by Bob Wheeler


Paul at Athens

Perhaps nothing is more controversial in America today than LGBT “rights.”  The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) legalized same-sex marriage, and since then there has been constant controversy over the bounds of religious freedom and the rights of gay and transgender people.  The government is on a collision course with Christianity, and many churches are struggling with how to respond.

The controversy is not new.  Sexual activity is as old as the human race itself, and both Judaism and Christianity have always been “anti-gay.”  In ancient times the Canaanites were noted for their licentious practices, and homosexuality was widely accepted among the Greeks.  And yet the Torah refers to homosexual practice as an “abomination” (Lev. 18:22) worthy of death (Lev. 20:13), and the New Testament says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10).  Their attitude toward sexual behavior was one of the sharpest things that differentiated Judaism and Christianity from the surrounding pagan culture.

But why the difference?  The apostle Paul explains in Rom. 1:24-27.  Here Paul speaks of both men and women engaging in homosexual activity.  He says, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature” (v. 26; NKJV).  Several things are noteworthy.  First of all, homosexuality is “against nature.”  Paul says that there is a “natural use” of the opposite sex and that same-sex relationships are “against nature.”  But what does he mean by that?  This brings us to the very core of the controversy.

The modern LGBT community would have us to believe that homosexuality is perfectly natural and normal, and therefore should be accepted.  Some people are just born that way, can’t help being that way, and therefore should be accepted that way.

But some people are born with birth defects, and we don’t “accept them the way they are.”  If at all possible we try to correct the defect with surgery.  And some people have behavioral problems, alcoholism for example, and we don’t “just accept them the way they are” either.  Their behavior is a problem, no matter how naturally it comes to them.

At this point it becomes evident that secular psychology has its limitations.  Psychology purports to be science, and science is supposed to be neutral and objective.  But how, then, can psychology determine what is “normal.”  Psychologists look at the mores of a given society, or ask people how they feel about themselves.  And since most homosexuals have no desire to change their behavior, the conclusion is drawn that they are not suffering from a mental illness.  The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1974.  But what is appropriate sexual behavior is a moral and ethical question and involves a value judgment that science is not prepared to make.

Why, then, does the apostle Paul condemn homosexuality as “against nature”?  The answer is that we should evaluate things in terms of their function.  The obvious function of our reproductive organs is reproduction, and this calls for heterosexual intercourse.  But to say that something in nature has a specific function presupposes the idea of Intelligent Design – that there is an intelligent Supreme Being who is behind it, and that therefore everything in nature has a reason and purpose.  What God intended in sexual relationships is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman in which they genuinely love each other and raise their biological children together.  We are not to use each other simply to satisfy our own sexual lusts.  Homosexuality, then, is a radical departure from what our Creator intended.

In other words, what is at issue in the current debate is the nature of reality itself.  Do we live in a rationally ordered universe created by an intelligent Supreme Being?  Or do we exist as autonomous individuals in a universe that is essentially impersonal, irrational and amoral?  If we hold to the latter view we are essentially denying God as our Creator.  It is a form of intellectual rebellion against the created order.

But Paul goes one step further.  He says that “God gave them up to vile passions” (v. 26), and of gay men he says that they “burned in their lust for one another” (v. 27).  This suggests that what is motivating them is not so much a tender love and affection for another human being as much as it is an unrestrained desire for self-gratification.  In saying this I realize that many homosexuals feel a genuine attraction for members of the same sex.  But at least among gay men it is a notoriously hedonistic lifestyle involving numerous sexual partners in casual encounters.  They have become slaves to their own lusts.

Paul says that they are “committing what is shameful” (v. 27).  In popular parlance we might call this “the yuck factor.”  To see a man dressed up in women’s clothes and makeup, to contemplate men having oral and anal sex with other men, we intuitively find it to be revolting.  It is a grotesque caricature, a parody of what a sexual relationship is supposed to be like.

All of this is a sign that “God gave them up.”  The growing acceptance of homosexuality is an indication of our society’s increasing moral degeneracy.  We are becoming progressively less able to distinguish right from wrong, normal from abnormal.  We have lost faith in universal truths and moral absolutes.  Nowadays we call it “Post-Modernism”: the Bible calls it “a debased mind” (v. 28).  It is the sign of a civilization on the verge of collapse.