ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE OR SIN?
Part 3 “Walking on the Edge of Darkness” Series
(See parent tract for background.) By John Whritenor
Recently the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire picked a homosexual priest as its bishop. This man had divorced his wife, left his children, and began living with another man in an active homosexual relationship. Homosexuality has been considered a sin by the church for centuries. How could they arrive at such a decision? As with many ventures into unrighteousness, they started “walking on the edge of darkness” by questioning the Bible’s identification of specific behaviors as sin.
I learned from a good friend of a startling statement made by a bishop of the Episcopal Church over 25 years ago regarding sexual sin. He had told a large college assembly that “the only reason that the prohibition of sex outside of marriage is in the Bible is that the means for preventing pregnancy and controlling venereal diseases were not available in biblical times. The prohibition doesn’t apply anymore since we now can do both.”
I don’t know how long after this foolishness the Episcopal Church decided that same gender sexual activities should also be free from being labeled as sinful. The first step in their process to “free these wronged people from the stigma of their choices” was to identify homosexuality as an alternative and acceptable life style. They then could advocate and approve homosexual activities between church members, same sex marriages, and the installation of active homosexuals as ministers or priests. How could any church justify such a radical departure from the word of God?
Attempts to make homosexuality an acceptable life style based on scripture often begin with the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah below. Some people say that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. They claim that those who surrounded Lot’s house were being inhospitable by demanding to see Lot’s visitors. As inconsiderate as inhospitality may be, it is difficult to rationalize inhospitality as a sin so harmful that God would refer to a “great outcry” against Sodom and Gomorrah or to their sin as “very grave” (Genesis 18:20). The sin of these cities, according to the Bible, was so bad that ten righteous men could not be found to save the cities from destruction (Genesis 18:32). It is ludicrous to think that their devastation was for inhospitality. Only a pervasive deviancy would warrant such extreme measures. The presence of such a deviancy in Sodom is supported by Genesis 13:13, which states that the men in that city were exceedingly wicked and sinful.
And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,” . . . And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? . . . Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Genesis 18:20, 23, 32)
There are those who maintain that the crowd outside Lot’s home just wanted to know who his visitors were, that there were no sexual elements in their demands. They maintain that the Hebrew word yada’ (OT: 3045), which is translated “know” in Genesis 19:5, only means to become “familiar with.” It is difficult to defend this position for three reasons: (1) Lot offered his daughters to the mob in place of his visitors to “do to them as you wish” (Genesis 19:8). (2) Lot said that his daughters “have not known a man.” (Genesis 19:8). The same root Hebrew word, yada’, is used for “know” in verse 5 and “known” in verse 8. In verse 8 it obviously involves carnal knowledge. It is unlikely yada’ was meant to convey two different meanings in the same context. (3) A further difficulty arises with the “get acquainted theory.” Why would Lot be so concerned that the men outside would do “wickedly” to his visitors (Genesis 19:7) and ask them “to do nothing to these men” (Genesis 19:8) if he thought that a mere lack of hospitality was their problem?
. . . two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them....and entered his house . . . . Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men (OT:582) of Sodom, both old and young, all the people (OT:5971) from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men (OT:376) who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know (OT:3045) them carnally.1” So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly (OT:7489)! See now, I have two daughters who have not known (OT:3045) a man (OT:376); please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men (OT:376), since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men (OT:376) reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men (OT:376) who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door . . . . When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city (for inhospitality?).” (Genesis 19:1, 3-11, 15)
[1- Though “carnally” is not in the Hebrew text, translators clearly recognized that it as implied.]
Some people question homosexuality as being the sin of Sodom because the crowd outside Lot’s house in Genesis 19 included women as well men. They may be right about women being there. The Hebrew word `am (OT:5971) is general enough to include women. But verse 11 clearly establishes that the only people of concern to Lot and the angels were the men. The passage states that the angels “struck the men (OT:376) who were at the door of the house with blindness.” No women were involved in this action.
The definitions of the critical words in the passages above are:
OT:3045- yada`- To know; used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially.
OT:376- 'iysh - man as an individual or a male person.
OT:582- 'enowsh -properly, a mortal, a man in general (singly or collectively).
OT:5971- `am - a people (as a congregated unit); specifically, a tribe (as those of Israel); hence (collectively) troops or attendants; figuratively, a flock.
OT:7489- ra` a` - properly, to spoil, to make (or be) good for nothing.
The Hebrew word yada’ (OT:3045) occurs 941 times in the Old Testament. Its meaning usually involves personal or intellectual knowing. However, it also occurs in the following passages where it obviously means carnal knowledge:
Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain... (Genesis 4:1)
Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: (Genesis 4:17)
Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth. (Genesis 4:25)
.. the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her. (Genesis 24:16)
And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, "Tamar your daughter-in-law... is with child by harlotry." So Judah said, "Bring her out and let her be burned!" When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man to whom these belong, I am with child." And she said, "Please determine whose these are-–the signet and cord, and staff." So Judah acknowledged them and said, "She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again. (Genesis 38:24-26)
Other people identify a list of sins in Ezekiel 16:49-50 with Sodom to justify defining inhospitality as the sin that led to its destruction.2 This list includes pride, haughtiness, gluttony, idleness, and selfish disregard of the needs of others. However, a life dominating sin that could invite such destruction does not develop in a society without other self-centered and lustful sins, such as the ones on this list, preceding it. The culmination of the list in Ezekiel 16:50 is that they “committed abomination before Me.” If this list does refer to Sodom, it fits the classification of homosexuality as an abomination in the Leviticus’ passages examined below and reaffirms that homosexuality is Sodom’s defining sin.
[2- Another interpretation of this passage is that God was listing the sins of Jerusalem, not the sins of Sodom. Sodom was only mentioned as a warning to Jerusalem. (See Ezekiel 16:44, 45 and 48)]
With a crowd of men striving to “know” Lot’s two male visitors, a case could easily be built that the men of Sodom had gone beyond homosexuality and engaged in homosexual rape. Homosexual related sins, then, are the only ones that fit the full Genesis account of the destruction of every man, woman and child in Sodom and Gomorrah and the events leading up to it.
The intent of the Genesis passages can be further clarified by considering other biblical references to Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude clearly identifies the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as “sexual immorality,” going “after strange flesh,” and the consequences of that sin as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
. . . as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
Peter identifies the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as “ungodly,” “the filthy conduct of the wicked,” “lawless deeds,” and sees those engaged in the sin as walking “according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.” Does this description define acceptable behavior? It certainly describes sexual sin far better than it does inhospitality!
. . . turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:6-10)
Apart from Sodom and Gomorrah, other verses show the foolishness of attempting to define homosexuality as acceptable biblical behavior. The following verses in Leviticus emphatically identify homosexuality as something disgusting and abhorrent:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination (OT:8441). (Leviticus 18:22-23)
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (OT:8441). They shall surely be put to death . . . . (Leviticus 20:13)
OT:8441- tow` ebah - something disgusting (morally), an abhorrence.
Paul focuses on the seriousness of the sin of homosexuality in Romans. The following verses call it a “vile passion” and identify it as unnatural, shameful, a dishonoring of their bodies, and coming from a debased mind. It also identifies homosexual acts as burning in lust.
God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality . . . . (Romans 1:24-29)
Some people twist the phrase, “leaving the natural use of the woman” in verse 27, by claiming that it does not apply to “homosexual” men. They maintain that their natural desire is for other men, not for women. They then conclude that the passage must address only “heterosexual” men seeking sexual activities with other men. Sex between homosexuals is, therefore, acceptable. These conclusions are obviously wrong, especially when passages such as those in Leviticus above and 1 Corinthians below are considered. What Romans 1:27 clearly states is that any man who leaves the natural relationship God created him to have only with a women, for one with another man, engages in shameful and vile passions.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul’s list of unrighteous acts includes the Greek words malakos (NT: 3120) and arsenokoites (NT:733). In context, malakos most likely involves a man-boy form of homosexuality. The root of the words for arsenokoites (see below) shows that it can literally mean “cohabitation of men on a couch,” with the idea of male sperm being included.
. . . the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals (NT: 3120), nor sodomites (NT:733), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
NT:3120- malakos - soft, i.e. fine (clothing); figuratively, a catamite (a boy kept by a pederast or pedophile).
NT:733- arsenokoites - from NT730 and NT:2845; a sodomite
NT:730- arrhen - or arsen - male.
NT:2845- koite - a couch; cohabitation; implication, the male sperm.
After examining all of the above references, I find it very difficult to classify homosexual acts as anything but sin and the life style usually associated with them as anything but abhorrent to God. Anyone who engages in homosexual acts is as guilty of sin as is any fornicator or adulterer. I believe that same gender sexual activity is a sin that can end in a bondage as strong or stronger than any drug or alcoholic addiction. In our humanness we often try to justify our sins rather than humble ourselves, repent, and turn from our wicked ways. Homosexuals are no exception. There are heterosexual people who try, in their misguided human compassion, to support them in exchanging the truth of God for a lie. They widen the gate that God has made to be narrow. Instead of bringing freedom to homosexuals, the actions of their supporters tend to keep them in their bondage and expose them to “the penalty of their error” (Romans 1:27).
Christians are called to love all people. Loving people who have chosen homosexuality does not mean loving their sin. Rather, it involves loving them enough to want them to be delivered and to experience the redemption only God can bring to sinners.
For many years our society has been redefining acceptable behavior to be what seems right in the minds of man. Worldly morality has adjusted to the ever growing lusts of men. What man wants to be acceptable, no matter how deviant, often becomes acceptable in secular society. All too frequently the church follows suit, desiring to please men rather than God. People have slowly chipped away at the biblical standards established by God. Each time a biblical prohibition of sin is compromised even a little, we begin “walking on the edge of darkness.” Sexual sin, whether fornication, adultery, or homosexuality, is lust and giving in to our lusts puts us on a direct path to the depths of darkness.
Where such compromise can lead is exemplified by the book, A New Christianity for a New World by Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong. According to World Magazine, July/August 2002, in his book, this “man of God” “denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, the existence of a personal God, and every tenet of historical Christianity that he can think of. These notions, he says, are not relevant to our culture today . . . . Extramarital sex and homosexuality are culturally acceptable now, so the church, if it is going to continue to exist, had better change its tune.”
In his book, Bishop Spong essentially proposes ‘a new Christianity.’ “This new faith, he writes, must be able to ‘incorporate all of reality. It must allow God and Satan to come together in each of us . . . . It must unite Christ with Antichrist, Jesus with Judas, male with female, heterosexual with homosexual.’”
The only way to justify homosexuality is to compromise the word of God. It cannot be done without rewriting or distorting selected passages, reading into the Bible ideas that are not there, or ignoring what it has to say. Anytime we even think about doing any of these things, we begin “walking on the edge of darkness.” The people who have justified making homosexuality a biblically acceptable lifestyle, probably began their journey into deception with this kind of “edge of darkness” thinking.
Contact John Whritenor, 4 Garden Court, Saugerties, NY 12477, Tel 845-246-1719
Email, JOHN WHRITENOR
quoted scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible.
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