This is the Thesis of Mel White, But Does it Stack Up?

T o a large degree, but not entirely, we back up White's claim but there are some rather important reservations...

The following is the Rev. Mel White's argument for saying that homosexuality - as a modern phenomenon - is never condemned in Scripture. He is co-founder of Soulforce, and his article appears here: http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible-gay-christian. I am going to quote White but I quote him only selectively since, in his article, he digresses at times, even into discussing Copernicus and Galileo and making comments about the church's attitude to both which are frequently (in my opinion anyway) erroneous. However, his comments on the church's attitude towards homosexuality are certainly interesting and do certainly merit further consideration. The big question, though is: how accurate is White in his defence of the Christian who - through no choice of his/her own - finds himself/herself to be of a homosexual orientation?? Without any question at all, there are many such people. Here are some of the points which White makes:


Now what do the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 say, first, about God, and then about homosexuality? These are the last two places in the Bible [in his original article, White has, by this point, already considered other biblical texts], that seem to refer to same-sex behavior. We can combine them because they are so similar.
Paul is exasperated. The Christians in Ephesus and Corinth are fighting among themselves. (Sound familiar?) In Corinth they're even suing one another in secular courts. Paul shouts across the distance, "You are breaking God's heart by the way you are treating one another."

Like any good writer, Paul anticipates their first question: "Well, how are we supposed to treat one another?" Paul answers, "You know very well how to treat one another from the Jewish law written on tablets of stone."

The Jewish law was created by God to help regulate human behavior. To remind the churches in Corinth and Ephesus how God wants us to treat one another, Paul recites examples from the Jewish law first. Don't kill one another. Don't sleep with a person who is married to someone else. Don't lie or cheat or steal. The list goes on to include admonitions against fornication, idolatry, whoremongering, perjury, drunkenness, revelry, and extortion. He also includes "malokois" and "arsenokoitai."

Here's where the confusion begins. What's a malokois? What's an arsenokoitai? Actually, those two Greek words have confused scholars to this very day. We'll say more about them later, when we ask what the texts say about sex. But first let's see what the texts say about God.

After quoting from the Jewish law, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that they are under a new law: the law of Jesus, a law of love that requires us to do more than just avoid murder, adultery, lying, cheating, and stealing. Paul tells them what God wants is not strict adherence to a list of laws, but a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith that isn't phony.

That's the lesson we all need to learn from these texts. God doesn't want us squabbling over who is "in" and who is "out." God wants us to love one another. It's God's task to judge us. It is NOT our task to judge one another.

So what do these two texts say about homosexuality? Are gays and lesbians on that list of sinners in the Jewish law that Paul quotes to make an entirely different point?

Greek scholars say that in first century the Greek word malaokois probably meant "effeminate call boys." The New Revised Standard Version says "male prostitutes."

As for arsenokoitai, Greek scholars don't know exactly what it means -- and the fact that we don't know is a big part of this tragic debate. Some scholars believe Paul was coining a name to refer to the customers of "the effeminate call boys." We might call them "dirty old men." Others translate the word as "sodomites," but never explain what that means.

In 1958, for the first time in history, a person translating that mysterious Greek word into English decided it meant homosexuals, even though there is, in fact, no such word in Greek or Hebrew. But that translator made the decision for all of us that placed the word homosexual in the English-language Bible for the very first time........

....We all need to look more closely at that mysterious Greek word arsenokoitai in its original context. I find most convincing the argument from history that Paul is condemning the married men who hired hairless young boys (malakois) for sexual pleasure just as they hired smooth-skinned young girls for that purpose.

Responsible homosexuals would join Paul in condemning anyone who uses children for sex, just as we would join anyone else in condemning the threatened gang rape in Sodom or the behavior of the sex-crazed priests and priestesses in Rome. So, once again, I am convinced that this passage says a lot about God, but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today....

.... The biblical authors are silent about homosexual orientation as we know it today. They neither approve it nor condemn it. We've looked closely at the six biblical texts used by some people to condemn homosexuality. But we must also remember that Jesus, the Jewish prophets, and even Paul never even comment on the responsible love a gay man or lesbian feels for another. The Bible is completely silent on the issue of homosexual orientation. And no wonder. 'Homosexual orientation' [as such] wasn't even known about until the 19th century.

The discovery that some of us are created and/or shaped in our earliest infancy toward same-gender attraction was made in the last 150 years. Biblical authors knew nothing about sexual orientation. Old Testament authors and Paul assumed all people were created heterosexual, just as they believed the earth was flat [this is erroneous by White, there is no biblical authority for believing that the earth was/is flat nor any evidence to show that Christians ever believed such a thing].....

In 1864, almost 3,000 years after Moses and at least 18 centuries after the apostle Paul, the German social scientist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was the first to declare that homosexuals were a distinct class of individuals. It was a big moment for all sexual minorities. It's our Columbus discovering the New World. It's our Madame Curie discovering radium used for Xrays. It's our Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. It may seem like one small step for the rest of you, but it's a giant leap for us.

Ulrichs assured the world of what we who are homosexual already know in our hearts. We aren't just heterosexuals choosing to perform same-sex behaviors. We are a whole class of people whose drive to same-sex intimacy is at the very core of our being from the very beginning of our lives.

Although the word "homosexual" was not used for the first time until later in the 19th century, Ulrichs recognized that homosexuals had been around from the beginning of recorded time, that [they] were "innately different from heterosexuals," and that [their] desire for same-sex intimacy and affiliation is intrinsic, natural, inborn and/or shaped in earliest infancy. According to Dr. Ulrichs, what may have looked "unnatural" to Moses and Paul was in fact "natural" to homosexuals.

....The Biblical authors knew nothing of homosexual orientation as we understand it, and therefore said nothing to condemn or approve it [they only condemned lustful behavior whether directed towards male or female 'temple prostitutes' or 'call boys']. The authors of the Bible are authorities in matters of faith. They can be trusted when they talk about God. But they should not be considered the final authorities on sexual orientation any more than they are the final authorities on space travel, gravity, or the Internet. Since the writers of Scripture are not the final authorities on human sexuality, since they didn't even know about sexual orientation as we understand it today, since Jesus and the Jewish prophets were silent about any kind of same-sex behavior, I am persuaded that the Bible has nothing in it to approve or condemn homosexual orientation as we understand it.

.... Although the prophets, Jesus, and other biblical authors say nothing about homosexual orientation as we understand it today, they are clear about one thing: As we search for truth, we are to "love one another." We may not be able to use the Bible as our final authority on sexual orientation. But as we search for the truth, we can and should use the Bible as our final authority on how we should treat one another along the way.

A young Jewish scholar asked Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment?" Quoting the prophets, Jesus replied, "The great commandment is this... to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second command is like it, to love your neighbor as you love yourself." "This is my commandment," Jesus said, "that you love one another, as I have loved you." On this the Bible is explicitly clear. Even if we disagree about what the Bible seems to say about homosexuality, we can agree that above all else we are commanded by the Scriptures to love God and to love one another.

Since God is the God of truth, since Jesus himself told us that the truth would set us free, one way that we love God and love one another is by seeking the truth about sexual orientation wherever we can find it. There is a growing body of evidence from science, psychology, history, psychiatry, medicine, and personal experience that leads to a clear verdict: Homosexuality is neither a sickness nor a sin. Unfortunately, the church has always been slow, if not the last institution on earth, to accept new truth [I'm not entirely convinced that this is a fair comment from White]....

.....Imagine the suffering that could be avoided if the church could say this to their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children: "We don't understand your views about sexual orientation, but we love and trust you. As long as you love God and seek God's will in your life, you are welcome here." Instead, well-intentioned Christians are driving their own children away from the church, using Scripture passages that may not even pertain to sexual orientation as we understand it.

... Whatever some people believe the Bible says about homosexuality, they must not use that belief to deny homosexuals their basic civil rights. To discriminate against sexual or gender minorities is unjust and un-American.

.... When I was a guest on a talk show in Seattle [obviously, this refers to White], I saw what might happen to me and to millions like me if a genuine literalist gained political power over this country. The other guest on the show was an independent Presbyterian pastor. When I told him that I was gay, he said without hesitation, "Then you should be killed." A Christian brother sentenced me to death, guided only by his literal understanding of Leviticus 20:13.

I asked him, "Who should do the killing, you church folk?" He answered, "No, that's the civil authorities' job. That's why we need to elect more good men of God into government." I sat there in stunned silence, until he added, "I know it must be hard for you to hear it, Dr. White -- but God said it first and it's our job to obey."

I hope we can agree that all of us must stand together against those who would replace the Constitution with biblical law. That's why, when I lecture on a university campus, I carry a Bible in one pocket and a Constitution in the other....

Well, that's probably the gist of White's argument. I think it good to refer to it here because many conservative Christians come to UK Apologetics and many such people would never normally hear any reasoned defence of the obvious fact that there are clearly homosexual Christians out there. Sometimes we need to be prepared to listen to the well-argued defence of those we might disagree with. Actually a lot of what White says is correct. Most of the New Testament apparent attacks on homosexuality are not truly considering homosexuality (that is, as it is now understood) but are considering male prostitution (both male and female prostitution were prevalent in the pagan worship of the first century).

But we must also consider Paul's entirely negative view of male/male sexual love as he expresses it in Romans One. Interestingly, he sees it not only as a curse on society but a curse which is effectively granted by God. Let us consider his words:

18. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19. since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

23. and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

25. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.

27. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

29. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,

30. slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;

31. they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32, NIV).

All of this makes it clear that God sees homosexuality as a degrading form of passion, a just punishment which He (God, that is) has given to a humanity which willfully rejected His revelation in favour of sin. This is literally a sterile love since it cannot lead to the blessing of the birth of children (one of the intended blessings of male/female love). The 'due penalty of their perversion' (verse 27) is probably a reference to a certain distorted mind (in which other members of one's own sex are desired) as well as to the sterility of this love (no offspring). However, perhaps we should also note that Paul is more restrained in his tone here than certain fundamentalist 'gay hate' preachers. Paul's words also seem to suggest that society's acceptance of what we must see as a deviant form of love is very likely part of the curse. So modern western society's acceptance of the so-called 'gay lifestyle' stands as a clear testimony to the fact that we live in a society which has rejected God and, therefore, inherited moral bankruptcy. Who would deny this? Only those who insist on living with their heads buried in the sand!

But despite all of the above, there is still room for compassion towards the homosexual. We should write nobody off. It is now becoming quite well established that these things are decided in the womb (about which more later). A very private homosexual couple who quietly live together, set out to harm nobody and refuse to propagandize their way of life are, in my opinion, less harmful to society than the married serial adulterer, the prolific fornicator (seducer) of women, the committed burglar, the liar and the cheat. Where homosexuality becomes evil is when it seeks special status and "rights" and where it seeks to influence young people along it's lamentable path. Unfortunately, this is what now often happens.

Exactly how did God bring this curse upon modern society? Well, we can speculate. During the 20th century there was a most amazing drop in the sperm count of the average male right across the world but especially in more advanced societies. This means that the average modern western male is far less masculine than his grandfather would have been. Increased femininity among modern men is the inevitable result and I think that none of us can deny it because we may witness it everywhere. There is also now a record demand for male to female sex change operations. All of this seems to have occurred rather quickly from the start of the 20th century. Is that not interesting? Mike deHavilland Parker has written about this phenomenon from a purely scientific point of view here: http://www.ukapologetics.net/07/fallingspermcounts.htm God could have acted through a mother's womb in other ways too. Modern women only seem able to produce one or two truly masculine sons within a family. Where three or four sons are produced there has seemingly developed a tendency for the later-born sons to be much more feminine. It is now well-noted that the typical homosexual boy will frequently have two or three older brothers. However you look at all of this, the traditional estimate of 2% of homosexuals in society probably now has to be re-evaluated upwards. Some gays have claimed that their community is about 10% of the population, without doubt that is an over-estimation, however, many voices are now saying that the homosexual community is probably now around 7-8% - if accurate, this is a sizeable portion of the population. If you couple this with the horrendous fact of large-scale abortion (much more evil than homosexuality in my opinion), you begin to see that insufficient children are being born. This is a curse on us in the West.

There are other contributing factors to all of this. Modern society is now much more 'open' than it once was and people generally want to bring things into the open. Also, every year thousands of intersex children are born. There is nothing new about this; these are babies of highly unclear sexuality. In many cases such children could be raised either as boys or girls. This often shows in chromosomal irregularities although not always. Truthfully, these people fall somewhere between the two sexes because their genitalia are confused. There seems little doubt that many such children now often grow up and identify with the homosexual community.

So what can one say of White's defence of homosexuality and the recognition that some sincere Christian believers are having to struggle with this issue? I think he is largely, but not entirely, correct. The modern issue of homosexuality, indeed, is probably not mentioned as such in New Testament Scripture; what is mentioned appears to be mainly prostitution, that is, the making available of a woman's body, or a boy's body, for a sum of money, frequently as one facet of pagan worship. The early Christians were frequently warned about having any involvement in that. But unfortunately, like many modern agitators for the 'gay movement,' White is often too 'in your face,' too proud and too demanding for these people's "rights." Yet I think that the hard-line 'send em all to hell' fundamentalists really should exercise more compassion and discernment before jumping in with their swift condemnations. Homosexuality is not to be welcomed but it is there and we cannot deny it. Such people, probably often obeying dictates which were set in their mother's womb, do not suddenly become worthless but remain 'sinners in the eyes of God' just like all of us and no worse than the rest of us. Whilst their flawed sexuality probably stands witness to a society which has rejected God, we should understand that many people inherit other serious issues at birth, whether Down's Syndrome, or a tendency towards developing childhood cancer or heart disease, for example. Do we write them off?
Robin A. Brace. July 20th 2010.