Richard Hays on Homosexuality

I’ve been working on an article about the New Testament’s teaching on the moral status of homosexuality. In my research, I have been helped time and again by Richard Hays’s careful scholarship. Today, I’ve been reading an article that he wrote back in 1986 on the meaning of “nature” in Romans 1:26-27.

In particular, Hays confronts an assumption that is often held by Christians and non-Christians alike. The assumption goes like this. Actions are sinful only if they are chosen. If an action is not chosen, then it cannot be sinful. With respect to homosexuality, some people argue that homosexuality is an orientation that one is born with, not something that one chooses. Therefore, homosexuality cannot be immoral because it is an innate quality (like skin color or gender). Hays writes in response to this argument:

“Paul’s condemnation of homosexual activity does not rest upon an assumption that it is freely chosen; indeed, it is precisely characteristic of Paul to regard ‘sin’ as a condition of human existence, a condition which robs us of free volition and drives us to disobedient actions which, though involuntary, are nonetheless culpable… The gulf is wide between Paul’s viewpoint and the modern habit of assigning cupability only for actions assumed to be under free control of the agent” (p. 209).

Hays is exactly right about Paul’s description of the human condition. We are all sinners by birth before we choose to do anything. Heterosexuals do not choose their susceptibility to immoral heterosexual acts, but that fact does not absolve them should they choose to engage in immorality. The same is true for other forms of sexual deviancy—including homosexuality. We are all sinful and are thus oriented at birth to break God’s laws (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). It is clear, therefore—from a biblical perspective—one’s predisposition towards this or that action is no standard by which to measure the morality of that action.

What this shows is that we are all desperately in need of the grace of God in Christ. Our sin problem goes much deeper than we often want to admit. Our orientation toward rebellion precedes our choices to moral actions. In other words, we have a heart problem, not just a behavior problem. Our hearts are desperately sick and in need of a cure (Jeremiah 17:9). And a cure is precisely what God makes available to us in the gospel of Christ.

Titus 3:3-7
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.


  • RD

    This is one of those debates that can’t be settled. I once held to the view that homosexuality was obviously a sin. I no longer feel this way largely because of the advances in scientific research. We can no longer say that nature does not allow for the existence of homosexual orientation. Somewhere on the order of 10% of most members of the animal kingdom are homosexually oriented. It is not the majority behavior, certainly, but it isn’t non-existent. Are 10% of animals sinners? Are animals sinners at all??

    The origins for declaring homosexuality as sin are statements made in the Old Testament. Future religious communities carried on this teaching. But can we really base our view of what is FOREVER acceptable to God solely on a handful of verses in Leviticus?? Is that a responsible way to read scripture in the 21st century???

  • Derek


    All due respect, I do not think that you engaged what Denny has said here – we’ve heard the orientation line of reasoning expressed many times now and I think Denny has provided the strongest Biblical explanation, particularly how “original sin” expresses itself. As the Titus passage Denny quotes says, we were/are all “enslaved to various lusts and pleasures”. Being born into sin is universal; rebellion against God is innate for each of us. We all need justification and regeneration a) because of the sins we’ve committed and even more importantly b) to deal with our sin nature.

    Also, you indicated that we only have a few verses in Leviticus to justify condemnation of homosexuality. Not true. We also have 1 Cor 6 and Romans 1. Now, if we are only looking at the NT for prohibited behaviors, we’re going to miss the point/mark by a wide margin because the NT does not explicitly condemn many other things, including incest and gambling. The very fact that homosexuality is explicitly condemned twice in the NT ought to be a special warning to each of us; reject these warnings and we are playing with fire.

  • Denny Burk


    Yes, it was one of the first things I read by him on the topic. I thought it was excellent. In the article from 1986, you can see how his work was leading up to his book. In the article, he asks a lot questions about how the NT can function as a norm for ethics. In the book, he answers that question.


  • Tom1st

    I also thought it was fantastic. I was particularly impressed with how the academic arguments were coupled with his clear pastoral concern for his friend and the narrative of their relationship that outlined his chapter. It was, in general, a fantastic book and this particular chapter in the book was one of the finest I’ve read on the topic.

    Thanks for the reply.

  • Jerry Jacques

    Great post! This argument has always been evident but for some reason it’s not always emphasize.

    Whether one is born homosexual by nature or they made a decision, what is important is that we are all born deformed because of sin. And we all have to make a decision for the life that God calls us to lead through His Holy Spirit.

  • Jamie Steele

    Doesn’t God condemn what we do and not what we are tempted by. Just saying that people have different temptations and just because a person is tempted to do something doesn’t give them the right to do it. If people with same sex attractions get a pass doesn’t everyone?

  • Nathan

    The issue here is that Christians DON’T consider themselves having been anything like a homosexual, and so they are not going to relate to them in a Biblical manner.

    I’d give Christians hellbent against homosexuality a little more credit IF for every time they quote Romans 1 to a gay man that they would quote Matthew 5:32 to their remarried divorced friends and family.

  • Donald Johnson


    If they would just quote a verse like that, they would be taking it out of its Scriptural context of the whole counsel of God on that subject. Such verse extraction can easily lead to misunderstanding of what it means and also lead to condemnation.

  • Nate


    You consistently speak as if all Christians can’t have a constructive conversation with a homosexual, but (forgive me if you already have), I have yet to see your prescribed methodology to speak with someone about the gospel who is gay and unsaved, or for that matter, someone who claims to be saved, yet is living a homosexual lifestyle.

    And yes, divorce is far too rampant in the church, but that doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bath-water. Moreover, there are other nuances within divorce, such as, did the divorce and remarriage occur before salvation, etc, just to name one.

  • Nathan


    There is a lot of scripture regarding divorce and remarriage (maybe more than about homosexuality). The nuances are not mentioned, but they are granted by the church at large because they don’t think biblically about their own sin like they think “biblically” about others. I am not suggesting that one sin allows another, but one sin begets another.

    There is a certain responsibility on BOTH sides of gay issue. I have yet to find someone to agree that they, as a Christian, are doing a lot to keep gay people out and say “I’m sorry, I’m going to make a difference from now on.” They are SO AFRAID that that means condoning sin.

    * Loving all your sons equally – even the “weaker” ones that don’t like sports is NOT sin. * Not accepting at any level joking about this sin is NOT sin. * Families that are outward focused instead of inward focused is NOT sin. * Treating men with feminine characteristics and women with masculine characteristics as human beings instead of freaks is NOT sin. * Giving up a singular view of culture and being more inclusive is NOT sin. It can be, but there is so much room for change here.

    Really, there is so much room to move toward doing the right thing. The attrition churches see among singles and the dismal interaction between churches and gays is proof enough for me that something is wrong system-wide. These problems exist within families, within peer groups, within the larger Christian community.

  • RD

    What’s really underlying this entire discussion is whether or not the Bible can be taken literally. Reading the Bible as the literal Letter of the Law is a far cry from reading it as the Spirit of the Law. There are many scriptural statements that are simply no longer viewed as morally sound (God’s condoning of the inheritance of human beings as property is just one example). Cultural norms change and our adherance to scripture changes with it. I don’t know a single Christian who does not condemn adultery, but I’ve yet to meet a single Christian who condones the stoning of adulterers; we base our beliefs on the portions of scripture that we can live with (see the posts above regarding divorce). Cultural ideas about homosexuality are going to continue to change and the Church is going to change it’s views on how it interprets certain scriptures regarding this issue.

  • D.J. Williams

    RD said…
    “Cultural norms change and our adherance to scripture changes with it. I don’t know a single Christian who does not condemn adultery, but I’ve yet to meet a single Christian who condones the stoning of adulterers; we base our beliefs on the portions of scripture that we can live with (see the posts above regarding divorce).”

    I disagree with that assessment. The difference in those issues is not that we interpret each differently according to what we “can live with,” but rather that we seek to apply Scripture rightly. There is a difference in how we apply a moral imperative (that is repeated with perfect consistency throughout the Old and New Testaments) and how we apply the legal code given to a specific historical nation. You can disagree with those applications, but to pretend that the relevant hermenutical differences don’t exist is just plain unhelpful. It’s becoming tiring to hear the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior responded to with some variation of “Yeah, but I bet you eat pork and shellfish, don’t you?” as if we’d never thought of that before.

  • Derek

    RD, You said,

    There are many scriptural statements that are simply no longer viewed as morally sound (God’s condoning of the inheritance of human beings as property is just one example)

    Scripture does not condone slavery. Some false teachers have abused and distorted Scripture in order to condone terrible things such as slavery; just as others have distorted Scripture in order to condone sexual immorality.

  • RD


    Why aren’t you suggesting that we stone homosexuals? Clearly, if we read scripture as the literal word of God then this is what God desires (requires!) the punishment to be.

    Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

  • RD


    Scripture doesn’t condone slavery?

    ‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. -Leviticus 25:44-46

    I can certainly see where those who condone it would point to this set of verses and use it (along with many others throughout the OT and NT). That is exactly my point. I agree with you. I don’t think the SPIRIT of the scriptures does condone slavery. Nor does it condemn committed homosexual relationships. I’m not talking about promiscuous, casual, self-serving sexual encounters. I’m talking about committed relationships. We have to read beyond specific scriptures and let the Holy Spirit inform and direct us with regard to these very difficult subjects.

    I appreciate this blog and the open discussion. Thanks to all who have commented.

  • Derek

    Lots of people use the same line of thinking you describe in #18 to justify heterosexual fornication. They are wrong and their logic isn’t going to pass muster at the judgment. As Jesus warned the church at Pergamum, “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.”.

    So also we are warned, also in Ephesians 5:3. The Spirit and the letter of the Law on this topic could not have been made more clear, that “among us there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3).

  • John

    RD, the simple answer is that we are not under the law of Moses. For a fuller understanding of the theological issues, I would direct you toward the scholarship of Robert Gagnon.I think you will find him engaging.

  • RD


    Thanks for the comment. I understand that we are no longer under the law of Moses. However, so MUCH of the argument that insists committed homosexual unions are sinful are based in these Mosaic laws. My point is EXACTLY that we are not under the Mosaic law and that we need to view things through the spirit of Jesus. With regard to so many current issues it seems, to me, the Church remains mired in Mosaic law.

  • WS

    I would argue people are mired in the love of their sin and despise all that points that out.

    The ceremonial and dietary laws did pass away with the new covenant but the moral law remains. That moral law does condemn sexual immorality which includes both homosexual and heterosexual immorality. This is condemned in both the New and Old Testaments.

    What you are suggesting by a “spirit of Jesus” law is a relatavistic law that would accept all that people deem good. The Bible’s testimony of the inability of man to do what is pleasing to God in undeniable.

    Instead of trying to get around the laws given to us by the creator, I would suggest praying for God’s help in dealing with our temptations and desires. This is not just for homosexual feelings but all desires and feelings that are contrary to the Word of God.

  • RD


    You made a great point: “That moral law does condemn sexual immorality which includes both homosexual and heterosexual immorality. This is condemned in both the New and Old Testaments.” I completely agree with you. There are certainly instances of homosexual sin and heterosexual sin. Any sexual act that is purely selfish or that results in violence or oppression of one person over another, is clearly sexual immorality. Irresponsible, self-pleasing, manipulative behaviors of any kind are sin. The problem is that ALL homosexual sex is lumped into the category of sexual immorality. Certainly not all heterosexual sex is classified as such. Do you really think that God is concerned with the “mechanics” of the sex act? It is the attitude of the heart that concerns God. Jesus pretty clearly taught this message, much to the chagrin of the devout leaders of his day.

  • Nate

    “Certainly not all heterosexual sex is classified as such.”

    Actually it is. It is only in the confines of marriage (between a man and woman) that sex is unregulated in Scripture. The bible lumps heterosexual sin under immorality as fornication.

    Where do you see heterosexual sexual acts condoned in the bible apart from marriage?

  • Derek

    RD and fellow readers,
    Be warned, RD is following in the path of false teachers going all the way back to Balaam, just as Jesus Christ himself described in Revelation 2:14. I encourage and challenge you to repent, because the path you are taking is a dangerous one. We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and He will not accept or tolerate twisting of Scripture and creating clauses and exclusions out of whole cloth.

  • Donald Johnson

    Sex inside of marriage is still regulated, 1 Cor 7 says it is to be mutual, in submission to each other. SOS gives examples of same.

  • Nathan

    Nate asked, “Where do you see heterosexual sexual acts condoned in the bible apart from marriage?”

    I see sex condoned outside the definition of ONE man and ONE woman in the OT.

    BTW, you did not comment on my list of improvements that Christians can make regarding their interaction with gays. (Comment 12, above)

  • Nate

    Donald, you are right, but my point was more in rebutting the notion that heterosexual sex is not condemned in the confines of marriage. However, in 1 Cor 7, as you noted, our bodies are really in the hands of our spouses, and depriving a spouse is only condoned for a limited time as to not warrant temptation and would only seem to be warranted via mutual agreement.

  • John

    Actually, RD, God is, apparently, concerned with the “mechanics” of the sex act. 1 Cor. 6:9 clearly states that men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. The words translated by that phrase refer to the active and passive participants in homosexual behavior. The language is quite clear. The only difference between the Old and New covenants is that we no longer execute the death penalty for such acts. The immorality remains.

  • Nate

    Nathan, polygamy is treated, however it is not condemned, which was my point. Polygamy is still considered in the realm of heterosexual marriage.

    Also, from your reply in #12, while I understand where you were coming from, you really did not answer my question (or I have misunderstood your answer). How do you share the gospel? With a homosexual who isn’t a Christian or with one who believes themselves to be a Christian?

  • RD


    Where does God tell us in the new covenant that we don’t have to obey all portions of his old covenant commands? I don’t mean to sound disrespectful with my response, but I am curious. If God said homosexual activity should result in death, why did the church stop killing homosexuals? If God said that children who disrespect their parents should be killed, why did the church alter that command? If God declares adultery an abomination and commands that all parties involved in adulterous activity be put to death, why would the church blatantly defy God’s word?

    I think the answer is pretty obvious. Cultural norms change. Views of moral propriety evolve. Christians read the scriptures less literally and with more direction from the Holy Spirit, seeking the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law. Jesus came as our great example in this.

    I know it sounds like a tired argument, but the Biblical view of slavery is reprehensible. There are virtually no believing Christians that today read scripture and stand in agreement with the Biblical stance on slavery. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s there were SO many churches that used scripture to support racist laws (sadly, members of the church of my youth were among those who did this). I know of very few churches that openly hold to those views today. The Holy Spirit continues to inform and instruct, and God speaks through all sorts of arenas (the Bible, science, nature, relationships between God’s children, etc.). The insistance on Biblical literalism is making the church and many of it’s teachings less and less relevant.

  • Nathan


    To state it in the negative, you don’t share the Gospel by…

    * Praising only your stronger sons and ignoring the “weaker” one, creating a wall between you and him * Making fun of those that have committed the sin, creating a wall between you and those * Be so family oriented that you cast out the single people from among you, giving you no time to present the Gospel to those on the fence * Castigate those that don’t live up to your idea of masculinity (which who knows if it is God’s definition or not because it’s not very well defined in the Bible), creating yet another wall between you and a gay man * Pushing your cultural agenda (sports, hunting, trucks, whatever) beyond other legitimate cultural expression, creating yet another wall between you and gay men.

    You don’t get that there are a ton of things that are done explicitly and implicitly to exclude the persona of those that tend to be gay or struggle with SSA or whatever you want to call it.

    Present the Gospel by living it – sacrifice yourself (what you want … like a culture that orbits around you and yours…, your time, your emotions, your comfort, etc. etc.) for others… Or stay in your pig-headed world and build up only those who you think deserve it and exclude those who don’t measure up before you can tell them what a sinner they are.

    I don’t want to risk this post getting deleted, so let me apologize now for being so adamant – I’m not necessarily ranting about you, Nate, but I really don’t understand certain Church cultures / communities that exclude a class of people based on cultural preferences.

    For example, I’ll never understand and respect someone like Mark Driscoll because he can’t understand and relate to a man that isn’t macho like he is. Create church communities where that is the general rule, and yeah, you won’t have the opportunity to interact with gays and tell them the Gospel. I think that’s a shame because the choices for the macho things are not biblically based, but based on the preference of the current culture…

    I feel excluded in a multitude of ways – within my own family, among groups of my peers at church, and the larger church community. For some reason, I’m expected to conform to their *preferences* before we can have some common ground to work with.

  • RD

    I think Nathan is raising some really valid issues. And, I’m sure that Nate meant no disrespect with his comment, but why is it that it is automatically assumed by so many Christians that a person who is homosexually oriented isn’t saved?

    I think Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan offers SUCH a relevant message to the Church.

  • Nate

    I agree with much of what you have said Nathan, but along with doing all the things you are speaking about, we still have to share with people that they are trapped in sin (as we all were) and that only by turning away from our sin and embracing what Jesus accomplished on the cross and by rising from the dead will save them (Rom 10:9-10).

    RD: A person who is homosexually oriented is exhibiting the sin that controls all of us. We are all trapped by our sin and only by turning away from our sins and receiving Jesus will save us. Everyone who is born is trapped in sin that only Jesus can fix. Furthermore, even after receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, we all still struggle with sin, but we are called to fight against (by the power of the Holy Spirit) as we seek to live in the grace and faith of our Lord Jesus.

    Nathan: I agree we must live the gospel, but we have to preach it as well. As for excluding some “cultures” no church should exclude anyone who hasn’t yet confessed and believed in the gospel, but if we say we have believed and then continue to sin as if there are no consequences or claim that our sin really isn’t sin, then we are in peril of judgment.

  • John

    Mostly Galatians and Romans, although the theme is also present in most of Paul’s other writings. I do not think it “pretty obvious” that Christian morals change with culture. In fact, I think historically the exact opposite is true. I am also curious as to what “reading the Bible less literally and with more direction from the Holy Spirit” means. The Bible itself says that its words are “Spirit breathed”. Do you expect the Holy Spirit to breathe somthing different in your ear? How would you test such a spirit, as we are commanded to do? In truth, I don’t see how your suggestion even retains any meaning.

    Also, your assertion about the Bible and slavery is over-simplified. See, for example, John R. McKivigan and Mitchell Snay, “Religion and the Antebellum Debate Over Slavery” for starters. Your point is that Christianity changed its position on slavery because of cultural norms, and not because of the Bible’s moral standards. This is not so. While the race-based slavery of the Antibellum South didn’t exist in Bible times, Paul still tells Timothy that slave traders are evil (1 Tim. 1:10). And Paul tells the Corinthians that men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. I’m afraid it can’t get much plainer than that.

  • Derek

    The OT dietary and ceremonial laws became optional in the New Testament. Read Acts 10, Romans 14 and I Cor 8, for starters.

    On the other hand, Ephesians 5:3-5 and many other similar passages repeatedly warn against sexual sin and immorality. Homosexuality is condemned in multiple places in both the OT and NT. Also consider that 9 of the 10 commandments were validated and repeated in NT times.

    Go ahead and write your own amendments and clauses if you wish. But if you do so, you will face the same judgment facing other false teachers and prophets. God willing, I won’t be standing next to you when the lightning strikes – and it will. Read Revelation 2 and 3 to get a glimpse of what will happen.

  • RD

    As I stated in the first comment, this is a debate that isn’t going to be resolved. There are many Christians who are reading the Bible more narratively who are beginning to change their views on this issue. There are many Christians who continue to read the scripture literally, taking each and every verse to mean, for all time, exactly what it says. There is similar disagreement with regard to women serving in pastoral ministry. I completely understand the rational behind viewing scripture this way (I once read it this way myself). Over the past five years of detailed study I can no longer read the Bible in this narrow manner. It simply wasn’t written to be used in the way that it has been used by a vast number of Christians. The notion of God being a punative violent God who demands that his creation’s sin be paid for with blood continues to be the core understanding most Christians base their faith on. The radical idea which Jesus came to show – that of God as Papa – seems to be missed by so many.

    So Christians do as Christians have done since the first century A.D., we disagree about the nature and character of our God, the message and meaning of Jesus and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.

  • Kelly

    It will be resolved in time….but, just like it took the Baptists till 1994 to apolgize for slavery and well over a century to fully join the rest of us, it will not happen in our lifetimes. But, as Gallup shows, the conservative/’evangelical’ view is now the minority one on this issue in America. And, just as pastors don’t talk about divorce much since they know it will offend a lot of people in the pews, a lot of the same people now accept their gay and lesbian friends and family and their relationships/marriages, so, the pastors are already talking less and less about this topic also.
    Any honest person here will acknowledge this is happening, and I don’t just mean in socity, I mean in the Pulpit.

    Time. We are just talking about time here.

    By the way, it is rude when a non Christian calls anyone a “Bible thumper” “Fundy trash”, etc.

    It is EQUALLY rude to speak of a “gay lifestyle”. Living in a 5th Ave triplex with a private jet is a lifestyle. Being a vegan who only wears non animal product made clothes and listens for “gaia” in the forest as they eat granola is a ‘lifestyle’.

    Gay people run the scale, from domestic partnered/married with kids Lutheran ministers who have never smoked a cigarette and vote repubican to wild, drunken athiests who are totally out of controll. Just like straight people.

    The fact that people who use this term and “homosexual” instead of gay, and DON’T realize how rude and unaccaptable it sounds and then wonder “Why are we losing the debate on this on? Why are we seen as the bad guys? I ain’t done nothin’ wrong with these words” never ceases to amaze me. I suppose I should not complain though..only helps my side of the debate in the larger society.

  • Jordan

    Many posts ago, Nathan mentioned how people who condemn homosexuality should also condemn remarriage after a divorce for any other reason than sexual immorality. I completely agree! And Christians should present the truth in love (Eph 4:15). But to “compromise” by allowing openly unrepentant homosexuals to be a church member would be to endanger them by giving them false assurance of faith. Repentance should mark all believers. For some, that means repentance of homosexuality, for others, it means repentance of unbiblical divorce or any number of other sins.

    The church is doing good by condemning homosexuality, for God condemns it in various places in Scripture–all of which have already been cited. NOW the church must get about doing something harder–condemning sins that aren’t as “hot button” or as “safe” to condemn. The church must begin taking a stand against divorce between believers(except on the ground of sexual immorality–even then there should be attempts at reconciliation), as well.

  • Donald Johnson


    It is obvious to me that you are taking the divorce verses out of cultural context and do not know of what you write. I suggest you study this area more, for example, David Instone-Brewer.

  • RD

    Donald J,

    If we can take the teachings on divorce “out of cultural context” can we not also admit that the teachings on homosexuality were based in the cultural context (and limited scientific understanding) of the day?!

  • Derek

    Sure we can, RD – but why stop there? Let’s “update” the Bible’s teaching on beastiality and incest too, especially since Jesus didn’t explicitly condemn these sins.

  • Donald Johnson

    Lots of people do not know the Jewish context of the divorce passages and so misunderstand them. One can choose to remain in their misunderstanding or one can be a Berean and study this area.

    As I understand the verses on homosexuality, Paul uses slang terms to refer to it, but IS referring to it.

    Jesus was a Jew and should be understood as agreeing with all the things Jews agreed upon, except those where he disagreed. Jesus correctly intepreted Torah and did not negate it, if he had he would have given the Pharisees ammo to dismiss him.

  • RD


    There is a vast difference between two people sharing a committed homosexual relationship and someone exercising dominance over another creature for their own psycho-sexual gratification. As I’ve stated before, this is my problem with so many Christians who disagree on the issue of committed homosexual relationships: they equate homosexual orientation with pedophilia, incest and beastiality; they lump committed homosexual relationships in with the ambiguously defined “sexual immorality” that is often condemned in various verses of scripture.

    The point of those who are commenting about the church’s less than oppositional stance against divorce is that Christians too often pick and choose which “sins” they are going to stand up and be God’s mouthpiece about. Gay sex is an abomination, but divorce needs to be examined within the cultural context of scriptural times. Women are forbidden from being pastors (or even teaching men in Sunday school, in some cases) or taking on leadership roles within the church, but it is fine to have a woman run on a presidential ballot or run for elected public office. Why is it so difficult to just admit that much of the Bible has to be interpreted based on the cultural realities of the times in which it was written. Certain specific practices and “sins” are no longer culturally relevant.

  • Derek

    RD, the examples you’re giving are simply not analogous. Your line of reasoning would justify pretty much any distortion of Scripture, which is my point. Everything is up-for-grabs in your world. Stop pretending to honor or love Scripture. You don’t. You might as well author your own sacred text and religion, because there isn’t much difference between that and how you are willing to justify yourself, even when multiple places in both the New and Old Testament directly contradict you.

  • RD


    I certainly don’t mean to upset you. This issue is, obviously, one of the hottest and most contested issues facing the Church today. Christians have very strong views about it and those views are quite diverse (as we’ve seen in this comment stream). All I’m trying to point out is the inconsistency among Christians who have no problem quoting the Bible to support their views on homosexuality but who then gloss over other scriptures that point out issues that they might not personally feel as passionately about.

    Example, many Christians oppose the idea of women being in a place of authority over men in church. They point to Paul’s teaching on the subject and claim that this is God’s view of the matter and we should obey it. But, many MANY of those same Christians also love and support Sarah Palin. They somehow have no problem with the possibility that a woman might actually be their president and would vote for her in a heartbeat. How odd that, if elected, Sarah Palin could have the authority to launch the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal but she wouldn’t have the authority, in certain churches, to teach a men’s Sunday School class. Double standards abound. All of us are guilty of it. I just happen to believe that the greatest double standards in the Church today are the way many Christians are using the Bible to oppress women and homosexuals. Why don’t we take after overeaters and gossips with the same gusto that we take after gays and women who want to serve in our churches? The Bible clearly speaks against those sins as directly as it does homosexuality.

  • Jordan

    Ok, not to go off-topic, but I must answer the allegation that I don’t know what I was referring to when I was citing Jesus against divorce. How clearer could Jesus be than He is in Matthew 5:32. Now, according to Christ, divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality is a non-Biblical divorce. Now, Paul later says to let a non-believing spouse leave if they want to, but even then, no other ground for divorce is cited as acceptable.

    Now, onto women in leadership. I strongly believe in Titus 2. But all leadership positions discussed in the Bible deal with ecclesiastical leadership, not political leadership. Nevertheless, biblically speaking, no woman should neglect her family for the sake of out-of-the-home work. (Cf. Titus 2)

    The Biblical arguments against (most) divorce, homosexuality, and women in (church) leadership all stand.

  • Donald Johnson


    The basic reason you are wrong in your understanding is that you are extracting a verse from its subject context (across all Scripture) and its cultural context in huge ways, yet do not even know it. Another way to phrasing it is that you are reading this verse as a Greek/gentile thinker and not as a Hebrew thinker. And this is often a deadly way to read the Bible written by Hebrew thinkers.

    It is simply not true that “according to Christ divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality is a non-Biblical divorce.” I do agree that it can SEEM to be the case, but you need to dig deeper and Instone-Brewer can help you if you wish.

    And you are also misreading Titus 2, but that is another story for another day.

  • Derek

    You said:Why don’t we take after overeaters and gossips with the same gusto that we take after gays and women who want to serve in our churches?
    You continue to draw flawed analogies.
    If we had an active element of church gossips or overeaters who insisted that their choices were blessed by God and furthermore went on to demand that the Church accept their behavior, not exclude them from leadership, etc., then your analogy would have some merit. But it doesn’t.

  • Jordan

    Donald, remember that Jesus in saying “But I say to you” was refuting the Jewish beliefs about divorce–that any certificate of divorce gave people the right to remarry! Jesus clarified by saying that this is not so except on the grounds of sexual immorality. If you wish to refute me, please use Scripture.

    And if you wish to correct me on Titus 2, please use Scripture as well.

    I certainly admit that I am no expert in terms of Hebrew and Greek cultures. But if you wish to refute any view I express, you will have to use Scripture to convince me. Anything short of that will not work.

  • Donald Johnson


    The MEANING of any writing, Scripture included, is DEFINED by the culture it was written in. If you extract text outside of its culture, you can misunderstand Shakespeare, the KJV, etc. and this is still in English. Once one crosses language and 2000 years or more of culture, it becomes very EASY in some cases to simply use the wrong cultural context (that is, the modern one of today) and not even know it.

    The only way we know what the meaning of words in other languages is is from their uses in that culture back then.

    Yes, I know that the “I say …” in the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus giving his Torah interpretation, which is perfect.

    One simply cannot extract a verse from the Bible and use it like a axiom in Euclid’s Geometry. It needs to be read in context of what the rest of the Bible says on the subject and always in cultural context.

    In other words, by not using the original cultural context, you are giving yourself too much freedom to just make up the meaning of what is written. It may not seem to you like you are making it up, but that is because you do not know the correct culture to interpret the text in. You are teleportings the verses into the 21st century and reading them as if they were written then, when they most certainly were not.

  • Jordan

    Ok, then, Donald, please enlighten me as to the proper context. God most certainly is *not* pro-divorce. Jesus would later say in Matthew 19:6, “Let not man separate” what God has joined together in marriage.

    You’ve also (either here? or another thread?) claimed to be egalitarian in your views, which only has “culture” on its side, not the Bible.

    So please, enlighten me about how Jesus’ “culture” clarifies what He says. As long as the “culture” doesn’t outrightly contradict Scripture, I would love to hear what you have to say on the matter.

  • Donald Johnson

    On Titus 2, Ken Bailey points out 2 things, women were not taught much and Titus teaching young women would be scandalous, in that culture. So Paul is ensuring that ALL would be taught from what Titus taught them. It is not a restriction that older women teach younger, it is showing how younger women can be taught and not raise a scandal with outsiders.

  • Donald Johnson

    God divorced Israel and told Abraham to obey Sarah when she wanted him to divorce Hagar, so it is in God’s will for divorce to happen in some cases.

    It is not readily apparent how to combine the NT verses on divorce into a comprehensive and coherent teaching as they SEEM to contradict each other.
    1. Matthew mentions an exception clause that is not mentioned by Mark or Luke.
    2. Jesus mentions a reason for divorce in Matthew not mentioned by Paul.
    3. Paul mentions a reason for divorce in 1 Cor not mentioned by Jesus.
    4. What Paul says Jesus said may not seem to match any gospel accounts.

    There are 2 basic ways to try to address these puzzles, the Greek way which is incorrect but can seem plausible but which results in condemnation and the Hebrew way which is correct but takes work in digging into the culture, understanding what the Pharisees taught.

    When one does the latter, one sees that Jesus is correcting 7 mistakes of the Pharisees, but if one does not know what they taught, how can one see this? And one can see how Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul can be integrated into a coherent teaching by using some information from the OT.

  • Jordan

    I’m sorry, I should’ve clarified what I meant when I said “Titus 2.” I wasn’t referring to the controversy over egalitarianism by Titus 2, I meant the roles that Paul did ascribe to women: “working in the home.” 1 Timothy 2-3 is the *clear* Biblical teaching against ecclesial egalitarianism. I apologize for not specifying what I was saying about Titus 2.

    When did God divorce Israel? Scripture please. I am familiar with Israel “whoring” after false gods, but never with God “divorcing” Israel.

    On Abraham divorcing Hagar, he should never have been married to Hagar in the first place; polygamy breaks God’s monogamous plan for marriage.

    Your information is very thorough, but you merely said “one can see” you didn’t say what must be seen.

    Ultimately, divorce is something that should not happen between Christians, b/c marriage “refers to Christ and His Church” (Ephesians 5:22-33). Christ will not divorce His Bride, the Church; so neither should a Christian husband and wife divorce, because according to Paul (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit), such a divorce would by default propagate lies about Christ Himself.

  • Donald Johnson

    God divorced Israel in Hos 2:2 and this is confirmed by the written later Jer 3:8.

    1 Tim 2-3 is no such thing, for one there are parts that are anything but clear and for 2 there is no requirement to interpret these verses as being against anywomen leaders, it can be seen as a temporary injunction about some women/woman at Ephesus; it is a choice some make to see it as permanent, but it is a choice and not required by the Greek text.

    In the 1st century, the home was a factory, producing goods for home consumption. Today, things are often different, many people leave home and go to work to earn a living. 1 Tim 5:14 says a wife is to be a oikodespoteo, which is a home despot/ruler, altho some translations weaken this.

    I agree that divorce should never happen between believers, but all of us sin and God is gracious and allows divorce in some cases, for example, adultery, abuse or neglect. Christ is an ideal husband and so gives no reason for divorce but no humans are perfectly Christlike.

  • Donald Johnson

    Jordan wrote: “Christ will not divorce His Bride, the Church; so neither should a Christian husband and wife divorce, because according to Paul (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit), such a divorce would by default propagate lies about Christ Himself.”

    I have huge concerns with what you wrote. For one, NOTHING humans can do “propagates lies about Christ”. For another, this type of teaching can put a huge guilt trip on the one who did not break their covenant vows and so can add to their pain. The breaker of covenant vows needs to be the one that is held to account, put pressure on them, not the abused, as otherwise it can just contribute to further abuse

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