With the recent SCOTUS decision pertaining to same-sex marriage, lots of questions and objections and reinterpretations aimed at the Bible have been resurfacing. While no objections that I have run across are substantively new nor have they been left unanswered, it’s good to re-present the answers to them for those who are hearing these objections for the first time. So this will be the first of (hopefully) a series of answers to the common objections levied by LGBT-affirming people against those who desire to remain faithful to God’s revealed will for this world as it is written down in the Holy Scriptures.
Objection #1: “You Christians are picking and choosing which parts of the Bible you follow just like us. After all Leviticus forbids eating shellfish, wearing clothes with mixed fabrics, and touching a woman who is on her period. Yet, you don’t adhere to all these things. So why single out homosexual practice?”
Answer: This objection betrays an ignorance of how the Bible’s requirements develop over time. For instance, at one point in biblical history, God commanded His people to only worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Then Jesus came into the world and now He is the new temple. He is the only place where worship is rightly offered, but this rightly offered worship is no longer tied to a specific geographic location. So as far as what the Bible has to say about laws pertaining to ethnic separation and ceremonial cleanliness, it’s pretty clear. In Mark 7, when Jesus is discussing what makes a person unclean, he says:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Notice that Jesus declares all foods clean yet in the same context upholds moral/ethical thrust of the law.
While the Mark 7 event deals specifically with food, the vision Peter receives in Acts 10 deals with the demolition of ethnic distinctions but does so using the food-cleanliness laws. After being given a thrice-repeated vision where he’s commanded by God to eat unclean foods, Peter applies his vision to people. In speaking to the Gentile centurion, Cornelius and those who were with him, Peter says,
“28You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean… Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Here again we see the demolition of an ethnic/holiness boundary and the implication that the moral/ethical thrust of the law is still in place.
But possibly the most poignant place where this new covenant pattern arises is in the book of Galatians. In this short letter, the question of whether a person had to be circumcised to be considered a part of God’s people was front and center and there were loud voices on both sides. And Paul reserves some of his harshest words for those who would require adherence to a law requiring specific ceremonial and ethnic separation, calling them “foolish” (3.1) and even saying those that teach such a thing ought to just go ahead and cut their whole member off (5.12). However, in the same context, Paul goes on to uphold the moral/ethical prohibitions found in the law through his list of the works of the flesh (5.16-21).
So in this brief survey of the biblical data, Christians can be seen, not as picking and choosing the texts they prefer, but submitting to the flow of the entirety of the scriptures. Not trying to follow the ethnic separation and ceremonial cleanliness laws is actually an expression of the Christian’s faithful embrace of the reality that with the coming of Christ, all peoples, tribes and nations are declared to have access to the Heavenly Father. All may come as they are. And they come through faith in Christ plus nothing. Or to put it negatively, the Christian who insists on observing the Levitical ethnic separation and cleanliness laws would be disobeying God’s clearly revealed plan (a.k.a. sinning) for this era between Christ’s first and second coming.
So the person who says that Christians are inconsistent because they reject homosexual practice yet don’t embrace cleanliness laws is at best ignorant of what the Bible (and the historic Church) clearly teaches or at worst trying to willfully deceive those who are ignorant.