- In this article, I argue that Christianity's lax attitude toward other sexual sins in marriage (fornication, adultery, divorce) have left us without much of a leg to stand on in this debate;
- In this article, I argue that both sides of the debate are filled with arguments that make no sense and in fact derive from Greek philosophies rather than Christian ones;
- In this article, I argue that boycotting a company because you disagree with their stance on gay marriage (or any other topic) is silly and ridiculous and counter-productive; and
- In this article, I examine the Scriptures that pro-LGBT Christians like Rob Bell claim are misinterpreted to see if he's right. (Spoiler alert: he's not.)
But still, my wife reminds me that one of my key arguments about homosexuality--and in my opinion the most devastating one--has still not been posted. I think it is time to fix that.
One of the most common things you will hear skeptics (or even believers) say is this: "Why do you follow Levitical prohibitions of homosexuality, but not eating shellfish or other ritual purity acts?" Indeed, this popular (if silly) article over at Buzzfeed makes exactly this common claim, and many Christians even make the same argument.
The basic sense of the argument goes like this: since Gentiles are not held to the Law post-Jesus, then why do we still follow Leviticus 18, when it condemns homosexuality?
To a lot of people, this argument makes sense. Sadly, too few Christians are Biblically-literate enough to know that there is a very relevant New Testament passage to answer this precise question.
If you've read my post here, then you can probably skip this section. But if not, let's briefly cover what happens in the first half of the book of Acts.
After Jesus is resurrected and spends time with His apostles, He leaves to go to heaven until His Second Coming, and instead gives the apostles the Holy Spirit to guide their decision-making. These apostles begin to form a synagogue of Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, preaching Jesus as Messiah. For three or four years, Christianity existed merely as a Jewish sect. (They did not call themselves Christians yet; they called themselves Jews who followed "The Way of Yeshua", or "The Way/Path of Jesus".)
Then, sometime around 37 AD, Peter gets a vision to preach to the Gentiles. He begins spreading Christianity among the Gentiles, and--much to everyone's surprise--these non-Jewish people start receiving the Holy Spirit too! This Gentile movement continues as a small side-thing for several years, until eventually Paul and Barnabas in 48 AD start their missionary journeys. Paul and Barnabas start preaching to the Gentiles as well, and find the Holy Spirit spreading like wildfire among them--without them converting first.
Why is this important?
Well, by 49 AD this had kicked off the first doctrinal controversy in the early Church. The question was: what to do with Gentile believers? Some, called the Judaizers, believed that the Gentiles must first convert to Judaism and follow the Mosaic Law--then and only then can they be true Christians. Others, like Paul and Barnabas, taught that they were not Jewish and therefore should not have any of the Law's demands.
Eventually, it erupted into such a controversy that a council of leaders was called in Jerusalem, in 49 AD. The purpose of this council was to answer a single question: are Gentile believers in any way bound to the Mosaic Law of Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Note that this is the same question Buzzfeed and others asked above!
How in the world this Scripture is not studied and memorized by Gentiles, I'll never understand: it is a key part of the New Testament for us, perhaps the most important part other than the whole "Jesus being resurrected" thing. This section of Scripture details out exactly the manner in which Gentiles are allowed to join the faith of Christ. It should be memorized in every youth group and church in America. But I digress.
The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)
The head of the meeting was James the Just, Jesus' brother and head of the church at Jerusalem. He, John, and Peter meet together in a private meeting to hear the testimony of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:2-12, Gal 2:4-10).
These men--in other words, all of the key church leaders who had spent years studying under Jesus--pray and fast and review the testimonies of Peter and Paul. Upon reviewing the testimony, Peter argues that since the Gentiles are not descended from Moses, they should in no way be burdened with the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:7-11). James agrees, seeing this as compatible with Jesus' teaching and the Old Testament prophesies (Acts 15:13-18).
The Council decides that Gentile believers don't have to take on the weight of the Mosaic Law. They say that only the universal parts of the Old Testament apply to Gentiles: specifically, we are told to avoid idolatry/blood worship, and sexual immorality (Acts 15:19-21).
One of the most key passages in all Scripture for Gentile believers is this:
“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (Acts 15:28-29)
This confirms what most Christians discern from the Gospels and teachings of Jesus regarding Gentiles: we are still bound to the covenant of Noah (so no murdering or idol worship), and we are bound to the code of sexual immorality, which is universal in nature.
What does this have to do with gay marriage?
Well, this means that we Gentiles are only held to two parts of the Mosaic Code: the Noahic Laws, and the Jewish sexual immorality laws. Which are what, exactly? Well I'm glad you asked: Leviticus 18, that's what.
You see, we Christians still follow one chapter--and only one--of Leviticus because that is what the New Testament commands of us in Acts 15. We are told that these two codes are the universals which bind us.
And thus, we reject bestiality, sex outside of marriage, incest, adultery, and--yes--homosexuality.
Far too often this is left out of our teaching in churches, and Christians skim this section of Acts without understanding its importance: and if we do not know, how can we teach the world?
So no, Christian: we do not arbitrarily choose just one chapter of the Mosaic Law to follow and ignore the rest just because it's inconvenient. We don't do it to annoy those who are gay. We don't do it because we're homophobic or old-fashioned.
Our religion is based upon freedom from sin and remarkable grace, and we are only asked (as Gentile believers) to do some VERY basic things with regard to the entire 600+ commandments of the Mosaic Law: avoid idolatry, avoid murder, avoid sexual immorality as defined in Lev 18. That's it--it isn't arbitrary, it is explicitly commanded of us. There is no argument around Acts 15 that I have ever heard.