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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“Homosexuality: a dilemma in today’s evangelical church,” Part 1 (article: Presbyterian Guardian)

The Presbyterian Guardian
May 1977

(Note from the editor in l977: Homosexuality is not the only sexual sin with which the church should be concerned. But it is one that is increasingly common in our society and increasingly we find homosexuals being converted to Christ. Mr. Case has written on the subject out of pastoral concern and experience, attempting to set forth a biblical approach to the problem. Not all of his conclusions will satisfy every reader, but he in writing and we in publishing will be satisfied if the evangelical church and Bible-believing Christians are let to seek biblical guidance in this area. The Rev. Robert Case is the former pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church (RPCES) in Phoenix, Ariz. He is the past executive director of Christian Action Council in Washington, D. C. In the concluding portion of this two-part article, Mr. Case will set forth an “Evangelical Proposal” for the dilemma.)

Homosexual rights in the church of Christ?

Ten years ago it was considered “shameful even to mention” the subject (Ephesians 5:12) in open Christian company. Now in 1976, it is a movement that is besieging the city of God.

Early this year both the Christian Century and the Religion Newswriters Association (reporters of religious news in the secular press) listed the growing advocacy of overt homosexuality in the Church in the top ten stories for 1975. Organized groups of homosexuals within the “mainline” Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Nazarene, Baptist, Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic communions have formed lob¬bies to promote equal rights for themselves.

In 1975 the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches passed a resolution moving them closer to full recognition of homosexual pastors. This year the United Methodist Church will be asked to agree that: “Sex, race, marital status, or sexual orientation shall not be a bar to the ordained ministry of the United Methodist Church.”

Lest it be thought that this is a problem only for the liberal churches, late in 1975 the Evangelical Women’s Caucus meeting in Washington, D. C., held a seminar on homosexuality in which it advocated recognition of a person’s right to any sexual orientation he or she desired. Finally, one need only to become involved in most urban evangelical congregations (including Reformed ones) to discover that one is worshipping with some homosexuals. Indeed, to deny or ignore this rising problem for evangelical churches is to court heartache for God’s people and disgrace for God’s name among us.

Basic definitions

One dictionary defines “homosexuality” as “pertaining to or characterized by sexual propensity for one’s own sex.” Interestingly, the word “homosexuality” did not even appear in the original 1928 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. In 1902, Baldwin’s Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology used the terms “inversion” and “homosexuality” inter-changeably. Jung preferred to call male “homosexuality” the “ascendancy of the feminine.” Today there are numerous clinical terms and a myriad of popular terms used interchangeably to name the sexual aberration which a layman might just call “homosexuality.”

The purpose of bringing up the definition question is to point out that a universal acceptance of terms is not yet forthcoming. For the sake of continuity and clarity let us just use the term “homosexuality” in this article.

There are four basic views explaining homosexuality: the physiological, the psychological, the sociological, and the hamartiological explanations. The first theory to gain a following was that the condition was a physical phenomenon. Most of the early research pointed to a glandular imbalance in homosexuals. That is, one might be born with a physical attraction to the same sex and this would be an integral part of one’s physical makeup.

In 1960 a United Church of Christ minister, Robert Wood, in his book Christ and the Homosexual, contends that homosexuality is an inherited trait. “Homosexuality is a God-created way of protecting the human race on this planet from the suicide of over-population,” and it makes “available opportunities for love for some who are unable to find them in heterosexual relations, a love which can be truly sacramental” (pp. 163-170).  In other words, homosexuality is a divine order of creation!

To cure or to oppress

Sigmund Freud was the leader in developing the theory that homosexuality is a psychological sickness and not a physical ailment. He believed that everyone was born bisexual and events would determine which way a person’s sexual preference developed. Many psychiatrists believe that all children pass through a homosexual phase and that some never have the “psychic ability” to reach heterosexual maturity.

Alexander Lowen, in his book Love and Orgasm (recommended by the quasi-Christian counseling service, the Yokefellows), writes: “I have stated that homosexuality has its origin in the child’s incestuous feelings for his mother, feelings that the child cannot resolve” (p. 94).

The third basic theory—the sociological explanation—is the current fashion in defending the “Gay Liberation Movement.” This view argues that both the physiological and psychological views hold that homosexuality is a sickness — which grates against the self-esteem of the modern homosexuals who are supposed to be gay and happy. Consequently, one’s environment makes one a homosexual, operating in various subtle ways to direct one’s “sexual potential” into homosexuality or heterosexuality.

Wardell Pomeroy (who has written for the United Church of Christ) wrote in Time magazine (January 8, 1973): “I am not speaking facetiously, but I think it would be best to say that all homosexuals are sick, that all heterosexuals are sick, that the population is sick. . . . I have heard psychiatrists perfectly sober say that 95% of all the population in the U.S. is mentally ill.” One needs a good shot of Jay Adams after that one!

The conclusion of the sociological school is that if homosexuality is not a sickness then it obviously can’t be cured! In fact, even to try and cure homosexuality is at best a waste of time and at worst a criminal attempt to manipulate and oppress another human being!

The biblical explanation

I have called the biblical view “hamartiological,” meaning “sin-related.” The Bible, in its first mention of homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-11), clearly views it as sin. The men of Sodom gathered at Lot’s house “and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight Bring them out to us that we may know (have sexual intercourse) with them.”‘ (The verb “to know” here clearly means sexual inter¬course as it does nine other places in the books of Moses. Lot’s offer of his daughters in exchange for his visitors proves the point.)

In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the so-called Holiness Code, reference is made to a man’s lying with a man as he would with a woman. This is called an “abomination” and a “detestable” act. In Leviticus 20:8, in a list of offenses, homosexuality is included just before bestiality (intercourse with animals), thus indicating the level of degeneracy the Bible places homosexuality within.

In Deuteronomy 22:5 female impersonation is also called an “abomination” to God. As Keil and Delitzsch explain it: “The immediate design of this verse was . . . to maintain the sanctity of that distinction of the sexes which was established by the creation of man and woman, and in relation to which Israel was not to sin. Every violation or wiping out of this distinction . . . was unnatural, and therefore an abomination in the sight of God.”

In Deuteronomy 23:17-18 we see the cult prostitute condemned, and there is reference both to the “sons” and the “daughters of Israel” being cult prostitutes. In an exceptionally strong and vivid verse (18), Moses calls the daughter prostitute a “harlot” but the son prostitute is called a “dog.” This may help explain Revelation 22:15.

Then there is the story of the abuse of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19: 22¬25). Here again we see the verb “to know” meaning “to have sexual intercourse.” These “sons of Belial” (a biblical term indicating gross baseness and wickedness) did not just want to become acquainted with the Levite; otherwise, why did they “abuse” the concubine and “know” her “all night long” to the point of death? Their original intention was very definitely homosexual in design.

Homosexuality and the Christian

The first reference to homosexuality in the New Testament is Romans 1:26, 27 where it speaks of men and women changing the natural functions of their bodies in sexual desires. This crucial passage sets homosexual practices in terms of Christian ethics within a creation-order framework.

We are told here that with certain people their apostasy and idolatry lead to a degeneracy that is expressed in sexual desires foreign to the created order. The word “natural” indicates created “natural order” as is indicated in the context and its usage elsewhere in the New Testament (Rom. 11:21; 1 Cor. 11:14; Eph, 2:3). Clearly, these two verses speak of the “unnatural” practice of homosexuality.

In verse 25 these idolatrous people are said to choose to live a lie in that “unnatural” state. They know enough about God’s laws to know they are transgressing them (verses 19-21). Paul’s words for “man” and “woman” here are the Greek words that emphasize their sexual distinctiveness. All of this goes to prove that it is homosexual practices that are the depth of sin to which the sinners are given over by God (cf. Hosea 4:17).

In Jude 7, the reference to “gross immorality” (ekporneo) is used together with the phrase “going after strange flesh” and a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. It seems warranted that the total reference is to that which is foreign or “strange” to the natural order of creation, or in other words, to homosexual encounters.

In I Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul says that the “effeminate or homosexuals” will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” The word translated “homosexual” (arsenokoites) is a compound of “male” and “intercourse,” and refers to men who prefer intercourse with men rather than with women. The word for “effeminate” (malakos) is more difficult; it may suggest passivity and thus refer to the male who takes the female role in the homosexual act.

There is more to this passage than mere condemnation. In verse 11 the great hope of all sinners (homosexuals included) is justification and sanctification by the power of the Spirit in the name of Jesus! Paul here applies justification and sanctification directly to his list of activities that—apart from the work of the Spirit who is holy—would otherwise keep a person out of God’s kingdom.

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