|James Tissot, "The Beatitudes Sermon" (1890)|
July 24, 2014
Jesus and homosexuality
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. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)