Sexuality and Gender

To Give a Good Answer, Sometimes You Have to Change the Question

Author Melinda Penner Published on 02/23/2017

Our culture has moved so far from a biblical worldview that we can’t expect people we talk to about the Gospel to understand even where we’re coming from. It’s foreign. And strange. And odd. And sometimes when we talk about specific issues, like homosexuality, out of the context of the biblical worldview, it just doesn’t make sense to people. They have no background to understand the specifics because they don’t see how it fits.

As Christians representing God’s Word, we have to be able to explain the bigger picture. In the case of homosexuality, pornography, and sex outside of marriage, we need to explain what God’s plan is for human sexuality. The reason there are negatives in the Bible is to protect the positives. God says no to certain sexual behavior because He has a beautiful plan for sexuality He wants us to protect. The Bible isn’t prudish or down on sex, it’s actually very affirmative and positive for the design God created. Instead of always saying no to sexual issues our culture pushes, we need to be able to show the tremendous yes God says to sex.

Author Rosaria Butterfield has said that you can’t give a good answer to a bad question. When confronted with direct questions about what the Bible teaches about sex, you probably need to answer a somewhat different question to give a good answer. Instead of answering the question, “What does the Bible teach about being gay?” it might be more effective to help the asker actually understand the answer if you respond to the more relevant question, “What does the Bible teach is God’s design for sex?” In that context, the answer to the question he asked will make more sense.

Greg interviewed author Sam Allberry last fall. Sam wrote the wonderful little book Is God Anti-Gay? In that interview, Sam made this point.

Sam Allberry: I think that the principle I try to work under is whenever the Bible gives us a prohibition, the question I want to ask is, what is the positive thing that prohibition protects? Whenever the Bible gives us a negative, there is always a bigger positive that that negative is an expression of. What the Bible says about homosexuality only really makes sense in the light of what the Bible says about marriage, and more than that, what the Bible says marriage means. We see in the Bible that we have a marriage at the beginning with Adam and Eve and we have a marriage at the end with Christ and His Church.

Throughout the Bible, the first marriage is used as a picture of the second marriage. It’s that vision for human marriage being a picture, being a foretaste, of the relationship between Christ and the Church that actually makes sense of why Christians have the definition of marriage that they do and why the Bible has the sexual ethics that it does.

Within that framework, we can see why the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, and why the Bible says sex is for such a marriage, and that being the only context in which God has designed sex to be a blessing. Homosexuality—and what the Bible says about homosexuality—is just one outworking of that vision for marriage that we see straight through the whole of the Bible.

Greg Koukl: I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 19, and the way I sum it up is one man with one woman becoming one flesh for one lifetime.

Sam Allberry: Absolutely, yes.

Greg Koukl: When you think of it that way, it covers all the bases. It doesn’t leave just homosexuality on the outside so to speak, but also all the heterosexual sins like adultery and fornication, bestiality, all of the kinds of things that are prohibited in the Scripture are sexual behaviors that are outside of that one man, one woman, one flesh for one lifetime kind of relationship.

Sam Allberry: Absolutely. If I’m willing to give someone a quick thumbnail—this is what the Bible has as its sexual ethic—I will almost always go to Matthew 19 for that reason. It’s not what Paul says about homosexuality, it’s what Jesus says about marriage actually that is the foundation here; and what Paul then goes on to say about homosexuality is an outworking of that. I always want to bring people back to marriage because that’s the context in which everything else the Bible has to say about sex makes sense. It also shows that the Bible’s message is ultimately a positive one, and not lots of little negative ones.

Greg Koukl: The old canard that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, even if you’re speaking with a low Christology—that is, Jesus merely the man as opposed to Jesus the incarnate Son of God who’s responsible for the entire Word—even with a low Christology, it’s not exactly true, is it?

Sam Allberry: It’s not. It’s disingenuous because Jesus talked about sexual sin, and He spoke about sexual sin that would’ve left His original hearers in no doubt that would’ve included homosexual sexual sins when Jesus talks about—in Matthew 15 or Mark 7—about how sexual immorality is something that defiles us and makes us spiritually unclean. It’s very clear that the language He uses there—the Greek word we have in the Gospel is porneia, where we get the word “pornography” from—that was a catch-all term for any sexual activity outside of a man and woman marriage. Jesus didn’t name homosexuality, but He certainly included it in the language that He used talking about sexual sin in general.

(You can read the full transcript here or listen to the original interview here.)