APOLOGIA is a column in which I address issues having to do with faith, science, and ethics, and in which I try to use careful reasoning and evidence to seek what's true. Undoubtedly I will end up disagreeing with at least a few people. And probably I will make a mistake here and there. My hope is that I will show respect to those with whom I disagree, that I (and others) will learn from my mistakes, and that we'll get closer to what's true, good, and beautiful. - Hendrik van der Breggen
July 24, 2014
Jesus and homosexuality
James Tissot, "The Beatitudes Sermon" (1890)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
July 24, 2014
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
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.
At this juncture, one might object that,
for Jesus, love is enough. Love
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
Therefore, justifying same-sex sex via the
argument from Jesus' (alleged) silence is a failure.
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.
van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy and is no stranger to struggles against sinful
desires. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.) Further reading in Apologia: