I believe in the holiness of Scripture. I don’t believe in progressive revelation. I don’t believe that Scripture has changed. I actively endeavor to submit to the entirety of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe he has changed his mind about sin.
I also want to examine what the Bible actually says about homosexuality and by extension the LGBTQ+ community.
The verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are part of the holiness code. The holiness code of Israel served multiple purposes. It outlined the concept of ritual purity. This is not moral rightness. Cripples were not allowed to serve in the temple. Menstruating women were unclean. This was not a statement regarding their righteousness. The holiness code also served to distinguish Israel from the peoples around them, to mark them as distinctly other. To make people talk. And there is also a reasonable argument to be made that some aspects of the code were simply to protect a people in a time before science had developed to a sufficient level to protect the people from diseases they had no way of understanding or guarding against.
I have yet to hear a single argument that explains how the prohibition against homosexuality within the Old Testament differs from the kosher dietary restrictions or the prohibition against fabric blends. (The holiness code also allows for polygamy and slavery, so…)
Christ himself condenses the law, the holiness code, to two: Love God and love your neighbor.
Paul, in the three places addresses the issue, uses a word he likely coined himself based on the Hebrew law. There is no instance of it being used anywhere else in historical literature. I have read scholarly works from respectable, recognized, historian-linguist-theologians. Not academic unbelievers tearing apart the Bible, but established Christians looking at historical context and the original languages with an earnest desire, as well as any can be recognized, to faithfully interpret the Scripture. I have gone out of my way to read BOTH sides of the argument. And that’s the thing. This is a scholarly debate. Both sides have sound positions. They both draw on historical documents and previously accepted works to draw extremely logical conclusions.
One side says Paul is most likely discussing temple prostitutes and those that visit them. The other side says he is very clearly discussing homosexuality in all its expression. Either way, there is no debate whatsoever on the question of whether Paul himself would approve. He would not. But here’s the thing, when Paul says it goes against nature, what he means is that it goes against their understanding of science. Paul also says that it ‘goes against nature’ for men to grow out their hair. The Greek science of the time said that hair attracted semen within the body and a man with long hair would be infertile.
Scripture doesn’t change, the precepts taught in Scripture don’t change, God sees through all time and space and presented a work of literature that would guide us through it all with a message that does not change.
But our understanding does. Paul would not allow women as leaders of the church, but Christ himself did. Paul requires women to remain in total submission in Corinthians and his letter to Timothy, but in Galatians, it is clearly stated that there is no male or female before Christ. The position that women should be submissive in all things come from a culture in which women were literally considered less than men. To allow women to teach men, to exercise authority, would be to create a stumbling block to a large portion of the population. It would offend the men. In a lot of places, it still offends the men, but I sincerely hope we’ve grown enough as people to acknowledge that women are equal to men in intelligence, maturity, wisdom, and just basic humanity. We are not subject to men economically or legally any longer. Our culture, and therefore the structure of our congregations, has changed.
Scripture is not always absolutely completely straight forward and obvious. I’m not saying this is a contradiction that in any way lessons the validity of Scripture. I’m saying it is very complex. Church history is riddled with controversy over interpretation. The councils met over and over and over again to debate the proper understanding. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, we may not agree with all of their theology, but we definitely agree that they were right to challenge the state of the Catholic church at the time. We cannot say that over history we have hammered out all the answers and have it sorted. Every time we do that, something goes wrong.
There are Scriptures that are absolutely clear. These are the ones I go back to, over and over. These are the ones I hold any interpretation of the others up against. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m sure I’m wrong about a lot of passages. But this is where things hang for me.
Jeremiah 31:31 I will make a new covenant 33 I will put the law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
Micah 6:8 Love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with God
Proverbs 3:6 In all your ways, submit to him, and he shall direct your paths
Mathew 22:37-40 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, associate with the lowly, do not be wise in your own sight.
Do the passages prohibiting homosexuality look cut and dry in most of our translations? Yeah. Is the language actually that clear? Not really. And yes, there are some practices Paul outlines for the early church that we do not apply to our churches today. Is identifying sin important? YES! Am I going to go to hell because I misinterpret one rule? No. And I don’t think I have. I actively willing intentionally continuously prayerfully submit to the Spirit as I study. I constantly endeavor to bend myself to Scripture and balance my bias and check my desires in order to avoid willful AND subconscious misinterpretation.
I am not deconstructing my faith. I am deconstructing my education. I am not just taking the lessons I’ve always been taught and holding them up to Scripture. I am taking the new lessons and the new ideas and traditional ideas I was never exposed to because they were from a different tradition and the historical ideas I was never taught because they came with a different label and I am taking them all to the Scripture. This is what I came away with.
Homosexuality has no potential for reproduction. Reproduction was viewed as a holy injunction upon the nation of Israel. Any behavior that wasted semen or prevented reproduction was viewed as a sin. The crime of Sodom and Gommorrah was attempted rape and murder. Rome was full of decadence and depravity regardless of who your partner happened to be, and Israel still had that holiness code, that emphasized reproduction, in place, that required them to be distinct far beyond just doing what was right.
This is my Biblical interpretation. My Spirit led Scriptural understanding. And I just want to end with Romans 14. The entire chapter is about Christians holding different beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, what is righteous and what is sinful, and what they should do about it. Paul does not advise strict discipline and gatekeeping here. He tells us to trust each other and leave it to God. Verse 4: Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Verse 12: So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.