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Saturday, May 20, 2006 

Homosexuality and The Apostle Paul: A Study on Romans 1:26-27

As many of you know, recently I have been debating a fellow blogger named Dan Trabue who operates a blog entitled, A Payne-Hollow Visit, on the question, “Does the Bible Teach that Homosexuality Is a Sin?” We have debated in the comments’ sections of two different posts. The discussion on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 can be found under this post and the beginning of the discussion on Romans 1:18-32 can be found under this post. I have decided for a number of reasons, one being that I believe that it is absolutely essential that we properly exegete the text of this passage, i.e., interpret by drawing out of the text its meaning to its original hearers, to post my exegesis of verses 26-27 as a completely new blog post. So, the following is rather lengthy, detailed, and at times highly technical, but I assure you worth reading if you are interested in the subject. I have tried to weave both Greek translation and narrative criticism together as well as summarize the points as I go in order to help those of you who might occasionally get lost to see how the argument fits together neatly into the box of Paul’s overall argument, which is a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ beginning with this passage highlighting the sin of the idolatrous Gentile culture. Please feel free to ask for clarification by commenting below. And note that in the comments’ section there will be a continuation of the debate between Dan and I, as well as a post on the interpretations of this text by various Church Fathers. So without further adieu, let us begin with verse 26.

Dia touto begins this verse, which translated simply means “For this reason.” This harkens back to the previous verse and indicates that what is about to be said is the result of the idolatrous culture. God has not been worshipped, but rather He has been usurped by the idols of creatures, and even the idol of mankind, itself. This verse is the result of exchanging the truth of God for a lie.

Paradoken – this word is repeated from v.24. God again gives them over to their desires. In v.24, He gave them over “in the lusts of their hearts” to impurity. Morris (NICNT: 1996) notes that this phrasing “shows that those who were handed over were already immersed in sin” (p.110). In v.24, these people already had an inborn desire to sin and were beginning to flirt with impurity. God simply allowed them to do so and they indulged. Likely, the same emphasis is found here in v.26, just as we will see that the same is true of the term for “exchange.”

The next phrase is “to degrading passions” – (eis patha atimias) – literally, “to emotions of dishonor” or “passions of dishonor”. This phrase is parallel to “impurity” in v.24, and while the word for “impurity” was somewhat ambiguous as to whether it dealt with sexuality, this phrase is not. Regarding this Morris says, “Paul’s use of the word ‘passions’ ... makes clear that he refers to illicit sexual passions” (pp.113-114).

“For” (gar) signals that Paul is about to explain in what way these people were given over to “dishonorable passions.” He goes on: “their women exchanged” – the word for “woman” (thaleiai) here is found rarely in Paul. Regarding this, Morris says in a footnote, “Paul’s use of the antonyms thelusi/arsen [female/male] (v.27) rather than, e.g., gune/aner, stresses the element of sexual distinctiveness and throws into relief the perversity of homosexuality by implicitly juxtaposing its confusion of the sexes with the divine ‘male and female he created them.’ For the pair thelus/arsen is consistently associated with the creation narrative (cf. Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6…).” Schreiner picks up on this and adds that in “selecting the unusual words thelus … and arsen … rather than gune and aner … he drew on the creation account of Genesis, which uses the same words.” The same words, that is, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT that Paul exclusively used in his letters and with which his audience would have undoubtedly been most familiar. Again, this ties together the overriding theme of creation explicit in this passage.

Let’s now examine the word, “exchanged.” Paul uses the same word as he did in vv.23 and 25, again adding to the parallel nature of the passage. He says they exchanged “the natural function for that which is unnatural” – literally “the natural use to the [use] against nature.” This is the crux of the verse, and dare say the entire argument Paul is making regarding what I will later argue is homosexual relationships. The word that is translated “natural” means “belonging to nature, innate, a natural condition.” The word chresin here is translated, “function.” It is used only one time in the NT, and this is it. It is used often though in Greek to denote “sexual intercourse” and is found used this way in works by Lucian, Plutarch, and coincidentally in Plato’s Symposium, which we will get to in just a moment. This seems to again clearly show that this text is dealing with sexual relationships, specifically those of a homosexual nature.

And speaking of nature, the “exchange” (“exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural”) is clearly made from natural sexual intercourse to that which is para physin, or “against nature.” This phrase is incredibly important in this passage. But, first let’s deal with the word physikos, meaning “natural” in this passage. It is used only three times in the NT. Twice it is used in this passage and once in 2 Peter 2:12 where it is used to describe animals. The general definition is “given by, or according to nature” (TDNOT, V.IX, p.271). Now looking at the word, physis, translated “nature” at the end of this verse, is used often by Paul to denote things common to all people. In Romans 2:14 it is translated, “instinctively” and refers to all Gentiles. In 2:27 it again refers to all Gentiles. The same is true of 11:24, 27. In 1 Cor. 11:14 he uses it to refer to a universal principle which is observable in the physical world. In Galatians 2:15, he refers to the fact that all Jews are so by physical ancestry. In Gal. 4:8 he is referring to fact that idols are not “by nature” gods. And Ephesians 2:3 refers to all people’s status as being objects of wrath were it not for the grace of God. So, in every case, Paul uses this term to refer to a universal principle and/or complete group. He is lumping all people or items together into one category. Never does he use it to denote a minority group separate to the majority group. So when one says that this is in reference to the nature of an individual person separate from all women or men, it seems unlikely given Paul’s normal usage. If such a strange reading were legitimate it would be the first time he is using the word in that regard and does not fit with his usage of the word in other parts of the book of Romans, which he likely wrote all in one sitting with one purpose – to lay out the Gospel for the Church at Rome.

Now, let’s deal with the phrase, “against nature” or para physin specifically for a moment. It is used one other time in Romans and no where else in Scripture. In 11:24, Paul says literally, “For if you [Jews] were cut off from what is by nature [kata physin] a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature [para physin] into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural [physikos] branches be grafted into their own olive tree.” The argument goes like this: The Gentiles were grafted into the olive tree of Abraham’s descendants (though they were by ancestry not Jews) by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Christ. This was unnatural or [contrary to the laws of nature] to do so. Still if God is able to do that, then surely He is able to bring those Jews who were by ancestry into their own tree as well. So again, we see this phrase used to express a universal understanding of people (and trees). Again, nothing seems to suggest that Paul is using this phrase to denote the nature of an individual or group of individuals within the larger population.

But, what is most interesting about this phrase is Paul’s use of it in Romans 1:27 when dealing with an issue with obviously sexual overtones. Remember that Paul is speaking to a Gentile audience and that he is a Roman citizen who was educated according to both Jewish law and Greek philosophy (as we seen when he goes to Mars Hill in Acts 17 and his discussion on philosophy in 1 Corinthians, as well as his use of rhetoric throughout his writings).

Knowing this, we find the either phrase “against nature” (para physin) or the effect Paul may be trying to cause with this phrase often in Greek literature. Let’s turn now to Charles Talbert for more on this:

For example, In Plato, Laws 1.2 [626B-C] said same-sex relations were ‘contrary to nature’; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.758, had a girl involved in same sex love say ‘nature does not will it’; Ps-Lucian, Erotes 19, said female homoeroticism is contrary to nature (Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary, Romans, 2002, p.66).
We also find evidence from Hellenistic Judaism. Again Talbert says, “Philo, On Abraham XXVI.135, spoke about men, discarding laws of nature, lusting after one another. In Special Laws, 2.XIV.50, he talked about men lusting unnaturally. T. Naphtali 3:4 said: “Do not become like Sodom, which departed from the order of nature” (which lends evidence to the use of “Sodom” throughout Christianity to refer not just to rape, etc., but to general homosexual practice) (Talbert, 66). He goes on:
Ps-Psocylides 190 exhorted the readers not to transgress sexually the limits set by nature. Josephus [a contemporary of Paul], Against Apion 2.25 + 199, said the law ‘owns no other mixture of sexes but that which has appointed…It abhors the mixture of a male with a male.’ Second Enoch 10:4 regards homosexual practice as a sin against nature.
And then we find this phrase used after the writing of Scripture, by the early Church Fathers to speak of homosexual relationships as unnatural, giving weight to the fact that the early Church believed Paul to be using “nature” and “against nature” in this way. Regarding these examples Talbert offers:

This Jewish contention was by the early fathers. Polycarp, Philippians 5.3, for example, said that those given to unnatural vice would not share in the kingdom of God. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 2.12.55 and 7.10.59, said women who married women acted contrary to nature [see there is talk about homosexual marriage in the early Church]. For him, the Genesis creation narrative laid the framework for understanding nature as gendered. John Chrysostem’s Fourth Homily on Romans treats both male and female homoeroticism as unnatural.
The evidence here is overwhelmingly in favor of a reading of “contrary to nature” as meaning against the nature of all men, with the term “naturally,” as we will see, referring to heterosexuality and para physin (“contrary to nature”) referring to homosexuality.

Turning back to the verse itself, were v.27 to have been omitted by Paul, we would still know that:
1. Paul was describing what results from a culture that has turned away from God.
2. This results in a sinful activity.
3. This sinful activity involves women and of a sexual nature.
4. A natural, non-sinful sexual activity has been exchanged for this sexually sinful activity
5. This sinful sexual activity is wrong because it goes against the nature of all women.

Now that we’ve covered the wording Paul used in v.26, let’s move on to v.27.

“And in the same way” is a phrase that indicates that the men described in v.27 were involved in the exact same type of activity. With just this phrase we can surmise that all five of the summarizing statements regarding v.26 are true of these men he going to describe in v.27.

Next Paul says, “the men abandoned the natural function of the woman.” The word for “abandoned” is best understood as “forsake” or “give up.” We have already covered the word “natural” as it denotes the normal activity of a general group. And we have also dealt with the word for “function” noting that it is used in regards to sexual activity. The phrase “of the woman” denotes a subjective genitive (the case of possession) and could be translated, “the woman’s natural function” or “the woman’s normal sexual activity.” This emphasizes that the men gave up sexual relationships with women, or said another way, they “forsook the sexual activity that they could have had with women” in favor of something else. Like the women they exchanged this “natural sexual activity” for something that was “unnatural.”

These men, abandoning the natural sexual activity of the woman, “burned in their desire toward one another.” This is actually the first main verb in this sentence. So literally, “as they abandoned, they also had a strong desire.” The word here is translated as “burned” in order to catch the emphasis in the Greek construction of the verse. Also, the verb is normally an active verb, but here its form is in the passive voice. Literally, it says, “[the men] were made to have a strong desire in their desire for one another.” This verse seems to make it clear that the men gave up the sexual activity they could have had with women and instead were inflamed with a desire for each other, which would obviously be other men.

But just in case Paul wasn’t clear, he uses the phrase, “men with men.” The first “men” in this phrase is in the nominative case (the case generally given to the subject of a sentence). This is strange for a word in the middle of a sentence to be in the nominative case, but this denotes that it has a specific function. Here it is what Daniel Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 1996) calls a “Parenthetic Nominative,” whose “use is primarily explanatory and is frequently an editorial aside” (p.53). Paul wants his readers to understand what he means by “burned for one another.” He means that men had sex with other men. At this point there is no doubt that he is speaking of homosexual relationships.

Paul doesn’t stop there, but continues adding, “men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” About this sentence James R. White writes,

The mutuality of this desire is emphasized by the phrase “men with men.” The apostle leaves no doubt as to his reference: adult homosexuals. And these are active men: they act upon their desires, accomplishing what Paul identifies as literally “the shameful deed,” or as it is rendered by the NASB and NIV, “indecent acts.” The term comes from an old word that referred to something as “deformed,” and hence flows into the concept of perversion and deviation that is part and parcel of this section of the chapter. There is no possible way of reading this term as referring to anything neutral or simply “unusual” or “out of the norm.” Paul views homosexual activity as shameful or indecent.

And just in case his readers didn’t understand from his argument that these acts were sinful, Paul closes this verse with the words, “and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Certainly this act was sinful if indeed those who commit such are given their “due penalty.” Scholars differ on what this due penalty may mean. Many point to 1 Cor. 6:9 where Paul condemns certain sins and claims that those who commit such will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This verse is very controversial, however, because Paul uses the term, arsenokoites, which many say is not a legitimate term for “homosexual” given its limited usage in Greek. In fact, there are no known usages of it before the Hellenistic Jew Philo who was likely born just a few years before Paul, though Paul was probably very aware of his writings. So where did the term come from? Likely it came from Philo, who probably found this term in the Septuagint (LXX) and then used the term to refer to male homosexual sex. And then Paul picked up on this himself, for, as we noted earlier, Paul used the LXX exclusively in his letters. What both Philo and Paul would have found was the two words, arsen (men) and koiten (have sex with) in both Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in the LXX. But what is striking is that in verse 13 of chapter 20 we find the two words directly next to one another. The verse reads in Greek, hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos. It was very common in Greek, and sometimes now happens in English, to combine two words together to form a new word that carried with it the meaning of the two. As the ancient languages had a limited vocabulary, this practice was the chief way in which words were created and the language was broadened. Often, after the word becomes common, it loses its original meaning and comes to have another one, though still reflective in some way of the two words of which it is constructed.

Another view of the “due penalty in their persons” is that Paul is referring to the fact that once one goes down the path toward homosexuality, he or she will be hooked by it and become fully engaged homosexuals, losing the joy they would have been able to experience in “natural” sexual relations. Whatever the meaning of this particular phrase we can certainly gather the following facts from our study of these verses:

  1. Paul is indicting the Gentile culture for their idolatry.
  2. Paul’s overall argument is based upon the observance of the created order, which the Gentiles were privy to despite their lack of the Law God had given to the Jews. Thus they were without excuse.
  3. He points out that a culture this idolatrous will be given over by God to pursue their depravity.
  4. This depravity is exemplified in at least three ways: They ignored the divine attributes of God despite the witness of the created order, they exchanged the glory of God to worship idols of men and animals despite the witness of the created order, and they exchanged the natural function of heterosexual relationships for homosexual ones despite the obvious witness of the created order.

Specifically, Paul argues in vv.26-27 the following:

  1. Because of the idolatrous culture, God gave the people over to “degrading passions.”
  2. These “passions” inflicted women who exchanged the natural sexual intercourse with men for “that which is contrary to nature”
  3. In the same way, the men forsook the natural sexual intercourse women provided for sexual intercourse with men, leading the reader to understand that in the previous verse Paul was saying that women did the same with other women.

These acts were “contrary to nature,” which cannot be taken as “contrary to their nature” (meaning contrary to their nature as heterosexuals, but not contrary if they were by nature homosexual) for at least eight reasons:

  1. We have no evidence that homosexuality is an inborn trait and thus would be natural to men or women.
  2. We do have evidence that homosexual behavior often comes about because of certain cultural experiences.
  3. To insert such a reading would betray the obvious argument that Paul is building from the created order.
  4. The phrase “contrary to nature” was found in Greek and Jewish literature which Paul would have read and which had a very obvious and consistent rendering as shown above.
  5. Paul’s use of such a phrase would have been familiar to his audience, who would have seen the same argument used in Plato, Ovid, and Lucian. It had a defined meaning and his audience would have known that.
  6. Such a reading would lead to more confusion of his audience since the default position of the early Christians, the Rabbis, and even Hellenistic Jews was that homosexuality of any stripe was a sin.
  7. The verse gives no indication that homosexual behavior of any kind is allowed or acceptable, though Paul would have been familiar with ideas like “male homosexuality, lesbianism, the claims of some to be born as a willing mate of a man, the concept of mutuality, permanency, gay pride, pederasty, ‘homophobia,’ motive, desire, passion, etc” (White, The Same-Sex Controversy) and had he [or the Holy Spirit who inspired the text] so desired, he would have certainly been more clear,
  8. The universal witness of the Early Church, including the Greek and Latin Apologists, the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Church Fathers, and all of Christianity up until the sexual revolution when idolatry once again gloriously reared its ugly head in Western Civilization, suggests that this reading is not in line with Paul’s intentions or those of the Holy Spirit who inspired the text.

So, in conclusion to this rather lengthy post, let me say that it seems unlikely that Paul meant to do anything other than indict the practice of homosexuality as sinful behavior to be rejected by Christians. There is no evidence that can be presented that overrides the testimony of 2000 years of Church History to this passage of Scripture. The burden of proof lies in the hands of those who desire to revise the historical view of the Church and the natural reading of the text. Today, as in the days of Paul, Christians everywhere should reject homosexuality as a legitimate expression of the Christian faith and teach that such a practice is against the natural function and design of human beings, which God our Great Creator gave to us. God’s design from the beginning was for marriage to exist between a man and a woman, producing children and exhibiting the glory of God by being an example of Christ and His Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ. Let me close by offering Paul’s words in Romans 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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Let me offer one site as a reference to anyone who is interested in a succinct, well-written, comprehensive article on Christianity and homosexuality. The blog is titusonenine and the article is by Kendall S. Harmon, the author of the blog.

Here is a sampling of quotes I found from the Church Fathers on homosexuality and Paul's words in Romans 1:

Tertullian: When Paul asserts that males and females changed among themselves the natural use of the creature into that which is unnatural, he validates the natural way. chaplet 6 – ANF 3:96.

Ambriosiaster: Paul tells us that these things came about, that a woman should lust after another woman, because God was angry at the human race because of its idolatry. Those who interpret this differently do not understand the force of the argument. For what is it to change the use of nature into a use which is contrary to nature, if not to take away the former and adopt the latter, so that the same part of the body should be used by each of the sexes in a way for which it was not intended? Therefore, if this is the part of the body which they think it is, how could they have changed the natural use of it if they had not had this use given to them by nature? This is why he said earlier that they had been handed over to uncleanliness, even though he did not explain in detail what he meant by that. Commentary on Paul’s epistles. CSEL 81:51.

Ambroisiaster: It is clear that, because they changed the truth of God into a lie, they changed the natural use (of sexuality) into that use by which they were dishonored and were condemned to the second death. For since Satan cannot make another law, having no power to do so, it must be said that they changed to another order and by doing things which were not allowed, fell into sin. Paul says that the due penalty comes from contempt of God, and that it is wickedness and obscenity. For this is the prime cause of sin. What is worse, what is more harmful than that sin which deceives even the devil and binds man to death.

Severian: Paul did not say this lightly, but because he had heard that there was a homosexual community at Rome. Pauline commentary from the Greek Church – NTA 15:214.

Chrysostom: The natural desire for sexual intercourse united the sexes to one another, but by taking this away and turning it into something else, the devil divided the sexes from each other and forced what was one to become two, in opposition to the law of God … the devil was bent on destroying the human race, not only by preventing them from copulating lawfully but by stirring them to war and subversion against each other.
Paul goes straight to the source of sexual evil: ungodliness which comes from twisted teaching and lawlessness which is its reward. For since it seemed that the ungodly would not believe him if he spoke of hell and punishment but they might even scorn him, Paul simply states that the punishment came from the lust itself. But if they still fail to perceive it, do not be surprised. Homilies on Romans 4 – NPNF 1 11:356-357.

All of these can be found in the book, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Volume VI: Romans. Inter-Varsity Press, 1998. pp. 46-48.

Just so you know, I'm still reading. Be back soon...

Daniel, I've looked it over and over, read your comments and thought about how best to respond and I'm at a loss.

It would appear that you've taken the 65-ish words from Romans 1:26-27 and repeated, retranslated, regurgitated, and otherwise rehashed all of what they said, to the tune of thousands of words, I'd guess.

And you did so with a great deal of effort and research, so don't hear that too much as a criticism - you've obviously put a great deal of work in to it.

And yet, as you said about PHD - Piling it Higher and Deeper - you've added so much as to make your position incomprehensible. More words does not always equal more clarity (actually, it probably rarely does).

The best I can come up with is that we agree that it is wrong to do what is against nature, as Paul writes about, but disagree about what "against nature" means. You wrote:

"And speaking of nature, the “exchange” (“exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural”) is clearly made from natural sexual intercourse to that which is para physin, or “against nature.”"

Okay. And, despite your efforts to say that, when Paul wrote of actions against nature, he was talking of ONE SPECIFIC RULE WITH NO EXCEPTIONS, I don't buy it. It IS against gays nature to mate heterosexually. That is reality.

Just as it is against your nature to mate homosexually. Could someone convince you by saying, "Come on Daniel, it'll be fun. Give it a try!" to try homosexuality (even if you didn't think it were a sin)? NO! It is against your nature.

I don't believe homosexuality is a sin in and of itself and yet there is nothing that anyone could possibly do to convince me to "try to be gay" - I like women. It IS my nature. All of your arguments to try to get around it just fail in the real world.

Further, your arguments are based and prefaced upon phrases such as, "it seems," "unlikely," etc and even when you remove the doubt ("The apostle leaves no doubt as to his reference..."), you are still just stating your opinion. There can, in fact, be doubt about a great deal of what you state as unassailable.

Why? Because we have a fallen nature with limited genius. We are prone to be wrong. THAT TOO, is our nature.

So, for me, it comes down to what I've stateed: You think it is unassailable that "men laying with men" or "lusting after men" is "against nature" and all that means that even a committed homosexual relationship is wrong.

I think going against nature is wrong and thus an endorsement of gay marriage. I think the places where the Bible refers to men laying with men or lusting after men is talking about something else.

Why do I think so? Because, for instance, Paul himself says that "men lusting after men" is against nature and since we know that same sex attraction is not against nature and we know that God's word is true, Paul must be referring to something Other. Something abusive, I would suggest, since being against abusive and oppressive actions IS the nature of God found within the Bible.


I am glad to see that you have been able to finally respond. I realize that this is not a simplistic argument and I have given quite a bit of evidence to support my position, that which has been termed the traditional view.

As to some of your comments...

It would appear that you've taken the 65-ish words from Romans 1:26-27 and repeated, retranslated, regurgitated, and otherwise rehashed all of what they said, to the tune of thousands of words, I'd guess.
And you did so with a great deal of effort and research, so don't hear that too much as a criticism - you've obviously put a great deal of work in to it.

That's what both liberal and conservative scholars call "exegesis". I think some time before you used the term "legalese" of which I am still not sure the meaning. But without you charging me with this again, let me say that Biblical scholars often offer up evidence, even as a lawyer would do, to back up their interpretation and thus position regarding what he text actually meant to the original audience. That is what I have attempted to do and I believe I have been successful in arguing for the traditional position based on the vast amount of evidence confirming it. And remember Dan, whole books have been written on this subject, even those that push forth your view. Are those men equally unclear because of their wordiness (after all you likely wouldn't have a leg to stand on without their previous work on this subject)?

And yet, as you said about PHD - Piling it Higher and Deeper - you've added so much as to make your position incomprehensible. More words does not always equal more clarity (actually, it probably rarely does).

Let me say as to your critique regarding wordiness, that even as many words may not make a clear argument, neither does few words either. In fact, despite the fact that there are some technical terminology in my exegesis, there is also a great deal of easy to follow argumentation and I specifically summarized my points for clarity and in order for any reader to see where I was going with my interpretation. I am sorry that it was not clear or comprehensible to you, but after reading countless pro- and anti-homosexual scholars I can say that my exegesis is in the same line of scholarly discourse. No book that I picked up or article I read from either side presented a case that did not involve a great deal of depth and some technical jargon. I think you should familiarize yourself with some of this so that you might better understand your own position, as well as mine.

Now, I find it interesting that you have once again used this "PHD" phrase to describe my exegesis. And I think in doing so you have actually given me the opportunity to illustrate how you are handling Romans 1:26-27.

You see, if you go back to the comment where I used this phrase, I noted that it came from James R. White (and likely originated from him) and he used it specifically in the sense of pro-homosexual advocates (or anyone for that matter) who often lay out two or three different interpretations of the text in an attempt to show that even if one or two of their positions is wrong, then there is always another one that could be proposed that would render this text unusable to prove a specific premise (in this case unusable by anti-homosexual proponents who hold to its traditional meaning). In the end, those who use "PHD" argumentation hope to show that there are too many interpretive options and thus no one need accept the traditional view when it is but one among many and (like you said later) we just can't know so we should just throw this text out as a meaningful anti-homosexual text. Often those who do "pile high and deep" present interpretations which contradict one another. And again this is to carry forth the argument that "we just can't know" therefore we should render this text impotent to the debate at hand (though the original audience did not).

When you use the "PHD" argument to describe my exegesis you actually kidnap it and divorce it from its original context, for in my argumentation, I outline only 1 viable interpretive option (as opposed to multiple) and defend that one by means of evidence supporting that view. At no time did I offer contradictory evidence to my position or suggest that even if it were not correct, there may be other interpretive options besides those to which I ascribe. In fact, the entire exegesis was written in an attempt to defend one interpretation -- that of the traditional view which has been held throughout the history of the Church.

In the same way, when you charge that Paul must be talking about "one's nature" and not "Nature" in the sense of that which can be observed as being normal to God's established and created order (i.e., those things which conform to our understanding of how Nature operates -- in this case, Paul's argument is that animals can be observed as mating as males and females, not in homosexual relationships - the same being true of humans in which procreation can only take place "naturally" through male-female sexual intercourse) you also (like the 'PHD' argument) kidnap this phrase and divorce it from its context. This phrase was unanimously interpreted by the early church in the traditional sense. Paul's original hearers would have been completely confused by any insertion of such a meaning as "one's nature" into this text. It seems quite incredible that Paul would defy the consensus Jewish belief, as well as the default position of the Early Church, and yet not offer his readers any more context than his few words here to support such a changed belief.

So, I would ask:
1. Why would Paul defy his heritage on this and then not either explain his reasoning or make it more clear to his original audience?
2. Further, why would Paul use a phrase like "contrary to nature", one that carried with it such a normalized connotation and not explain that he meant quite another thing?
3. What evidence do you have that "one's nature" is a viable interpretation of "contrary to nature", rendering it instead, "contrary to one's nature" and not what Philo and Plato and Polycarp and Clement of Alexander, as well as dozens of other early interpreters and preservers of Paul meant by such a phrase?
4. If such evidence cannot be presented by you, then on what basis should we accept your view? 5. Shouldn't we rather accept that interpreting this phrase as "one's nature" indeed does divorce it from its context and insert into it a 21st century reading and not that of Paul's era?

You go on:
Okay. And, despite your efforts to say that, when Paul wrote of actions against nature, he was talking of ONE SPECIFIC RULE WITH NO EXCEPTIONS, I don't buy it. It IS against gays nature to mate heterosexually. That is reality.

I don't see why "no exceptions" is that much of a problem. After all, there are no exceptions made for adultery, for incest, for beastiality, or for rape. In all these cases whether "love" or "mutuality" is involved, God is unequivocally against such activity.

Just as it is against your nature to mate homosexually. Could someone convince you by saying, "Come on Daniel, it'll be fun. Give it a try!" to try homosexuality (even if you didn't think it were a sin)? NO! It is against your nature.

Here you are assuming your argument in order to make the argument. You have not proven that we should accept this as a proper interpretation of this passage. Again you have presented no historical, cultural, or contextual evidence that supports such a reading. I have given you about a dozen examples of how this phrase "contrary to nature" supports a traditional reading. Sure, I do not desire to engage in homosexual activities, but that point does not matter because Paul is unconcerned about what one desires, but rather is concerned with activities that are against "nature", i.e. God's created order as established in Genesis, which would be male-female complemetarianism, not same-sex eros.

I don't believe homosexuality is a sin in and of itself and yet there is nothing that anyone could possibly do to convince me to "try to be gay" - I like women. It IS my nature. All of your arguments to try to get around it just fail in the real world.

Do you assume that Paul was not living in the real world here? Again if you go back to previous comments I made about Plato's Symposium you will see that I point out that much of the contemporary debate on homosexual "orientation" and even issues of "gay marriage" were addressed by Plato and his contemporaries. Paul was living in this "real world". Why would he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, make such a prohibition that was not based in his own real world situation?

Further, your arguments are based and prefaced upon phrases such as, "it seems," "unlikely," etc and even when you remove the doubt ("The apostle leaves no doubt as to his reference..."), you are still just stating your opinion. There can, in fact, be doubt about a great deal of what you state as unassailable.

Doesn't this apply to you as well, Dan? Aren't any and all of your arguments just your opinion as well? And as to phrases such as "likely" and "it seems" those are not meant to shed doubt, but rather show that the reasonable reading or position is "this" or "that". My wording is inconsequential (though you will find if you read commentaries of any stripe - liberal, moderate, or conservative - that this is how scholars speak in argumentation - the same goes for lawyers who assess evidence) -- the real question is:" "Did I offer reasonable evidence to defend the default view of Christendom for 2000 years" and consequently, "Did you offer any evidence that could counter mine in an effective way?"

Again, Dan, as I said earlier, the burden of proof lies with you to prove that we should interpret this text differently than the 2000 year old history of its exegesis.

Why? Because we have a fallen nature with limited genius. We are prone to be wrong. THAT TOO, is our nature.

You are so right here Dan. Yes, we are prone to fallibility. But the question is:
1. Has the Church been prone to this regarding homosexuality for 2000 years?
2. Has the Holy Spirit failed to illuminate this text properly for 2000 years?
3. Or is Scripture wrong here?
4. Or did God mean to be this misleading for 2000 years or to mislead the entirety of His Church for 2000 years until now, when He finally reveals, contrary to the original audience's understanding, that indeed homosexuality is acceptable and that this text not only isn't against it -- IT'S A RESOUNDING SUPPORT OF IT?
5. Why are you so infallible as to understand the proper exegesis of this text when so many of those who came before you or I who were much closer to God than either you or I got it so wrong?
6. If all things are equal and we are equally open to fallibility, shouldn't the Scriptural and historical evidence outweight our own presuppositions?
7. On what basis would your interpretation trump this if indeed you are fallible and prone to be wrong as well?
8. Why must it be me and 2000 years of historical Christianity that is wrong and not you and the small group of pro-homosexual advocates within Christianity?

I think going against nature is wrong and thus an endorsement of gay marriage. I think the places where the Bible refers to men laying with men or lusting after men is talking about something else.

Dan, again you hold this view contrary to the mounds of evidence presented, as well as the universal historical witness of the Church. Your intepretation bucks 2000 years of Church history, as well as sound exegetical reasoning. How can you be sure your view is so unfallible? And remember what is at stake for your hearers if you are indeed wrong.

Why do I think so? Because, for instance, Paul himself says that "men lusting after men" is against nature and since we know that same sex attraction is not against nature and we know that God's word is true, Paul must be referring to something Other. Something abusive, I would suggest, since being against abusive and oppressive actions IS the nature of God found within the Bible.

You say, "since we know that that same sex attraction is not against nature", but yet:
1. Can you prove that same sex attraction is not against nature? What scientific evidence can you put forward that this is true?
2. On what basis can we know?
3. For that matter, how can YOU know that it is natural for homosexuals to be such?
4. What about those who have remained celibate? What about those who have held homosexual feelings their whole lives only to leave it through prayer and accountability and enter into heterosexual relationships that become very fulfilling?
5. Are they not truly homosexual "by nature"? But if you believe this, how can you know that either?
6. What about the Scriptural evidence to the contrary? Is Scripture wrong? Or maybe God? Or Paul? Or the Holy Spirit?
7. How can you be so sure that you interpretation is correct when there is no evidence to support it?
8. Again isn't that counter-intuitive? Wasn't it the conservatives and fundamentalists that used to be accused of anti-intellectualism and emotionalism? 9. Isn't your position based on your own subjective reasoning and not in Scriptural and historical evidence?

This last paragraph of yours is an example of circular reasoning and the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. You assume your argument (that homosexuality is "natural") in order to prove that homosexuality is not "contrary to nature."

Finally, Dan, let me reiterate lest I was confusing or my words led not to clarity, but to more wordiness:

Your exegesis is clearly not based upon any historical, cultural, or contextual evidence (at least none that you have presented). You have not proven that we should reject the Church's traditional view of 2000 years in favor of a reading of "contrary to nature" that is never used by any person in Greek literature before, during, or after Paul (though the use in the traditional sense can be backed up by dozens of examples, including Paul's own use of the phrase in other places in Scripture), as well as never understood as being the correct reading in Early Christianity, the Reformation, or contemporary Christianity until the late 1970's.

Futhermore, you have not shown that such a reading makes sense in the context of Romans 1 or in Paul's theology. And you have not shown that Jesus would have been irrefutably unopposed to homosexual relationships by any of His words addressing the subject directly or even indirectly. Additionally, you have not shown that the Bible teaches that normal sexual intercourse is anything other than between a man and a women in covenant marriage or that God would be unopposed to that which He was so opposed to in His Law and in which the Jews believed Him to be opposed to throughout their history.

If your understanding is correct, why is it not MORE clear in Scripture. Why do you have to extrapolate the position from your understanding of the love of God? Why doesn't God just come out and say what He thinks instead of all this mystery? Isn't that quite foolish of God or even downright mean to allow so many people to be misled by Scripture to the detriment of an entire group of people for 2000 years now?

One last argument Dan. In N.T. Wright's incredible work, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright makes the case that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was in fact an historical event and that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead in bodily form and went about on earth after His crucifixion in a "resurrected" body. After mountains of Scriptural, contextual, and historical evidence, Wright posed the simply question of "How did the disciples react and what best describes this reaction?" He concludes that this simple argument is indeed the most compelling reason to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. He rightly states that nothing but a bodily resurrection could have illicted the disciples response and brought about the change from scared former followers to bold, witnessing disciples.

In this same way, we could ask: "What was the reaction of Paul's original hearers to his message in Romans 1 and what best explains this reaction?" I would propose that the traditional view is the only viable interpretation that would bring about such a response.

After all, the Roman empire was fraught with homoeroticism, including but not limited to ideas of homosexual "orientation", gay marriage, lesbianism, and mutuality. In fact, it is well documented that the society was so sexually charged that scarcely could one write any literature in Greek culture without this being an overwhelming theme (e.g., Plato's works). Yet, there is no evidence that Christians took part in such activities, endorsed any view of homosexuality, and in fact, the only evidence of interaction with the homosexual community is a resounding condemnation of it. And later, when Christianity (even before the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. by Constantine) became the majority religion, homo-eroticism began to fade and was all but non-existent during the most influential times of the Church on society. Only now, after years of Christian non-influence on society has homosexuality become the issue that it has.

Can you honestly believe that the Early Church had any other view than what was proposed here in light of all the evidence presented? Can we honestly go against this view without mountains of evidence to the contrary? Yet, none exists.

Dan, you hold your position against reason, historical and Scriptural (both internal and external) evidence, and the universal witness of the Church. Surely you see the problem this is to your position.

So with that I rest my case. The traditional view stands.

"you hold your position against reason, historical and Scriptural (both internal and external) evidence, and the universal witness of the Church."

I disagree, as does my church, as do many in the community of churches of which my church is a part. Do I disagree with the early church? Maybe, I don't know with certainty what their position was, but I don't think I disagree with God.

(And incidentally, you know of course that war supporters disagree with the early church position? For the first 300 years of the church, one could not be in the church and a soldier - a historical record that many today gladly ignore. But that is another matter...)

And so, now that you know my position, I'd like to know: In your mind, am I a Christian?

I know in my heart that I have decided to follow Jesus, I'm not asking for my sake. I'm just curious now that we've gone through this exercise, do you think those who disagree with your position on this can still be Christians and, if not, on what basis would you make that claim?

Again, Dan, I contend that only a small group of people who call themselves Christians hold to your view and, as it seems you are beginning to see, it is contrary to the Biblical and historical evidence (or at least not supported by it). Appealing to the authority of your church doesn't a sound argument make. After all, surely you think that my church is wrong on this. Couldn't I use the same argument? Where would it get us? Appealing to Authority is another type of logical fallacy.

The evidence is clear on homosexuality. You can accept it or not, but I think saying that God agrees with you without any sort of real evidence to back that up and a mountain of Early Church documentation against it is really very uncompelling.

As to your argument about pacifism in the Early Church, I would like to see some actual source documents on why the Early Church was pacificistic. Was it for instance, because the Roman empire was so evil and not because those people were fighting for freedom and justice, as our military today should be and as they did do in WWI and WWII? Why then did Christians change their view in the 4th century A.D.? (BTW, those are rhetorical questions, not meant to be answered -- I have no desire to debate this with you now)

You see this is another example of a noncongruent argument that you are using to defend your position. In the case of pacificism, the Early Church held to the position, but when the climate of the Roman Empire changed, the Christians dropped that as a teaching and held to something different. Also, we have no Scriptures specifically banning the participation in the military. In fact, Paul's words in Romans 15 seem to support the establishment of government and set forth a position of indifference on what one should do in regard to military or government service.

But in regards to homosexuality, we have a similar cultural situation to our own (in fact, almost identitical when you substitute the worship of self for the worship of Zeus, Diana, and Aphrodite), as well as a clear teaching from Scripture which was seconded and verified by the Early Church. Additionally, you have an unbroken tradition leading to the virtual extinction of homosexuality from the Roman Empire and a consistent view of homosexuality up until the late 1970's when the culture again began to reflect that of ancient Rome. Hmmmm...interesting to say the least.

Now, once again I am going to point you to my post on your final question. I am not going to spend any more time discussing this subject that you keep bringing up -- whether I think you are a Christian or not. If you go back to my post, "American Baptist Association Votes to Split From the ABC Over Homosexuality," and examine the posts dated May 1st written at 3:47p and 7:05p, then you will see that I adequately answered your questions there.

In the end I cannot say what Scripture does not say. Scripture doesn't seem to address the point of erring in this belief as it relates to one's salvation. There are some beliefs that Paul speaks of in which he seems to suggest that those who hold to such are "anathema" or "damned", but we do not know all the circumstances and thus cannot pass judgement authoritatively.

On the issue of homosexuality, I think you are wrong Dan. Dead wrong. And I think you condoning such behavior in your congregation is problematic, but again I am not going to make a judgement call on your salvation, nor do I feel it is my duty to do so (or that it is even relevant to such a discussion). I think you haven't taken my arguments seriously and from your lack of evidence and inability to deal with the arguments I presented (especially of the Romans' passage) I think you came to your position rashly and without deep study. All this is problematic. That should be what you are worried about Dan, not whether I think you are a Christian or not, but whether you gave God ample time and energy to really come to a knowledgable position when you left the traditional view for the one you held today. The burden of doubt was upon you and your position to overrule 2000 years of Church History and another at least 1500 years of Judaism. I don't think you even scratched the surface of a defense and that should bother you.

I hope that you will pray through these matters again and take the time to re-examine your position once again. Maybe God was using this debate to open your eyes to the Truth in His word. Let me suggest some books that I think you should read on this subject:

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert Gagnon

The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible's Message About Homosexuality by James R. White

Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East by Donald Wold

Hopefully, at least you will pick up one of these (they are in order from most recommended to least - though all are excellent and scholarly). During this debate I read much of the pro-homosexual material and I would hope that you would do the same with anti-homosexual material now that we are drawing this to a close. I believe you owe it to yourself and to God to be more informed than you have shown yourself to be. That is not a slam and I am not trying to be arrogant (please read that with a concerned tone and not a condescending one), but rather I do care about your spiritual life Dan and I hope if nothing else this debate will spur you on to more research, more reading of God's Word and more prayer on these issues. It sure has done so for me. Thanks for taking the time to dialogue with me and to help me to draw closer to God through this study of His Word. May God bless you in your future endeavours into His Word.

Two things, Daniel.

1. I thank you for the discussion.

2. Thanks for allowing that I might be a Christian.

3. I hope you can appreciate how many normal people out there not associated with church will find positions such as most churches take (anti-gay, pro-war-as-solution) as out of touch with the obvious teachings of Jesus and the Bible and who, therefore, don't care to have much to do with "church" as it is presented by that type.

It has nothing to do with the cross being offensive and everything with the church being offensive in its representation of Christ as anti-christ.

As you hope I will pray about this position, so I hope you will, as well. May God's Truth out and, more importantly, God's Love.

Dan, thanks again for your comments. I am not as worried about how the world sees the Church as I am how God sees it. And I don't think we can really separate the Love of God from the Truth of God. God's Word flows from who He is and thus we cannot understand God without understanding what His Word reveals about Him. I realize we disagree and have fundamental differences in how we see God. But thankfully we will all one day know God and all these disagreements will fade away in view of the all surpassing glory of His Being. Again I would like to end with Scripture:

Jude 24-25:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Three things.


Last years debate, I know. [I found this page through Payne Hollow's Dan Trabue.]

In the debate about what the bible says or doesn't say about homosexuality, I've found that Jude is left out almost entirely. Dan has often pointed to 'the sin of Sodom' in Lamentations, extrapolating somehow that Sodom's sin was injustice to the poor.

And yet Jude 7 clearly states "A" sin of Sodom, if not the sin.

Personally, I'm not in the "I hate homosexuals because God hates homosexuals" camp..... our God isn't willing that any perish, and we are still commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, which to my mind includes warning my neighbor of the wages his sin will earn him.

What happens when we are no longer allowed, in this country, to warn the sinner for fear of committing a "hate crime"? Will the Church be driven underground?

Those questions are rhetorical, btw. I already have opinions on this, and I'm quite sure they're sound.

I like the forum you have here. Much more polite here than at my place. I try... the Lord knows I try... but when I get more men like Dan Trabue, than I do men like you......

For the record, I recently began anew, with a new blog. I needed a change of scenery primarily because the more I blogged, the more my focus changed from merely politics and personal dislikes to a growing desire to warn whoever will listen that time is short-- if for no other reason than that no one is promised tomorrow.

With your permission I will link to your blog.


Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your committment to the truth. Yes, Dan is good at pushing buttons and not so good at real debate and honest discussion, as witnessed in the above exchange. When the heat came, Dan got out of the kitchen and claimed that I was too wordy, whatever that means.

And you are right about Jude 7. I will have to explore that more. I am sure those guys have a pat answer for it - they always seem to. That is why I worked so dilligently on Romans 1. It's basically fool-proof when people look at it honestly. Dan's forced reading of the passage shows how difficult it is to get around this without doing damage to the text or sounding silly in the process.

As for your new blog, I hope it goes well. And yes, though I don't post nearly as much as I used to, feel free to link to me and let me know if I can help you in any way as you continue your prophetic ministry.

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About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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