Much of the ideas in this post arise from the following, and other, works – “Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections” by Albert Mohler Jr. in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ; “Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful,” by Denny Burk, JETS, Volume 58, 1 (March 2015); What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality? by Keving DeYoung; The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon.
Albert Mohler Jr. is surely correct when he reminds us that we cannot address homosexual marriage, and homosexuality as a whole, as an isolated issue but must place it in the context of the Christian world-view and the great story of God’s purpose in creation and redemption. This means that we cannot start a conversation about homosexual marriage or homosexuality by talking about homosexual marriage or homosexuality. We must see the bigger picture of Scripture, the bigger picture of Creation, Fall, and Redemption for us to see all things properly, biblically.
We need to start, therefore in Genesis 1-3, for we must recognize the purpose for which God created the entire universe and thus understand ourselves as part of, and in light of this purpose. God’s purpose for creating the universe is quite clear throughout Scripture – it is for his glory. Thus, “we must re-conceive every single question in terms of how God’s glory will be most clearly manifested in creation.” (Mohler Jr.) The right ordering of things in our world at any point and on any issue will be that order which most clearly demonstrates God’s glory most profoundly.
But remember, we don’t get to decide what will or will not glorify God the most. He decides that. Thankfully, he has made this known to us in Scripture. When we examine the opening chapters of Genesis we realize that all things were created for his glory and that the human couple, male and female, were alone created in God’s image. They are the pinnacle of creation because they bear the image of God and thus they and they alone are able to consciously know and obey God. They alone can consciously pursue his glory in all things. But we must remember that this ‘they’, the first human beings, were male and female and were brought together by God with no impetus to do so from within his creation. In other words, they were freely created by God as male and female. God showed that what glorifies him most in humanity is the making of a male and female and by overseeing the first marriage between them. (Cf. Mohler Jr.). One man and one woman brought together in the covenant of marriage then joined together in one a one flesh union.
In this picture we see that heterosexual marriage stands at the center of God’s understanding of human gender and sexuality. It is God’s design for us as humans to be male and female joined in a marriage covenant which involves a one flesh union of body and soul. This is not a cultural thing the ancients came up with to make their societies function better. This is the way in which we as God’s creatures living in his world display God’s glory most fully. We are, thus, accountable to our Creator in our relationships with each other as he has defined them. (Cf. Mohler Jr.) To put it bluntly, in God’s world we are who God says we are, simple as that. (Burk) Thus this foundation becomes the “nonnegotiable foundation of everything Xians understand about life, sex, gender, and the entire complex of issues related to embodiment and sexuality.” (Mohler Jr.)
What we must realize is that our bodies are not our own, to be used independently by us. We must be aware that glorifying God with our bodies is part of who are as image bearers, created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Both our body and our soul are part of this. Thus the only sexual desires and sexual acts that glorify God are those desires and acts that are ordered to the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. Marriage is intended to be a display of covenant fidelity, which points to the faithfulness of our Creator and the character of the covenant-making and keeping God. The New Testament goes so far as to present the relationship between Christ and his church in the metaphor of the bride and bridegroom to reaffirm this exact point. (Cf. Mohler Jr.)
Throughout the Bible, ALL sexual sins are revealed in their inherent sinfulness precisely b/c each of these sins – whether incest, bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, fornication, or lust – is a desire for something else and something less than God’s completion and perfection that is the covenant of marriage, and for something else and something less than God glorifying purity in our reception of God’s gift. We simply cannot talk about sex, any kind of sex, without talking about heterosexual marriage, for God has designed for sex to exist in this relationship and then and only then, does sex glorify God. Therefore, when sexual desire / attraction / action fixes on any kind of non-heterosexual, non-marital erotic activity, it falls short of the glory of God and is by definition sinful. This applies to both opposite AND same sex desire and action outside of marriage. (Cf. Mohler Jr.; Burk)
Let me just pause to deal w/ a couple of arguments that are often made that this understanding of Genesis sweeps away:
The creation passage is not relevant to the issue, because it’s the beginning so it would have to be a woman and a man – On the surface this sounds plausible, but this point misses the part that this story plays in the grand narrative of Scripture. It is also misses several key points from within the text itself. (1) One of which we already mentioned, the freedom of God in creation. God had a self-glorifying, redemptive foreshadowing purpose in creation that led him to creating a man and woman that were placed in the marriage bond. (2) The reality that one of the purposes of marriage is that the one flesh union will lead to procreation. A man and a woman have the parts necessary to become one flesh and to produce a child through this union. Procreation is not just peripheral here, but integral to marriage; for it fulfills one of the purposes of marriage that God lays out and thus glorifies him. God’s design for marriage is that a covenant would occur between two members of the opposite sex and within that one flesh union offspring would be produced. Procreation is not the sole reason for marriage, but it was designed to be a part of and a result of the marriage union. (3) This false perspective also misses the redemptive-historical significance of marriage. Male and female in marriage is God’s way for us to understand what God is doing in redemption (cf. Ephesians 5). Anything other than one woman and one man joined together skews and corrupts God’s redemptive analogy. Hence the reason why Adam and Eve were brought together.
The God of the Bible is a God of love, therefore he would not be judgmental toward loving, monogamous relationships of any kind – This is a mistake on two fronts. (1) It does not take into account the nature of God as being simple. This means that God is not the sum of his attributes as though they come together like puzzle pieces to make God. Instead he is each of his attributes. This means that we may not put one of his attributes on a higher level than any other; thus pitting his love against his justice, for example. God is love, but he is also holy, spirit, just, omnipotent, eternal, etc.. Thus, love is never a sole defining characteristic of God. (Cf. DeYoung) (2), It doesn’t recognize what we have just talked about from Genesis regarding God’s attitude toward his creation. God is sovereign over his universe and this means that he is also sovereign regarding how his universe interacts with itself and with him. Everything in God’s initial creation reflects his nature and power, it is all ‘very good.’ Thus anything that deviates from this declaration is NOT good, does NOT bring him glory and thus is sinful. Sin brings about God’s punishment, wrath and discipline, for he cannot love, nor stay idle, when his moral law and revealed will is trampled upon.
Soli Deo Gloria