Why is the Bible opposed to homosexual acts and desire?

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
8 min readNov 27, 2022
Matt Chase

I recently submitted this thematic scripture study to my university. Feedback from my assessor are in italics and brackets:

Leviticus 18:22 states that it is an abomination for a man to lie with another man as he would with a woman. We know that the man in “a man to lie with another” is a man because according to Genesis 2:24, a man would cling to his wife, “as he would with a woman,” not his husband. But “lie” in Lev 18:22 could seemingly be innocently interpreted as merely physically lying on a bed with another man without touching him. This begs the question, what is the theme of Lev 18?

Lev 18:1–2 indicates that the rest of Lev 18 are a list of laws from God for Moses’ Israelites to obey, as it relates to sexual behaviour. For example, Lev 18:20 dictates that a man shall not sexually engage with another man’s wife. Therefore, “lie” in 18:22 is a sexual act worthy of the death penalty as per Lev 20:13. The nature of such an act is made more obvious in the context of Lev 18:19, which dictates that a man is not to have intercourse with a woman while she is menstruating. It is clear from this context alone that the Bible is opposed to homosexual acts, such as homosexual intercourse.

Of note, Leviticus is the third book of the Pentateuch that mostly deals with concerns the priests from the tribe of Levi had, treating cultic, behavioural, ethical, and economic issues legislatively in order to instil a way of life.[1] (True, but it is so much more than merely “a way of life” it is a part of the consecration to YHWY that Israel is called to.) Therefore, the Book of Leviticus is opposed to homosexual acts because it deviates from the way of life expected of the Israelites. But if one is a Christian, and not an Israelite, or Jewish, Lev 18:22 still applies, because it is not just the Old Testament that opposes homosexual acts. (In order to make this argument based on this text you need to demonstrate that the purity laws governing the Israelites apply to the Christian Church.)

According to Romans 1:18–19, God’s wrath is directed against those who act against the truth through their impiety and wickedness. The impiety here is disregarding what is known about God, that has already been made evident to Christians, such as Lev 18:22, and this leads to wickedness like homosexual acts. Specifically, women enacting shameful and perverse lust with other women, and men enacting similarly with other men, as per Rom 1:26–27.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans allowed for Paul to introduce himself and his message to Rome-based Christians, in order to seek their support for his pursuit of missionary work in Spain.[2] In this sense, Paul was reinforcing in Rom 1:18–27 what was already revealed, that homosexual acts are that of fools who exchange their God-like rational being for the likeness of an image of the non-rational animal, as per Rom 1:23. (Certainly Paul parallels the exchange of the true God for idols with the exchange of natural relationships for unnatural relationships, but it is less clear if one necessarily always implies the other. It is possible, for example, for someone to reject God and not engage in homosexual acts.) And since Paul strongly advocated for the laws of the Mosaic covenant to not apply to Gentile Christians, (You should give references to support such an argument. It is, of course, a common argument regarding the Old Law, but it neglects the distinction between the moral law and the secondary ‘mitvot’ which the teachers of the law had imposed on Jews as the way to live in this law.) yet chose to implicitly reinforce Lev 18:22 to the Romans anyway, and the reasons why, confirms that the Bible as a whole, opposes homosexual acts. (I don’t think we can limit the application to the Romans here, Paul makes it quite clear his scope is all of humanity.)

The Bible is not opposed to homosexual acts in order to discriminate against homosexuals. (Agreed, in fact the very category of “homosexual” is a post-modern concept foreign to the Biblical authors.) There is a broader Biblical picture to the issue of homosexuality, as implied by Jesus Christ when a group of Pharisees approached him to legalistically test him on the issue of divorce, as per Matthew 19:3–12. Here, the Pharisees took a narrow view on divorce, and Jesus initially responded by reminding them of Genesis 1:27 and 2:24.

Noting that both the homosexual act and the billing of divorce are acts which attempt to either prevent or separate “one flesh” from being so, the issue of homosexuality should be viewed more broadly. That is, viewed through the lens of Gen 1–2. It appears that God took a binary integral complementarity approach in creating the heavens and the earth, and everything on it, in Gen 1.

God created light, or day, which contrasted dark, or night, with a creation on the other side of the binary that integrates a spectrum that not only includes evening and morning, but also, completed the first of many creative days to come for the earth. It is therefore only natural that humanity was created to be binary in sex, which can integrate each other in order to become “one flesh”. (An intriguing argument!)

It is only through this complementary design could the first Biblical commandment to humanity be given: be fertile and multiply. Not only does divorce prevent multiplication, but so do homosexual acts. It is these acts, along with non-procreative heterosexual acts as per Lev 18:19, which constitute an impiety that disregards what is known about God, made evident to Christians. (The prohibition against approaching a woman during her menstration is mostly a protection of women from the heinous pagan practice of forcing oneself on a woman in the period in order to obtain or steal the power of her blood.)

This is in stark contrast to customs the Mosaic Israelites saw during their time in Egypt, or the customs of the Canaanites, as per Lev 18:3. Yet the Pharisees responded by questioning why did Moses allow for a man to bill his wife a divorce, and subsequent dismissal of her, to which Jesus responded by reminding them that in the beginning, as described in Gen 2, original man’s heart had yet to fall so far as to influence Moses to compromise on the divorce issue. (Moses does not so much compromise a moral principle as he engages in pastoral damage control. If a man is determined not to fulfill his obligations to his wife, the law protects her from being cast aside with no legal or practical recourse to survive and make a new life.)

In the beginning, after God formed original man out of dust in Gen 2:7, He recognised by Gen 2:18 that solitude is not good for man. Divorce is an attempt to return to solitude, and whilst homosexual acts do not physically involve solitude, they certainly do not lead to “one flesh” either. The opposite to man’s solitude is the state of being “one flesh” with woman, as per Gen 2:24. (While each of these sentences may be a valid point in themselves, the argument does not flow smoothly from sentence to sentence here. Your point that divorce is an attempt to return to solitude is an interesting one, and warrants a little more exposition here.)

Whether it is divorce, or homosexual acts, the Bible is opposed to acts which try to undo or prevent the state of “one flesh”, otherwise known as adultery as per Matt 19:9, because in the beginning, humanity was not fallen, yet. (These do not seem to be in the same category. Divorce may be undermining the “one-flesh” but it does not engage directly in sexual acts outside of marriage (if you included a re-marriage it might, but it is possible to divorce and not engage in sexual acts), whereas homosexual acts are necessarily a sexual act outside of marriage.)

The starting point for understanding adulterous desires Biblically, such as homosexual desire, is to refer to Matt 5:27–28. According to Jesus, the sin of adultery is not merely the act of adultery, since lust for a person regardless of gender is the act of adultery by the heart. Desire to commit sin, is sin, therefore it is a sin to desire to act homosexually. But it appears that attraction is not the same as desire. (This is a more complicated area of moral theology than you seem to allow for here. The inclination or temptation to a particular act is not necessarily sinful, if it does not engage the will. Particularly when the natural urges are quite strong. A very hungry person longing for food is not a sin, for example, but it does not justify immoral means to satisfy that hunger. Sexual desires can be quite strong for many reasons, and are often complicated by the desire for interpersonal communion related to them. The mere desire for these things is not necessarily sinful. Indulging in and entertaining those desires, or wishing to commit them, IS an engagement of the will, and therefore a sin.)

Homosexual attraction is what would tempt a person to sin, as per Jesus’ experience of temptation (an excellent example), and not sinning in response, in Matt 4:1–11. This is in contrast to Eve’s experience of temptation in the Garden of Eden, where she fell when she took the forbidden fruit with the intent to eat it, as per Gen 3:6. Prior to this moment, she struggled with her temptation of curiosity, therefore the struggle with homosexual attraction is not sin as well, because it may not lead to homosexual desire (lust) to (intentionally) act homosexually.

Someone with homosexual attraction can know that they are not in a state of homosexual desire if they resist the adulterous temptation, as per Ephesians 6:13. It is for these reasons that the Bible is opposed to both homosexual acts and desire, but not attraction (not to be confused with desire). As per Matt 19:12, homosexuals may be incapable of marriage because they are born homosexual, but they can resist the temptation to desire homosexual acts by being chaste. (Another complex area. Romans does single out same-sex attraction as ‘unnatural’, but it does not declare them sinful. Something can be a bad thing without implying that the person is bad, or that they have bad intent. Again, it is about the engagement of the will.)

Bibliography

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Leviticus.” Accessed September 04, 2022. https://bible.usccb.org/leviticus/0.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Romans.” Accessed September 04, 2022. https://bible.usccb.org/romans/0.

[1] “Leviticus,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, accessed September 04, 2022, https://bible.usccb.org/leviticus/0.

[2] “Romans,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, accessed September 04, 2022, https://bible.usccb.org/romans/0.

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Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own