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Natural Law Romans 1 and Homosexual Beha

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Natural Law, Romans 1, and
Homosexual Behavior
Bryan Nathaniel Smith
Presented to Dr. Jeremy Neill in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for
Ethics (PHIL 5350)
April 26, 2015
I. Abstract
When it comes to the Bible’s stance on sexuality, perhaps no other passage is as significant and
central to the debate as the passage found in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.
Having been interpreted for much of history as representing a categorical moral condemnation of
all forms of homosexual behavior, the prevailing trend within Western culture of affirming
homosexual relationships has led to recent attempts to develop alternative interpretations which
seek to reconcile the biblical injunctions with such trends. Within the ensuing debate between
traditionalists and revisionists on the topic, perhaps the most central issue in the text which has
served as a gravitating force for discussion has been the meaning and significance of Paul’s use of
“natural” in the text. Consequently, one of the primary questions that has been set by the debate is
whether or not Paul is appealing to natural law reasoning in this passage, or whether he is appealing
to something quite different. Traditionalists will typically argue on behalf of the former, and
revisionists the latter. It is the purpose of this paper to briefly examine such arguments and to
assess their significance in answering the larger question regarding the possibility of reconciling
such biblical injunctions with the affirmation of homosexual relationships.
II. The Text in View
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural
intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with
women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men
and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” - Romans 1:26-27 (NRSV)
III. The Traditional Interpretation
The traditional interpretation of this passage has typically held that the “error” Paul is referring to
is that of homosexual behavior. As traditional New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has remarked,
Paul’s point is that “homosexual behavior is a distortion of the creator’s design and that such
practices are evidence, not of the intention of any specific individual to indulge in such practice
for its own sake, but of the tendency within an entire society for humanness to fracture when gods
other than the true one are being worshiped.” 1 In the immediate context of the passage, Paul
Wright, N.T., “Romans,” in New Interpreter’s Bible (Abingdon, 2002), Vol. 10, p. 434.
catalogues a range of shameful and impure acts which result from a rejection of God. The general
idea being promoted by Paul in this section of the chapter is that idolatry ultimately leads to
immorality. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul takes this general principle and focuses on a specific instance
of it. As Michael Bird and Sarah Harris explain, “When people ‘exchange’ the glory of God for
inglorious created things (1:23), and ‘exchange’ the truth of God for a lie (1:25), then inevitably
they also ‘exchange’ the natural role of sex for the unnatural (1:27)... doing what is sexually
unnatural with each other and committing shameful sexual acts.” 2
Thus, on the traditional view, homosexual behavior is directly associated with the rejection of God
through idolatry and therefore sinful. It is important to note, however, that many traditionalists
would not hold that Paul is attempting to prove that homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, as
many would argue that such an evaluation would have simply been assumed in his Jewish context.
Rather, for these traditionalists, Paul’s goal was to explain how homosexual behavior is a result of
God’s wrath on the idolatrous. As Joseph Spencer stresses, “Paul’s claim is not that homosexuality
leads to spiritual alienation from God; rather, Paul’s is the far more paradoxical and apparently
unfounded claim that spiritual alienation from God leads to homosexuality... for Paul,
homosexuality... is not an example, but rather a consequence, of sin.” 3 Similarly, as Ernst
Käsemann put it, sexual perversion is “the result of God’s wrath, not the reason for it.” 4
Nevertheless, for such traditionalists, although Paul does not claim that homosexual behavior was
the reason for God’s wrath, that does not entail that such behavior is morally unproblematic. To
Bird, Michael & Harris, Sarah, “Paul’s Jewish View of Sexuality in Romans 1:26-27,” in Sexegesis (Anglican Press
Australia, 2012).
Spencer, Joseph M., “Towards a Pauline Theory of Gender: Rereading Romans 1:26-27,” in Journal of Philosophy
and Scripture 7 (2010), p. 9.
Käsemann, Ernst, Commentary on Romans (Eerdmans, 1980), p. 47.
the contrary, such behavior is said to be positively impure, shameful, and sinful. It is so because,
according to the traditional interpretation, it is a distortion of the created order, analogous to the
exchange of truth for falsehood.
One key to understanding the traditionalist’s view that Paul’s critique of homosexuality is rooted
in its distortion of the created order is Paul’s appeal to its inherent unnaturalness, as indicated by
Paul’s use of the word phusikos for “nature”/“natural”. Since Paul seems to be implicitly claiming
that the natural use of sex organs by men and women are being exchanged for something different,
traditional exegetes argue that the phrase para physin can best be translated as “contrary to nature”.
As traditionalist Robert Gagnon explains, “Given the meaning of ‘contrary to nature’ (para physin)
and comparable expressions used by Jewish writers of the period to describe same-sex intercourse,
the meaning of the phrase in Paul is clear. Minimally, Paul is referring to the anatomical and
procreative complementarity of male and female.” 5 Thus, on the traditional interpretation, there is
a direct link between the sinfulness/unnaturalness of idolatry and the sinfulness/unnaturalness of
homosexual behavior. 6 The traditionalist’s position can therefore be summarized as follows:
[In Romans 1:26-27, Paul affirms that]...
1) Homosexual behavior (of any kind) is contrary to nature.
2) Behavior that is contrary to nature is contrary to God’s creatorial intentions.
3) Behavior that is contrary to God’s creatorial intentions is sinful.
4) Therefore, homosexual behavior (of any kind) is sinful.
Gagnon, Robert. A. J., The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001), p. 254.
Although the sinfulness/unnaturalness of the homosexual behavior is said to be the result of the
sinfulness/unnaturalness of idolatry, the traditional interpretation views the sinfulness of both as ultimately a result of
their unnaturalness.
With this in mind, let us now examine a few non-traditional interpretations.
IV. Non-Traditional Interpretations
Although the traditional interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 has held sway for the bulk of history,
the prevailing trend within Western culture of affirming homosexual relationships has led to recent
attempts to develop alternative interpretations which seek to reconcile the biblical injunctions
present in the text with these trends. There have been a multitude of such attempts in recent years,
each of which will necessarily deny one or more of the traditionalist’s premises above; however,
space will only permit a cursory glance at a few of the most prevalent.
The Sexual Excess Interpretation
Of the more popular non-traditional interpretations, some have argued that in Romans 1:26-27,
Paul was not claiming that homosexual behavior itself is contrary to nature, but rather that certain
forms of homosexual behavior are contrary to nature. Specifically, some argue that it is the
excessive homosexual behavior of certain heterosexuals that Paul is deriding. Perhaps the most
well-known proponent of this view was John Boswell of Yale University. According to Boswell,
Paul wasn’t so much condemning homosexual persons as he was heterosexual persons who were
engaging in homosexual acts. Taking Paul’s primary aim in Romans 1 as actively “stigmatiz[ing]
persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on,” 7 Boswell
claims that it is simply not clear that Paul made any distinction regarding the sexual preferences
of such persons. As he concludes, it is “unlikely that many Jews of his day recognized such a
Boswell, John, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago, 1980), p. 109.
distinction, but it is quite apparent that - whether or not he was aware of their existence - Paul did
not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons.” 8
On this view then, the traditional interpretation is overly anachronistic in holding that Paul is
condemning all forms of homosexual behavior (particularly by homosexuals), as the modern
concept of a sexual orientation did not exist in Paul’s time. Consequently, this interpretation will
deny premise (1), via the following reasoning:
5) If Paul was claiming that homosexual behavior (of any kind) is contrary to nature, then
Paul was claiming that homosexual behavior among those with a homosexual
orientation is contrary to nature.
6) If Paul was claiming that homosexual behavior among those with a homosexual
orientation is contrary to nature, then Paul was aware of the concept of a homosexual
7) It is not the case that Paul was aware of the concept of a homosexual orientation.
8) Therefore, it is not the case that Paul was claiming that homosexual behavior (of any
kind) is contrary to nature. [i.e. ~(1)]
Although some traditionalists may grant that the concept of sexual orientations did not exist until
modern times, thereby accepting premise (7), many have still found problems with this
interpretation. Robert Gagnon, for instance, thoroughly details no less than five problems with
such an interpretation. 9 Alternatively, in response to Matthew Vines’ modified version of this
argument in his popular book titled God and the Gay Christian, Denny Burk has argued that such
an interpretation in fact falsely assumes the truth of premise (7).
As Vines argues, the object of Paul’s condemnation was not primarily same-sex behavior, per se,
so much as it was sexually excessive behavior. 10 Even more importantly, for Vines, even if it was
same-sex behavior which Paul was condemning, it could not have been same-sex behavior
engaged in by those with a homosexual orientation, as the concept of a sexual orientation would
have been completely foreign to Paul. 11 According to Burk, however, Paul was in fact aware of
sexual orientation. As he writes, “to be sure, Paul did not use the term ‘orientation,’ but that does
not mean that he was unaware of the concept.” 12 In support of his position, Burk appeals to the
The American Psychological Association, which defines sexual orientation as “an enduring pattern
of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.” 13 Burk then claims
that the term “sexual attraction” referred to in the APA definition can be understood to be
synonymous with the term “sexual desire,” justifying this claim by appealing to the common usage
Gagnon, pp. 380-392. In summary, Gagnon notes that a) there is considerable testimony in ancient sources that
suggest that homosexual desires were congenital in some cases, b) the characterization of same-sex passion as
excessive lust is likely a supplemental characterization to a set of desires that had already been characterized as
abominable, c) the contention that same-sex desire was not understood in antiquity to be contrary to nature is simply
false, d) the claim that Paul thought all same-sex desires to be a result of oversexed heterosexuals if far from certain
given Romans 1:27 alone, and e) the use of “nature” in Romans 1:26-27 has little to do with desires and more to do
with actions - all of which I take to constitute serious objections to such an interpretation.
Vines, Matthew, God and the Gay Christian (Convergent, 2014), pp. 105-106.
Ibid. According to Vines, “Paul wasn’t condemning the expression of a same-sex orientation as opposed to the
expression of an opposite-sex orientation. He was condemning excess as opposed to moderation... he wasn’t
addressing what we think of today as homosexuality. The context in which Paul discussed same-sex relations differs
so much from our own that it cannot reasonably be called the same issue. Same-sex behavior condemned as excess
doesn’t translate to homosexuality condemned as an orientation — or as a loving expression of that orientation.”
Burk, Denny, “Suppressing the Truth in Unrighteousness: Matthew Vines Takes on the New Testament” in God
and the Gay Christian? (SBTS Press, 2014), p. 47.
“Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality,” American
Psychological Association, 2008,
of these terms in the literature. “Thus,” Burk surmises, “sexual orientation is one’s persistent
pattern of sexual desire/attraction toward either or both sexes.” 14
Given this definition, however, one cannot reasonably argue in support of premise (7) that Paul
was unaware of the concept of a sexual orientation. For as Romans 1:26-27 (NASB) clearly states,
“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions ... and [they] burned in their desire
toward one another.” As a result, Burk concludes by noting that although “Paul says that
homosexual behavior is sinful... he also says that the desires/attractions themselves are equally
morally blameworthy and stand as evidence of God’s wrath against sin... sexual desire that fixates
on the same sex is sinful, and that is why God’s judgment rightly falls on both desires and actions...
[thus] the issue Paul addresses is not merely sexual behavior but also same-sex attraction.” 15
Whether one judges Burk’s argument to be successful or not, the position that Paul was simply not
aware of the concept of a sexual orientation (or its ancient equivalent) is not nearly as clear as is
often suggested by revisionist interpreters.
To make matters even less clear, however, recent studies seem to suggest that the popular notion
among many revisionists that sexual orientation is in some sense fixed or permanent may not, in
fact, be the case. In a recently-published paper, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover has pointed out that sexual
orientations have been found to be unstable over time in both males and females, a conclusion that
has been reached in many other studies, including the research findings of Edward O. Laumann,
John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. 16 According to Satinover, Laumann and
Burk, p. 47.
Ibid., p. 48.
See Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., and Michaels, Stuart, The Social Organization of
Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (University of Chicago Press, 1994).
his colleagues “found to their surprise that its [sexual orientation] instability over the course of life
was one-directional: declining, and very significantly so. Homosexuality tended spontaneously to
‘convert’ into heterosexuality as a cohort of individuals aged, and this was true for both men and
women - the pull of the normative, as it were.” 17 Indeed, as Satinover observed, “one of the major
points of the Laumann study, which the authors themselves did not expect, is that ‘homosexuality’
as a fixed trait scarcely even seems to exist.” 18
Satinover, however, is by no means alone. Another recent study published in the Archives of Sexual
Behavior seems to agree, concluding that although most researchers have maintained that sexual
orientation is stable across the lifespan, this view has been challenged in recent years by other
researchers who have concluded that “sexual orientation is inherently flexible, evolving
continuously over the lifespan. From this perspective, individuals may experience transitions in
sexual orientation experiences, social interactions, and the influence of the cultural context.” 19
While the long term reception of such conclusions by experts in the field at large remains to be
seen, the mere fact that such conclusions have been advocated seems to suggest that the truth of
the matter is far from definitive. Indeed, recent trends indicate that advocates of homosexuality
themselves have begun to embrace such conclusions. 20 Thus, insofar as alternative interpretations
Satinover, Jeffrey, “The Trojan Couch: How the Mental Health Associations Misrepresent Science” (National
Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, 2009), p. 11. Available online at:
Kinnish, Kelly K., Strassberg, Donald S., and Turner, Charles W., “Sex Differences in the Flexibility of Sexual
Orientation: A Multidimensional Retrospective Assessment,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 34/2 (April 2005).
See Diamond, Lisa M., Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire (Harvard University Press, 2009);
Ring, Trudy, “Exploring the Umbrella: Bisexuality and Fluidity,” (February 2014),
of Romans 1 are predicated upon the notion that sexual orientations are intrinsically stable, they
do so with an increasingly intrinsic instability of their own which cannot be ignored.
In either case, the revisionist claim that Paul did not actively believe or teach that homosexual
behavior (of any kind) is contrary to nature has many difficulties yet to be addressed if it is to
successfully overthrow the traditional interpretation. Premise (1) seems to be relatively secure.
The Unconventional Behavior Interpretation
A second non-traditionalist interpretation argues that, although Paul does refer to homosexual
behavior as being unnatural, thereby accepting premise (1), his use of the phrase para physin
(“against nature”) shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that homosexual behavior was contrary to
some divine design or creatorial telos, but rather that such behavior was simply unconventional.
As Martti Nissinen argues, “it is necessary to distinguish between a modern and an ancient concept
of ‘nature’. In antiquity, physis expresses a fundamental cultural rule or a conventional, proper, or
inborn character or appearance, or the true being of a person or a thing rather than ‘nature’ in a
genetic-biological sense, as a modern reader would perceive it.” 21 Similarly, in his book Jesus,
the Bible, and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers claims that, “for Paul, ‘unnatural’ is a synonym for
‘unconventional’. It means something surprisingly out of the ordinary... Paul is not talking in
Romans 1:26-27 about a violation of the order of creation... [for], in Paul’s vocabulary, physis
(nature) is not a synonym for ktisis (creation)... in speaking about what is ‘natural,’ Paul is merely
accepting the conventional view of people and how they ought to behave in first-century
Hellenistic-Jewish culture.” 22
Nissinen, Martti, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (Fortress Press, 2004), p. 105.
Rogers, Jack, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality (Westminster John Knox, 2009), p. 74.
Thus, proponents of this interpretation seek to sever the connection between a behavior being
contrary to nature and a behavior being contrary to God’s creatorial intentions, thereby denying
premise (2) of the traditionalist position. However, as James B. DeYoung argues in his detailed
article on the subject, “the view of those who see physis as meaning ‘what is natural to me’ and
thus try to justify inversion or orientation is wrong. Never does the term have such a meaning in
Greek literature or Biblical contexts,” adding in a footnote that “one searches in vain for a
commentator who gives physis this meaning.” 23 Similarly, Gagnon argues that, given Paul’s
illustration connecting idolatry to the suppression of truth, it is evident that when Paul uses the
term “nature” in Romans 1:26-27, he did not mean it as a synonym for “convention.” 24 Moreover,
as Burk argues against a similar interpretation by Vines 25, such a definition of “nature” completely
misses the mark. For Paul, the primary background source from which a reliable definition of his
use of “nature” can be derived lies not in various secular sources of the time (as Vine suggests),
but the Old Testament. As Burk points out, there are several linguistic clues that link Romans 1:2627 to the creation narratives of Genesis 1-2. Indeed, as Thomas Schreiner notes, “Paul’s use of the
relatively unusual words thelys for females and arsen for males suggests that he draws on the
creation account of Genesis (Gen. 1:27, LXX) where the same two words are used.”
DeYoung, James B., “The Meaning of ‘Nature’ in Romans 1 and Its Implications for Biblical Proscriptions of
Homosexual Behavior,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31/4 (December 1988), p. 438.
Gagnon, p. 254. As Gagnon elaborates, “Paul says that God's will as regards the worship of idols is ‘plainly visible’
or ‘obvious’ (phaneron) because ‘from (the time of) the creation of the world his unseen qualities (ta aorata) are clearly
seen (kathoratai), capable of being mentally apprehended by means of the things made (tois poiemasin).’ In other
words, visual perception of the material creation that God has made... should lead to a mental perception about the
nature of God and God's will.”
Vines holds that Paul’s use of nature is primarily a reference to Jewish patriarchy and, consequently, that his
condemnation of homosexual behavior as being “against nature” is primarily that such behavior fails to conform to
traditional patriarchal gender roles.
Schreiner, Thomas, “A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality,” Themelios 31 (2006), p. 65.
according to Schreiner emphasizes, “call[s] attention to the sexual distinctiveness of males and
females, suggesting that same sex relations violate God’s creational intent.” 27
Thus, although such an interpretation may have some degree of surface level appeal, a deeper
analysis of the text seems to suggest that the plausibility of redefining “natural” to be synonymous
with “conventional” has many hurdles yet to clear to compel belief. As such, premise (2) seems to
be in good shape as well.
The “Dirty” But Not “Sinful” Interpretation
A third non-traditionalist interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 essentially holds that although Paul
regarded homosexual behavior as being “dirty” or in some sense inferior to heterosexual behavior,
he did not regard it as a sin. As L. William Countryman argues, “A close reading of Paul’s
discussion of homosexual acts in Romans 1 does not support the common modern interpretation
of the passage. While Paul wrote of such acts as being unclean, dishonourable, improper, and ‘over
against nature’, he did not apply the language of sin to them at all. Instead, he treated homosexual
behaviour as an integral if unpleasingly dirty aspect of Gentile culture. It was not sinful in itself,
but had been visited upon the Gentiles as recompense for sins, chiefly the sin of idolatry, but also
those of social disruption.” 28 On this interpretation, the link between unnatural behavior (or
behavior that is contrary to God’s creatorial intentions) and sinfulness is inherently severed,
thereby denying premise (3) of the traditionalist position.
Ibid. Furthermore, Schreiner also notes that “the phrase ‘contrary to nature’ echoes Stoic and Hellenistic Jewish
traditions, which saw homosexual relations as a violation of the created order.” (p. 65)
Countryman, L. William, Dirt, Greed, and Sex (Fortress Press, 1988), p. 117.
Traditionalists have given several different responses to this interpretation. Some respond by
pointing out that, for one, such an interpretation fails to square with the immediate context of
Romans 1:18-32. As some have argued, there seems to be a direct parallel between “God gave
them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves”
(v. 24) and “God gave them up to degrading passions” (v. 26) on the one hand and “God gave
them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done... [being] filled with every kind
of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice... that those who practice such things deserve to die” on
the other hand. The fact that in the immediate context same-sex intercourse is compared with a list
of sins worthy of death seems to clearly indicate that, for Paul, same-sex intercourse was likewise
to be understood as a sin which was worthy of death. As Gagnon summarizes, “The fact that Paul
normally began vice lists with a list of sexual sins, yet lists no specifically sexual vices in Rom
1:29-31, suggests that Paul intended the treatment of same-sex intercourse in 1:26-27 as an initial
listing of sinful vices.” 29
Alternatively, others argue that in order to maintain that Paul evaluated homosexual behavior as
“dirty” but not “sinful,” adherents to this interpretation would need to also hold that other
descriptions of such behavior in the immediate context such as “impurity” (v. 24), “degrading of
their bodies among themselves” (v. 24), “degrading passions” (v. 26), “para physin (‘contrary to
nature’)” (v. 26), “consumed with passion for one another” (v. 27), “committed shameless acts”
(v. 27), etc., were not understood by Paul as connoting sin. However, as Thomas Schmidt has
shown, all of these terms “connote sin, together with additional features of the context that
Gagnon, p. 274.
contribute to the sense that homosexuality is sinful.” 30 Both responses seem to render such an
interpretation relatively unpersuasive.
Thus, once again, although this alternative interpretation may offer some hope for those who seek
to reconcile an affirmation of homosexual relationships, a more careful study of the matter would
seem to suggest that such hope is in relatively short supply. Premise (3), too, seems resilient to the
revisionist endeavor.
V. Final Remarks
To draw together the various threads of the discussion thus, after presenting a short synopsis of
the traditional interpretation of Romans 1:26-27, we found that an argument could be developed
for the traditionalist position accordingly. To restate here for convenience:
[In Romans 1:26-27, Paul affirms that]...
1) Homosexual behavior (of any kind) is contrary to nature.
2) Behavior that is contrary to nature is contrary to God’s creatorial intentions.
3) Behavior that is contrary to God’s creatorial intentions is sinful.
4) Therefore, homosexual behavior (of any kind) is sinful.
With this in mind, we then examined three alternative interpretations of the passage, each of which
sought to deny one of the three premises in the position above.
Schmidt, Thomas E., Straight or Narrow? (IVP Academic, 1995), p. 84.
The first non-traditionalist interpretation examined sought to deny premise (1) by arguing that
since the modern concept of sexual orientations did not exist in Paul’s time, he could not have
been affirming that homosexual behavior of any kind (particularly among homosexuals) is
contrary to nature. The second non-traditionalist interpretation examined sought to deny premise
(2) by arguing that, for Paul, a behavior which was “contrary to nature” was not to be understood
as being contrary to a divine order or creatorial telos, but rather was to be understood as simply
being “unconventional”. Finally, the third non-traditionalist interpretation examined sought to
deny premise (3) by severing the connection with between unnatural behavior (or behavior that is
contrary to God’s creatorial intentions) and sinful behavior, the central claim being that although
Paul regarded homosexual behavior as being “dirty” or in some sense inferior to heterosexual
behavior, he did not thereby regard it as a sin. Traditionalist responses to all three non-traditional
interpretations were also examined, which were held to constitute serious objections to all three
As a result, it is the contention of this paper that, although such non-traditional interpretations may
have some force, their viability as Biblically faithful interpretations of Romans 1:26-27 is far from
certain. As liberal Christian theologian Luke Timothy Johnson once candidly remarked,
“I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says,
through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is
straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text
says?... I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward
commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-
sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly
to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed
to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in
which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the
scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen,
a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.” 31
Although personally agnostic (albeit with conservative leanings) on the morality of homosexual
behavior as such, I (along with Bird and Harris) find Johnson’s position to be far more honest and
consistent than the positions offered by revisionist interpreters. The burden of proof sits squarely
on the shoulders of the revisionists on this issue, and the burden is by no means light. Although it
is theoretically possible that they have succeeded in capturing the correct meaning and intention
of Paul’s teaching in his letter to the church in Rome, and although it is possible that the biblical
injunctions referenced by Paul in Romans can be reconciled with an affirmation of homosexual
activity, even a cursory glance at the evidence against such a state of affairs suggests that, at least
presently, such a possibility is relatively remote. Unless or until further work is conducted on
behalf of revisionist exegetes which can successfully avoid the inherent problems mentioned with
the various alternative interpretations, reasonable persons would be wise to exercise caution before
employing their use in an attempt to justify a Biblically faithful affirmation of homosexual
relationships and activity.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, “Scripture & Experience” in Homosexuality & The Church: Two Views (Commonweal, 11
June 2007),