Monday, June 24, 2013

Romans and Homosexuality

In Romans 1, Paul speaks of God's wrath being revealed against the unrighteousness of all men. He says that although all men have not been given the Torah (the Old Testament), they are still without excuse because God's standards of righteousness have been revealed in nature itself. These Gentiles exchanged the true God for the gods of their own imagination and because of this God gave them over to desires which are contrary to nature. Paul uses rather graphic language and speaks of men doing the shameful deed in other men and of women having sexual relations with one another. Some have argued that Paul is only speaking against temple prostitution but this position does not seem defensible since the deed itself is regarded in the passage as unrighteousness that develops from the unrighteousness of idolatry. Interestingly enough, Paul does not appeal to the Torah to show that homosexuality is bad but points to natural law. For those of us who live in pluralist societies this should give us good reason to argue using natural law rather than appealing directly to the Scriptures when lawmaking is done with those who do not believe in the authority of the Scriptures.

The passage clearly speaks of homosexual acts as being acts of unrighteousness but that's not Paul's point. Paul assumes that his readers would agree that these acts are unrighteous. Paul's point is found in the chapters that follow. Remember, Romans was written as one sermon. One of the problems with some types of preaching that go verse by verse through the Scriptures is that the point can be completely lost. What Paul is doing here is similar to what Nathan does with the sins of David. Nathan gets David outraged at the sins of this man who turns out to be David. You can almost picture the Jewish Christians in the congregation that heard Romans being read nodding their heads in agreement and thanking God that they are not like these horrible Gentile sinners. But in chapter 2, Paul shows that they are just as guilty of unrighteousness as these sodomites. All men are guilty before the law. It is only through the blood of Christ that we can stand righteous before God. No one is righteous. No one seeks after God. But we receive an alien righteous through faith. We are justified through faith apart from the works of the Torah because of Christ's work.

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

Right on, Chuck.

Good stuff, indeed.

We are all toast if we are to rely on what 'we do'...or what we 'don't do'.