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Q309 : Has the Bible Been Misinterpreted Concerning Homosexuality?

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Q309 : Has the Bible Been Misinterpreted Concerning Homosexuality?

One of my friends informed me of her “revealed” homosexuality. I didn’t have much to say on the homosexual topic in the moment because she knew my stance on it already and I felt it more important to address her fears of me not loving her anymore because of it. I basically rebuked her for thinking that love was so shallow to be all-accepting and all-tolerant. All I could really think of to say in the moment was that “sometimes love doesn’t look the way that you think it should” . . . I was too heartbroken to think of much else. Now some time has gone by and as much as I don’t want to and I don’t think she’ll listen to much, I feel the need to do my best to convince her of her own deception.

What are the Biblical steps to take in a situation like this? She claims to still be following Christ and I believe she is a Christian. She’s not currently attending church which means she’s not submitting herself to church discipline and she claims to be unaware of her disobedience. I’m not really sure what that means as far as Biblical correction process.

Apparently, a different “Christian” friend of hers had been giving her information from a Theologian who explained that the word for homosexuality was translated wrong. When the Bible says “homosexuality,” it actually means “rape.” That being all the information I received, I immediately figured that argument must be somehow referring to Sodom and Gomorrah and did some research. So far, I’ve read the argument that the translation of the Greek word “arsenokoitai” is incorrectly translated to “sodomy” or “homosexuality.” From my understanding, it’s a compound word - “arsen” means male and “koitai” means bed. That makes the passages pretty clear to me in the simple reading of it but people seem to get creative. I (unfortunately) went through what GayChurch.orga had to say on the matter.

Their breakdown of 1 Timothy 1:8-10 tries to make it seem like “immoral persons, sodomites and kidnappers” should be grouped together to make up different parts of a sex slave trade (if I’m understanding their point correctly, which I may not be). It’s obviously a stretch to make “male-bed” mean “one who sleeps with male slave prostitutes.”

They also attempt to argue that in Romans 1:27, the men who exchanged their natural relations with women and committed shameless acts were sinning because they were actually heterosexuals and not “naturally” homosexuals. Therefore, they were wrong not because they were homosexual but because they weren’t homosexual and were going against their natural heterosexuality.

Of course their butchering of Leviticus 18:22 is no surprise either. I could hardly and did hardly read this one because it was so ridiculous. Something about not laying with men as with women because it would be reducing men to property. It’s so stupid I have nothing to say.

Needless to say, studying this topic frustrates me and I have a hard time sympathizing with their point of view.

So to get to my question: I haven’t studied Greek so I feel rather unqualified to make an argument. I was wondering if you had any good resources that don’t just make a good argument for why homosexuality is, in fact, wrong, but why these arguments are wrong. I did look at some other articles for and against and there is obviously clear evidence that the translated word “homosexuality” is correct and even refers back to the Leviticus passage. However, I feel the need to have a better argument for why this particular site is wrong other than “that’s just stupid.” So any insights and/or resources you have would be much appreciated. I’m sure with all the crazy arguments you’ve heard, this must not be as much of a surprise to you.

My friend once walked with God. It’s like she’s a whole different person now. It’s amazing what living in sin does to a person.


A309 : by Tony Garland

I appreciate your willingness to communicate on this issue and to seek counsel and advice. I also can identify with how much easier it would be if we didn’t have to deal with these sorts of things.

In order to help organize my thoughts, I’ve broken my response into separate sections below.

I basically rebuked her for thinking that love was so shallow to be all-accepting and all-tolerant. All I could really think of to say in the moment was that “sometimes love doesn’t look the way that you think it should.”

Your initial reaction seems sound and well-tempered. This is the aspect of love which is ignored or unappreciated in today's society: loving someone enough to say the hard things that nobody else will say. It is the difficult path we must be willing to walk if we call ourselves Christians in the midst of a culture which is busily rejecting God.

Apparently, a different “Christian” friend of hers had been giving her information from a Theologian who explained that the word for homosexuality was translated wrong. . . . So far, I’ve read the argument that the translation of the Greek word “arsenokoitai” is incorrectly translated to “sodomy” or “homosexuality.” From my understanding, it’s a compound word - “arsen” means male and “koitai” means bed. . . . people seem to get creative . . . It’s obviously a stretch . . . it was so ridiculous . . . I haven’t studied Greek so I feel rather unqualified to make an argument.

I appreciate your willingness to read through the various scripture-twisting techniques because you care deeply for your friend. That demonstrates your love: that you would be willing to even investigate such off-the-wall claims.

I don’t think this is about having to know Greek. (Appealing to the original languages in an attempt to twist meaning is a well-worn technique—it seems authoritative and intimidating and many believers feel out-of-their-depth to even try to respond. When people like myself have the opportunity to study the original languages in seminary, one of our goals is to gain enough facility to sniff out abuses of the original languages like this.)

But, if it this was an issue of misunderstanding the original languages, what would it imply?

  • If the Greek and Hebrew have been misunderstood and mistranslated for all this time, then God can be charged with improperly communicating His truth to the world for thousands of years. He gave us His Word in Hebrew (a smattering of Aramaic) and Greek, and yet, the combined intellect of the best believing scholars over many centuries got it wrong for all this time. Including the Jews themselves. (The intellect and devotion of many believers of the past is staggering! This sort of claim shows enormous hubris and considerable ignorance of the capabilities, motivation, and intellect which God has graced His church with over the ages!)
  • “Christian homosexuals” would have us believe that it is about subtle scholarship: we need to discover “what the Bible really says.” Not so! Every major English translation of the Bible—most made by careful translation committees of Hebrew and Greek experts—rendered the original languages using carefully chosen English. What the Bible says in English concerning homosexuality is the carefully considered result of the majority scholarly consensus. We don't need to know original language subtleties to know what the Bible teaches on major doctrinal subjects. If we did, then nobody except fluent readers in Hebrew and Greek could truly have access to the Word of God. No, the translation committees have done that work for us and we can trust their results in English.
  • On the major moral issues of our day (abortion, homosexuality, gender identity, euthanasia, polygamy) the Bible is clear enough. When one looks at history, what has changed? The Bible, or the culture? Clearly it is the culture which has shifted while the Bible has not: hence this collision. Attempts to make the Bible say differently are simply scripture-twisting and a reluctance by disobedient Christians to submit to God's will. They prefer to redefine what God has said in order to make room for their sin.
I feel the need to have a better argument for why this particular site is wrong other than “that’s just stupid”. So any insights and/or resources you have would be much appreciated.

I think that's great that you want to have a more cogent response to the various lines of distortion which proponents of homosexuality try to use. However, my experience has been that, in the end, the “that's just stupid” answer can be adequate too. The reason I say that is it is rare that people, having departed on this path, are responsive to counter-arguments. Generally, they are looking for is someone, anyone, who will give them an “out” to justify their sin. They are rarely motivated by objectivity—although they often claim to be.

Fortunately, there are some great resources on these claims from two of the most compelling conservative voices of relevance and sanity which God has blessed our generation with:

  • Dr. Albert Mohler, with some colleagues, has addressed this issue in an article and associated book-length treatment: God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines. There is both an introductory articlea and a free bookb.
  • Dr. John MacArthur and the faculty of The Master's Seminary have dedicated two journals over the past decade to these issues. (These resources dig through the nitty-gritty of various claims related to individual passages and the original languages.) See The Master’s Seminary Journal 19.2c and 28.2d.
Now some time has gone by and as much as I don’t want to and I don’t think she’ll listen to much, I feel the need to do my best to convince her of her own deception. . . . She claims to still be following Christ. I believe she is a Christian . . .

Since she claims to be following Christ and you believe she is a Christian, then the response taken should follow the instructions the Bible gives for interacting with a sinning brother or sister.

The first aspect is to be willing to call sin “sin” and to expose darkness by admonishing the person of their behavior. In particular, we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Our calling to expose darkness is not conditioned on interacting with a fellow-believer, but a general principle for our walk in the world at large. However, other passages make clear that—where an unrepentant believer is involved in ongoing and serious sin—not only are we to separate from the works but also from the brother or sister. For example: “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count [him] as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother” (2Th. 3:14-15).

In the context of the passage, Paul is discussing disruptive behavior, but includes lazy believers who will not work—a much less serious transgression than practicing homosexuality. We are not to count them as enemies, but we are to admonish (warn) them of their behavior.

She’s not currently attending church which means she’s not submitting herself to church discipline and she claims to be unaware of her disobedience.

That makes sense. When believers drift (e.g., fail to remain in fellowship) they are increasingly open to deception. And it tends to be circular: being out of fellowship, they are all the more prone to taking on an unbiblical worldview. That leads to endorsing behavior which is prohibited by the bible—which leads to a reluctance to be in fellowship because of possible reaction by other believers or church discipline—which leads to more deception.

If your friend were to attend the churche where I pastor—where we had a chance to speak into her life— we would allow a grace period to get to know her, to communicate on the issue, and for her to respond. However, if she remained unrepentant, we’d be going through the steps found in Matthew 18:15-17.1

Now we come to what is perhaps the most difficult aspect of all this: the need to separate from your friend should she remain on this course and be unwilling to respond to biblical correction. Two of the main passages on this are found in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3. These passages deal, primarily, with church discipline — rejecting sinning believers from the local fellowship if they remain unrepentant.2

This is a very difficult and personal aspect of how her sin may affect you. If, after your warning, she continues in disobedience, she places you and her other Christian friends into a position of testing and temptation: will you be obedient to follow Christ in separating from her? Or will you succumb to the spirit of this age which preserves relationship at all cost—even at the cost of truth?

The loving thing for her, and obedient thing for our walk, is to get her to see the hypocrisy she is embracing: she needs to either renounce her sin or renounce Christ.

When Christians refuse to separate over these issues, they allow the sinning believer to have their cake (profess to follow Christ) and eat it too (continue in serious sin).

The ultimate goal, of course, is restoration. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who [are] spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). See also 2 Corinthians 2:4-8.

As our post-Christian culture continues to reject God, we can expect the coming decades to be increasingly challenging for those who take the teaching of Christ seriously and refuse to be swept downstream with the culture. Fasten your seatbelt and keep looking up!


Endnotes:

1.Some try to pigeon-hole Matthew 18:15-17 as only being about when a brother sins against you, but in combination with other passages such as 1 Corinthians 5, I believe it relates to any believer who is in sin, who has been admonished concerning their actions, and remains unrepentant.
2.There are some who hold that this is all the passage means—and has nothing to say on our individual relationship with the sinning brother outside of church. But it is the view of many commentators that these passages have wider applicability—including fellowship individually beyond church meetings. Besides, how effective is it to preclude a sinning believer from attending church if the individual church members continue in full fellowship outside of the church meeting?


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