Are Paul’s Sexual Ethics Outdated?
Apostle Paul, are his sexual ethics outdated?

Are Paul’s Sexual Ethics Outdated?

In our day and age the Church is in the midst of a major battle between our understanding of the historic deposit of faith and modern, cultural norms. From women in holy orders and abortion to the whole gamut of sexual ethics, virtually every aspect of Christian morality is under attack. Much of what we are confronting is coming from activist groups relying on modern biblical scholastics, especially a field of study known as “textual criticism.” 

How much of this debate is centered around Pauline theology? Most, if not all!

Homo-heresy is a modern term that is being used to describe the attempt to normalize homosexuality within the context of all Christian churches. Much of mainline denominational christianity has already succumbed to certain aspects of this culture war. The biggest battleground these days appears to be inculcating the Roman Catholic Church. Great numbers of Roman Catholic priests and prelates are endorsing the normalization of homosexuality within their church. Multitudes of churches within the liberal “Old Catholic” tradition have already fully embraced the errors of this deviant, modern approach to moral theology.

This culture war is not new, it is endemic to my generation, starting even before the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 60’s.  Since my seminary days I’ve been dealing with revisionist, new-age theology and text-critical scholastics. This has been especially problematic in answering the question, “How do we know that most of Scripture about homosexuality that Paul wrote still applies to us today, as our culture and society are different from his?”

Modern biblical scholarship is myopic in their attempts to discount the validity and modern relevance of holy scripture. The focus of text-critical scholarship has reduced (in the minds of modern researchers) scripture to being merely writings of men — devoid of either inspiration or moral authority.

Are the ethics outlined in the bible “Culture-bound”? That is, should our understanding of christian moral theology change with the times., at the whim of public opinion and pressure.? First, we must understand that if the argument is that Paul’s sexual ethics are outdated and can be safely ignored in today’s times, then this would lead to an absurdity. In that approach to the study of scripture we could ignore virtually any moral proscription mentioned in the New Testament. Nothing Paul said would apply to us today. After all, our culture and society are allegedly different from his.

Second, Paul’s comments about homosexual behavior (Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, 1 Tim. 1:10) are hardly culture bound. His teaching is consistent with all of Scripture, throughout every period of biblical history. Genesis, for example, teaches that God made male and female and commanded them to unite and form a one-flesh union (Genesis 2:18–25). They were also commanded to be fruitful and multiply, something only possible with the complementarity of the sexes. In fact, the male-female pairing is the only arrangement of people described in Scripture that can form a one-flesh union. No other pairing or group of people is ever described in this way.

The Mosaic Law also included a prohibition of same-sex behavior in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In other words, from the creation of humanity through the time of Moses, Scripture has been consistent regarding sexuality. It is only to occur between a married man and woman.

Jesus later restated (and upheld) the Genesis creation account of male-female complementarity (Matthew 19:3–9). Not only did He quote the relevant parts of Genesis, He added His own words: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” In other words, Jesus believed male-female marriage was a God-ordained institution.

So when Paul mentioned that homosexuals were engaged in sin (Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10), he was speaking consistently with what Scripture taught in every era of biblical history. This was not something that merely reflected his culture or own thinking.

Third, Paul grounded prohibitions against homosexual behavior in the created order, indicating this was not a culture-bound concern. Romans 1:26–27 was written in the context of a creation narrative. Paul argued that God made creation in a certain way that makes His divine attributes evident from what is made. Men and women, in particular, are natural compliments of one another and are intended to sexually function with each other. Homosexual sex violates the natural design of male-female coupling. That’s why Paul argues such behavior is symptomatic of rebellion, and consequently, sin.

Scripture tells us that God does not change — his words are immutable. The sexual ethics outlined in  Paul’s writings, including those on homosexuality, are consistent with the rest of Scripture and, therefore, relevant to us today. Dismissing Paul’s teaching, as do modern scholastics, is dismissing the inspired word of God, including redefining the purpose of marriage God has ordained since the creation of the world.

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