The Oklahoman reported in an article from May 21 that the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) ratified a measure allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers. According to the article, this is a debate that has “raged within the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for more than three decades.” And though this recent decision finally gave regional church bodies the ability to decide for themselves, some PCUSA Churches have been affirming non-traditional sexual preferences for years. When I read the article, I was deeply saddened that the PCUSA has ignored or perhaps abandoned the Bible altogether on this issue. However, some have tried to validate their position with the Bible, including a Presbyterian (PCUSA) Church in Stillwater where I pastor. The following is part 1 of a blog I wrote in response to statements made by a Presbyterian pastor in local newspapers.
“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” John Calvin
In the fall of 2009, the First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater held several Sunday evening discussions titled: “Loving Our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Neighbor (GLBT).” That sounds loving and caring doesn’t it? Most people know that God is love, and we should love God and our neighbor as commanded in the Bible, (Matt. 22:34-40), and because it is commanded in God’s Word, I want to love my neighbors, whoever they are. Sincerely, I affirm the need to love and respect all people, because all people are created in the image of God and have intrinsic value. I want to love my GLBT neighbor just as much as I want to love my heterosexual neighbor. But while I agree with what the discussion title is saying, I cannot go along with and remain silent about what the discussion title means. Why? Because it is absolutely contradictory to what the Bible means, and is therefore an attack on “God’s truth” and therefore unloving to others. Even if it is not received as love, my intent is to love others by telling them the biblical truth.
Gordon Edwards, pastor of First Presbyterian, says that most people incorrectly interpret the Bible when they say that non-heterosexual orientation is sinful. He says, “The condemnation in the Scriptures is of unnatural, abusive, violent, perverted sexual activity—both heterosexual and homosexual.” (From The Daily O’Collegian; Mon., Sept. 14, 2009; p. 1) Edwards further comments, “Loving, committed same gender relationships are few within the Scripture; I only recall David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Martha and Mary. Each person is called to live responsibly as a creation of God within himself/herself, in relationships with others and the Creator.” From The Stillwater NewsPress; Sept. 11, 2009 (I assert that Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transsexual relationships are all biblically sinful and therefore morally wrong based on the fact that gay and lesbian relationships are biblically prohibited. It stands to reason that if God meant exclusively for a man to love a woman and a woman to love a man as husband and wife, then it is also true that bi-sexual and transsexual relationships are also sinful.)
Is this true? Are loving, committed GLBT relationships biblically defensible and therefore virtuous? As respectfully as I can in love, but also to defend the truth, Edwards’ statements and assertions are just wrong. To begin with, there is no credible evidence that any of the three pairs he mentions were in anything other than a healthy heterosexual relationship. Of course these people loved each other, but not the way David loved Bathsheba or the way Ruth loved Boaz. There is no evidence that any of these pairs were sexually involved, whereas all over the Bible, it is clear that David, for example, “lay with” Bathsheba, or Adam “had relations with his wife,” showing that there was a relationship beyond mutual respect and affection. Consequently, if Ruth had a sexual relationship with her mother-in-law, Naomi, then would it not have been unnatural for her to be married to Naomi’s son and then to be married to Boaz? After all, what makes a relationship “unnatural, abusive, violent or perverted,” if it isn’t going from a husband, to your mother-in-law and then to your eventual husband, who is a relative of your deceased husband and mother-in-law? That appears obviously unnatural to me. And if we follow Edwards’ line of thinking, are we also going to say that Jesus was a homosexual? After all, John was referred to as the one Jesus loved and John also lay on Jesus’ bosom. A same-gender and intimate relationship does not necessarily mean that a person is something other than heterosexual.
So aside from the fact that there are no descriptions of approved GLBT relationships in the Bible, neither is there a single verse that prescribes GLBT relationships as morally right and acceptable. In other words, if we laid the prohibitions aside that most people point to as a defense against GLBT relationships, we still run into the fact there is no favorable prescription of such behavior. Where is the verse that says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his man-wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Answer: It is not there. Jesus and Paul both quote this verse to talk about marriage and biblical relationship, and it is always in the context of heterosexual, a man is married to a woman, covenant relationship. It seems pretty significant, does it not, that if the Bible was going to affirm a certain sexual lifestyle preference as noble and desirable and good that it would have affirmed it outright? And it absolutely does not. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman from Bible beginning to Bible end.
In addition to the Bible giving no examples or statements affirming GLBT relationships, the Bible gives some very clear prohibitions against such behavior. I am even willing to leave the story of Sodom and Gomorrah out of the argument, knowing that proponents of GLBT relationships attempt to argue that their sexual preference in not a sin based on this biblical account because the sin of those in Sodom and Gomorrah was their lack of collective hospitality to the messengers who visited Lot. But in the New Testament, there are some very clear condemnations of GLBT behavior.
Next week: Part 2.
Brent Prentice is senior pastor of Stillwater, Eagle Heights.