The whole area of sexuality has become a dominating issue in the church over recent years. But what does the Bible really say about it? And can it really be trusted as applicable to today’s culture and society?
Well, that was the question proposed in a new BBC segment controversially titled: “Too Gay for God?” The program featured Reverend Jide Macaulay, who identifies as openly gay, and Dr. Ian Paul, a conservative Anglican minister in the Church of England.
“Why can’t I get married and be a priest?” Macaulay asks at the start of the video. “My church says same-sex marriage goes against the word of God — but what does the Bible actually say about same-sex relationships.”
The pair of ministers, coming from differing viewpoints, immediately opened up the Bible in the hope of finding some answers.
“In Leviticus 20, God says ‘thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind, it’s an abomination,'” Paul explained. “There are a number of different aspects to this text — but it is a pretty a clear testimony to the fact that in ancient Israel, same-sex sexual relating was prohibited.”
Dr. Paul, who formerly taught New Testament and Practical Theology at St. John’s, Nottingham, added that this common understanding “is rooted in Genesis, the creation text — which clarifies that God made a man and a woman to come together in marriage and sexual relating.”
Jide, however, believes that Leviticus should be interpreted in its entirety and questions should be raised as to its modern application. “We need to look at the whole of the Leviticus code itself. There are many things in Leviticus that we are told we should not do,” he said. “We must ask: ‘does this work today?'”
The pair went on to discuss the Pauline letters that address the issue of sexuality. In particular, they honed in on a well-known passage found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV)
Jide argued that people have used certain New Testament passages to “bash, abuse and demonize those who are same-gender loving.”
“I think that is entirely wrong,” Paul replied.
“But the question for Christian churches is, for Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth, what does sexual holiness look like?”
So what does and should it look like? Well, Dr. Paul, who holds a PhD on the Book of Revelation, had a pretty good answer:
“It looks like exactly what we’ve seen described in Genesis Chapter 2, a man and a woman coming together,” he explained. “What does holiness look like? The same as in Leviticus: it’s not about a man lying with a man as with a woman.”
Paul continued, addressing the lengthy debate that has taken place on the issue within the Anglican Church of England. “It seems to me like scripture is very consistent. That means for me, in the current debates we are having in the Church of England, lots of people are bending over backwards to say, ‘well you could read this text in a different way.’ Actually, I think the people I respect most are the people that say, ‘let’s agree on what the Bible says.'”
“Historically, we have based our teaching on what the scripture says,” Paul concluded. “I think we need to continue doing that.”