Romans 1 on homosexuality

Here's Ann's defense of certain homosexual relationships.

This is my brief, uncomprehensive (but hopefully comprehensible), one-point reply:

Romans 1 cannot be contorted to be arguing only against a certain KIND of homosexuality.

"God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural..." 1:26 NRSV

What is against nature and degrading - and the result of God giving sinners over to judgment - is homo-eroticism itself. The Greek "gar", not translated in the NRSV before the phrase "Their women," is an explanatory gar, describing what the unnatural intercourse is: women with women. Not the natural use/intercourse of women with men, but same-sex erotic desire. The homoios at the beginning of vs 27 functions the same way, explaining what is unnatural: men with men, instead of with women. Paul doesn't discuss fidelity to one person; this isn't on his radar at all - the unnaturalness is the homoeroticism.

The passions aren't degrading because they are overly lustful or non-monogamous, but because they are same-sex.

The Bible certainly is not silent regarding homosexual, monogamous relationships.


  1. So what if someone's "natural" orientation is to someone of the same-sex? That would mean that asking them to become "straight" would be encouraging them to exchange natural intercourse for unnatural.

  2. We are understanding "natural" differently.

    Paul is referring to the order and design of God in creation.

    You are referring to what feels normal for you. Paul is explaining how what feels normal for you can be unnatural and sinful: because it is one form of God's judgement for our sins.

    (Also, many forms of sin feel natural to us, but that doesn't make them right)

    To re-iterate at this point: I do not think you are any more responsible for this than a single heterosexual is for his/her desires. I.e., I don't think you personally somehow warranted God's special judgement. But it is part of creation being subjected to futility (Rom 8:20) by God, after the Fall.

  3. Steve,
    You're right when you state that, for Paul, this was not a question of fidelity, that it "isn't on his radar at all." This is exactly the sticking point for those of us who support same-sex unions; Paul's frame of reference quite likely told him that homosexual acts were things like male prostitution, ritual sex honoring other gods, and pederasty. These practices bear little in common with the loving, monogamous homosexual relationships we know today - even less with such relationships between faithful Christians who strive to honor God through the fidelity, love, and commitment of their relationships.

    Paul primary concern in Romans 1 seems to be idolatry; the whole intro to the "degrading passions" part of the passage is about people who "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (v. 23 NIV). THEREFORE God "gave them up to degrading passions."

    Even if this text is talking about homosexual acts in any form (and I am obviously not convinced that it is), it seems to me that Paul saw them as something to which God consigned people as a result of their greater idolatry - not the "sin to end all sins," or the very nature of the idolatry, as it is treated by some.

  4. Stacey - you've described "homosexual acts in any form...as a result of their greater idolatry" as a consequence for sin, something God gave them over to.

    Does it make sense to cling to the consequence of sin, even if faithfully and monogamously, after the sin itself (idolatry) is rooted out? To willingly stay in perpetual discipline this way denies God's grace and forgiveness. I don't think Paul preached that anywhere.

    Unless of course the sin of idolatry is still present, then the consequence will continue. Doing what feels "natural" to us is the basest form of idolatry (worship of self).

  5. First of all, I thought I pretty clearly stated that I don't believe that "homosexual acts in any form" are the consequence of sin. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought. I was merely trying to broach the point from another side - partially in an effort to understand a perspective that is not my own.

    If (and to my reading, that's a big if) it were the case that all homosexuality was a consequence of idolatry, no, of course it wouldn't make sense to cling to it if you had turned back to God. However, we don't just hop out of the consequences of sin because we're redeemed. We still live in a broken world, we still sin, and we still die. The fact is, there are homosexual people in the world. If that's a consequence of sin, maybe it's not our job to try to "root it out," but rather to encourage people to seek God - and let God figure out what needs to be changed in their lives.

    Anyway, my point actually had more to do with how Christians who believe homosexuality to be sinful treat homosexual people, and how they address the issue as a whole. Instead being treated as people suffering a consequence of the fall - which, last I checked, ALL of us are - homosexual people are routinely treated as less than human, and more depraved than everyone else. I see nothing vaguely Christian in this treatment, or in the startling willingness to point at the sins of others. If we read on to Romans 2, we find a pretty harsh statement against passing judgment on others, and an assurance that God's judgment - the only judgment that really matters - is coming for all of us.

  6. Stacey,

    You have simply assumed the opposite position of my original post, without giving any reason why. Paul says very clearly that the degrading, unnatural element going on is homo-erotic desires and/or acts, not just ritual sex and pederasty. To make the monogamous homosexual relationship an exception is exegetically unwarranted.

    I believe the harsher treatment of homosexuals rises in proportion to the extent homosexuals insist there is no sin involved. This does not justify harsh treatment, but may explain some of it.

    Often, homosexuals or their advocates misinterpret a definition of sin which includes homosexuality, as harsh treatment against homosexuals. This does not follow.

    I don't like the assumption that we can't interpret the Bible a certain way - someone might end up oppressed. Do we come to Scripture with an a priori submission, or do we come with a "we'll see" attitude, depending if it lines up with modern values?