Objection #4: Paul identifies homosexual behavior as dirty, but not sinful.
The most outspoken promoter of this point of view is L. William Countryman, who unpersuasively attempts to distinguish between "dirty" (improper or unusual) and "what is sinful." However, the untenable foundation of this argument becomes immediately apparent when one considers the fact that homosexual behavior is described as "dishonorable passions" (vs. 26), "shameless acts" (vs. 27) and "error" (vs. 27) — not to mention several other negative descriptions of homoeroticism that are presented throughout the larger context of Romans 1. As Dr. Robert Gagnon states, "The plain reading of Romans 1:26-27 makes clear that Paul regarded same-sex intercourse and unrestrained passion for such practices as sin." And in the surrounding context of verses 18-32, the entire catalog of conduct is evaluated as equally sinful with no distinctions being made. Moreover, other significant Pauline texts unequivocally identify homosexuality as a transgression of God's moral law, which bars unrepentant participants from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).
James White and Jeffrey Niell also provide further clarification, "Their 'error' is not merely a 'miscalculation' as we might use the term 'error' today. Indeed, a better rendering of this term, which often is used in the New Testament to refer being misled or drawn from the right path, is 'perversion.'" So, whenever this distinct Greek word is used, moral deviancy is certainly in mind.
Finally, Paul writes that homosexuals are in danger of "receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error" (vs. 27). Homosexuality is therefore undoubtedly described as sinful and therefore worthy of the retributive wrath of God (see also vs. 18). Nevertheless, it is being commonly claimed by "gay"-affirming individuals that the Bible has only recently been reinterpreted with an anti-"gay" bias to condemn homosexuality. The historical record, however, reveals strong documented evidence to the contrary. Each of the following Church Fathers clearly and consistently spoke about homosexuality as a breach of the biblical, sexual ethic (bibliographical information included):
- Clement of Rome (d. 99) (Epistle to the Corinthians, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 46),
- Irenaeus (c. 130-202) (Against Heresies, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (TANF), vol. 1, 504ff, book IV.31.1 and 3).
- Athenagorus (c. 133-190) (TANF, vol. 2; Fathers of the Second Century: Athenagorus, chapter 34, p. 147).
- Tertullian (c. 160-225) (TANF, vol. 3; Tertullian, The Chaplet, or De Corona, chapter 6, p. 96).
- Origen (c. 185-254) (TANF, vol. 4; Origen, Against Celsus, book 7, chapter 49, p. 631).
- Cyprian (c. 200-258) (TANF, vol.5; Cyprian, The Treatise of Cyprian – "Of the Discipline and Advantage of Chastity," p. 588).
- Lactantius (c. 240 – 320) (TANF, vol. 7; Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, book 1, chapter 11, 20; and Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, vol. 1, chapter 8, pp. 303-304).
- Eusebius (c. 260-340) (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (TNPNF), second series, vol. 1; Church History of Eusebius: "The Oration of Eusebius Pamphilus, in Praise of the Emperor Constantine," chapter 13, pp. 600-603).
- Athanasius (c. 296-373) (TNPNF, second series, vol. 4; Athanasius: Select Writings and Letters, Against Heathen, pp. 26, 17-18. See also Select Writings and Letters, "On the Incarnation of the Word," vol. 4, section 5, pp. 38-39).
- Chrysostom (c. 347-407) (TNPNF, vol.11; Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans – Homily 4 on Romans 1:26-27, pp. 355-359. See also TNPNF, vol. 12; Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians – Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians 11:2, verse 15, p. 154).
- Augustine (c. 354-430)(TNPNF, vol. 5; Augustine's Anti-Pelagian Works: The Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and on the Baptism of Infants—"Sin and the Penalty of Sin the Same," book 3, chapter 24, [xxii], p. 129. See also TNPNF, vol. 5; Augustine's Anti-Pelagian Works: On Marriage and Concupiscence – "He Answers the Arguments of Julianus," book 2, chapter 35, [xxx]. What is the Natural Use of the Woman? What is the Unnatural Use? p. 297).
From the very beginning and all throughout the ages, there have been faithful Christians who have unwaveringly enunciated and staunchly upheld the historic biblical witness regarding homosexual practice. The revisionist claims represent nothing more than a recent development of our morally adrift, postmodern culture. Therefore, we must continue to follow in the footsteps of those who have accurately proclaimed the sinfulness of homosexuality and the need to repent of all such sexually aberrant behavior. The souls of homosexuals literally hang in the balance.
Click here for the first part of this series.
Author's Note: The following primary resources were utilized in the writing of this article: The Same Sex Controversy, James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell; The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Robert A.J. Gagnon; Can You Be Gay and Christian?, Michael L. Brown; The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible, Joe Dallas.
Jeff Allen is both senior editor and a columnist for BarbWire. He also serves as senior pastor in a mainline Christian church in Indiana.
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