What Does The Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage
Several days ago, a historic vote in the state of New York, pushed aggressively by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legalized the practice of same-sex marriage. Such an action was certainly a momentous decision for marriage equality rights in the LGBT community. The vote was not exactly sui generis, but the fact that it occurred in a large and populous state in the country drew more media attention than, say, Vermont. The media focus is a double-edged sword for the issue of same-sex marriage: it exhibits an enlightening progress in our culture concerning the LGBT community, and it also gives voice to the cacophonous opposition, not only directed towards same-sex unions but towards same-sex orientation itself.
Second, the Bible does not clearly endorse one form of marriage over another. Adam and Eve as the divine groom and bride is one Biblical arrow in the quiver of same-sex union opponents. The Yahwist creation story in Genesis has God forming Eve out of Adam’s rib, and Adam exclaiming their unity . This is a gender creation story, not a creation of marriage story. Adam and Eve do not exchange rings, say “I do” and have a jazz band reception in Paradise.
For further reading:
There are voluminous secondary sources to consider, but one of the concise and best treatments can be found in Victor Paul Furnish’s The Moral Teachings of Paul: Selected Issues
Why Is It So Important To Society That Marriage Be Preserved As The Exclusive Union Of A Man And A Woman
Across times, cultures, and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Marriage is the fundamental pattern for male-female relationships. It contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other.
The marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children: namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and father present only in marriage. The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good.
Laws play an educational role insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable. In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral.
When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution ofmarriage is devalued and further weakened. The weakening of this basic institution at all levels and by various forces has already exacted too high a social cost.
Four Things You Didnt Know About God And Same
Christians who oppose same-sex marriage say it goes against the biblical conception of marriage and sexuality, but they’re wrong.
Last week, Iowa and Vermont joined Connecticut and Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage. Progressive religious voices and civil rights groups worked hard to help achieve these victories, moving us closer to our nations promise of equality and justice for all. Even so, conservative religious opponents are criticizing the victories, claiming that same-sex marriage violates the biblical definition of marriage. They are wrong, and heres why.
1. There are few biblical verses that address homosexuality at all, and most of those are not directed at homosexuality per se. Opponents of same-sex marriage routinely cite seven verses in the Christian Bible as condemning homosexuality and calling it a sin. But when taken in context, these lessons speak not against homosexuality itself, but rather against rape, child molestation, bestiality, and other practices that hurt others and compromise a persons relationship with God.
2. Jesus never said one word against homosexuality. In all of his teachings, Jesus uplifted actions and attitudes of justice, love, humility, mercy, and compassion. He condemned violence, oppression, cold-heartedness, and social injustice. Never once did Jesus refer to what we call homosexuality as a sin.
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Sexual Orientation Is Not A Sin
However, regardless of how we interpret the Bible’s teachings about homosexual acts, it is important to note that the Bible does not condemn people for being sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. It is sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex that is prohibited by Bible teachings.
A boy or girl who discovers homosexual feelings should realize that, like other interests and feelings, it may be only a passing phase that will fade away in time. Meanwhile, he or she should avoid becoming obsessed with the feelings or indulging in any kind of sexual activity.
A homosexual Christian man or woman is presented with great challenges, and great strength is often achieved by learning to deal with great challenges. Perhaps God has some special role in mind for that person that is best accomplished outside the restrictions imposed by traditional marriage and family duties.
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The Best Christian Argument For Marriage Equality Is That The Bible Got It Wrong
How often did Jesus get things wrong?
For many Christians, opposing homosexuality is as simple as opening the Bible.
You could be reading the Old Testament, for example, and come across this particularly harsh passage from Leviticus: If a man lies with another man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death. Or you might be studying Pauls first letter to the Corinthians and read something like this: Do not be deceived,writes Paul neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality will inherit the kingdom of God.
Now, its possible to read Pauls rhetoric here as something other than a condemnation of same-sex relationships, and many trained theologians have been doing so for years. Its possible, too, that other biblical passages that have historically been used against gay people, like the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, could be similarly re-imagined in less anti-gay ways.
For decades now, the halls of academia have teemed with well-meaning scholars and bible commentators anxious to show that, actually, the Bible isnt as anti-gay as we think, and that if we all just followed their hermeneutical lead, wed see that both the Old and New Testaments speak positivelyalbeit codedlyof homosexual love.
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The Bible Forbids Adultery And Values Marriage
The Bible simply doesnt say much specifically about premarital sex. And some of what has been interpreted as applying to premarital sex doesnt really apply to it.
What the Bible does condemn in no uncertain terms is adultery. However, even though premarital sex is traditionally considered fornication, it is not adultery. Adultery is when one or both of the people engaging in sex with one another is married to someone else. Strictly speaking, the commandment Thou shalt not commit adultery does not apply to sex before marriage.
The Bible presents marriage as a relationship that is sacred because from the beginning God created two human beings to be united into one. Based on this, we can conclude that:
- If the people engaging in premarital sex think there is nothing wrong with promiscuous and adulterous relationships, and just want to sleep around with no restrictions or boundaries, it is a serious issue.
- But if the people engaging in premarital sex value marriage and want to be in a committed, monogamous relationship, it is not such a serious issue.
Does the Bible give a green light to premarital sex, then?
No, it doesnt.
But it doesnt give a red light either.
Lets take a closer look at the Bibles yellow light on sex before marriage. Then well look at some issues that are worth considering in making decisions about engaging in sex outside of marriage.
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Will Homosexuals Go To Heaven
- As mentioned in the “Interpretation and Questions” section above, these verses have been translated from the original Greek into English in various ways, and there are uncertainties about which specific homosexual practices are intended.
- As stated in verse 11 of , all these sins are sins that God will forgive if a person repents.
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The Bible Takes A Pragmatic Approach To Premarital Sex
Lets be honest. The Bible is full of imperfect people who do imperfect things. The only person who is presented by the Bible as sinless is Jesus Christ .
In the Old Testament, laws could be quite harsh against those who broke Gods laws. Adultery, in particular, carried the death penalty .
What about those who had sex before marriage?
Here, the law was more complicated, and more pragmatic.
If a woman got married, and it was then discovered that she was not a virgin when she got married, her offense was punishable by death .
Yes, this was sexist and unfair. The same rule did not apply to men. But that was an earlier and more brutal age. This law was their way of assuring a man that his children were his own.
By the same token, if a man raped a woman who was pledged to be married, he was subject to the death penalty, while the woman was not to be punished at all .
What if the woman was neither married nor pledged to be married?
In that society, it was assumed that an unmarried woman would not allow a man to have sex with her, because the consequences for her would be catastrophic. So if an unmarried man did have sex with an unmarried woman, unless there was some proof otherwise, it was considered rape, and the man was to be punished for itbut not by the death penalty:
In other words, the man was subject to a large fine payable to the womans father and to the ancient Hebrew equivalent of a shotgun wedding, from which he could not escape through divorce.
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Surprising Things That The Bible Says About Marriage
The Bible is not a book about marriage at least not mainly or directly. The Bible is a book about God and about people and how God saves people through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Even still, the Bible does have a lot to say about marriage and a great deal of what it has to say runs contrary to our assumptions and values as modern people.
Amongst the most surprising revelations would be the following:
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It Is Supposed To Preach The Gospel
There is something special about human beings particularly human beings as male and female together. The Bibles says:
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them.
Image and likeness those are very important words.
We sometimes forget that the first people to hear these words in Genesis were most likely the wilderness generation of Hebrews during the time of the 40 year desert wandering. Their cultural frame of reference was Egyptian they had been living inside Egyptian culture for the last 400 years. In Egypt only one person was ever referred to as the image and likeness of God. Pharaoh was tselem and demooth Pharaoh was image and likeness of God. He resembled God and represented God in a way that no one else did.
But here in Genesis 1:26-27 Moses tells the recently liberated Egyptian slave class that they are all each of them male and female the image and likeness of God. They represent him and they resemble in some way that is not true of any other creature.
When people look at you particularly when they look at you as male and female together they are supposed to see something about the beauty, wholeness and vitality of the Living God.
Claim : The Move To Prohibit Recognition Of Same
Its fair to point out that some views that used to be considered clear in Scripture have actually turned out to not be so clearand even wrong. Hermeneutical humility for all is not a bad thing. But it cuts both ways. Whereas with creation/slavery/women one can point to passages where counter-tensions existed with what was clear , no OT or NT text is even neutral on same-sex issues. Every single text that mentions the topic does so negatively.
So here also trajectory helps us, since with same-sex passages there is no trajectory. The reading is consistent. That should count for something.
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Given What We Know About Jesus Humility Why Wouldn’t He Be Open To Changing His Mind
What the bible most decidedly is not is some type of handbook for navigating the 21st century. It is not God, nor should it be awarded godlike status. Are there universal truths contained with the pages of the bible? Absolutely! Are many of those truths relevant in every age and culture, and binding to Christians everywhere? Definitelyloving your neighbor, forgiving your enemies, and looking out for the weak are obligations that Christ has put upon each person who that claims to follow him. Are there passages of Scripture that should be read as if they are describing historical events that actually transpired in this world? Of coursethe physical resurrection of Jesus is a non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith.
But what about the story where God creates the entire universe in six 24-hour periods? What about all of the laws described in the Torah, like the one that forbids wearing different fabrics together, or planting different kinds of seeds in the same field? What about the law that demands rebellious children be stoned to death? Or Jesus admonition to sell all you own and donate the money to the poor?
Lusts And Sexual Immorality
Our sex drive is not a sin. But sexual desires outside marriage between a man and a woman are what the Bible calls lusts, and giving in to them is sin. This includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, giving in to impure sexual thoughts, and practicing homosexuality. This is described in both the Old and the New Covenants. Some of these verses are listed at the end of this article.
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