Category Archives: Romans

Andrew McFarland Campbell’s Very Short Guide to Debunking The Six Traditional Clobber Passages

There are six passages traditionally used to say you can’t be gay and Christian: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

Genesis 19 is about gang rape. Anyone who says this has anything to say about consensual relationships has bigger problems than Biblical interpretation.

Leviticus is part of the Law of Moses, which is not binding on Christians. In any case the verses use an obscure Hebrew idiom that is rather unclear (as can been seen in the KJV translation).

Romans 1 26 and 27 does speak about same-sex relationships in a negative light, but then again verses 25 and 25 speak about opposite-sex relationships in an equally negative light. Nobody believes that Romans 1 teaches you can’t be straight and Christian.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 use an obscure Greek word, arsenokoites, which is also used to refer to heterosexual sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also uses the word malakos, which is not a sexual term. If these passages were supposed to be about same-sex relationships, the writer could have used a lot of other, more common, terms.

Against Nature?

I just saw this on the BBC website.

Same-sex pairs of monogamous birds are just as attached and faithful to each other as those paired with a member of the opposite sex.

The post revealing which person in the Bible ad two dads will be next – I just thought that story was too interesting not to share.

Nature in Romans

Verses 26 and 27 of Romans 1 are often quoted by people who think that the Bible teaches that same-sex relationships are wrong.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:26-27, KJV)

This passage begins “For this cause”: it depends on what went before, so you can’t read it out of context. Even so, some people believe that because this passage uses phrases like “against nature” it means that that same-sex relationships are paticularly bad, perhaps even being a  transgression of natural law. But does the New Testament use what is “natural” as moral guidance anywhere else?

Leaving aside Romans for the moment, there are seven verses in the King James translation Bible where something is described as “natural” (φυσικός, phusikos, Strong’s 5446), “naturally” (φυσικῶς, phusikós, Strong’s 5447), or otherwise according to nature (φύσις, phusis, Strong’s 5449).

Just one of those verses – 1 Corinthians 11:14 – uses “nature” as a good thing that we should emulate (and even then that is debatable). Two of them – Galatians 2:15 and Galatians 4:8 – are neutral regarding nature as a moral authority. In three of them, “nature” is actually a bad thing.

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3, KJV)

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (2 Peter 2:12, KJV)

But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. (Jude 10, KJV)

Unlike Romans 1:26-27, the seventh verse, 2 Peter 1:4 is about divine nature, which is obviously a good thing.

As well as the above verses, “nature” is used in the King James Version in eight other places, six of which are translations of different Greek words (1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46, Philippians 2:20James 1:23, and James 3:6) and two of which are interpolations by the translators to add clarity (2 Timothy 3:3, and Hebrews 2:16). None of those verses suggest that “natural” behaviour is something that Christians should aim for.

Returning to Romans, in Romans 11:21-24 Paul describes God himself acting in a way that is contrary to nature:

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:21-24, KJV)

“Nature” just isn’t used as a moral force in the New Testament. We can’t simply look at something being “natural” and conclude that it is good, and look at something being “against nature” and conclude that it is bad.  Yes, in Romans 1, Paul uses negative language about same-sex relationships, but he also uses negative language about opposite-sex relationships. There is simply no justification for the assumption that the negative language used about one is worse than the negative language used about the other.

Romans 1 and Sound Bite Theology

Romans chapter 1:26-27 is sometimes taken to be a quick proof that all gay relationships are wrong.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (TNIV)

If you take this New Testament sound bite out of context, it does seem to be pretty comprehensive in its condemnation. However, it isn’t nearly so general when you read it in context. First of all, the passage starts off describing people who abandoned god and became idol worshippers.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. (21-23)

And here these people, the idol worshippers from verses 21 to 23, have started to sin sexually.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (24-25)

And here, the idol worshippers extend their sexual sin to include same-sex activity.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (26-27, my emphasis)

These verses are not about a contemporary gay Christian couple. How could they be? The initial cause of the behaviour in verses 26 and 27 was idol worship, as mentioned in verses 21 to 23. The behaviour arose “Because of this”. Christians are not idol worshippers, so verses 26 and 27 are not about Christian gay couples.

You could say that the words used in verses 26 and 27 are so negative that you can extend them to cover all same-sex sexual activity: “shameful acts with one another”, and so on. But remember that the homosexual immorality described in these verses follows on from the sexual immorality of verses 24 and 25. That means that the sexual immorality in those verses was heterosexual immorality, and that immorality is described with equally negative words: “sinful desires”, “degrading their bodies”. It is clearly ridiculous to use verses 24 and 25 to condemn all straight relationships, and it is clearly ridiculous to use verses 26 and 27 to condemn all gay relationships. It is far more realistic to realise that verses 24 to 27 aren’t about all sexual relationships, just the immoral ones that arose out of idol worship.

When you read Romans 1:26-27 in context it is clear that it isn’t an anti-gay sound bite.

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