October 26, 2012

Is it True that Jesus Never Addressed Homosexuality?

by Mike Riccardi

HomosexualityA couple of months ago, I began responding to a couple of popular arguments for why some believe that homosexuality is reconcilable with Christianity. My hope was (and still is) that I might be able to serve those who are mistaken in this regard by helping them to see that faith in Jesus and His Word cannot be reconciled with attempts to legitimize homosexuality. I had addressed the semi-sarcastic objection that we as Christians are inconsistent in condemning homosexuality on the basis of the Levitical law, since we don’t also condemn eating shellfish and mixing fabrics. I also addressed the objection that in condemning homosexuality Christians are being unloving—getting caught up in the details while forgetting that our cardinal Christian virtue is love. If you haven’t read those, I hope you will.

But today I want to address another popular argument for reconciling homosexuality with true Christianity. And that is the objection that Jesus Himself never said a word about homosexuality. Those who make this argument grant that Paul condemned it as sinful (Rom 1:26–27; 1 Cor 6:9–10; 1 Tim 1:9–10). But the sentiment behind this objection is that Paul had corrupted the way of life and the ideology that Jesus came to propagate, and that Jesus would have been “loving” and “accepting” of homosexuals, just as they are.

But is it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality?

Actually, just like the other objections, there are several reasons for which this objection simply does not hold up to biblical and logical scrutiny. Today I’d like to address five of them.

Argument from Silence

First, it must be noted that this is an argument from silence, and thus rests on a shaky rational foundation. Jesus also didn’t say a word about pedophilia, bestiality, or rape. But it would be absurd to seek to garner support for any of those abominable acts on the basis of such silence.

Special Pleading

House Built on SandSecondly, this objection rests upon a premise that the objectors reject—namely, that the Bible is God’s infallible Word. What I mean is: the only source of knowledge for the claim that Jesus never said something about a particular topic is the Bible itself. The argument is: “Jesus never said anything [implied: as we see recorded in the Bible] about homosexuality.” Yet it is the authority of this very Bible that these folks deny when they refuse to accept Paul’s teaching on homosexuality. So the argument itself is a case of special pleading. Those who employ it appeal to an authority that they elsewhere explicitly reject—namely, the Bible as God’s Word.

No Reason to Say What Everyone Agreed Upon

Third, a great portion of Jesus’ ministry related to Israel and those familiar with the Law of Moses. They were living in an age under the Mosaic Covenant, which explicitly condemned homosexuality (Lev 18:22; 20:13). Unless there was some precipitating issue that would force Jesus to comment on homosexuality, the only reasonable conclusion—especially in light of the fact that Jesus viewed the Old Testament as the very Word of God (e.g., Matt 22:43) which was infallible (John 10:35)—is that His view of homosexuality was the Old Testament’s view (i.e., God’s view) of homosexuality.

What Jesus Did Say about Marriage

Fourth, when Jesus did speak about marriage, He affirmed it as an institution between a male and a female. In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked Him what He thought about divorce, hoping to trap Him into disagreeing with Moses and therefore finding reason for condemning Him. Now, in Jesus’ response about why divorce is a bad thing and a result of the hardness of human hearts, Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Now, if Jesus wanted to simply and efficiently answer the Pharisees’ question about divorce, He could have done so by skipping immediately to verse 5: “Have you not read that the two become one flesh?” That’s really the answer to the question about divorce. God joins spouses together as one flesh, and man shouldn’t separate what God has joined together.

So why does He start, in verse 4, by reminding the Pharisees that God made human beings male and female? For two reasons, at least. One, He goes out of His way to make this point in order to underscore that marriage, by its very nature, is a divinely-ordained institution—that the originator of marriage is the Creator Himself. Number two, He makes this point, which would otherwise seem superfluous, in order to make it clear that that divinely-ordained institution exists only between one man and one woman. God created man as male and female, and then brought them together in one flesh as the husband-wife relationship illustrates the complementarity and unity-in-diversity that characterizes God’s own nature as one Being who eternally exists in three Persons.

All of Scripture is the Word of Jesus

But all of those responses are really supplementary to this final one. It concerns the inspiration of the New Testament. While it’s true that we have no record of Jesus speaking about homosexuality during His earthly sojourn, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to speak His words (John 16:12–14), superintended what Paul wrote so that he wrote exactly what God desired to be written (2 Tim 3:16–17; 2 Pet 1:20–21).

See, strictly speaking, Jesus did not stop speaking when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John finished their Gospel accounts. While Jesus was still on earth, He told the disciples that He had much to say to them, things which they could not bear at that time (John 16:12). They're all 'red letters'But He promised that the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and would guide them into all truth. This is a promise from Jesus Himself that the word that the Holy Spirit would speak through the disciples would be Christ’s own words (John 16:13). In this way, the Spirit would glorify Jesus (John 16:14).

And the Holy Spirit did just that. As the Church was being built, the Spirit spoke Jesus’ words to the writers of the New Testament. All Scripture (which, according to 2 Peter 3:16, included Paul’s writings) is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16)—that is, it is the very Word of God, His own breath. “But,” you ask, “didn’t men write Scripture?” Yes they did. But the Holy Spirit so superintended the minds and wills of the writers of Scripture such that the words they wrote under their own recognizance were precisely what God wanted to say to His people (2 Pet 1:20–21).

So the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude, the letter to the Hebrews, and the Revelation given to the Apostle John are all the word of God Himself. And, since God exists eternally as Father, Son, and Spirit, and since Jesus is Himself God the Son, all of the New Testament is the Word of Christ. Even the words not appearing in red type are nevertheless the Lord of the Church speaking to His Church by means of the Holy Spirit through the agency of human writers.

So did Jesus address homosexuality? Yes, He did. He did so by sending His Spirit to superintend the writing of Paul such that what Paul wrote was precisely what Jesus intended, so much so that it could be said to be “God-breathed.” Jesus condemned homosexuality by means of Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality. And therefore, to deny that homosexuality is sinful is to deny Jesus Himself, and is irreconcilable with true, biblical Christianity.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Larry

    @Mike. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks. I’ll have to incorporate some of this when speaking on the subject of homosexuality from a Biblical perspective.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thanks, Larry. Happy to serve in this way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevinmichaelfinlay Kevin Finlay

    Great post, Mike. Thanks for writing it.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thanks for reading, Kevin. Your comments are an encouragement to me.

  • busdriver4jesus

    I love that Jesus “defined marriage”, which is, I feel, one step beyond flatly condemning homosexuality Himself. Paul did a great job at that.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Well-said, Bus Driver.

  • csrima

    Great post! I’m thankful that I have a resource where I can consistently get profoundly biblical wisdom for issues such as these from such humble men. Keep up the truly good work.

    • csrima

      Of course, I know the Bible is precisely that…haha but yes, you know what I’m getting at.

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        Hahaha. You da man, Seth. Still praying for your studies and for the complete healing of your eye. Thanks for your example of suffering well.

        • csrima

          Thanks Mike! Just finishing up semester number 4, and God has been exceedingly good. The doc says the eye is as healed as it’s gonna get, but if I know one thing about God it’s that complete healing is never out of the question. As it is, I feel so tremendously blessed to have gone through that experience and come out with a “memorial stone” of sorts that reminds me of His faithfulness to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530131753 Jay Stigdon

    Good stuff, Mike

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thanks for reading, Jay!

  • http://twitter.com/lauriebernardin Lyn {laurie}

    The Lord Jesus did indeed address homosexuality, in Matthew 15:19-20, ” For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.” All these defiling acts come from within. He tells us what defiles, makes unclean; in speaking of fornications, the Lord Jesus covers all sexual sin. Fornication is from the Greek word πορνεία and translates ‘porneia’. Thayer’s Greek definitions defines this word as ‘ illicit sexual intercourse, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.’ By pointing to fornications as acts that defile, He is indeed saying homosexuality defiles a person, makes them unclean. What happens to those that defile themselves?
    “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:27

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      That’s a good point, Lyn. Porneia would include homosexuality. But I’m supposing that someone trying to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity would charge that including “homosexuality” as a kind of sexual immorality is begging the question, and would point to the fact that the specific term for homosexuality (arsenokoites and its cognates) is not used by Jesus during His earthly ministry.

      But that’s a helpful supplement, nonetheless.

  • Steve Hardy

    Hey Mike–very articulate post. You address something in your third point that is rarely discussed, but, to me, is very significant (this is the first time I’ve seen it in anything I’ve read). From my understanding of the climate of the society in Israel during Christ’s time on Earth, there would have been little support for homosexual activities and overt homosexuality would have been dealt with severely. That’s not to say that God couldn’t have orchestrated an encounter, as He did with the Samaritan woman at the well, but the circumstances seem like they would have been much rarer than even meeting this adulterous woman. Now, in Paul’s travels through various parts of the Roman empire, he would have visited societies where the practice was tolerated or actively supported and accepted, and would have given him cause to address it with people who, probably oftentimes, lived in and were saved out of that lifestyle. Interactions in the Word seem to usually address people in the normal circumstances of their lives who are dealt with supernaturally by the Lord or are addressed based on the spiritual condition they are found in (hope that makes sense).

    Thanks for all the team at Cripplegate; always one of my favorite stops during the week for encouragement or challenge.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Well-said, Steve! That’s a helpful elaboration of point number three. I’m thankful for your comment!

  • Steve Hardy

    Hey Mike–very articulate post. You address something in your third point that is rarely discussed, but, to me, is very significant (this is the first time I’ve seen it in anything I’ve read). From my understanding of the climate of the society in Israel during Christ’s time on Earth, there would have been little support for homosexual activities and overt homosexuality would have been dealt with severely. That’s not to say that God couldn’t have orchestrated an encounter, as He did with the Samaritan woman at the well, but the circumstances seem like they would have been much rarer than even meeting this adulterous woman. Now, in Paul’s travels through various parts of the Roman empire, he would have visited societies where the practice was tolerated or actively supported and accepted, and would have given him cause to address it with people who, probably oftentimes, lived in and were saved out of that lifestyle. Interactions in the Word seem to usually address people in the normal circumstances of their lives who are dealt with supernaturally by the Lord or are addressed based on the spiritual condition they are found in (hope that makes sense).

    Thanks for all the team at Cripplegate; always one of my favorite stops during the week for encouragement or challenge.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.macdonald.712 MacDonald Kathryn

    Well, everyone knows that Jesus never mentioned anything about child molesting or bestiality or wife beating neither, but it’s understood by rational human beings that he was obviously not for it. So you’re right about the false “argument from silence” tactic they try and use.

    Jesus would NOT need to mention Homosexuality because in Judea in Palestine where he was teaching, it was already taken for granted based on the O.T. They already understood that it was wrong. So he had nothing he needed to say about that. Paul in contrast speaking to the Gentiles WOULD have something to say about homosexuality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rhswind RandyLaurie Sherwood

    Mike, well written with good arguments and explanation. Also, I discern no arrogance in the writing. That is rare. Never lose that heart motivated by love. Truth needs no help, only to be shared. Randy

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Thank you for your kind words, Randy.

      Truth needs no help, only to be shared.
      Amen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.melonas Nicholas Melonas

    Mike,

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate this ministry on the Cripplegate Blog. Praise the Lord for how He has already worked through each of you to teach and apply the word of God!

    There is a passage in the gospels that corresponds with your third point, which I have found helpful. In Matthew 15:18-20 Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

    Jesus, here, has a list of what defiles a person, which includes sexual immorality. This word in the original seems to imply ALL sexual immorality. What did that look like in Jesus’ mind? Well because Jesus defined sexual immorality according to the Old Testament, it seems as though homosexuality would be under the category of sexual immorality. Therefore Jesus includes that all sexual immorality, even homosexuality, defiles the person.

    Homosexuality, like all sexual immorality, defiles the person. Although Jesus does not specifically use the word “homosexuality,” He does reject all sexual immorality. Is this a sound defense of Jesus and His word? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts! Thank you!

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hi Nicholas. Thanks for your comment.

      Looks like you picked up on the same thing as as Lyn above. As I mentioned there, I agree that porneia would include homosexuality, and so that argument convinces me just fine.

      The problem, though, is that I don’t need convincing. :-) And I would think that someone trying to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity would say that to include homosexuality under the banner of sexual immorality would be begging the question, since the very thing you’re trying to prove is that homosexuality is immoral. On top of that, when there is a word for homosexuality (arsenokoites) that Jesus didn’t use in that context, their objection actually becomes stronger.

      So, rather than use an argument which isn’t as strong (even though I believe it’s true), I’d rather present a solid argument that leaves no room for a legitimate retort. I think the argument of the inspiration of the NT, which was promised by Jesus Himself, is the strongest argument in response. And so while I might use the Matt 15 / Mark 7 argument as a supplement in the conversation, I would use it expecting a response that I’d have to answer with a stronger argument.

      Hope that helps.

      • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.melonas Nicholas Melonas

        Mike,

        Thanks so much! That does help! Thank you again and I look forward to the next post, Lord willing!

  • H Sheppard

    Thank you for the article. I was just wondering if you could help me with an answer I’ve been looking for. I have heard the argument from Christians that Paul did not actually condemn homosexuality because the original translation of the verse contains a different word, one that doesn’t actually refer to homosexuality itself.

    The argument is usually followed with “besides, Paul also tells women to be silent in the church, and you don’t follow that either” and they quote 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

    Any thoughts regarding this?

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hi H Sheppard. Yes, the argument that arsenokoites doesn’t refer to homosexuality is often used in these discussions. Unfortunately, it has absolutely no merit. If you’ll excuse the rather crude opening graphic, this blog post provides a helpful excerpt from a book by James White and Jeffrey Neill that addresses that objection superbly.

      Regarding the 1Cor 14 argument, yes, there are also a lot of versions of that floating around in these discussions. The first thing that I’d observe about that objection is that such reasoning is just patently unbiblical. That argument basically concedes that the Bible indeed condemns homosexuality. They’re just giving a reason for why we should ignore more of what the Bible clearly says. Basically it boils down to: “We disobey God’s Word all over the place. Why should disobeying His commands against homosexuality be any different?”

      And I would just say: this is just not the way a Christian thinks about God’s Word. Someone who loves God in the Person of Jesus Christ does not look for ways to legitimize their disobedience or to free themselves from what He’s actually said. The one who loves God loves His Word. The Word of God is the delight of the child of God (see Psalm 119; Job 23:12; Jer 15:16). I’d suggest that if God’s Word is something they feel they have to get around or escape, they need to examine whether they’re truly a Christian at all.

      But as far as actually addressing that argument, it shows up not just with keeping silent, but also with head coverings (1 Cor 11:7-8). “Women don’t wear head coverings, so let’s disobey more of the Bible by legitimizing homosexuality.” Someone actually brought that up in one of the posts that I linked to above. Click here, and follow the conversation there. Let me know if that helps.

      • H Sheppard

        Thanks! Those are great points!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.macdonald.712 MacDonald Kathryn

    Jesus claimed to be God- the same God as the Old Testament. Jesus condemned homosexuality because He was responsible for those laws. Also, Jesus said the whole Law was valid-Matthew 5:17-20. This will include the passages in Leviticus that condemn Homosexuality etc..so, Jesus agrees with the condemnation of homosexuality.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      I obviously agree with what you’re ultimately arguing for, Kathryn, but to argue that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are binding on the basis of Matthew 5:17-20 is to open yourself up to the question of why you don’t also observe the laws prohibiting the mixing of fabrics and eating shellfish and pork. I think there is a good answer to that objection, but it’s a bit more nuanced than a blanket appeal to Matthew 5.

      Again, my concern in responding to you is not that I think you’re wrong. Like I said to Nicholas above, it’s just that I strongly believe we should arm ourselves with the very best arguments in order to engage in this discussion.

      Thanks for your comments.

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