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February 25, 2000

It takes a village … church

“True tolerance is not a total lack of judgment. It’s knowing what should be tolerated – and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn’t.” –Charles Colson

The shifting paradigm of sexual morality is a source of much controversy. Homosexuals, though less than 3% of the population (USCDC), are at the center of this controversy. The conflict is posed as a contest between the civil rights of consenting adults and the Judeo-Christian foundation of the American family and society. The issue has even necessitated congressional legislation defining “marriage.” Religious denominations are also debating the “normalization” of homosexual practices, same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

To discuss this issue meaningfully, it is necessary to dispel a false dichotomy, which has infiltrated our dialogue. Homosexual advocacy groups often rebut dissenters by claiming they are pharisaical, intolerant and “homophobic.” But disagreement with homosexual advocacy has no correlation with one’s capacity to love or have compassion for others. Nor is dissent related to judgment, which is God’s alone. Rather, it is about discernment between right and wrong, and obedience to objective truth rather than the cult of subjective relativism popularly justified under the contemporary aegis of “tolerance” and “diversity.”

To discern right from wrong, most Jewish and Christian denominations hold that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. Scripture is the first resource of our faith, and the foundation on which the tenets of reason and tradition reside. The “First Promise” taken by most clergy in their ordinal vows is to abide by this foundation.

In Psalm 78:2-4 we find that the teachings of old must not be hidden from our children. The teachings of both Testaments tell us homosexuality is wrong. Among the various references, we find in the Old Testament book of Leviticus that it is “an abomination.” In the New Testament, Romans 1:24-32, Paul says, “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who would practice them.” In 1st Corinthians 6:9, Paul adds, “Do not be deceived, neither the immoral…nor sexual perverts…will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Paul uses the Greek word “arsenokoitai” in these texts, which means “sodomites.”

In Matthew 19*, Jesus also speaks to us about marriage and sexuality: “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning made them male and female, man and woman, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’. ”

The contemporary church endeavors to differentiate between scriptural truths, which transcend time and culture, and teachings, which are relative to a specific historic culture. In Leviticus, for example, one might conclude that the legal stipulation for unrepentant homosexuals is relative to an ancient culture. But to conclude that all of Leviticus – or the entire Bible for that matter – is relative to whatever measure we choose, defies truth. If there is not transcendent truth in Leviticus or in Christ’s words from Matthew, what are the implications for Judaism, Christianity and mankind?

The contemporary church endeavors to ally scriptural understanding with reason in the Scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas. But God’s universal plan and its inherent truths are thoroughly revealed in science and the study of natural order. Within that order, we are entrusted with the land and all living things, a trust frequently violated in selfishness and submission to evil, as in the story of Eden. We are also entrusted with the sexual design and relationship between “male and female, man and woman.” This design is as clear in reason as in Scripture, and should not be violated.

As Jesus concluded in the passage above from Matthew 19: “What therefor God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Romans 12:21 teaches, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We must reach out unconditionally in love, and seek to heal. While discerning right from wrong in our denominations and society, we must not predicate love for our brothers and sisters on condition of their obedience to God’s moral truth, as set forth in Scripture. But we also must not equate unconditional love with subjective relativism. To do either violates God’s word, and design, and abandons homosexuals to sin.

As for those in Christ’s flock who would be led astray from truth by some clergy, consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:15, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

While the legal status of homosexual “marriage” and other “rights” are matters to be determined within the context of the courts, the objective truth concerning such behavior has long been revealed through Scripture and reason. Therefore, the institutional bodies of our respective denominations should not seek to normalize homosexuality or any other sexual aberration. As Michael Bruce noted (The Layman and Church Government), “Church government is primarily concerned with this: with worship, with the drawing of the whole life of the whole world into this reflection of the nature of God. It is secondly – and only secondly – concerned with the quarrels and peccadilloes of those who are not, as a matter of fact, imitating God’s nature very faithfully.”

  • Later in Matthew 19:10, Christ also says: “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth….” (In the Greek text, one finds the word “eunouxoi,” meaning one with a congenital defect or castrated, and without the ability to consummate marriage. The reference is distinctly different from the Greek word for homosexuals or sodomites as referenced by Paul. Homosexual advocates sometimes incorrectly invoke this passage as justification.)

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