I believe in the Bible. But more than that, I believe in the God of the Bible. I follow the Bible. But more than that, I follow the God of the Bible. I have learned over the years that God and the Bible are not synonymous and sometimes don’t even agree.
Adam Hamilton recently wrote about this in his book, “Making Sense of the Bible”. Hamilton refers to the three-bucket approach to Scripture. Much of the Bible can be placed in one of three buckets. The first bucket refers to the ‘timeless will of God’. The second bucket reflects ‘God’s will in a particular time’. This includes much of the Mosaic ritual law of the Old Testament and some of Paul’s advice to churches in the New Testament. The third bucket reflects ‘the culture and historical circumstances in which they were written but never reflected God’s will.’ This includes slavery, which is found throughout the Bible. It also includes the genocide found in passages like Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and Joshua 6:20-21. Genocide and slavery are biblical, but do not represent God’s will.
As we study the Biblical God’s view of homosexuality, we have to determine which Scriptures are God’s timeless will, which do not represent God’s will and which do not apply to what we understand to be homosexuality today.
First, we’ll look at the passages of Scripture that some use to claim that homosexual practice is a terrible sin. These are used to support the United Methodist Discipline’s view that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” These passages are called the “clobber verses” because they are used to “clobber” homosexuals.
The first passage in the Bible that includes a reference to homosexual practice is the story of Sodom. This is where we get the words ‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomite’ to refer to homosexuality. The story is found in Genesis 19. It is about two angels who visit the town of Sodom and stay with Lot, the nephew of Abraham. The men of Sodom surround the house and demand Lot turn over the angels, so the men could have sex with them. Lot offers his two daughters to be raped by the men of Sodom, rather than give up the strangers he’s just met. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen. The story goes on to say that God destroyed the whole city to punish the men of Sodom.
Some have said this proves that homosexuality is a terrible sin that demands capital punishment. This is supported by another Scripture found in the Old Testament law. Leviticus 20:13 says, “It’s disgusting for men to have sex with one another, and those who do will be put to death, just as they deserve.”
If these two scriptures taken at face value represent God’s will then it would be the responsibility of every Christian to make sure that all homosexuals go to the electric chair for their terrible crimes.
Instead these Scriptures should be placed in a different bucket than God’s timeless will or they do not refer to what we know to be homosexuality today.
What is the sin of the men of Sodom? The story indicates that the main sin was the gang rape of two strangers. This is different than homosexuality.
Additional answers to that question are found by looking at other Scriptures. Scripture can interpret Scripture. The Old Testament prophets refer to Sodom four different times. The sin that the prophets mention by the men of Sodom is never homosexuality. Isaiah (1:10-17) says the sin of the Sodomites was injustice and not rescuing the oppressed. Jeremiah (23:14) says their sin was adultery. Ezekiel (16-48-49) says their sin was not aiding the poor and needy. Zephaniah (2:8-11) says their sin was bullying and boasting.
Therefore the passage in Genesis about Lot and the Sodomites is not about homosexuality at all.
The passage in the Law of Moses about putting homosexuals to death belongs in the third bucket marked: “Never reflected God’s will.”
Another verse in Moses’ law that refers to homosexuality (Lev. 18:22) is a part of the Purity laws. According to the New Testament authors, these laws are in the second bucket marked, “God’s will in a particular time.” Peter learned this in Acts 10.