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Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Homosexual Debate

I've done some of this before, so I'm pretty sure some of my readers are gearing up to do battle with me regarding the clear statements from Scripture about how homosexual behavior is sin. Relax. I'm not going there. I've often spent no small amount of time discussing words and their changing meanings, often into oblivion. Words like "marriage". Nope, not going there this time, either. This time it's someplace a little different.

I was reading along in 1 Corinthians and came across the well-known text:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 NASB)
Some of that is without dispute. Like "fornicators" and "adulterers" and "swindlers" do not inherit the kingdom of God. No question. There's no question because Paul makes it clear "Such were some of you," which simply goes to show that we can have been involved in sin (because, after all, there is none of us who have not been) and still be washed, sanctified, and justified. That is, we may have been thieves (for instance), but that doesn't have to be our final condition; we can be saved ... and inherit the kingdom. Good news.

And, of course, the "homosexual" thing is without dispute. Some argue that it refers to some sort of religious homosexual thing, not "loving relationships," but that's problematic since Paul specifies religious sin under "idolaters" and the language doesn't support that version. It's interesting that Paul's choice of words here, "arsenokoitēs," doesn't appear anywhere in ancient Greek until this one. It appears as if Paul himself might have coined the term. It is a reflection of the Old Testament phrase, a male who lies with a male as one lies with a female (Lev 18:22). Oh, the word is clear, even if it occurs only twice in the New Testament. But, again, that's not my point.

As I was looking at this stuff, I found an interesting anomaly. The NASB, KJV, and many others have that word in there between "adulterers" and "homosexuals." The word is "effeminate" here in the New American Standard. But in the ESV it isn't in there. The ESV simply lists, "the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality" in verse 9. Why did they skip that word? I looked at the Greek and there is a word there. The word is "malakos" and it means "soft". Huh. So I had to dig into it a bit more. According to a note I found in the ESV, they eliminated the word because the translators believed it referred to the "female" part of the homosexual behavior. The NET Bible says, "passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals." The LITV lists "male prostitutes" and "homosexuals." The older Darby translation includes "those who make women of themselves" and "those who abuse themselves with men." So, they are saying, it refers to the "receiver" (malakos) and the "giver" (arsenokoitēs) in homosexual sexual activity.

I don't know. Some translators disagree. They argue that it is a warning against the effeminate. Commentator Albert Barnes says, "It denotes those who give themselves up to a soft, luxurious, and indolent way of living" (in which case it isn't just males). That is, it's clear that it's not about "effeminate" as our current culture would use it -- "swishy" guys or crossdressers or the androgynous males. It's not about wearing skinny jeans. It's not a man that has feminine characteristics. That might be a problem, but that's not what's in view here. It might be the passive participant of a homosexual act, but it is not as likely in my view. I think it's about men who are not acting as men. We are commanded to "act like men" (1 Cor 16:13). It suggests courage and strength. It suggests responsibility and action. It means to be alert, to stand firm in the faith, to be strong. (Actually, that's all from the 1 Cor 16 reference.) It means fighting when fighting is necessary (Eph 6:10-18; James 4:7). It means fleeing when fleeing is necessary (1 Cor 10:14; 1 Tim 6:9-11; 2 Tim 2:22).

Our sexually perverse society has scrambled our perceptions. To be fair, our perceptions have long been scrambled. Historians trace it all the way back to the beginning of the Industrial Age when husbands spent a great deal of time away from home working in factories to support their families, leaving women in charge. Women were most present in church and, as might be expected, ended up "redecorating" churches, so to speak. They made them more "gentle," more "sensitive," more emotional. There is no shortage of writings and websites on the subject. Regardless of whether or not you agree that such a thing has occurred, statistically the ratio of men to women in church on any given Sunday is about 60% women to 40% men. Something has gone wrong with men. Clearly Christian men today are not acting like men. We have a problem with effeminacy in the church, and most consider it a good thing. "Get in touch with your feminine side." "Be more tender, more emotive." We're supposed to avoid the "testosterone problem." We are not supposed to act like men. And then throw in the sin and confusion of our sexually perverse society.

I started this with the provocative title of "The Homosexual Debate" and the touchy text of 1 Corinthians 6. I don't want you to come away with either. I want you to consider whether or not you men are acting like men and whether you women are encouraging them to do so because, after all, it's a command.


Naum said...

A look at those passages in question from an evangelical bible scholar:
What ever happened to the Bible in the Marriage Canon Debate? A Look at the Classic Texts

Stan said...

Hey, Naum, haven't heard from you in a long time. I figured you weren't reading it much anymore.

I'm familiar with these arguments. There are a variety of problems with it, but the one problem I've seen and has never been answered is why it is that it took so long to figure out that EVERY SINGLE BELIEVER, Jewish and Christian alike, all misunderstood this stuff for thousands of years? What happened in the last 30 years that enabled the Holy Spirit to finally do His job and get through to the enlightened believers on this? To me it is an absolutely clear "Did God really say ...?" moment without a response from those who ask it. We're left with only a "Well, you all got it wrong forever and you should be happy we came along to straighten you all out."

See a response paper here.

Marshal Art said...

When I began reading this post, and came upon the passage from Corinthians (is it wrong to reflexively think of Ricardo Montalban every time I come across "Corinthian"?), I immediately keyed on the word in question, "effeminate". With all the "sexual identity" nonsense inundating us these days, it's hard not to wonder if the word refers to such. It certainly is worthy of deeper study based on the varying translations you highlight. But this perverse cultural anomaly would certainly fall into the general tone one way or another. If there are any who aren't acting like men, certainly men who act like women are obvious examples.

But the rest of the possibilities certainly do as well. Laziness is not a manly trait, for example. Definitely a manifestation of "softness", and frankly, something with which I personally struggle (heck...I struggle with a lot), and I force myself to consider at least what I need to do before I get horizontal. What's more, to indulge one's lazy nature will no doubt make one soft, whereas work does the opposite.

Being a man takes effort...more for some than for others...but it is effort well spent. We need more men in our culture now more than ever it seems, and in every area of life...religious, political, social and in personal relations with women, other men and our children.

Stan said...

True, Marshal.

Naum said...

Not true, granted, outlook of Early Christians (pre-Constantine) -- there is not a lot of data, but there is scholarship that attitudes were different. Though it is impossible to say because the concept of a covenential relationship between same sex individuals unfathomable for most in that era.

Yes, I'll concede tradition, post Constatine, once the church fused into ruling powers & culture writ large, most believers would have considered affairs as you state. But traditions are not always Christlike or even we differ now than what most Christians believed for over a thousands years (i.e., charging of interest considered to be sinful, until late middle ages) -- the rabid anti-semitism that's been rampant in church since the era of the Patristics. Also, for most of church history, church consensus rejected notions such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression as anathemas (even papal encyclicals in the 19C reflected this sentiment.

Stan said...

There does appear to be multiple sources from early church fathers on the subject including Catholic sources. Not that it is, therefore, established. People will ultimately believe whatever they prefer. I think, though, that it must be predicated first on the historical unreliability of Scripture as God's Word, allowing for error and change over time and, therefore, eliminating it as a genuine source for answers on this subject and more. A kind of, "Well, yes, it says that, but it's either no longer applicable or has always been misunderstood or, perhaps, even just wrong."

David said...

Stan's point isn't that all tradition is correct, it that all things old are right. Scripture tells us that God will maintain a small amount of the faithful, even when it looks like noone is. Scripture tells us that God will maintain true doctrine through His Spirit. For us, that means that everything old needs to be vetted by Scripture, but anything that has NEVER been held by Christians is false. If there was ever any evidence that someone, somewhere believed it from the time after Christ, it should be considered, if not, it is not from God. You mention that it was believed that charging interest was sin and we no longer believe that. However, there are still some that do. No one has ever believed that homosexuality was not a sin, until recently. That means it cannot be true because God didn't maintain that truth through His people. Making doctrines that are counter to clear Scripture and have never been held before means it is false, it is from either the father of lies, or more likely, our sin addled minds. We will do anything to make what we want to do acceptable because we want to do it. Even the most evil people are heroes in their own mind.