The Fundamentalist Interpretation of
Homosexuality in the Bible

There is a common thread in fundamentalist arguments maintaining that homosexuality is sin. It is the doctrine that the Bible is the infallible word of God and that it must be honored and obeyed in its entirety by every Christian.

There is no one alive, however, from the most devout Hasidic Jew to the most devout fundamentalist Christian, who obeys everything in the Bible. None of my neighbors, anyway, own slaves or roast oxen on their altars.

Bob Davies, in "What the Bible Says About Homosexuality" answers this point by saying, "We must carefully distinguish between the dietary or ceremonial laws (abolished in the New Testament—Mark 7:19, Acts 10:14-15), and the moral laws (reinforced in the New Testament and still applicable today—Mark 7:21-23, Matthew 5:27-28). The important distinction between these laws is reflected in the Old Testament penalty for breaking them: Disobedience to the ceremonial laws resulted in uncleanness (Leviticus 11:24); breaching the moral law meant death (Leviticus 20:2 ff.)."

There are many things in Leviticus that call for death; human sacrifice of children is the only thing that would draw the death penalty today. I have not heard even the most conservative Christian who wants America to turn from modern "tolerance of evil" advocate stoning anyone who curses his mother or father. We did once put people to death for "consorting with spirits," but almost everyone now regards that as a shameful part of our history.

There are other things not preached against in Leviticus that we have become morally sensitive to: slavery, or the pollution of our air and water as examples. And also "cruel and unusual punishment" and the leveling of the death penalty for all offences from theft on up.

Our moral sense grows and changes during our individual lifetime, during the development of a culture, during the history of humanity. We were given touchstones in the Bible to guide our development, and in the Bible itself God says that these touchstones are of higher priority than the legal structures:

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Test the spirit by its fruits.

A line I hear often from fundamentalist Christians is, "This isn't what I say; it's what God says." But all of us, including fundamentalists, can only speak of how we understand what God said. God's truth is perfect, but our understanding of that truth is not and never will be. We can only grow in our understanding by being willing to be wrong.

Tony Marco says in "Stonewall Revisited":

"To discover what Scripture truly says about homosexual issues, we must first choose how to approach interpreting the text. Should we approach the Bible as an internally coherent work whose ideas themselves, whether we agree with them or not, should be allowed to clarify the distinct issues it deals with? Should we examine Scripture as a work which, though written over many centuries by numerous authors, communicates to us a consistent view of humanity, God and nature?

"Or... Do we engage Scripture as a kind of "blank slate" onto which we "write" our reactions to what it says, and into which we read certain preconceptions about the issues the text deals with? In other words, do we exegete the text -- draw out of it what is manifestly, consistently and solely there? Or do we eisogete the text -- that is, base our evaluation on ideas that are not necessarily in the text, but ideas and concepts we may wish were, or feel should be present, or that we believe would make the text more compatible with contemporary cultural trends or our own private beliefs?"

The implication is that Christians with a traditional view of homosexuality as sin do not bring any of their own personal or cultural assumptions to the Biblical text. This is impossible for human beings.

To interpret the Bible "comprehensively," as Tony Marco urges, is to interpret each part of it in the light of the key verses that the Bible itself says should guide us:

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Test the spirit by its fruits.

To interpret the Bible with spiritual humility is to remember at all times that while God's understanding is perfect, ours is not; and whatever we understand a Biblical verse to say, it is still what we understand, and capable of change.


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Last updated December 2, 2002