In the aftermath of Prop 8 in California, and the cries of intolerance and hate, the issue has gained some attention in the national press and also on talk radio. On Tuesday I happened to hear the last 5 minutes of Bill O’Reilly on his radio show, and was quite surprised to hear him say that he appreciates Jesus as the philosopher, and because Jesus never condemned homosexuality, Christians should be more tolerant of homosexuality.
One does not expect a popular talk-show host to be an accomplished theologian, but one also does expect him to send out a message to his big audience that echoes the myths popularized by liberal theologians. It demonstrates a couple of things, firstly that Mr. O’Reilly at the very least has no in-depth knowledge of Jesus’ overall ministry, and secondly, that the myths, like many other liberal perversions of the Word, have spread far and wide. The recent article in Newsweek with similar overtones confirms that this is yet another front opened in the war against the teachings of Christ.
Let me just state, before I delve into a rather long post, that I find accusations of hate and intolerance against Christians who point out the unbroken sinful behavior of homosexuals as shallow and naive. There is but one motive, to make other sinners aware that their behavior is contrary to the moral laws of God, and that such behavior continuing in unrepentant fashion is evidence of the eternal danger that such sinners are in. That motive is not born out of malice or intolerance, but out of duty and love. Duty, because we are instructed to spread the gospel and be instruments in God’s salvidic process, which includes warning others when they are in danger of experiencing eternal separation from God, and love, because as Christians we really don’t desire to see anyone condemned, but for them to come to a saving relationship with God. So lest anyone question our motives, and level accusations, there they are, for all to see.
It is plainly a myth that Jesus was more tolerant towards sexual sins than His predecessors or contemporaries in Christians history. Pro-homosex supporters make a big deal of Jesus silence on the issue, as if that would imply His approval. It is true that the Jesus history contains no explicit references to homosex or homosexual relationships. Some see this silence, combined with the love-commandment in Matt 22:32-40, as proof enough that Jesus would not have criticized long-standing single partner homosexual relationships. However, while Jesus did not make any explicit references to homosexual relationships, He also did not comment explicitly about incest, bestiality and prostitution. Does that mean that Jesus also approved of those types of behavior? Surely not.
Within the larger account of the Jesus tradition, the four synoptics, we find that Jesus was indeed not silent on the issue. In Mark 7 we read this from Jesus:
Mar 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
Mar 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
Mar 7:22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
Mar 7:23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The Greek word for “sexual immorality” above is porneia, and is used in various places in the NT as a reference to illicit sexual intercourse. From the overall context we can determine that this was a reference to the heart of sexual behavior contrary to the moral laws of God. Those moral laws are summarized in Lev 18 and 20. I know that liberal theologians will be quick to point out that that passages in Leviticus are from the ceremonial law, generally considered to be specific to the nation of Israel, and not applicable for the Christian era. However, while Jesus did not reiterate much of the ceremonial law, this was one part that He did refer back to and here reiterated as consistent with the moral instructions He was explaining.
In the passage about divorce in Mark 10 we can see the same implicit assumptions that Jesus had about illicit sexual behavior. In that passage Jesus calls on Gen 1:27 (God made them man and woman), and Gen 2:24 (Man shall leave his mother and father and become one with his wife). Jesus then adds to this: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (v9). From this it is abundantly clear that Jesus was consistent with the heterosexual model given during creation as the only model for human sexual and marital behavior. Jesus argued that marriage was instituted by God “from the beginning…” (v6) and that male and female gender separation was the determinant of morally acceptable marital and sexual behavior.
Jesus shows no awareness, acceptance or tolerance for any other possibilities (man/man or woman/woman). According to Jesus only one version of sexual living is authorized by Scripture, and that is described during creation, man and woman. And it would be quite fanciful to think that a triune God could be inconsistent. We also read in Matt 5:27-28 that anyone who looks at a woman and lusts after her has already committed adultery with her. Here, once again Jesus shows no consideration of any other model than a monogamous heterosexual relationship for human behavior.
Some may point out that Jesus had contact with prostitutes and adulterous women, and that because He did not condemn them out of hand it implies His acceptance of their lifestyle. But a simple reading of the text shows that Jesus’ contact with such women did not include an acceptance of their sinful lifestyles. Anyone who wishes to represent that Jesus stood tolerant or even accepting of homosexuality or other illicit sexual behavior is radically ahistorical. Just as Jesus would not have accepted that His followers commit adultery, bestiality, live in sexual immorality or be prostitutes, just as little would He have accepted homosexual behavior.
So why did Jesus not say anything explicit about homosexual behavior? In 1st century Jewish society, homosexuality was unheard of. The debate about homosexuality among the Jews was conclusively decided in the time of the Old Testament, and New Testament society accepted it as such. The first recorded homosexual encounter between two Jewish men is from the 3rd century AD. Having not been confronted by it directly, Jesus probably saw no need to comment on it, but to just reiterate that the creation relationship and the Leviticus laws were still valid.
It is clear that liberal theologians are involved in some serious question-begging and arguments from silence to try and avoid the obvious conclusion, that Jesus was not silent on sexual behavior nor would He have accepted illicit sexual behavior.