What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

by Kevin DeYoung


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Offering readers a valuable resource for thinking through a contentious issue, this timely book by award-winning author Kevin DeYoung summarizes the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433549373
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/30/2015
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 448,938
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He serves as board chairman of the Gospel Coalition and blogs at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something; Crazy Busy; and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have eight children.

Read an Excerpt


One Man, One Woman, One Flesh


Suppose God wanted to create a world in which marriage required a man and a woman. How would he arrange this world? What sort of story would be told?

Perhaps he would first make the man, and then — seeing the man was all alone — make a suitable partner for him. Maybe, in an expression of their equality and complementarity, God would fashion the second human being out of the first. Maybe the name of the one (woman, ishah in Hebrew) would be derived from her natural complement (man, ish in Hebrew). And in order to show the unique fittedness of the man for the woman, perhaps God would give them a command (to be fruitful and multiply) that could only be fulfilled by the coming together of the two sexes. Maybe the story would end with the two — one man and one woman — starting a new family together and entering into a new covenant relationship, solemnized by an oath and sealed by the sort of physical union capable of perpetuating this family and reflecting their status as image bearers of a divine Creator.

If God wanted to establish a world in which the normative marital and sexual relationship is that between persons of the opposite sex, Genesis 1–2 fits perfectly. The narrative strongly suggests what the church has almost uniformly taught: "Marriage is to be between one man and one woman." A different marital arrangement requires an entirely different creation account, one with two men or two women, or at least the absence of any hints of gender complementarity and procreation. It's hard not to conclude from a straightforward reading of Genesis 1–2 that the divine design for sexual intimacy is not any combination of persons, or even any type of two persons coming together, but one man becoming one flesh with one woman.

In recent years, however, some have questioned whether this straightforward reading of the text is really all that straightforward. Eve, some argue, was not a complement to Adam as much as a basic companion. The problem she remedied was aloneness, not incompleteness. And doesn't the text indicate that the woman, as opposed to the animals, was suitable for the man because she was like the man, not because she was different? Perhaps the language of "one flesh" does not depend on any particular sex act (or any sex act at all). After all, Laban told Jacob "you are my bone and my flesh!" (Gen. 29:14), and the tribes of Israel told David "we are your bone and flesh" (2 Sam. 5:1; cf. Judg. 9:2; 2 Sam. 19:12–13; 1 Chron. 11:1). Why make so much of some supposed sexual "fittedness" when Genesis 2 nowhere mentions procreation? To be sure, the argument goes, Genesis uses the example of a man and a woman forming the covenant bond of marriage, but why can't this illustrate what is normal rather than prescribe what is normative? The union of two men or two women can demonstrate the same leaving and cleaving and the same intimate sharing of all things that we see from Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.

As plausible as this revisionist reading might look at first glance, it does not do justice to the specific contours of the creation account. There are at least five reasons we are right to think that Genesis 1–2 establishes God's design for marriage and that this design requires one man and one woman.

First, the way in which the woman was created indicates that she is the man's divinely designed complement. In Genesis 2:21, we see the Lord God taking something from the man (one of his ribs) in order to make a helper suitable for him (v. 18). Then verse 22 emphasizes that the woman was not fashioned out of thin air or out of the dust of the ground, but from "the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man." What makes the woman unique is both that she is like the man (expressed in the covenantal commitment statement "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh") and that she is differentiated from the man. The text has sameness and difference in view. Adam delights that the woman is not another animal and not another man. She is exactly what the man needs: a suitable helper, equal to the man but also his opposite. She is an ishah taken out of ish, a new creation fashioned from the side of man to be something other than a man (2:23).

Second, the nature of the one-flesh union presupposes two persons of the opposite sex. The phrase "one flesh" points to sexual intimacy, as suggested by the reference to nakedness in verse 25. That's why Paul uses the language of "one flesh" when warning the Corinthians against being "joined" to a prostitute (1 Cor. 6:15–16). The act of sexual intercourse brings a man and a woman together as one relationally and organically. The sameness of the parts in same-sex activity does not allow for the two to become one in the same way. Mere physical contact — like holding hands or sticking your finger in someone's ear — does not unite two people in an organic union, nor does it bring them together as a single subject to fulfill a biological function. When Genesis 2:24 begins with "Therefore" (or, "For this reason"), it connects the intimacy of becoming one flesh (v. 24) with the complementarity of Woman being taken out of Man (v. 23). The ish and the ishah can become one flesh because theirs is not just a sexual union but a reunion, the bringing together of two differentiated beings, with one made from and both made for the other.

Third, only two persons of the opposite sex can fulfill the procreative purposes of marriage. One of the reasons it was not good for the man to be alone is because by himself he could not reflect the Creator's creative designs for the world. God created vegetation, trees, fish, birds, and every living creature "according to their kind" (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25). The multiplication of the plant and animal world was to take place each according to its own type. Likewise, God created the man and the woman deliberately so that they could be fruitful and multiply (1:28). If the man was to fulfill this command, God would have to make "a helper fit for him" (2:18). While it's true that procreation is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis 2, it is directly commanded in Genesis 1 and specifically mentioned as affected by the fall in Genesis 3. Clearly, we are meant to see offspring issuing from the union of the uniquely fitted ish and ishah. That sometimes married men and women are unable to have children by reason of biological infirmity or old age does not change the procreative purpose of marriage found in Genesis. Marriage is, by definition, that sort of union from which — if all the plumbing is working properly — children can be conceived. Homosexual unions by their very nature do not meet this definition, nor can they fulfill this procreative purpose. The issue is not, as one revisionist author argues, whether procreation is required for a marriage to be valid. The issue is whether marriage — by nature, by design, and by aim — is a covenant between two persons whose one-flesh commitment is the sort of union which produces offspring.

The importance of procreation as the natural outworking of the marriage covenant is also seen in the Old Testament levirate laws. These laws, like the one in Deuteronomy 25:5–6 (cf. Mark 12:19), are so named because they obligate a deceased's man's brother to marry his widowed sister-in-law (if she is childless) and produce offspring for his brother. Reproduction was so plainly the normal expectation (and blessing) of marriage that even death could not be allowed to thwart marriage's procreative purposes under the Mosaic law-covenant.

We see this principle even more clearly in Malachi 2:15:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

The Hebrew in this verse is among the most difficult in the entire Old Testament, so we cannot be overly dogmatic about any interpretation, but the English Standard Version reflects the consensus of most translations (including the Holman Christian Standard Bible, King James Version, New International Version, New Living Translation, and New Revised Standard Version). Malachi, in rebuking the men of Judah for treating their wives faithlessly, deliberately harkens back to the creation account. He says in effect, "God made the man and the woman to become one flesh so they might produce godly offspring. Be on guard, therefore, that you not profane such a holy union by divorcing your wives." Not only does Malachi recognize the procreative purpose in marriage; he finds this principle in the Genesis creation account. This is why the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian/Reformed) says marriage was given, in part, for the "increase" of "holy seed," and the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican) says holy matrimony was "ordained for the procreation of children," and Humanae Vitae (Catholic) says "the unitive significance and the procreative significance" are "both inherent to the marriage act." While it would be wrong to say procreation is the sole purpose in marriage or that sexual intimacy is given only as a means to some reproductive end, it would also be wrong to think marriage can be properly defined without any reference to the offspring that should (and normally does) result from the one-flesh union of a husband and wife.

Fourth, Jesus himself reinforces the normativity of the Genesis account. When asked to weigh in on the Jewish divorce debate — whether divorce was permissible for any cause or whether only sexual sin could tear asunder the marriage covenant — Jesus sides with the more conservative Shammai school and disallows divorce for any cause except sexual immorality. To make his point, Jesus first reminds his audience that God "from the beginning made them male and female" and then quotes directly from Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9). There is no indication that Jesus references Genesis for mere illustrative purposes. In Jesus's mind, to answer the divorce question necessitates a right understanding of marriage, and to get at the nature of marriage one must go back to the beginning, where we see God instituting marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman.

Moreover, monogamy makes sense only within this Genesis understanding of marriage. Apart from the complementarity of the two sexes there is no moral logic which demands that marriage should be restricted to a twosome. I'm not arguing that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead inexorably to the acceptance of polygamy. But once you've accepted the former, you no longer have a consistent intellectual case to reject the latter. It is mere sentiment and lingering tradition which leads many progressives to insist that same-sex unions ought to involve the commitment of two persons and only two persons. If marriage is simply the formation of a kinship bond between those who are committed wholly to one another, there is no reason why multiple persons or groups of people cannot commit themselves wholly to one another. There is no internal coherence to the notions of monogamy and exclusivity if marriage is something other than the reunion of two complementary and differentiated sexes. It's because God made the woman from the man that she is also for the man (1 Cor. 11:8–9, 11–12). And it's because the two — male and female — are divinely designed complements each for the other that monogamy makes sense and same-sex marriage does not.

Fifth, the redemptive-historical significance of marriage as a divine symbol in the Bible only works if the marital couple is a complementary pair. Think about the complementary nature of creation itself. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). And not only that, but within this cosmic pairing, we find other "couples": the sun and the moon, morning and evening, day and night, the sea and the dry land, plants and animals, and finally, at the apex of the creation, the man and his wife. In every pairing, each part belongs with the other but neither is interchangeable. Just as heaven and earth were created to be together — and, indeed, that's how the whole story of the Bible ends — so marriage is to be a symbol of this divine design: two differentiated entities uniquely fitted for one another.

It makes perfect sense, then, that the coming together of heaven and earth in Revelation 21–22 is preceded by the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Marriage was created as a picture of the fittedness of heaven and earth, or as Ephesians 5 puts it, of Christ and the church (vv. 31–32). The meaning of marriage is more than mutual sacrifice and covenantal commitment. Marriage, by its very nature, requires complementarity. The mystical union of Christ and the church — each "part" belonging to the other but neither interchangeable — cannot be pictured in marital union without the differentiation of male and female. If God wanted us to conclude that men and woman were interchangeable in the marriage relationship, he not only gave us the wrong creation narrative; he gave us the wrong metanarrative. Homosexuality simply does not fit with the created order in Genesis 1 and 2. And with these two chapters as the foundation upon which the rest of the redemptive-historical story is built, we'll see that homosexual behavior does not fit in with the rest of the Bible either.


Those Infamous Cities


You will not find two more infamous cities in all the Bible than Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 19 the Lord rained on them sulfur and fire, a devastating punishment for their brazen wickedness. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with extreme sinfulness (Isa. 1:9–10; 3:9; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:44–58) and divine judgment (Deut. 29:23; Isa. 13:19; Jer. 49:18; 50:40; Lam. 4:6; Amos 4:11; Zeph. 2:9). In the New Testament, Jesus often references Sodom and (less frequently) Gomorrah in an effort to warn the people of impending wrath and expose their hardness of heart (Matt. 10:14–15; 11:23–24; Luke 10:10–12; 17:26–30). Even in our day, the two cities are a byword for sin and judgment. Several years ago one cultural critic suggested that as a country we were slouching toward Gomorrah. Our word sodomy comes from the type of sin attempted at Sodom.

Everyone agrees that the story in Genesis 19 is horrifying. Two strangers meet Lot (Abraham's nephew) at the gate of Sodom. Lot convinces the men, who are actually angels, to stay with him at his house. After a meal and before they could retire for the night, the men of Sodom, both young and old, surround Lot's house and demand to have sex with the two travelers. After Lot refuses to bring out his guests (and tragically, offers his virgin daughters instead), the mob grows even more unruly. But just as they press against Lot to break the door down, the two guests bring Lot into the house and strike the men of Sodom with blindness (vv. 1–11). Although they didn't get to follow through with their crime, the men of Sodom did more than enough to earn their infamous reputation.

But what exactly was the sin committed (or attempted) by the men of Sodom? Genesis 19 is about violent gang rape, hardly a picture of two men entering into a consensual and covenantal sexual relationship. Are we sure the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah had anything to do with homosexuality? In the longest post-Genesis passage related to Sodom, social justice seems to be the concern. "Behold," Ezekiel writes, "this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezek. 16:49). It's no wonder revisionist authors argue that the sin of Sodom was chiefly (solely?) a lack of hospitality. Even one well- respected scholar in the nonaffirming camp has dismissed the whole story of Sodom and Gomorrah as "irrelevant to the topic" of homosexuality. Maybe the traditional understanding of these infamous cities has been mistaken. Maybe the same-sex reading was manufactured by Philo and Josephus in the first century. Maybe the sin of Sodom should have no bearing on what we think about committed homosexual relationships today.


Excerpted from "What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Kevin DeYoung.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Does the Bible Teach about Everything?,
1 One Man, One Woman, One Flesh (Genesis 1–2),
2 Those Infamous Cities (Genesis 19),
3 Taking a Strange Book Seriously (Leviticus 18, 20),
4 The Romans Road in the Wrong Direction (Romans 1),
5 A New Word from an Old Place (1 Corinthians 6; 1 Timothy 1),
6 "The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality",
7 "Not That Kind of Homosexuality",
8 "What about Gluttony and Divorce?",
9 "The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People",
10 "You're on the Wrong Side of History",
11 "It's Not Fair",
12 "The God I Worship Is a God of Love",
Conclusion: Walking with God and Walking with Each Other in Truth and Grace,
Appendix 1: What about Same-Sex Marriage?,
Appendix 2: Same-Sex Attraction: Three Building Blocks,
Appendix 3: The Church and Homosexuality: Ten Commitments,
Annotated Bibliography,
Scripture Index,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“This book provides a short, accessible, and pastoral toolbox for all Christians to navigate the shifting cultural landscape of sexuality and find confidence and hope in how the Bible directs our steps. DeYoung offers wise and readable apologetics here, providing his readers with both motive and model for how to think and talk about homosexuality and the Christian faith in a way that honors Christ and gives hope to a watching world.”
Rosaria Butterfield, Former Professor of English, Syracuse University; author, The Gospel Comes with a House Key

“DeYoung takes on the most pressing issue of our day: whether we will be conformed to the spirit of the age or whether we will follow Christ. Against the sexual revolution and its high priests, DeYoung presents an alternative vision, the ancient wisdom of a Christian sexual ethic. This is the best book on this subject that I have read. Every Christian confronted with these issues, which means every Christian, should read this book. You will finish this book better equipped to preach the gospel, to love the lost, to welcome the wounded, and to stand up for Jesus and his Word.”
Russell Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

“What a gift this book is to the church! Kevin approaches the difficult question of sexuality with compassion and clarity, showing us what God’s Word says about it and why it is important. Well researched, accessibly written, and gospel saturated—this, in my opinion, is now the book on this subject for our generation!”
J. D. Greear, President, Southern Baptist Convention; author, Not God Enough; Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

“A superb, accessible resource for lay people in every walk of life who need help making sense of one of the most critical, defining issues of our day. Kevin DeYoung approaches this highly controversial topic in a way that is biblically faithful, pastorally sensitive, historically in-formed, and culturally aware. The stakes are high. We cannot afford not to understand what Kevin has so helpfully laid out for us here.”
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Teacher and Host, Revive Our Hearts

“Anyone looking for an accessible, reader-friendly, “one-stop” treatment of the biblical underpinnings of traditional Christian marriage and sexual ethics would do well to read this book. It is lucid but not simplistic, judicious but not obscure, and convicted but not shrill.”
Wesley Hill, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Trinity School for Ministry; author, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality  

“Kevin DeYoung has written a good and faithful treatment on the Bible and homosexual practice for the average churchgoer. His work addresses most of the main issues and does so in a succinct and articulate manner. I commend it.”
Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; author, The Bible and Homosexual Practice  

“In the heated atmosphere that currently surrounds discussion of every aspect of homosexuality, the most important domain where we need careful thinking and constrained rhetoric is what the Bible does and does not say on the matter. With his customary directness and clarity, Kevin DeYoung has now met this need. For those interested in careful exegesis of the relevant passages and patient discussion of the issues that arise from it, packaged in brevity and simplicity, it would be difficult to better this book.”
D. A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition

“DeYoung provides a much-needed resource that addresses the important biblical and theological issues related to homosexuality while maintaining accessibility to a broad readership. The Ten Commitments at the end of this book display DeYoung’s pastoral heart and his understanding that regardless of our vices or virtues, we must preach the gospel, together strive for holiness, and exalt Christ above all things.”
Christopher Yuan, Bible Teacher; speaker; author, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God

“Written with the deftness, clarity, and tender grace we’ve come to expect from DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? answers, point by point, the revisionist theology making inroads in even the most conservative theological circles. It is simply the very best resource any follower of Christ can have to answer the challenge of homosexuality in the church.”
Gregory Koukl, President, Stand to Reason; author, The Story of Reality and Tactics

“Solid exegesis and tight writing make this book stand out. Kevin DeYoung concisely explains the key biblical passages and clearly responds to the key objections.”
Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, WORLD Magazine

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