“Gay Christian 101” is a website which advocates same-sex, monogamous, loving relationships, written by a gay Christian named Rick Brentlinger. His background is Independent Baptist so he comes from a solid biblical background; this is evident in his writings and his research. The web site is huge and discusses everything you could want to know about gay Christian issues from a gay Christian perspective. https://www.gaychristian101.com/
The clobber passages are those which orthodox Christians use as their proofs that homosexuality is sin; they are Genesis 1:27-28; 2:23-24; 19:1-29 (Sodom and Gomorrah); Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; and Deuteronomy 23:17-18 in the Old Testament; and Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; and Jude 1:7 in the New Testament.
In his efforts to defend his, and every other gay or lesbian Christian’s same-sex lifestyle and theological position, one of Rick’s cardinal points is that the clobber passages need to be seen and understood in their historical and cultural context. This is true, of course, but Rick’s proposals are stretched. For example, he writes: “Attempting to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans without factoring in Cybele the fertility goddess and shrine prostitution is as silly as trying to understand terrorism in New York City on September 11, 2001 without factoring in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center”.
He makes a similar claim for the clobber passages in the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 and says these chapters should be seen in the light of the worship of the Canaanite deities Molech and Ashtoreth and in the Egyptian cult of Isis.
Does this mean, then, that unless we have understanding of ancient and religious history, we can’t understand these passages? Didn’t God take this into consideration when he inspired Moses and Paul when they wrote the clobber passages? Doesn’t the bible itself give us all the information we need to understand what it says? What if we have no education? How could Christians in the slums of India, for example, know and understand the context of Molech or Cybele before they read the clobber passages? Why would they? Who among any of them would even be aware of Roman or Canaanite history? And what of Christians in African villages – what would they know of ancient European or Middle Eastern history? If they’re lucky enough to have a bible, they’d take it at face value, unless some Western genius told them otherwise. The passages themselves state exactly what God meant and they’ve always been understood by Jews and Christians to refer to homosexuality ever since they were written. And a straightforward reading makes this clear and unambiguous.
However I can’t and won’t fault Rick for searching scripture to see if there is a way he can express his sexuality; surely, this is what is required of all Christians when faced with any situation, especially moral, where they might be violating God’s law.
Pagan Worship and Leviticus chapters 18 and 20
A key part of Rick’s interpretation of Leviticus 18 and 20 is that they need to be understood in their historical context, which is that of the worship of the Canaanite god Molech and his consort Ashtoreth. In the passages below, he tries to show that the Hebrew words do not refer to modern-day homosexuals but can only refer to shrine prostitutes.
“55 times, our English Bibles use the word Sodom and related words like, sodomite, sodomites and Sodoma. Yet strangely enough, in Hebrew, Sodom and sodomite are not related words. For this reason, many Christians draw the wrong conclusion, that Sodom and sodomites are related when in fact, they are not etymologically related.
- Never in any of the Sodom passages does God say that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality.
- Never in any of the Sodom passages does God or a human author of the Bible link Sodom with homosexuality.
- Never in any of the sodomite(s) passages does God or a human author of scripture link sodomites(s) with a committed, faithful, non-cultic relationship between two men or two women.
On the other hand, whenever the Hebrew words qadesh or qadesha are used in scripture, they refer to a pagan worshiper of the fertility goddess. Therefore when we translate from Hebrew to English (or any other language) we must retain the original Hebrew meaning.
Because qadesh and qadesha did not refer to gay men or lesbian women in committed, faithful, non-cultic relationships in any Biblical reference where those words are used, it is wrong to assert that qadesh and qadesha mean homosexual in the English when they clearly did not mean homosexual in the Hebrew”
And in another place, Rick writes:
“Ezekiel 16:50-52 uses tâ’abh and tôw’êbhâh repeatedly in the context (v.49) of the sin of Sodom, but not the oft cited reputed “abomination” of Sodom’s homosexuality for Sodom’s sin is here explicitly pride, greed, injustice and lack of concern for the poor; social rather than sexual sin.
Nowhere is Sodom’s sin seen as anything other than their social sins or inhospitality to strangers that may have included forced physical relations which Jude 1:7 describes as a desire for not homo but hetero “strange/other” flesh” (Emphases his).
However, contrary to Rick’s claims, the bible says, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7). So here, contrary to Rick’s claim that the bible never links the sins of Sodom to sexual sin, Jude clearly identifies their sin as sexual – it was both opposite-sex and same-sex sexual sin; and the Sodomites were totally given over to it. Not only that, their abandonment to sexual indulgence was so complete that the whole male population was as one: “But before they (Lot and his family and guests) lay down, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said to him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them’” (Gen 19:4).
Lest we be persuaded to think that the sin of Sodom was not sexual, same-sex or otherwise, because every single male in the town was banging on Lot’s door, it may be said that this is no argument. It is just as legitimate, if not more reasonably so, to argue that the bible states that every male in the city was at Lot’s house with evil intent in order to show how completely the male population was given over to their sin – it is meant to shock us with the sheer extent of it.
In a TV series entitled “The Spartans”, host Bettany Hughes, as I remember it, tells us that homosexuality was institutionalised in Spartan society. Every male, when he reached seven years of age, was taken from his family and trained for war. During his training he was also in a sexual relationship with his tutor. By the time many of them reached adulthood, because they had only ever known same-sex sex, in order for them to become sufficiently sexually aroused to be able to procreate with a female, they were placed in a darkened room and the female was dressed in armour to make the idea of sex as close to “normal” as possible for them; without this the young men could not “perform” because the idea of opposite-sex sex was alien to them. And lesbianism was also rife in the society as a knock-on effect. The idea, therefore, of the whole male population of Sodom being willing to rape other males is not that difficult to comprehend or accept.
So in this verse (Jude 1:7), the men of Sodom and its neighbouring cities are said to be guilty of excessive fornication and going after strange flesh i.e. same- or male-sex. The English words “giving themselves over to fornication” here is a translation of the Greek word “ekporneuo” which Strong’s’ Concordance defines as “to be utterly unchaste”, and “’to give oneself up to fornication’ implies excessive indulgence”. The Sodomites i.e. the men of Sodom, were guilty of excessive opposite-sex sex and also of same-sex sex; on this occasion they were after same-sex sex. It can’t be referring to men having sex with angels as some people deduce from the previous verse because, for one thing, the men of Sodom didn’t know that the angels staying with Lot were angels; they thought they were men, and they wanted to rape them. They didn’t want Lot’s daughters whom Lot cruelly offered them; they wanted the men.
So, in light of Souter’s definition above, “strange flesh” means same-sex. It is men wanting sex with men rather than with women, even when two virgin women were offered them; same-sex sex instead of opposite-sex sex. This can only be the meaning that Jude intends. It was not about domination and humiliation of strangers – if that were the case, Lot would have been likewise raped by all the men of the city when he first arrived in Sodom.
The apostle Peter has an almost identical version of Jude’s letter, and he described how Lot was a witness to the men of Sodom’s “filthy” behaviour and lifestyle. He writes: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation (life) of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)….” (2 Pet 2:6-8). One doesn’t associate the word “filthy” with a lack of hospitality; but it is a common and fit adjective to describe unbridled sexual sin….and in the case of the Sodomites, with same-sex sex.
Whether or not the people of Sodom and its neighbouring cities were heterosexual or homosexual doesn’t matter; they were guilty of unlawful and wicked sexual sins and behaviour. Both fornication and homosexuality are sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman, and God condemns them both. And it cannot be argued that same-sex, loving, monogamous, non-cultic relationships aren’t referred to here, as Rick Brentlinger argues – the problem for this position is that they don’t need to be. When Jesus mentioned marriage, he only ever referred to it as being between a man and a woman (Mk 10:6-9). And “going after strange flesh” is same-sex sex, whether it’s monogamous and loving or not. Furthermore, there is no record of same-sex marriage in the whole of the bible – not one instance! Every single time that marriage is mentioned, it is between a man and a woman.
Male and Female Prostitutes and Sodomites
Rick then goes on to say:
“Deuteronomy 23:17-18 links female prostitutes, the qedeshah and male prostitutes or sodomites, the qadesh.
Israelites were forbidden to bring the hire of a whore, a zanah, prostitute, or the price of a dog, kelev, a male shrine prostitute, into the house of the LORD.
Zanah is a Hebrew word which, in the Bible, often means street prostitute. Scripture also inserts zanah into the text when describing shrine prostitution or Molech worship, Leviticus 20:5.….. This clinches the undeniable link between the word zanah and shrine prostitutes.
Qadesh and Qedeshah are Hebrew words which, in the Bible, also refer to shrine prostitutes.
Two other times in scripture, God links qedeshah with zanah, whore, prostitute, Genesis 38:21-24 and Hosea 4:14”.
“It is remarkably inconsistent to assert that qedeshah equates to modern homosexuals and therefore, homosexuality is wrong while refusing to apply the same illogic to heterosexuals.
If qedeshah signifies all homosexuals, as so many modern Christians believe, then zanah in the same passage must signify all heterosexuals, therefore heterosexuality is wrong.
Of course, that is an illogical argument on both sides.
Qedeshah is a Hebrew word with a specific meaning. God the Holy Spirit is careful to use the word qedeshah to only indicate shrine prostitutes. Qedeshah is never used to mean homosexuals in the Bible.
Serious students of scripture also note that the qedeshah in our Genesis 38:12-30 passage, was a
female who had procreative sex with a man and became pregnant. That is not homosexuality”.
Originally Sinful but not Original Sin
However, all this is missing the point. Both female and male prostitutes were there to accommodate the worshippers so that they could worship the gods through the act of sex, both opposite-sex and same-sex copulation. So Rick can draw all the conclusions he likes about shrine prostitutes and prove that they weren’t used to mean homosexuality per se; but male prostitutes or sodomites did engage in homosexual, anal, sex. The marital state of those who engaged in the temple sexual worship was not the focus; the focus, as Rick points out, was idolatry and pagan worship. And the way this was practiced was with perverted and corrupted sexual relations. Prostitution was sin. Fornication was sin. Homosexuality was sin. And that’s why Satan required his devotees to worship him in those ways. It was false worship of a false god. Homosexual sex wasn’t sinful only when engaged in ritually as part of idolatrous worship; it was intrinsically sinful because it was a corruption of God’s holy institution of male-female marriage established by him in Genesis 2:24, and reiterated by Jesus in Mark 10:6-9, and is therefore unlawful. And because it was sinful, Satan incorporated it as part of his idolatrous system of worship. And the same applies to sex with female shrine prostitutes. Sex with any female outside the bounds of marriage was, like homosexuality, a corruption of what God created and ordained. The lawful use of sex always was and always will be within the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman; as we’re told in Hebrews: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4). The whole thing, idolatry with its filthy sexual practices and child sacrifice, was meant by Satan to be an affront to God. And it was also meant to alienate people, especially God’s people, from God and to bring them into bondage and degradation and judgment.
“This is important!
The reason King Josiah broke down the houses of the sodomites was so that:
“…no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.”
Since the Holy Spirit tells us the problem was false worship of Canaanite gods, it is sinfully wrong to ignore the clear statement of the Holy Spirit and insist, as some Christians insist, that the real problem was homosexuality” (emphasis his).
The real problem was indeed false worship, as Rick points out. And a related problem, one of the things that made the idolatrous worship of the Canaanites more heinous than the idolatry of other nations, was their practice of child sacrifice and corrupt sexual practices. Israel had only recently escaped their bondage in Egypt and had not yet conquered the Promised Land of Canaan, yet they had already fallen into sin by worshipping the gods of Midian and Moab with sexual abandon. Consequently God brought death upon the congregation and 24,000 people were killed in the one day. And during that time, while many were committing whoredom and others were weeping because of it, we’re shown one act of one couple: “And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel” (Num 25:6-8).
Here was Satan provoking and defying God by causing God’s own people to commit idolatrous, sexualised worship, not only in the camp of Israel, but before the Tabernacle wherein God was present and before those godly Israelites who were weeping over the great sin being committed by their brothers and sisters. The real problem here was false worship of Canaanite gods. But the means by which they worshipped them was through sexual promiscuity and whoredom. And when Zimri and Cozbi (Num 25:14) brazenly had sex before the very door of the tabernacle and rubbed God’s face in it, so to speak, Phinehas killed them in righteous indignation and as an act of deserved judgment. The false worship was the sin and they exacerbated it by engaging in corrupt sexual acts to perform that worship. The sexual whoredom was part of the whole picture, just as homosexual acts and child sacrifice were part of the whole picture in the religions of Canaan. Whoredom was intrinsically sinful. Child sacrifice was intrinsically sinful. Homosexuality was intrinsically sinful.
But astonishingly, even before this, when Israel had only just crossed the Red Sea and escaped the Egyptian army, and before the Egyptian corpses had even rotted; and when just days before had been terrified to see the lightning and thunder and the trumpet blasts by angels, and the earthquake which shook the whole mountain as God descended to the top of Sinai; and even while Moses was at the top of Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments written by God’s own finger; the Israelites were down in the camp worshipping a golden calf, most likely in the same way that the Egyptians did. The people totally abandoned themselves to the sexual worship and became degraded: “And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies…” (Exod 32:25 KJV).
So, when God gave his people his laws, his ordinances, he gave specific instructions as to how to worship him in purity, without child sacrifice which was sinful; without whoredom which was sinful; without incest, which was sinful; without same-sex sex which was sinful. But the instructions, the ordinances, he gave in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, as elsewhere, were nothing to do with religious worship (see Lev 18:1-4).
The ordinances here referred to were secular, not religious. “(4) In non-religious usage, the word ‘chuqqah’ refers to the customs of the nations: (4a) ‘After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances (Lev 18:3 cf 20:23) (4b) The reason for the requirement to abstain from the pagan practices is that they were considered to be degenerate (Lev 18:30)” (Strong’s Concordance: Hebrew Aramaic Dictionary 2708:4-4b).
Again, Rick says:
“It is spiritual malpractice and treason against God’s truth in the Bible to teach that the problem was gays and lesbians when the Holy Spirit clearly does not say that.
If God intended us to believe the problem was gays and lesbians or homosexuality, God would have stated that clearly and unmistakably”
He then goes on to quote a scholar named Margaret Murray:
“Marrying a close blood relative (incest) was a practice which came to be associated with the Egyptian cult of Osiris. Isis, the Egyptian Queen, was called Mother of God and Lady of Heaven. She was both mother and wife of the reigning Egyptian king. When God gives Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai, the practice of marrying one’s sister or aunt, is prohibited”.
(From Margaret Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, Hawthorn, 1963, pp. 105-106)”
But this doesn’t weaken or negate the clear condemnation of homosexuality, as well as fornication, adultery, and bestiality, as specified in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20. These chapters are not speaking of idolatrous worship. If they were, then it would not be wrong for me to have sex with my sister or my mother or my aunt or my daughter-in-law and so on provided I didn’t do it as an act of idolatrous worship. It would not be sin to have sex with an animal provided it wasn’t done as an act of idolatrous worship. It would not be sin for me to have sex with another male, provided it was loving, monogamous, and committed, and not done as an act of idolatrous worship. And, according to Rick’s principle as I understand it, we could extend it to mean that the murder of children by abortion is not sinful, provided it is not done as an act of idolatrous worship.
No, the prohibition of having sex with relatives was wrong in itself, Egyptian cult of Isis or not. The Hebrew men weren’t told not to have sex with their mother because it was idolatry; they were told not to have sex with her because “she is thy mother” (Lev 18:7). They weren’t told not to have sex with their fathers’ wife (polygamy was practiced in those days) because it was idolatry; they were told not to do it because “it is thy father’s nakedness” (18:8). They were told not to have sex with their sister because “theirs is thine own nakedness” (18:10), nor with their father’s wife’s daughter because “she is thy sister” (18:11); nor with their father’s sister because “she is thy father’s near kinswoman” (18:12); and so on. For each forbidden sexual relationship, apart from the fact that they were adulterous, God specified why they were forbidden (and condemned and punished in chapter 20), and it had nothing to do with idolatry. And when God had finished specifying all the opposite-sex sexual sins, he mentions child sacrifice which was idolatrous; and then same-sex sex: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination” (18:22). Finally he forbids bestiality (18:23). The only time, and the only person with whom a man could uncover a woman’s nakedness (i.e. have sex with her) was if she was his wife and not related to her, according to the ordinances or laws here laid down by God.
Even if Egypt hadn’t adopted these practices, God would still have forbidden them for Israel because they were wrong in themselves. Incest, adultery, fornication, promiscuity, whoredom, rape, homosexuality, pederasty, bestiality and any other kind of sex were all forbidden from the time that God instituted marriage between a male and a female, and condemned because they were intrinsically sinful, not first because they were practiced as part of an idolatrous worship of false gods. And it seems to have been overlooked by many Christians that although homosexuality is labelled by God as abomination (Lev 18:22), every sinful practice in this list of sexual sins is also labelled as abomination (18:26-27, 29), and abominable customs (18:30). And we don’t need a history text book to understand all this.
What about Romans Chapter 1?
It is clear, as Rick points out, that the background of this chapter is one of idolatry. But we don’t need to know which gods were worshipped or how pervasive the idolatry was, and so on. Paul gives us all the context we need and his focus is not totally on idolatry but equally on sexual sin; in particular, same-sex sexual sin. The idolatry in Rome was no worse than in any other city or place in the ancient world. For example, when Paul was in Athens, we’re told: “While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). And in Ephesus, we’re told: “…this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth” (Acts 19:26-27).
I find it interesting that Diana/Artemis is here named, but in Rome, where Rick Brentlinger stresses the idolatry and sexualised worship which is so important to his interpretation of Romans chapter 1, the name of the god or goddess is not even mentioned; indeed, the idolatry in Rome is described in very general terms and not nearly as specifically as that in Ephesus.
And it is significant that the sexual sins mentioned in Romans chapter 1 are not shown to be part of idolatrous worship but as judgment by God because the people refused to acknowledge him; they are mentioned as being the result of idolatry. I’m not saying that the worship wasn’t sexual, but Paul doesn’t specify. So the contention that Paul is describing a situation where the worship was sexual is an argument from silence. And therefore it is not essential to know the historical and cultural context of this chapter in order to grasp what Paul means. What is made clear is that the people, both men and women, knew God but worshipped him in the forms of animals and birds and reptiles (1:23, 25). And therefore God gave them up to perverted sexual practices (1:24-27). The unnatural sexual relations as Paul discusses them were the result of God’s judgment on them for their idolatry, not as part of their sexual worship.
This understanding of Romans chapter 1 changes everything for Rick’s view. And it means we can take the passage as it stands, at face value, and conclude that Paul is denouncing same-sex sex for both men and women without having to see it in the context of idolatrous worship. It is true, as I explained above in the section on Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, that pagan worship was highly sexualised, but both then and in the time of the Roman world, homosexuality was “abomination” in Leviticus (along with all other sexual sins) and “against nature” in Romans. As we saw in the discussion of Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, homosexuality is intrinsically sinful, and now Paul graphically reiterates that in Romans chapter 1.
I’m amazed as to how anybody, after reading Romans 1:24-28, could not see that God regards same-sex sex as sinful. Just look at the adjectives that describe it – they’re God’s words and they reveal his hatred of such behaviour. It doesn’t make a scrap of difference whether same-sex sex is practiced in religious worship or in a loving and monogamous relationship – same-sex sex is same-sex sex whatever the setting, and you can’t avoid that. All the descriptive adjectives used in this passage about same-sex sex are powerful and condemning. How can anyone think that if God’s judgment on those who denied him was to give them over to a sinful lifestyle consisting of same-sex sex, which he denounces in the strongest terms, it would be acceptable in the context of a same-sex marriage?
Despite that gay and pro-gay Christian authors who reinterpret the Clobber Passages to allow same-sex, monogamous, loving relationships, DeYoung (2015, p. 54-54 Kindle) summarises his enlightening and clarifying look at the much embattled words in Romans 1: “In the end, however, we don’t need detailed word studies from the writings of Greeks and Romans and Hellenistic Jews to tell us what Paul is talking about. The context gives us all the clues we need. Not only do we have the language of exchange; we have obvious allusions to the Genesis creation account:
- The creation of the world is mentioned in verse 20
- The Creator is mentioned in verse 25
- The language of animals, birds, and creeping things in verse 23 echoes Genesis 1:30
- The Greek in verse 23 mirrors the Septuagint (Greek) version of Genesis 1:26, with both passages using identical words for image, likeness, man, birds, four-footed animals, and creeping things
- The language of a lie (v. 25), and shame (v. 27), and the sentence of death (v. 32) are allusions to the fall in Genesis 3.
With these allusions to creation in the background (the foreground really), ‘nature’ must mean more than ‘prevailing customs and social norms.’ When Paul faults homosexual behaviour for being contrary to nature, it’s not like condemning deaf persons for speaking with their hands in an ‘unnatural’ way. That may seem like a good analogy, but it’s one Paul never makes, because it’s one about which the creation account does not speak. By contrast, Genesis has much to say about the nature of male-female complementarity. Homosexual practice is sinful because it violates the divine design in creation. According to Paul’s logic, men and women who engage in same-sex sexual behaviour – even if they are being true to their own feelings and desires – have suppressed God’s truth in unrighteousness. They have exchanged the fittedness of male-female relations for those that are contrary to nature”.
Romans chapter 1 is rightly regarded as a clobber passage because it clearly, powerfully, and irrefutably denounces and condemns same-sex sex. You disregard it and try to explain it away at your peril. But I don’t write these things heartlessly. I feel very much for gay Christians and I sympathise with them because they’re between a rock and a hard place in the way they’re able to express their sexuality. And I understand Rick Brentlinger’s well-intended attempt to separate monogamous, loving, committed same-sex marriage from the vile behaviour manifested in the ancient pagan sexualised worship of demons; the two are indeed quite different to each other. But the fact that they are same-sex makes them both wrong according to the bible, as I believe I’ve satisfactorily demonstrated above; they’re just different sides of the same street.
DeYoung, K. 2015, “What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?” Published by Crossway UK
Souter, A, 1949, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, Oxford University Press, London