In the previous preamble to this post, I wrote that I lamented the fact that Christians were supporting political action to oppose the legalization of gay marriage. I wrote this not because I support gay marriage, but because I have always felt that “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord” means that we are to use spiritual weapons to oppose evil as opposed to political weapons. Having seen the comments of those celebrating the recent victory of gay marriage in the Supreme Court, however, I must now repent of this attitude as a sin. Christians must stand up for the truth of God’s word.
A Rational Faith Section 3.11 The Nature of Abomination
If the Law of Moses is a minimum standard intended to help the ancient Hebrews know the love of God, then what is an abomination? Why does God emphasize certain sins by condemning them more harshly than others? The first part of understanding what the Bible says about abominations is understanding that there are two different kinds of abomination. The second part comes when we recognize that human societies are systems that must be carefully controlled in order to prevent human evil from running rampant.
The first type of abomination is the practical abomination. Practical abominations are actions which are to be abominable “unto you”. Examples of the practical abominations are common in the Jewish dietary law:
And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. (Leviticus 11:10)
What was the purpose of these practical abominations? We can most easily see the purpose by looking at the effects that these commands had on Jewish society:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (Matthew 23:25)
The practical abominations had the effect of making observant Jews very conscious of “becoming unclean” if they went close to a diseased person or a dead body. They washed their hands and their eating utensils with a religious zeal that must have come in very handy in the days before the germ theory of disease. Similarly, the dietary restrictions urged them to avoid bottom-feeding sea life that lived in water bodies where untreated sewage was dumped. They also avoided animals (pigs) with a biology similar to ours and thereby also avoided micro-organisms dangerous to our species.
The second kind of abomination found in the Old Testament is the moral abomination. Now the standard Christian view of moral abominations is that they are so disgusting to God that he simply must destroy a society that practices them. It is almost as if Christians believe that the God who created the python mating function or the many various types of insects had suddenly gone squeamish. The fact is that moral abominations are sins that lead to “chain reactions” where human evil increases without bound. In order to understand this phenomena, let us consider an example.
Let us say that a man had two sons. The first son has taken up a fixation with one of the tools in his father’s tool chest. Specifically, this son loves to knock holes in the walls of the house with a hammer. The other son has taken an interest in a different tool. The other son has begun playing with a cigarette lighter. Every day this son picks up the lighter and goes around lighting things on fire. How should the man react to these two different hobbies?
Now it would not be an unreasonable reaction to encourage the son with the hammer hobby by purchasing him his own tool set and teaching him to repair holes in the wall with plaster and build things with a hammer. With any luck, the child might come to be a skilled carpenter and help build an extension on the home. It is difficult to conceive, however, of any sane person encouraging the habit of arson in their child and the reason is quite plain. Fire is dangerous because it spreads. A child with a lighter can do more damage by accident in an hour than a child with a hammer could do in a day intentionally.
Now some sins have the same tendency to spread and other do not. For example, most people are not tempted to murder anybody just because the neighbor down the street murders someone. The same cannot be said, however, of carnal and pleasurable sins. If a neighbor has sex with a large number of attractive teenagers, many men would be tempted into lust and envy.
Sins that spread and sins that do not are equally odious to God, but those that spread are more capable of making a society odious to God and so He prohibits them more sternly. So what is a moral abomination? A moral abomination is a sin that can spread and make the human beings in the contaminated society odious to God. Abominations are not sins that God hates so much that he destroys the society that practices them, abominations are sins that God hates so much because they give him no choice but to destroy the contaminated society.
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Christians have misused the verses condemning moral abominations by acting as if the more harshly they condemned the people who practice them, the more pleasing they are to God. It is important to understand, however, that those who practice abominations are just sinners like everybody else. God does not look at those who commit abominations as somehow worse than other sinners because God does not look at some sin as “better” than other sin or less sinful. God’s view of our selfish and self-centered natures is very clearly spelled out in the Bible:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV Matthew 5:28)
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (NIV James 2:10)
From these verses, we can clearly see the Lord’s position on sin. If you even think of committing a sin, you have committed it. If you have committed one sin, you have committed all. If all sinners are guilty of all sins, that means that God considers every sinner as having committed the sin of homosexuality. Let us, therefore, be rid of this nonsense that God finds homosexuals to be particularly noxious sinners. Those who commit abomination are merely those people whose sin happens to be more damaging to society in that it encourages other people to sin. God condemns these sins as abominations so that societies will be less prone to this kind of damage.
A Rational Faith Section 8.7.2 A Word on Tolerance
The issue of how to handle homosexuals has caused an enormous rift in the church. On the far side of the liberal spectrum, some people teach that the Old Testament law is an anachronism which is not binding upon modern Christians. To these people, “All things are lawful for me” (NAS 1 Corinthians 6:12) means that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice which is acceptable to God.
On the far side of the conservative spectrum, some people believe that homosexuality is an abomination unto the Lord, the practice of which automatically excludes people from heaven. To these people, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (NAS Revelation 21:8) means that homosexuals cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
For me, the issue is settled by the words of the Lord:
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NAS Matthew 5:18-20)
Where are you if you are the least “in the kingdom of heaven”? Jesus is saying that those who violate his minimum standard and teach others that this is acceptable are not honored for their service. Homosexuals, therefore, can go to heaven because when they are in Christ there is “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) for them, but those who practice and teach the lifestyle receive no rewards because they have shirked the cross of restraining their sexual behavior and taught others to do likewise.
I should note that while, in my opinion, it is possible on the basis of Matthew 5:18-20 to believe that a person who practices and teaches that homosexuality is acceptable can be saved (see 1 Corinthians 5), such a practice would require a Christian of good conscience to dis-fellowship the false teacher.