What if I disagree with someone who professes to be a Christian?

Disagreement is a fact of life. There is no family, and certainly no church family, free of disagreements. The question should be, "How can I strongly disagree in Christian charity?"

What is Christianity's stance on homosexuality?

Most Christians hold one of three views regarding this divisive topic. The following excerpt from What Do Our Neighbors Believe? Questions and Answers on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam presents a balanced summation of the three convictions most commonly held.

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The moral status of homosexuality is among the most hotly debated questions among Christians today. The Bible says very little about homosexuality and nothing at all about the moral status of lifelong, monogamous same-sex partnerships. Christians disagree about what the Bible means when it does speak of homosexuality and about what theology of human sexuality is most faithful to the biblical witness. Christians also disagree about what contributions natural and social sciences might make to our understanding of this moral question.

There are five biblical texts that mention sexual relations between two men, and one additional text that includes a reference to lesbianism. What these texts mean and how they bear on the question of same-sex covenants remains under debate. The first text, Genesis 19:5, recalls an incident in which the residents of Sodom demanded that Lot send his houseguests out into the crowd so that they might be raped. Lot refuses and sends his daughters instead. Although this account becomes the basis for the term “sodomy,” most Christians acknowledge that what is condemned in Sodom is not homosexual sex, but rather rape and inhospitality.

The second and third texts come from the book of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) and state that it is an “abomination” punishable by death for a man to have sexual relations with another man as he would with a woman. The meaning of these texts is unclear for two reasons. First, they may refer to fertility rites associated with the cult of Ba’al, and the primary sin condemned is idolatry rather than homosexual acts. Second, these texts are surrounded by laws prohibiting acts that Christians no longer regard as sinful such as wearing clothing made from blended fabric.

The remaining three texts come from the New Testament. Romans 1:26-27 argues that homosexual acts, including lesbianism, violate nature and proceed from sinful lust. The meaning of this scripture is also debated. Did Paul refer only to those who were naturally heterosexual, but who abandoned their “nature” in favor of same-sex encounters? Or does Paul categorize all homosexual sex as a violation of nature? I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:9-10 are vice lists that include the condemnation of homosexual sex along with other sins such as murder, lying, and drunkenness. What is disputed in these texts is whether the terms translated as “homosexual” referred to all same-sex acts or not. The two terms employed may have referred to male temple prostitutes and their customers.

Disputes about the meaning of these biblical texts along with information gleaned from natural and social sciences and from experience have led Christians to a variety of conclusions about homosexuality. Here we briefly cover just three.

Many Christians have concluded that the Bible clearly teaches that heterosexuality is the natural state for human beings, and that homosexuality is a tragic deviation from God’s intentions. Though the biblical texts may sometimes be ambiguous, every text that refers to homosexuality condemns it. The only models for human sexual activity affirmed in the Bible are marriage and celibacy. On this view, the church should welcome and minister to homosexual persons, expecting them to live celibate lives.

A second view holds that the Bible does provide a normative, heterosexual vision for human sexuality, but that it does not condemn lifelong, same-sex covenants because it does not address this question at all. The Bible condemns idolatry, prostitution, and rape, but has nothing to say about gay marriage. On this second view, ideal human sexuality is ordered in a heterosexual way, but God graciously accommodates those who find themselves with a homosexual orientation. These individuals may fulfill the goods of marriage in lifelong same-sex relationships modeled on Christian marriage.

A third view of the moral status of homosexuality finds that it is simply a natural variation within with human sexuality. Gay men and lesbians may marry one another, living in relationships that are true Christian marriages, rather than in less-than-ideal relationships that represent a divine accommodation for the tragedy of the fall.

—Kendra G. Hotz

This excerpt from What Do Our Neighbors Believe?: Questions and Answers on Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Howard Greenstein, Kendra Hotz, and John Kaltner is used with permission from Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. To purchase a copy of WHAT DO OUR NEIGHBORS BELIEVE? visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.