In the previous blog, I discussed that Christians should have a reasoned and Biblical response regarding homosexual marriage (and homosexuality in general). I want to start with the first obvious objection when Christians talk about this topic: the charge of hypocrisy. This argument can be paraphrased as follows:
What I have trouble reconciling with is how much you all have to say about homosexuality as a sin. I do not see this effort or attention paid to for liars, cheaters, thieves, etc, which are also sins in the Bible. If you want to condemn those for homosexuality, then you must be balanced in your condemnation.
I think that there are three rational ways to address this claim.
The Uniqueness of Its Punishment
The first concept that must be addressed is the common belief that all sins are equally sinful. While it is true that every sin against God is worthy of eternal destruction, not every sin is equally sinful. Some sins receive harsher punishment and judgment than others. We must acknowledge that homosexuality is a unique sin because it received a unique punishment.
Although there have been attempts by some to argue that the sin that was judged in Sodom and Gomorrah was hospitality and/or gang rape, the internal testimony of scripture definitely states that Sodom and Gomorrah was judged for the act of homosexuality. Genesis 19 presents a picture of the people of Sodom in which homosexuality was normal (cf. Genesis 19:3-8). This picture is particular poignant when we realize that after God struck the men of Sodom with blindness, they “wearied themselves trying to find the doorway” (cf. Genesis 19:11). It was the normative act of homosexuality within Sodom and Gomorrah that made their sin exceedingly grave (cf. Genesis 18:20-21). The NT comments explicitly on this event by indicating that the punishment against Sodom was due to their gross sexual immorality and their pursuit of unnatural desire (cf. Jude 7).
Again, it’s important to emphasize that this sin received a unique punishment because it was a unique sin. God has never destroyed any civilization in the Bible for the particular sins of lying, stealing, cheating, etc. Rather, according to Jude 7, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was meant to serve as an example of God’s judgment of this particular sin. Sodom and Gomorrah became a byword among the nations and serves as a warning to us concerning the sinfulness of this particular sin. This means that grave warnings should be given to those who are committing acts of homosexuality.
The Uniqueness of Its Description
The sexual ethics of the entire canon of scripture indicate that homosexuality is a crime against nature (this is the meaning of the term sodomy) and a direct affront to God. It is in this sense that the sin of homosexuality is called an abomination to God in the holiness code of the OT (cf. Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13) and in the subsequent adoption of the sexual ethics of the holiness code in the NT (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:9-11). Paul’s description of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 is particularly clear. According to the logic of Paul, part of God’s passive judgment on sinners who refuse to give God proper honor and glory is the removal of sexual constraint and of natural affection. In particular, Paul directly says that homosexuality is “contrary to nature”, dishonorable (to God and to the person), shameful, and inherently self-destructive. Within the category of the other vices mentioned in Romans 1, no other sin is given this type of description.
Paul’s point in Romans 1 is clear. Homosexuality is not a matter of sexual orientation; it is a matter of sexual deviancy. Homosexuality is a moral evil which stands in active rebellion against God’s purposes in creation. Because homosexuality is a fundamental act against nature, it has the unique privilege of blaspheming the nature of man. This also means that homosexual marriage profanes the nature of marriage, which is meant to visibly display the union of Christ and His Church (cf. Ephesians 5:25-32) and to join the two complementary parts of humanity (cf. Genesis 2:24). In other words, marriage is a picture of the God’s work in creation and God’s work in the gospel; when we fundamentally profane that picture, we blaspheme God’s work as well.
The Uniqueness of Its Promotion
To be honest, if there is one topic that the entire scripture is overtly clear about, it is sexual ethics. To prove this, all one has to do is pick up a commentary on Romans 1 from any orthodox Protestant or Catholic tradition. The sexual ethics of the Church was one of the distinguishing marks of Christianity within the 1st century. To prove this, all one has to do is simply read through the epistles and note how often the apostles comment on the sinfulness of sexual immorality. In other words, if the Bible is unclear about sexual ethics, it is not clear on a whole array of different issues. A matter of fact, I’m willing to assert that there’s more explicit discussion on sexual ethics within the NT than there is concerning the Trinity, idolatry, lying, cheating, stealing, drunkenness, and various parts of eschatology. The abomination of homosexuality and the nature of marriage are doctrines in which there was a clear cross-denominational for well over 1900 years.
Why are there now questions concerning these doctrines and why are some Christians affirming the validity of the LGBT lifestyle? The most basic reason is because homosexuality is one of the few sins with a public agenda designed to promote its acceptance and celebration. In reality, we have been thoroughly desensitized to the grotesqueness of this sin by having a flood of gay-related advertising presented to us in the least offensive fashion possible. We rarely see images (apart from forwarding social media) such as this blasphemous mockery of Jesus in Brazil, or this unprovoked violence against Christian street preachers in Seattle, or the testimonies of former LGBT individuals. Instead of having the gag reflex that is typically associated with this behavior, the issue has become thoroughly tiresome for many, leading people to simply shrug their shoulders, as if this is not an issue of sexual deviancy (consider the difference in response between homosexuality and pederasty). Furthermore, we have been thoroughly jammed throughout this discussion because in our society, being against homosexuality is today equated with racist bigotry (consider how often Christians have to apologize and make qualifications before we talk about homosexuality). In other words, we have been deliberately conditioned into treating homosexuality differently than other forms of sexual deviancy.
In conclusion, the reason that it appears that American evangelicals discuss the sin of homosexuality often is because (1) it’s a unique sin according to the testimony of the OT and NT; (2) it’s one of the few abominable sins that we are asked to treat as normative; and (3) this particular sin (along with homosexual marriage) is the sin most often thrown in our face and affirmed in our culture. It is not hypocritical for evangelicals to address this issue honestly and forcefully; we are simply answering the question that we have been asked.
For a more exhaustive discussion on the uniqueness of homosexuality, see Robert Gagnon’s article: Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin
For a more exhaustive discussion on media’s presentation of homosexuality to the American public, see Paul E. Rondeau’s article: Selling Homosexuality to America
For a more exhaustive discussion regarding the defense of the orthodox Christian view of homosexuality, see James White’s article: Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality