The same-sex marriage survey has seen no end of Fake News and that which is really Not News. Both sides have their guilty parties. In fact, the only thing that there has been more of is accusations of Fake News, lies, and misinformation. Of course, it’s one thing to have your view critiqued but quite another to have it misrepresented. And while both sides may be guilty of misrepresenting their opponents in order to make their position easier to attack, in most cases it might just be ignorance.
One common example of misinformation by ignorance is the claim that Jesus “never said anything about homosexuality.” Robyn J. Whitaker recently argued in The Conversation and on the ABC News website “when it comes to homosexuality there are, at most, six passages of the Bible that are relevant.” After dismissing these passages with arguments that have already been thoroughly refuted, Whitaker concludes, “[the Bible] never condemns same-sex marriage.” Noticeably absent from Whitaker’s piece is any reference to Jesus. Perhaps if we asked her about his view, she’d respond like so many others, “he never mentioned it.”
If you’ve ever discussed the issue of the Bible and same-sex marriage you may have heard something similar. What’s implied by this claim is that unless Jesus specifically mentions a topic, we can’t really know what his position on that topic was, and therefore the Christian faith can’t hold a position on it either. Who can say, with any degree of certainty, that Jesus considered homosexual practices sinful if he never said so himself? While many people might ask this question in ignorance, liberal Christians and SSM enthusiasts ask it out of dishonesty.
In any case, there are a number of things wrong with this argument. The most obvious is that there are no end of issues Jesus did not specifically mention. Take rape and incest, for example. Are we really meant to scratch our heads and wonder if Jesus considered these things sinful? Search the gospels and take note of how many times Jesus uses the terms idol or idolatry. You won’t find a single instance, and yet the sinfulness of idolatry was a major aspect of Jesus’ teaching.
Similarly, Paul makes no specific mention of the virgin birth. Should we then conclude that Paul’s silence is an indication of doubt, disbelief, or indifference? Of course not. Just because Jesus, or Paul, never directly mentioned an issue, does not mean they were either apathetic towards or approving of that issue. As Voddie Baucham has suggested, “If our new Christian ethic is ‘only if Jesus talked about it specifically,’ then homosexuality is the least of our problems.”
But was Jesus really silent on the issue? Is it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality? Although Jesus did not specifically use the word “homosexuality,” we must understand that failure to use a term does not indicate a failure to teach on a topic. Here are four reasons why.
Firstly, we cannot divide the Bible, or divorce Jesus from the rest of the Scriptures. Some modern Bibles show Jesus’ words in red letters that can lead people to incorrectly assume that Jesus’ words are more important than the rest. This is not the case. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). All the red letters and all the black letters.
The Bible is God’s Word and we can’t divorce Jesus from that Word, this includes the Old Testament. Why? Because Jesus is a member of the Trinity (another word not found in the Bible). Baucham again: “He existed eternally in perfect union with the Father and the Spirit, which means, when rocks and fire and brimstone were coming down on Sodom and Gomorrah, he was not absent, nor was he in disagreement.” What the God of the Old Testament believes is what the God of the New Testament believes, because they are the same God.
Secondly, every time that Jesus appealed to the divine origin and authority of the Old Testament, he was affirming the divine origin and authority of what the Old Testament said. In other words, when Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the unbreakable word and commandments of God, he was attesting to the truthfulness of everything the Old Testament contains (Jn. 10:35; Matt. 5:18; 15:3; Mk.7:13). That includes everything the Old Testament has to say about homosexuality. When, at various times, he mentioned the destruction of Sodom (Matt. 10:14, 11:23-24; Lk. 10:11-13, 17:28-32), he knew what the men of that city had done.
Thirdly, Jesus was not silent on the issue of sexual immorality –- that is sex outside marriage. He explicitly rejected all forms of it by using the categorical term porneia. At the time, the word porneia and the concept of sexual immorality did not exist in a vacuum, devoid of meaning, with no attachment to any sexual practices in particular. For Jesus and his listeners, the word had a clear definition and that definition came from the Old Testament, especially the porneia code in Leviticus 18. According to the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament –- one of the standard academic reference texts -– porneia is “every kind of extramarital, unlawful, unnatural sexual intercourse.”
And so when Jesus used the term, that is what he meant. For him, the only appropriate context for sex was marriage.
And finally, Jesus’ definition of marriage is limited to man and woman. In Matthew 19:5 Jesus grounds his definition of marriage in the creation. Quoting Genesis 2, Jesus states God’s original intention in marriage, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). According to Jesus, marriage is the union of man and woman. This means unless there is both a man and a woman, there is no marriage. Jesus’ own words won’t allow for it. Same-sex couples do not qualify for marriage and every other form of sex falls under the prohibited category of porneia.
Flat White readers may disagree that Jesus is God. Or that God exists. Or if he does, they may choose to ignore him completely. And they may have all kinds of reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with same-sex marriage. But at least they can know what historical, Biblical Christianity consistently, actively, and deliberately teaches: Jesus is the God of the Old Testament; Jesus affirmed all of the Old Testament as God’s Word; Jesus rejects sexual immorality as defined by the Old Testament law, and Jesus defines marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman.
Did Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality? Flat White readers can decide.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.