Nine Arguments for the “Nonaffirming” Position on Same-Sex Relations image

Nine Arguments for the “Nonaffirming” Position on Same-Sex Relations

Preston Sprinkle, in his outstanding new book, People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue, provides a superb summary of his argument about two-thirds of the way through (pp. 122-123). For all his even-handedness in handling the debate, and engaging with opposing arguments in their strongest form, Preston's conclusions are remarkably clear, and his reasons are well worth considering.

First, the Bible talks a lot about marriage yet only affirms heterosexual marriages. This isn’t decisive in itself, but in Genesis 2 Eve’s femaleness seems to be a necessary prerequisite for her marriage to Adam – a marriage that becomes the prototype for all God-sanctioned marriages (Gen 2:24-25).

Second, Jesus highlights sexual difference in marriage, even when he didn’t need to (Mark 10). Paul does talk about homosexual relations and when he discusses marriage he sometimes highlights sexual difference as necessary if marriage is to reflect the character of God (Eph 5; cf. 1 Cor 11).

Third, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 state in absolute terms that men should not have sex with other men. A close look at the larger context, and the repetition of similar statements in the New Testament, suggests that these verses are still binding on believers.

Fourth, the Greeks and Romans (ca. 500 BC – AD 400) engaged in various types of same-sex relations. Most of these relations exhibited some sort of power difference – the dominant and the dominated – but we do see some evidence of consensual relations especially between women. Still, every Jewish writer who spoke about same-sex relations during this time condemned them.

Fifth, the New Testament and early Christianity grew out of Judaism and shared much of Judaism’s sexual ethics. If Christians were going to depart from Judaism’s clear stance against same-sex relations, we would expect it to be rather clearly stated in the New Testament.

Sixth, while Jesus never mentioned same-sex relations, he displayed a rather strict sexual ethic in other matters. It would make more sense that Jesus, being a Jew, stood with his Jewish contemporaries on their view of same-sex relations. He didn’t mention such views because no one in his Jewish audience contested them.

Seventh, Romans 1 echoes the well-known ethic among Jewish and Greco-Roman writers, who believed that same-sex relations were “against nature.” Paul’s main reason for prohibiting same-sex eroticism is that it goes against the Creator’s intention for male-female sexual relations. Romans 1 can’t be limited to a particular type of same-sex relation since he uses general language (“males with males,” “with one another,” etc.) Moreover, Paul’s reference to female same-sex relations almost certainly includes consensual relations, since female homoeroticism wasn’t pederastic nor did it clearly exhibit power differences.

Eighth, Paul’s term malakos (“effeminate”) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is capable of different meanings. However, it commonly referred to men who significantly altered their gender, which often included playing the passive role in intercourse with other men. Arsenekoites (“men who sleep with males,” 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10) is probably derived from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, where same-sex relations are forbidden. Given the Hebrew parallel mishkah zakur, which is derived from these passages, it is likely that arsenekoites means “men who sleep with males.” This meaning is confirmed by its later Christian uses, which seems to mean “men who sleep with males” in contexts where other terms clarify its meaning.

We could also add a ninth argument that we haven’t mentioned since it is not a biblical argument but a historical one. For two thousand years, orthodox Christianity has believed that marriage is between a man and a woman and that such sexual difference is necessary. This is an argument from tradition, of course. As I said earlier, I am not opposed to overturning tradition if the Bible demands it. But given the previous eight arguments, it would take a rather earth-shattering series of argument to overturn such well-established tradition.

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