the sentiment. When people brought little children to Jesus, the disciples chastised the parents, but Christ scolded them, telling them that the people fit for the Kingdom of God (Heaven) were to be as children. How many children get bogged down in rules, complex apologetic, and the letter of the law? Children in their purest form are very loving. My little sister used to jump into the laps of total strangers and cuddle up to girls and guys alike – a healthy child radiates love, any selfishness normally a result of lack of understanding, inability to communicate effectively, or the like.

In truth, we should always be wary of any interpretation of Scripture that goes against our conscience if out conscience is well informed and loving. I happen to be a homosexual male and a Christian. I don’t sleep around nor do I have a boyfriend, but am open to one should God send someone special to me (I am monogamous by nature and a bit of an old style romantic so I am not prone to making commitments I have no intention of keeping, so I could be seen as picky by some). While I feel lust and fornication are bad (because they are selfish) I have a hard time seeing my own feelings in the same light.

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Dan May 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Thank you for this!

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John June 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm

This is ridiculous. Personal feelings are te solution to the problem? Yeah, your exceedingly wicked and deceitful heart trumps Gods standard. It’s funny how I just read an article dismissing Driscoll for encouraging people to not study the Bible, and now the angle from this submission is to not trust the Bible for what it says – because you don’t like it.

God help Your church!

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Dan June 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Personal feelings aren’t “the solution,” but they can be a useful guide towards truth. We have moral intuitions which convict us of wrong and assure us of right. Are these intuitions infallible? Of course not, and so they should be critically evaluated just as we should critically evaluate our other perceptions of the world around us. But we shouldn’t ignore what we intuit as true because our “hearts” are “wicked and deceitful.” Rather, as Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit and created in the image of God, we should seek to understand God’s message using every means available to us. Our moral perceptions should be a tool to help us interpret and understand the Bible — not as a means to “trump God’s standard,” but as a means to help us better understand and apply that standard. It’s easy to say we should “trust the Bible for what it says,” but such a declaration begs the question: what does the Bible say and how should we interpret it and apply it?

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David May 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

The Bible does not speak about homosexuality, nor about homosexual relationships. The verses usually cited by the people who are against homosexuality don’t deal with it at all. In Deuteronomy, the law prohibits male/male interaction, in the context of having sex with a temple prostitute. The prohibition wasn’t against the sex itself, but the worshipping of false gods. In Genesis, God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” That’s why He created a mate for man; well, God would certainly not leave out homosexual men and women, condemning them to be alone – nor would He expect them to act OUTSIDE of their natural desires. At any rate, if it WERE a sin, it’s no different than lying or murder or rape; sin is sin. We can’t condemn one sin while ignoring others. Finally, we are called NOT to judge others; the same standard we use against others is used against us – and those of us who judge are doing the same things ourselves. Get over yourselves, people. ‘Nuff said. — Heterosexual Christian

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