Sexuality and Gender

When It Comes to Homosexuality, the Bible Addresses Behavior

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 10/20/2021

It’s frustrating to read some advocates of pro-gay theology. They aren’t precise with their words and often conflate categories. The result is, they attack a straw man.

For example, pro-gay theology advocates complain that people who uphold the biblical view of sexuality are “condemning LGBTQ people,” or they claim we argue that “being gay is a sin” or that “God abhors the LGBTQ community for who they are.”

This is misleading. Scripture doesn’t use that language. There’s no “being gay” or “being straight.” There’s no “LGBTQ people” and “heterosexual people.” These are modern-day terms and foreign to the biblical text.

By using these phrases, advocates of pro-gay theology advance a caricature of the biblical view. Consequently, this caricature is easy to dismiss. All they have to say is something akin to, “Nowhere does the Bible condemn people for being gay or LGBTQ.” Of course it doesn’t. Again, the Bible doesn’t use those terms.

When it comes to sexuality, the Bible usually addresses behavior. Some behaviors are permitted, and some are prohibited. It’s very straightforward. There is only one kind of sexual behavior that’s permitted: sex between a man and a woman who are married (Gen. 1:27–28, Matt. 19:4–6). Every other type of sexual activity (e.g., fornication, adultery, homosexual sex, incest, bestiality) is prohibited.

Furthermore, when you read passages that address the specific topic of homosexuality, notice they address a particular behavior. For example, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female” (Lev. 18:22). Lying with someone is a behavior. Leviticus 20:13 is almost identical and, therefore, also refers to behavior. Romans 1:26–27 is another example where the passage refers to men (and women) who committed acts: “Men abandoned the natural function of the woman…men with men committing indecent acts.” Finally, in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul uses the Greek term arsenokoitai, a term that literally means men who bed males. That’s a reference to behavior as well.

These biblical prohibitions naturally have implications for people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. If they engage in sexual activity with people of the same sex, then they are violating the Bible’s proscriptions. They can’t circumvent Scripture’s requirements with a linguistic sleight of hand by claiming that “the Bible doesn’t condemn people for being LGBTQ.”

So, when you hear or see this type of language being used, try to avoid going along with the discussion on those terms. It’s unreasonable to expect Scripture to use 21st-century categories. But also remember, what the Bible does say still speaks directly about the behaviors of many people who identify as gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

Of course, the Bible is full of other prohibitions, so I’m not suggesting Scripture is only directed at a certain set of people. It is relevant to every one of us (2 Tim. 3:16) because we all have a proclivity towards sin.