My article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity” provides an extensive analysis of the key biblical, religious, and social issues relating to homosexuality. That article challenges and refutes the common traditional and conservative Christian view that homosexuality is inherently evil and sinful.
However, it is a long article (over 13,000 words). For a summary of the points in that article, I had previously directed readers to my answer to a question about homosexuality on Christianity StackExchange. I am now re-editing and republishing that answer here to make a shorter version more easily available to my readers. The nine points in this summary cover in much briefer form the major points made in the main article. I recommend that you read that article to get the full picture.
1. Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible
Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible. There are only five or six clear references to it in the Old and New Testaments combined. In comparison, the sins forbidden in the Ten Commandments receive major coverage throughout the Bible. The heavy focus on homosexuality among traditional and conservative Christians despite this scant Biblical mention of it suggests that their strong opposition to it comes from a cultural opposition to homosexuality rather than from Biblical sources.
2. The OT prohibition on men having sex with men was culture-specific
In the Old Testament, the prohibition of men having sex with men in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 was made in a specific cultural context that no longer exists in most of today’s society. Specifically, in the ancient world marital and sexual relationships were viewed as a relationship between unequal partners. The sexual act was seen as an act of a dominant partner penetrating a submissive partner. But in ancient Hebrew culture and religion all men were seen as equal under the Law and in God’s eyes. It was therefore “detestable” (meaning culturally taboo and ritually unclean) for a man to have sex with another man because it reduced the man who was penetrated to a lower social and religious status.
Because it was based on cultural conditions that no longer exist in the Christian world, the prohibition against men having sex with men in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is one of many Old Testament laws that no longer apply to Christians.
3. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about homosexuality
The story of the condemnation and destruction of Sodom in Genesis 18:16–19:29 is often read by traditional Christians as a condemnation of homosexuality. However, the parallel story of the heterosexual gang rape of a woman in Judges 19 is not read as a condemnation of heterosexuality. Thus the argument that the story of Sodom should be read as a condemnation of homosexuality holds no water.
Further, in Ezekiel 16:49–50 the Bible itself states quite clearly what the sin of Sodom was—and the focus is on arrogance, self-indulgence, and lack of charity. This sets the tone for how the story of Sodom should be interpreted. In short, from a Biblical perspective the story of Sodom has little or nothing to do with homosexuality. For a fuller presentation of these points about the story of Sodom, see “What is the Sin of Sodom?”
4. Jesus and the Gospels say nothing about homosexuality
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ himself never said a word about homosexuality, positive or negative. The lack of any condemnation of homosexuality in the Gospels, where the Lord Jesus himself gives the primary teachings for the Christian Church, should give pause to those Christians who believe that homosexuality is a terrible sin.
5. Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality is also culture-specific
Paul’s condemnatory references to homosexuality in Romans 1:24–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:9–11 were made in a cultural and religious context similar to that of the Old Testament condemnation of homosexual acts in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In fact, the textual evidence is that Paul drew directly on the Holiness Code in Leviticus and on other standardized ancient lists of sins in writing those verses.
Paul, like the Old Testament writers, condemned homosexual acts because he saw it as an act of one man reducing the social and religious status of another man. This took on even more poignancy in Paul’s world, which was embedded in Roman and Greek culture. Standard Greek and Roman homosexual practice was for an older, dominant male to penetrate a younger, submissive male. Basically, all homosexual sex in the ancient world was sex between unequal partners. This ran contrary to Paul’s Hebrew- and Christian-inspired view that all men are equal under the law and in the eyes of God. Therefore Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality does not apply to the present day ideal and practice of committed, monogamous homosexual relationships between equal partners—something that was practically unknown in the ancient world.
This is not the only issue on which we now see Paul as dated by his culture. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul requires women to wear veils while praying or prophesying, and in Ephesians 6:5 he requires slaves to obey their masters. These are teachings that few if any Christians still believe are in force. So the argument that every rule Paul made still applies today holds no water.
6. There is no demonstrable harm from faithful homosexual relationships
Moving beyond strictly Biblical argument to other Christian-inspired lines of reasoning, the first point is that there is no demonstrable harm to society or to homosexuals themselves from committed, faithful, monogamous homosexual relationships.
It is unfair and unjust to condemn homosexuality based on its perversions, just as it would be unfair and unjust to condemn heterosexuality based on its perversions. A fair comparison requires us to compare the highest Christian ideal for heterosexual marriages with a similar highest Christian ideal for homosexual marriages. So the only valid basis on which to condemn homosexuality would be if committed, faithful, monogamous homosexual marriages caused some sort of evil to society or to the homosexuals themselves.
However, there is no evidence and no good argument that faithful, committed, monogamous homosexual relationships and marriages cause any real personal, social, or political harm.
And to state that homosexuals will go to hell because homosexuality is a sin is to commit the logical fallacy of assuming the result. That argument would have to first establish or assume that homosexuality is evil and a sin—which is the very issue being debated.
7. Most homosexuals are acting according to their conscience
Even if homosexuality were an evil, it would not be a sin for those who practice it in good conscience. Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (John 9:41). And in Romans 2:14–16 Paul says that Gentiles who are not under the law will be judged by their own consciences.
Since most sexually active homosexuals do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, but believe that it is a good thing and even blessed by God, it will not be charged to them as sin because they are living according to their conscience—and in the case of Christian homosexuals, according to their understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
8. Homosexuality cannot be “repented from”
The conclusion now generally drawn from overwhelming evidence and experience is that homosexuality is a fundamental, non-changeable trait of homosexual men and women.
Many organizations, including many Christian organizations, have tried and failed to change homosexuals into heterosexuals through prayer, repentance, therapy—including Skinnerian aversion therapy—and various other methods. Studies over time and follow-ups on these efforts show that they are an almost total failure, if not a complete failure. The most commonly cited study to the contrary, published by famed psychiatrist Robert Spitzer in 2001, was retracted by its own author in 2012. Many prominent “ex-gay” organizations have disbanded or have ceased their efforts to change homosexuals into heterosexuals.
How is this relevant to Christian views of homosexuality? If homosexuality is not a “sin” that can be “repented from,” but is a fixed, permanent part of a person’s basic humanity, it is incompatible with the love and mercy of God for homosexuality to be a sin that is punishable by eternal damnation. If something is a sin, it must be possible to repent from it. But it is not possible for homosexuals to “repent” from homosexuality. It is part of their basic nature.
9. Marriage has great spiritual benefits for homosexuals just as it does for heterosexuals
God created marriage between a man and a woman as one of the deepest and most searching and effective forums for spiritual growth and Christian rebirth or regeneration. In a growing marriage, the partners must continually examine themselves for selfishness, ego, pride, and other sins, and repent from them, in order to truly love and care for their marital partner. Marriage is therefore a gift of God for our eternal spiritual growth and wellbeing.
Gays and lesbians, however, cannot participate honestly and from the heart in heterosexual relationships. If they are going to be in a loving, committed marital relationship at all, it will be with someone of the same sex. God has placed the desire to unite with another person deeply in the human spirit. For gays and lesbians, this means uniting with someone of the same sex.
Most if not all of the spiritual benefits of marriage are the same in spiritual and Christian homosexual marriages as in spiritual and Christian heterosexual marriages. Annette and I therefore believe that it is God’s will that homosexuals who desire marriage should unite with someone of their own sex who shares common faith and values. In this relationship gays and lesbians can gain the same God-given benefits of marriage as heterosexuals can.
Annette and I believe it is God’s will that all of the people God creates and loves should be able to share in the joys and spiritual benefits of marriage. Therefore in our view, Christians who would deny homosexuals marriage are working against God’s will and against God’s eternal love for all people.
This is a brief summary of a much longer article. For the full version, providing much more detailed information, explanation, and references, please read the article “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.”
(Note: This post is an edited version of an answer I originally wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the original question on StackExchange here, and the StackExchange version of my answer here.)
For further reading: