This weekend our series Semper Reformanda, a series in the book of Romans, brought us to Romans 1:18-32, where the Apostle Paul details humanity's downward spiral of sin. As an illustration of this, Paul uses the sin homosexuality, to show how sin brings an inversion to all of God's created order.
Because of the sexual ethic of our day, we know that this topic, in particular, is loaded with experiences, stories, and emotions. For some Paul's words sound dogmatic and bigoted. For others, they may agree with the historical position of the Church but would like to see how this plays out throughout Scripture, even still, some may be looking for how we as Christians can discuss this issue with humility and conviction.
Below are a few resources that we hope should help you, as we together trust the eternal will of God and the goodness of his created cosmic design.
Pastor Sam Storms - Romans 1 Addendum
The homosexual community insists that Paul is not condemning homosexuals per se but heterosexuals who engage in promiscuous homosexual activity. “If it is my nature to be homosexual,” says the latter, “then it is not unnatural for me to engage in homosexual relations. However, if someone’s nature is to be heterosexual, it is unnatural for them to engage in homosexuality, and it is the latter only that Paul condemns.” However:
As Richard Hays has noted, “the ‘exchange’ is not a matter of individual life decisions; rather, it is Paul’s characterization of the fallen condition of the pagan world” (The Moral Vision of the NT, 388).
Ample evidence exists that the juxtaposition of “natural” and “unnatural” was a common way of referring to heterosexual and homosexual behavior respectively. Says Hays, “in Paul’s time, the categorization of homosexual practices as para physin was a commonplace feature of polemical attacks against such behavior, particularly in the world of Hellenistic Judaism” (387).
Also, as Stott notes, “differentiating between sexual orientation and sexual practice is a modern concept; ‘to suggest that Paul intends to condemn homosexual acts only when they are committed by persons who are constitutionally heterosexual is to introduce a distinction entirely foreign to Paul’s thought-world’” (78). Hays concurs: “In any case, neither Paul nor anyone else in antiquity had a concept of ‘sexual orientation.’ To introduce this concept into the passage (by suggesting that Paul disapproves only those who act contrary to their individual sexual orientations) is to lapse into anachronism. The fact is that Paul treats allhomosexual activity as prima facie evidence of humanity’s tragic confusion and alienation from God the Creator” (389).
There is nothing in the passage that would lead us to believe that by “nature” (physin) Paul means “my” personal, individual nature or inclinations, whatever they may be. “Nature,” here, does not mean “what seems or feels natural to me.” It means the way God intended things to be by creation. Thus to act “against nature” is to violate the order which God established for human behavior in general, not for your behavior in particular. Says Hays: “The understanding of ‘nature’ in this conventional language does not rest on empirical observation of what actually exists; instead, it appeals to a conception of what ought to be, of the world as designed by God and revealed through the stories and laws of Scripture. Those who indulge in sexual practices para physin are defying the Creator and demonstrating their own alienation from him” (387).