does Christianity teach about the moral status of homosexuality?
moral status of homosexuality is among the most hotly debated
questions among Christians today.
The Bible says very little about homosexuality and
nothing at all about the moral status of lifelong, monogamous
same-sex partnerships. Christians disagree about what the
Bible means when it does speak of homosexuality and about
what theology of human sexuality is most faithful to the biblical
witness. Christians also disagree about what contributions
natural and social sciences might make to our understanding
of this moral question.
are five biblical texts that mention sexual relations between
two men, and one additional text that includes a reference
to lesbianism. What these texts mean and how they bear on
the question of same-sex covenants remains under debate. The
first text, Genesis 19:5, recalls an incident in which the
residents of Sodom demanded that Lot send his houseguests
out into the crowd so that they might be raped. Lot refuses
and sends his daughters instead. Although this account becomes
the basis for the term “sodomy,” most Christians
acknowledge that what is condemned in Sodom is not homosexual
sex, but rather rape and inhospitality.
second and third texts come from the book of Leviticus (18:22
and 20:13) and state that it is an “abomination”
punishable by death for a man to have sexual relations with
another man as he would with a woman. The meaning of these
texts is unclear for two reasons. First, they may refer to
fertility rites associated with the cult of Ba’al, and
the primary sin condemned is idolatry rather than homosexual
acts. Second, these texts are surrounded by laws prohibiting
acts that Christians no longer regard as sinful such as wearing
clothing made from blended fabric.
remaining three texts come from the New Testament. Romans
1:26-27 argues that homosexual acts, including lesbianism,
violate nature and proceed from sinful lust. The meaning of
this scripture is also debated. Did Paul refer only to those
who were naturally heterosexual, but who abandoned their “nature”
in favor of same-sex encounters? Or does Paul categorize all
homosexual sex as a violation of nature? I Corinthians 6:9
and I Timothy 1:9-10 are vice lists that include the condemnation
of homosexual sex along with other sins such as murder, lying,
and drunkenness. What is disputed in these texts is whether
the terms translated as “homosexual” referred
to all same-sex acts or not. The two terms employed may have
referred to male temple prostitutes and their customers.
about the meaning of these biblical texts along with information
gleaned from natural and social sciences and from experience
have led Christians to a variety of conclusions about homosexuality.
Here we briefly cover just three.
Many Christians have concluded that the Bible clearly teaches
that heterosexuality is the natural state for human beings,
and that homosexuality is a tragic deviation from God’s
intentions. Though the biblical texts may sometimes be ambiguous,
every text that refers to homosexuality condemns it. The only
models for human sexual activity affirmed in the Bible are
marriage and celibacy. On this view, the church should welcome
and minister to homosexual persons, expecting them to live
second view holds that the Bible does provide a normative,
heterosexual vision for human sexuality, but that it does
not condemn lifelong, same-sex covenants because it does not
address this question at all. The Bible condemns idolatry,
prostitution, and rape, but has nothing to say about gay marriage.
On this second view, ideal human sexuality is ordered in a
heterosexual way, but God graciously accommodates those who
find themselves with a homosexual orientation. These individuals
may fulfill the goods of marriage in lifelong same-sex relationships
modeled on Christian marriage.
third view of the moral status of homosexuality finds that
it is simply a natural variation within with human sexuality.
Gay men and lesbians may marry one another, living in relationships
that are true Christian marriages, rather than in less-than-ideal
relationships that represent a divine accommodation for the
tragedy of the fall.
The issues surrounding homosexuality have been hotly debated
within the Christian church. The above excerpt from What
Do Our Neighbors Believe? Questions
and Answers on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam presents
a balanced summation of the three convictions most commonly
It is our hope that all people, regardless of race, gender,
age or sexual-orientation, will find material on explorefaith.org
that helps move them closer to the Holy. We believe that God
yearns to be in relationship with all of us, and when we focus
on God's divine and limitless love, we can know more deeply
the Truth that sets us free.
This excerpt from What Do Our Neighbors Believe?: Questions
and Answers on Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Howard
Greenstein, Kendra Hotz, and John Kaltner is used with permission
from Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. To
purchase a copy of WHAT
DO OUR NEIGHBORS BELIEVE? visit amazon.com. This link
is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered