July 24, 2014

Jesus and homosexuality

James Tissot, "The Beatitudes Sermon" (1890)
APOLOGIA
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, July 24, 2014

Jesus and homosexuality

I sometimes hear the argument that because Jesus didn't say anything about same-sex sex, same-sex sex is not sin. So Jesus' absence of speech on the topic means approval.

This argument is problematic, however, for several reasons.

First, it's an argument from silence. Good arguments are usually based on positive evidence, not absence of evidence.

Second, the argument falls prey to a reductio ad absurdum: we can concede the view for the sake of assessment, deduce falsehoods/ absurdities, and thereby show the argument fails.

Assume it's true that Jesus' not saying anything about X is sufficient grounds for thinking X is okay. Jesus was silent about incest and bestiality. Therefore, incest and bestiality are okay, too. But, obviously, these are not okay.

Thus, the argument's assumption—that Jesus' silence about same-sex sex is enough to conclude it's not sin—is false.

Third, it's not true that Jesus didn't say anything about homosexual sex. He did, indirectly.

Jesus taught that among the things that defile is porneia, i.e., sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21). Porneia is a Greek catch-all term (from which the English "pornography" comes) which, in Jesus' Jewish context, includes any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. So Jesus teaches same-sex sex is sin.

Also, Jesus is God the Son who is one with God the Father, and both Father and Son are one with God the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets and the apostles. (God is a trinity, i.e., God is one in essence and consists of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

This means the God-breathed scriptures—Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians, etc.—are from the God who became a human being in Jesus. Significantly, these scriptures teach sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin. So, again, Jesus teaches same-sex sex is sin.

(Keep in mind that Jesus abolishes the Jewish dietary/ ritual purity laws, but not the universal moral law. Jesus also intensifies the moral law to apply to our thoughts as well as actions.)

At this juncture, one might object that, for Jesus, love is enough. Love justifies all.

In response, we should notice that, for Jesus, true love—holy love—is structured by moral law. In holy love Jesus calls us to turn from sin, not embrace it.

Also, the love-is-enough justification justifies too much. Enter another reductio ad absurdum.

If love is sufficient for justifying sexual behaviour (contrary to otherwise clear biblical moral principles), then if I love X it should be okay that I have sex with X. But X could be another's spouse, a relative, a child, or an animal. Love would justify adultery, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality.

True love, then, requires a framework of moral truth.

Therefore, justifying same-sex sex via the argument from Jesus' (alleged) silence is a failure.

For further thought: see Sam Allberry's book Is God anti-gay? (2013), Michael Brown's Can You Be Gay and Christian? (2014), Joe Dallas's The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible (2007), and Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (2001).

See too last month's online debate between Michael Brown (pro traditional understanding of scripture) and Matthew Vines (pro gay-revisionist interpretations). [See too Michael Brown's follow-up on this debate: "A 'Gay Christian' Advocate Sinks His Own Ship".]

For help with unwanted same-sex attractions, and for testimonies of same-sex attracted persons who seek holiness via costly discipleship, see Restored Hope Network and Living Out and Courage.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy and is no stranger to struggles against sinful desires.)

2 comments:

Climenheise said...

I follow your argument and agree on the whole. One point, however: You say, "This means the God-breathed scriptures—Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians, etc.—are from the God who became a human being in Jesus. Significantly, these scriptures teach sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin. So, again, Jesus teaches same-sex sex is sin." This statement jumps over a great deal of basic hermeneutics: for example, we read the OT through the NT, and we read both through the person of Jesus the Christ. Otherwise we are stuck with many injunctions that none of us intend to follow, nor are condemned for not following.

I assume you were using a shortcut for the sake of space, but it is (I think) a problematic shortcut.

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Thanks, Daryl, for your comment. I'm glad that you follow my argument and agree on the whole. Space constraints definitely force me to make my points concisely and, as a result, sometimes not as clearly as I would like. But I think my "shortcut" isn't problematic hermeneutically, or at least not as problematic as you seem to suggest, if what you quote is taken in context. What you quote should be taken in the context of the next sentences of my piece, i.e., the parenthetical sentences which read: "Keep in mind that Jesus abolishes the Jewish dietary/ ritual purity laws, but not the universal moral law. Jesus also intensifies the moral law to apply to our thoughts as well as actions."

Surely, these parenthetical sentences that immediately follow the sentences you quote are a huge hermeneutical help. So I think I am in fact using some of the basic hermeneutics you mention (e.g., reading the OT through the NT). I think, too, that when we are given the NT and the person of Jesus as a "lens" for reading the OT (as we in fact are, and as my parenthetical comments suggest), the truth of the statements you quote remains—and seems to remain without our getting "stuck" with the injunctions you mention.

But let's ignore my parenthetical comments, momentarily, for the sake of argument. Let's say we end up, as you say, "stuck" with many (other) injunctions that we don't or needn't follow. Doesn't it still remain true that the OT God — God who became the man Jesus — teaches same-sex sex is sin? And so my argument holds? I think the answers are Yes and Yes. (My idea here is that a universal moral principle can remain such, and be taught as such, even when surrounded by context-dependent moral principles.)

Maybe I'm mistaken about your criticism. Mistaken or not (though I like to think I'm not :-)), it's important to remind readers (who might mistakenly dismiss a larger good argument because of a skirmish having to do with a part) that you agree with my argument "on the whole": justifying same-sex sex via the argument from Jesus' (alleged) silence is a failure. Plus it remains that Jesus isn't silent on the issue: according to Jesus, porneia, which includes same-sex sex, is sin.