I’ve been spending the last couple of days pulling some of my old books on the issue of homosexuality off the shelf and skimming back through them. I did so because of a recent comment here at Southern Reformation that I thought deserved a full post in response, rather than just a quick note in the com-box.
When the subject of homosexuality comes up, it’s almost worth having a stop watch handy to see how long it takes someone to throw out what I call “the shrimp and barbecue argument.” Since Leviticus forbids both homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) as well as eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10) and Christians ignore the prohibition against eating shrimp, they should therefore ignore the prohibition against homosexuality as well.
That certainly makes us homophobic, shrimp-eating Christians look inconsistent, now doesn’t it?
This argument has been made more than once and by more than one author, but perhaps the best example of it is found in the work Is the Homosexual My Neighbor by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Dawson Scanzoni, so I’ll quote them directly. Commenting on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, they write:
“These verses are part of Israel’s Holiness Code, which includes commandments not to eat meat with blood in it, not to wear garments made of two kinds of yarn, not to plant fields with two kinds of seed, and not to be tattooed as well as specific instructions on sexual matters. Forbidden activities include bestiality (sexual conduct with animals), incest (sexual conduct with relatives–children, parents, siblings, in-laws, and so on), male homosexual acts, adultery, and sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period. The reasons given for these proscriptions involve several factors: (1) separation from other nations and their customs (Lev. 18:1-5), (2) avoidance of idolatry and any practices associated with it (Lev. 20:1-7), and (3) ceremonial uncleanness.” Mollenkott and Scanzoni, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor, 60.
The question that is being raised is whether or not it is blatantly inconsistent for Christians to believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality while discussing the subject over a dinner of Calabash shrimp while wearing polyester blend clothing. Are Christians in the contemporary church selective and hypocritical in their opposition to homosexuality?
This argument really takes on two forms: one that claims that Christians are inconsistent and hypocritical, and the other that claims that the prohibitions found in Leviticus are obsolete or inapplicable to the controversy. So then how should we respond?
We should begin by noting that this approach conflates and confuses the various aspects of Levitical law. To refer to the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and observe that they are no longer practiced by Christians, doesn’t justify disregarding what Scripture says concerning homosexuality in Leviticus. The question that must be asked is, “Why are the dietary laws God delivered in Leviticus no longer observed?”
The answer is simple: we no longer observe the dietary laws of Leviticus because we see that God, in His own Word, has repealed them, and we know this from other passages in the Bible, not from our own preferences. The restrictions of eating pork, shellfish, or rock badger are no longer binding because Jesus removed them and declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19). Furthermore, there is no place is Scripture where we read of God judging the nations surrounding Israel for their failure to observe the dietary regulations––but we do see God judging the surrounding nations for homosexuality. The text of Leviticus 18:24-30 clearly reveals that God judged the non-Jewish nations who previously lived in the land because they violated His judgements and engaged in the type of sexual immorality that is listed in Leviticus 18:6-23.
After listing practices such as incest, intercourse during menstruation, adultery, offering one’s children as a sacrifice to Molech, homosexuality, and bestiality, Leviticus is more than clear: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.” According to Leviticus, God judged the surrounding nations by way of the sword for practicing “these things”, of which homosexuality is included. The passage goes on to state, “for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations” (Heb. תּֽוֹעֵבֹת֙). Undeniably, these men “who have been before you” were not Jewish, and they had committed these “abominations”––the very same Hebrew term used to describe homosexuality in v. 22. The men who had lived in the land prior to the Hebrew had engaged in homosexual practices, and God judges them for it. God’s disapprobation of homosexuality is not in the same category as His dietary regulations for the Hebrews.
I think I have amply demonstrated that the regulations concerning diet never applied to the Gentiles to begin with, but that the commands not to engage in homosexual activity are perpetually binding. Given this reality, the charges of inconsistency and hypocrisy are manifestly false––but I’m sure that won’t stop misinformed individuals from continuing to make the charge. But when they do, at least you’ll be able to respond.