Editor's note: On Saturday, June 28, Michael Brown debated Matthew Vines on the topic of homosexuality and Christianity. That debate can be viewed for free here.
For the last few decades, there have been gay-affirming Christians who reject the full authority of the Bible and who have no problem saying that Moses or Paul were wrong on certain subjects. But it is only in the last few years that there has been a rise in gay-affirming Christians who claim to be orthodox believers in the full inspiration of the Scriptures.
The simple fact is that is impossible to fully affirm the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, which includes a full affirmation of the deity of Jesus, while at the same time claiming that God approves of committed homosexual relationships.
For example, gay-affirming Christians commonly claim that while the Bible's prohibition of homosexual practice is categorical, it is not talking about homosexuality as we know it today. Instead, we are told that the biblical authors were speaking against abusive homosexual relationships involving pederasty or prostitution or rape or excessive lust. (Another argument would be that they were denouncing homosexual practices involved in idolatrous rites.)
But for the sake of argument, let's say that this was true and that Moses and Jesus and Paul knew nothing about long-term, committed homosexual relationships or that they had no notion of modern concepts of allegedly inborn, fixed homosexual orientation. That would mean that God inspired the biblical authors to write in such a way that homosexual men and women would be rejected and marginalized and judged for almost 3,500 years (from the time of giving of the Law to Israel until the late 20th century).
It would mean that God inspired Moses to write that it was an abomination for a man to lie with a man even though he didn't mean committed men lying with committed men, and even though Old Testament Israel (and religious Jews to this day) and the New Testament church (including conservative Christians to this day) would think God was prohibiting all homosexual relationships.
That is what a loving God would do? That is how He would inspire His children to write?
The same could be said for Paul's clear words in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Why would God inspire him to write in this way if He knew that the words would be so terribly misconstrued and misused?
You might object and say, "Well, that's exactly what happened with slavery!"
God did intend to legislate slavery in ancient Israel, but in a humane way and as part of a larger economic system, but already in the Old Testament, there were seeds planted for the long-term liberation of slaves. (Let's not forget that every Sabbath, slaves rested as the nation remembered Israel's deliverance from Egyptian slavery.)
And in New Testament times, God did inspire His servants to address slavery in the Greco-Roman world pragmatically, knowing that there was no way that this new movement in its infancy could tackle the customs of the entire empire. At the same time, seeds of liberation were planted in the New Testament as well, along with calls for fair and humane treatment of slaves by their Christian masters—as brothers in the Lord—which is why the abolitionists used the Bible as their textbook for liberation.
There's also not a single verse in the Bible praising slavery itself, nor is there anything in the Bible that could rightly be used to support the African slave trade. (Old Testament law explicitly condemned kidnapping.)
In contrast, there is not a single verse in the entire Bible that says one positive thing about homosexual relationships (I hope we're beyond people trying to claim Jonathan and David were gay) while every reference to homosexual practice is entirely negative.
This means that gay-affirming Christians must believe that God, who certainly understood "sexual orientation" and was aware of every human relationship that would ever exist, inspired His servants to write words that, if fairly and honestly interpreted through the centuries, would be used to condemn homosexual practice.
What's more, gay-affirming Christians must believe that Hebrews 4:12 is not true, since it claims that God's Word "is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
Put another way, the Word of God reaches to the very depths of our nature and yet somehow, according to gay-affirming Christians, it entirely missed and misunderstood homosexual men and women.
This also means that Hebrews 4:13 is not true, since the verse states that "no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
In contrast, gay-affirming Christians must believe that some human creatures have been hidden from His sight and have not been naked and exposed before God, since the writers of Scripture didn't write with sufficient inspiration to really understand committed homosexual relationships.
Even in terms of practical life application, gay-affirming Christians must say that Paul did not give valid instructions, since he wrote, " 'It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.' But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:1-2).
Over and over, I have heard gay-affirming Christians quote Paul's words, reminding us that he wrote that it's better to marry than to burn with lust, which is why we need to allow two homosexual men or women to "marry." But that's not what Paul wrote, and if you want to quote him in part, then quote him in full: "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband."
Once again, you have to say that Paul wasn't really inspired, since he still leaves out same-sex partners. Instead, he was inspired to write words that leave out homosexual relationships.
Of course, we're told that Paul had no concept of long-term, committed homosexual relationships, but that the position is easily refuted. (I plan to address this at length in a future blog post or article.) But again, even if that wrong argument were true, it would mean that God didn't really inspire him to write these words but rather allowed him to write harmful words that reflected the spirit of the age.
It would also mean that the biblical writers didn't really understand human nature, since sexual desires and romantic attractions are deeply ingrained in our nature, yet again, according to gay-affirming Christians, the prophets and apostles just didn't get this right. As other Christian leaders have pointed out, this has grave implications for the gospel.
Worst of all, gay-affirming Christians must believe (and do believe!) that Jesus Himself, who saw into the hearts and souls of human beings, really didn't "get it."
We're not talking about the Lord having limited knowledge about future events before His resurrection. We're talking about the Son of God not understanding people, not hearing the heart-cry of a desperate same-sex attracted person who came to Him, not recognizing that the person He was looking at—and looking into—was cast out because he or she was "different."
John 2:25 tells us that Jesus "knew what was in man." Gay-affirming Christians tell us He did not.
The choice then, is simple: You can embrace the full authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, in which case you will be filled with love and compassion for those who identify as LGBT and proclaim the good news of forgiveness and new life to them, or you can endorse same-sex, committed relationships. But you cannot do both.
Given time, gay-affirming Christians will make their rejection of the authority of God and His Word all the more clear.
Michael Brown is author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.