Is the Criminalization of Homosexual Acts Unjust?

It is no secret that I have a disdain for philosophy in general, especially where philosophy intersects the Christian religion. Yes, I am well aware that we all by necessity have our philosophies and that those philosophies are necessary for our understanding of the world and our existence in a logical manner. I am also aware of Christians who use philosophy well, who understand that it is subservient and a handmaiden of revealed theology from the Revealed Scriptures and whose chief end of its use is for the edification of the saints and the glory of God, not to explain “unexplainable” doctrines from Scripture or to reconcile that which they deem to be “irreconcilable.”

The reason I’ve started with this slight diatribe against philosophy is because whenever a Christian with half a brain makes a claim that either contradicts Revelation or is heretical, you can almost count on there being a philosophical reason behind it. Recently this was seen in an article co-authored by Russell Moore (a big-wig in the Southern Baptist Convention) entitled, “What Should Christians Think of Governments That Criminalize Homosexuality.” In it he writes:

As evangelical Christians, we believe what the catholic (small “c”) and orthodox (small “o”) church has always, and everywhere, believed: that sexuality is to be expressed only within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman. The church has believed this, and will always believe this, because the Bible teaches it.

So far so good. Yes, the Church has believed this, and still does, and this is the only stance that the Church has ever “orthodoxly” taken. And this has been the case quite simply because the Bible is so clear on the matter. Yet, Moore does not stop there. He goes on to co-say:

At the same time, we [i.e. the “catholic” and the “orthodox”] believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God imbedded in all persons.

When I first read this my jaw literally dropped. First, Moore makes the claim that the orthodox position of the Church has always been that criminalizing homosexual acts is unjust, and, second, that such criminalization is an affront to the image of God embedded in humans.

Moore, after this statement, goes on to attempt to give biblical warrant for his position, but the problem is that he already struck out theologically (and might I add, historically) by making such a statement. For not only does his later biblical “proofs” fall far short of actually proving his point, his statement that criminalizing homosexual acts (and other sexually immoral acts) is unjust has already set him against the God revealed in Scripture.

Let’s just take one example of a biblical, civil law that criminalized homosexual acts:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them” (Lev. 20:13).

So, let’s take Moore’s claim logically (or philosophically, if you wish): Laws that criminalize homosexual acts are unjust. God (according to Moore’s belief) inspired the Law, and he inspired a law that criminalized homosexual acts. Therefore God inspired a law that is unjust. Therefore God acted unjustly. Therefore God is unjust.

And it doesn’t matter the context in which the law is given, as Moore tries to claim. Yes, Israel was a unique nation at a unique point of history, but does that by itself warrant God acting “unjustly” with them? He also rightly says that those within the Church have no business judging those outside of the Church, but what has that to do with the laws created and enforced by a secular government? He goes on to claim that the secular government’s jurisdiction is over “wrong-doers” and not “sinners,” so is he really saying that those who engage in homosexual acts are not “wrong-doers” and are therefore outside the jurisdiction of the state? And by what measure does label one a “wrong-doer” if it is not by the laws enacted and enforced by a state?

One of the most unsettling implications of Moore’s claim is the power that he necessarily gives the state over God in creating and enforcing morality. For the state has the right to create arbitrary laws that have no morality in themselves but become immoral if transgressed because of the authority given to the state by God, but if God, through natural and Scriptural revelation, declares an action to be immoral and the state in turn legislates that, that legislation is somehow “immoral.” Therefore, it is immoral for man to drive 60 mph where the speed limit is 55 mph, yet it is immoral for a state to criminalize homosexual acts even though God has revealed such practices to be immoral.

As far as such laws being an “affront to the image of God embedded in humans,” I have no idea where he gets this hogwash. The only theory that I can come up with is that he is referring to some philosophically-concocted notion that the Image of God in man is some “free-will” that he has been given to be as evil as he chooses to be. The affront therefore comes when a secular government attempts to restrain that freedom by “unjust” legislation. Heaven forbid.

Despite this, I understand where Moore is coming from, to a degree. The criminalization of homosexual acts is not pragmatic, is virtually unenforceable, and has no power to change a person’s heart. I also understand the fear that a government’s locking-down on the “freedoms” of others could very well end in losing the freedom of religious practice. I get that. However, impotency and fear do not make something unjust and immoral. And this is especially the case when God has done that very thing it in the past.

The problem with Moore and his co-author is misapplication and misunderstanding. He understands perfectly well what he thinks to be universally true, and yet he attempts to justify it with a document that is not meant to be used universally, viz. the New Testament. The New Testament is a text written for a specific group of people—the Church for its edification and instruction, not for the governance of secular institutions. Yes, it does have universal implications, but that is not its end. A proper question to ask would be, “Should Christians attempt to put forward legislation that criminalizes homosexual behavior?” which is a far different question than, “Is the criminalization of homosexual acts by a secular institution unjust?” You cannot appeal to the New Testament to answer the latter question, because it doesn’t address it, at least not directly. The only part of Scripture that one could appeal to for such an answer is the Old Testament and its civil laws, which Moore found lacking in light of his established opinion. So he, rather than revisiting his opinion based outside of Scripture by Scripture, chose to make God unjust instead.

And this is where my detestation for philosophy chiefly lies—in those who are in the Church whose chief goal is to change secular institutions and culture, not the people that comprise it, and who are willing to contradict Scripture by philosophy if they deem it expedient to do so. It is philosophical and theological doublethink, and the Church and the culture doesn’t need it, especially if they’re going to throw God under the bus in the process.

Categories: Currents

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