PHIL ROBERTSON, HOMOSEXUALITY, & THE BIBLE
Almost everyone is aware of the controversy that Phil Robertson stirred up with his comments about homosexuality. Phil lost his job for a week. But, A&E made up because a pile of money was about to fly away like a flock of ducks. But while Phil is has his job back, the controversy continues.
What follows is an overview of the matter from a biblical perspective. As American citizens we are free to hold and express our beliefs. What I say is not intended to offend, however I know it will offend. This is an honest assessment rooted in biblical knowledge. If it makes you mad, at least read the whole article before you make your final assessment.
Most people believe in sin but they are choosy about what sins they believe in. The place where people become ambivalent is sexual sin. Yet, in the Bible there are not many other sins that are so abhorrent to God.
I use the broader term sexual sins because adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are treated with contempt by God. We must understand that God hates all sin, but there are sins that seem to irritate God more than others. I think I can give a biblical reason why this is so.
Human kind is made in the image of God. To be made in the image of God means that we share a subset of characteristics with God. This is an amazing thought. Sharing just one characteristic with God is overwhelming, but a substantial subset should make our heads swim.
Consider this passage from the creation story:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27 ESV)
God intentionally made humanity in his image. Whatever being made in the image of God may mean, it certainly means that he made mankind as male and female. The Hebrew word, “Adam,” literally means dirt or dust. Mankind is in the unique position of being earthy, made from the dust of the earth and at the same time being made in the image of God. We are lowly and yet, the grand crown of creation.
Being made in the image of God means that we can live in relationship to God and that we were designed to be holy creatures as God is holy. We have the facilities of relationship. We have knowledge and rationality. No matter how debauched we become, we can never be mere animals, we are always in the image of God.
The fall of man left us corrupted. We are amazing creatures of dust who are made in the image of God. And now we are fallen, sinful creatures and our sin constantly violate the image in which we are made.
It is important for us to understand that humanity, made in the image of God, was made male and female. Maleness and femaleness are characteristics that belong the nature of God. According to God’s plan, humanity is made male and female. Marriage was defined as a union of a man and a woman. This union completes that aspect of the image of God.
Violation of the God’s image is particularly loathsome to God because it is a direct sin against him. It violates that subset of characteristics that belong to us and to God. It is not hard to understand how any sin breaks our relationship with God but to violate his image is a terrible thing. For instance, in Genesis nine, God declares that anyone who murders another person should be put to death because we are made in the image of God. It is a terrible crime against the person who bears the image of God. Murder is an attempt to kill God. I do not think it goes too far to say that sexual sins are an attempt to rape God. Let’s be clear, all sin is deadly but sins that violate the image of God, particularly homosexuality, are particularly offensive to God.
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was the sin of homosexuality. It was not a violation of hospitality as some have suggested. You cannot find God ever reacting to the lack of hospitality in such a manner. In the Book of Genesis, sin is progressive. It notes the progress of murder and of sexual sin. The zenith of sin in Genesis is homosexuality. And when God gave Israel the Law even then homosexuality was strongly condemned. Just a note here, unless you are tenth century Jew, the Old Testament Law does not apply you. It condemns you as it did the Jew, but it does not apply to you. The Old Testament law did not apply to gentiles.
In the New Testament, sexual sins are just as offensive as in the Old Testament. Some have noted that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. But Jesus’ ministry was in the context of the Hebrew people. He never went outside of that geographical area. As Messiah, he came first to the Hebrews. Homosexuality was not prominent among the Hebrews because they were committed to keeping the Old Testament law. While adultery was certainly condemned, it did not carry with it the stigma that homosexuality had. No doubt there were homosexuals among the fist century Jews, but in their culture, they would never tell anyone.
Jesus spoke out against sexual sins. Jesus defined marriage as between male and female. In a discussion about divorce, Jesus said the following:
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mat 19:4-6 ESV)
Can we really imagine that Jesus would not condemn the sin of homosexuality? Of course not!
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, spoke to the issue because homosexuality was a common practice in Greek and Roman culture. In the first two chapters of Romans, Paul clearly shows that the height of sin is reached when men burn for men and women burn for women. Paul went so far as to invent a new word in Greek for homosexuality transliterated as arsenokoites. It is, in a sense, a vulgar word, politely translated as man penetrator. As far as I know, the word did not appear in any Greek literature until the writings of St Paul.
I have presented the biblical position on sin in general and homosexuality in particular. This the teaching of orthodox Christianity. Those who teach something else have ignored either what the Bible says or they have tried to reinterpret the Bible to support their position.
One defense of homosexuality often made is that God made me this way, so it is fine for me to be a homosexual. There are several problems with this argument. First, God did not make you a homosexual. It is impossible that the God, who made us in his image as male and female, would turn around and make a person a homosexual. So, that argument is off the table. Many claim they were born homosexual. I don’t believe that nor is there any evidence for it. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it is true. If one is justified to practice homosexuality because you were born that way, we have a major social and judicial problem. The same argument can be made that one was born a murderer or a thief or an adulterer or a swindler. In fact, those arguments are correct. We are born with every possible sin impulse. Should we say that murder is fine because one is born a murderer?
Phil Robertson also said that homosexuality was illogical. This is correct on several levels. First it is antievolutionary (if you believe in evolution). Evolution is about the continuation of the species. Homosexuality is totally against this scheme. How can a homosexual relationship perpetuate the species? In fact, evolution would weed out homosexuality quickly because it is a condition that cannot reproduce and would end the species. From an evolutionary viewpoint homosexuality is illogical.
Homosexuality is illogical from a biological point of view. Genitalia are made for heterosexual function. You might call this an argument from naturalism. Biologically, human sexuality was not designed for homosexuality. This is why the argument is often moved to the soul or the mind where one “feels” that they are homosexual or one gender trapped inside another gender. In fact this is why homosexuality was considered a mental illness until 1974 when the editors of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders changed the diagnosis because of pressure from homosexual activists.
Clearly claiming that homosexuality is part of the makeup or the soul or the emotions makes the claim subjective. Being subjective means that homosexuality is something like one’s preference for a certain color or food. And this would make it a matter of choice. Claiming that homosexuality is a soul or emotional condition means that it is not verifiable. Homosexuality is illogical simply because it not subject to verification in any form. We can only take the person’s word for it.
Finally, homosexuality is illogical on the basis of social structure and morality. While there has been homosexuality almost as long as humanity has existed, it was not considered a positive trait in society. It has always been considered immoral on some level. While it has been tolerated in many cultures, including our own, it is a mistake to believe that tolerance makes it acceptable and moral. This is why ultimately we must consider it a sin problem because it involves the condition of the human soul.
We live in a nation where we are free to be what want to be. But because we make a choice does not mean we have made a moral one. We live in a tolerant society but, tolerance has its limits and this episode with this controversy shows that people’s tolerance does not mean acceptance. In fact, I think most people are tired of having a lifestyle forced on them and the insistence that we like it and support it. But, here it is illogical again, those who do not accept homosexuality are being marginalized because they hold their opinion.
We are all born fallen and sinful. Jesus made it clear that sins of this type are part of our inner being. To hate someone, he said, is to be guilty of murder. To lust is to be guilty of adultery. All sin begins in our innermost being. We cannot and do not acquit criminals simply because they are born sinners. Even if one is born homosexual, it does not mean you have to commit the acts. Anger does not have to lead to murder. Lust does not have to mean that a man cheats on his wife. We do not have to commit any sinful act to which we might be inclined.
When Phil Robertson, gave the interview in GQ Magazine, he was paraphrasing Scripture.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10 ESV).
Homosexuals can find comfort in that Paul did not single them out but are included with a number of other sinners. We have to remember that sin is sin.
If Christians love other people as we are commanded, it would be a sin not to warn them of God’s impending judgment. All that Phil Robertson was doing is what all Christians are called to do, to warn others of the consequences of sin. Maybe he could have been more polite. However, he was being interviewed in a men’s magazine by an interviewer who used quite of bit of foul language. He was telling the readers that certain acts are sin in the eyes of God.
I want the reader to see the rest of what Paul said in I Corinthians 6.
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1Co 6:11 ESV)
Paul was writing to the Corinthian church. Corinth, in the first century, had the reputation of being the most perverted, the most morally degraded city in Greece. It would have been the haven of all things immoral, especially since much of the pagan worship included sexual sins as part of their worship. Paul noted that some members of that church had once been those who practiced these sins, including homosexuality. But now they were redeemed, they were justified, they were made right with God through Jesus Christ.
I do not write these things because I hate homosexuals. I do not think that Phil Robertson said what he said out of hate. I want all sinners to find Christ and discover what it means to be justified before God and to be forgiven of their sin. I would be hateful not to tell others about the salvation found in Christ. I might not change anyone’s mind. You might hate me for my words. Nevertheless, being hated is the risk one takes to tell God’s truth to the world.
God loves sinners–that means all of us. God became flesh so that he might deal with the consequences of our sin. He took our place and became our substitute. He did this because there is no other way we can be forgiven of our sin, nor is there any other way that we can have our natures changed. It is my plea, homosexual, adulterer, the gossiper, the thief or just a plain old generic sinner, that you turn and consider Christ. At least test him and see if he will pour out his forgiveness and love on you.
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