[Updated 23 November 2013]
According to the standard outlined above, gang rape would definitely relabeled as abominable and perverse.
Even so, what does “righteous” Lot do next? He offers his own virgin daughters to divert the mobsters away from the angels! (Genesis 19:6-8).
Is Lot’s response appropriate? I, for one, would certainly not offer my daughters to a mob.
~ Lonnie C Hendrix, “Ezekiel: Sins of Sodom were not about sex”, The Journal News of the Churches of God, Issue No. 155
The above quote is an excellent example of one of the logical fallacies contained within an article that supposedly is to a Church of God audience. In it is a couple of wild claims used in conjunction with old and debunked misinterpretations of Scripture, much like 90% of Matthew Vines’ arguments have been. In fact, they are actually pretty much the very same arguments repackaged around different themes.
At least Matthew Vines actually used a biblical verse to center his main argument on that “it is not good that the man should be alone“. Hendrix doesn’t even bother to do that! Instead, he tries to attack the validity of the Bible and extract emotional responses (he uses more than one emotional appeal to cover up his lack of logical reasoning) and elevate emotion above the written word.
Granted, it appears he attends with GCI, which no longer is even a Church of God (COG) organization even in name. That alone That he apparently meets with Church of God International (CGI) makes one ponder why he would want to reach out to the larger COG community what in the world is going on over there. I doubt Hendrix is any sort of official spokesman for them, and I caution jumping to any conclusions on what they do or do not teach based upon his essay. Satan has always had an interest in luring away the sheep that hang on on the edges rather than sticking with the core group, including those who wander too far from the core beliefs. Satan also has proven that he knows Scripture and how to misquote it, as he quoted it to Jesus to get Him to try to jump off of the Temple and kill Himself.
There are many heresies today to lure people away from the truth. There are many methods, and each and every one of us could allow ourselves to be pulled away by our own particular weakness. If we are honest, we can easily acknowledge that few things have a stronger drive and temptation than sex. I believe that more men than women can probably relate, although perhaps only in that women usually underestimate the power of attraction within the typical male.
So, the viewpoint that satisfying your physical urges is normal and not condemned by God can be very attractive. However, it is important to differentiate the way you feel, the way you believe things should be and reality. Anything less is a departure from reality, which can develop into a neurosis or even a psychosis.
And, as I’ve often stated, reality and truth are synonyms. What is truth?
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
~ Jn 17:17
However, it is obvious that Hendrix doesn’t believe in objective truth, and therefore doesn’t believe in the Bible as objective truth.
In appealing to the Bible for a code to govern our sexual behavior, we must be careful how we employ that book in arriving at a standard that comports with God’s will.
Many people have cited Scripture as the source for their beliefs about sexual morality. But a closer examination of some of those beliefs reveals a superficial and narrow understanding of what that book has to say about the topic.
In fact, when we focus on all of the scriptures dealing with the subject we are hard pressed to arrive at a coherent and reasonable standard for human sexual conduct.
Seriously? This is not just demonstrably false, but it is a patent twisting of some pretty clear Scriptures. There is absolutely nothing unclear about the prohibition against adultery, for example. Furthermore, along with idolatry and child sacrifice, God is pretty clear that confusion about sexuality and the role of sexual behavior to be one of the reasons He brought Israel out of Egypt.
3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
~ Lev 18:3
Not only are both Egypt and Canaan mentioned here, but sexual sins are explicitly stated as one reason (and there were more than one) for the Canaanites being expelled from the land. Notice what God tells ancient Israel just after giving them a list of sexual sins to not commit:
26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
It’s not rocket science. To say these were banished because they were attached to idolatry is ludicrous. I have often quoted the section of the Law which states that passing one’s son or daughter through the fire is also an abomination, and it is mentioned here in Leviticus 18 as well. Does that mean it is OK to kill your child if it is not a religious ceremony? I suppose that marrying one’s sister is OK as long as it isn’t done under the guise of idolatry. It must be OK to practice bestiality as long as it isn’t idolatrous. Some arguments that are made in favor of certain sins are so obviously flawed that it surprises me that anyone is actually foolish enough to put a voice to them.
For starters we would have to address the Old Testament’s apparent endorsement of polygamy, slavery and misogyny. After all, Jacob had two primary wives (Leah and Rachel) and two secondary wives (Bilhah and Zilpah).
To say the above is absurd is an understatement. What it claims is that because the patriarchs were sinners that the Bible is unclear about sin. In that case, God must be inconsistent about lying, for Abraham lied twice. The morality of murder cannot be firmly established, either, for Levi, Simeon and even Moses all lost their tempers and killed someone. This argument is a false dilemma. It presents us with a false choice.
Another way to phrase it is that two wrongs do not make a right. If the patriarchs sinned, then that does not excuse our bad behavior. If nothing else, we have their bad examples, the consequences if their bad choices and a lot more revelation through the written word than they had available, so we have even less of an excuse.
Not only is the Bible rather quite clear about non-monogamous sex within marriage as the ideal, it also declares something very important for us to consider when viewing anyone’s life, patriarch or not. It must be the lens through which we are to evaluate even our own lives.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
~ Ro 3:23
All means all! Paul has not excluded anyone other than Christ that I can see! ”All” includes even the patriarchs.
Perhaps Hendrix feels that the world would be much more fair if all sinners were struck by lightning. After all, isn’t that exactly what he is insinuating? The patriarchs sinned and God made no visible condemnation. A hammer did not appear in the sky to strike them down, so the Bible is not consistent in its view of sin. However, I for one am glad God does not work that way! For, if He did, who of us would be left?
Is monogamy really God’s standard?
Another case of “Hath God said …?”
Whenever Jesus was confronted with such issues, what was His response? He pointed to the Bible! For, if the Bible were truly as inconsistent and full of errors, then Jesus was pointing to a false authority. If He was using a false authority, then how can He be the Christ? If He is not the Christ, then we are all hypocrites and sinners, and we may as well quit pretending and enjoy this short useless life as long as we can.
Not only did He point to Scripture, but when confronted with the meaning of things, He usually went back to the beginning of the book. In fact, since sex and marriage were determined at Creation, He often pointed to the very beginning when speaking of them!
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Jesus said, “they twain shall be one flesh”. He did not deviate from the godly ideal for marriage. We see two, not one, not three, but two. Furthermore, we see that God made them male and female. God created the sexes, and then He created marriage. Here, Jesus is clearly talking about marriage.
I’m not trying to take away from the fact that Jesus was addressing a question about divorce. Instead, He turned the tables and answered what marriage was supposed to be.
However, Hendrix proves he doesn’t even understand that point, frankly. First, he goes on a wild diversion claiming somehow that sex before marriage is not condemned in the Bible (really? what are all those verses about desiring virgins and stoning non-virgins?), a real distraction about wedding ceremonies that truly have no point, and then proclaims that Christ’s declaration was “conservative” and only sin can dissolve marriage and has the audacity to ask:
How many of my fundamentalist friends will find such an interpretation of the scriptural teaching on divorce to be offensive?
Although these criteria will seem narrow and harsh to many of my readers (especially those whose current circumstances do not accord with the criteria), one could legitimately argue they are the standards Christ established for divorce.
About all I can say is, “Huh?” Is that what Christianity is all about in his mind? Whether or not it is offensive? Apparently, it is!
Perhaps I have just succeeded in making some of my readers feel what homosexuals must experience when literal interpretations of Scripture are applied to them.
So, once again we see the appeal to emotions rather than logic. Because if he were to appeal to logic, his entire argument would fall.
11 And as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching that circumcision is necessary, why am I still being persecuted? If that were the case, my preaching about the execution-stake would cause no offense whatever.
The KJV says “the offence of the cross”. The Gospel is offensive!
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
~ 1Co 1:23
Jesus, and much of the rest of the Bible, predicted persecution for the Church. Think about what that means. Do people persecute others unless they feel offended?
Whether or not something is offensive has nothing to do with whether or not it is true. Jesus did uphold the view that divorce is always the result of sin, albeit a little more complex than Hendrix would have us believe (thus showing he actually hasn’t studied it at all). That doesn’t make Jesus’ teaching wrong simply because a literal reading might offend someone. Otherwise, it is offensive to murderers to call their sin so wrong that they must be stoned, it is offensive to idol worshipers to call idolatry wrong, it is offensive to thieves to call stealing wrong, etc.
Offense is emotive. It is a reaction to having one’s pride hurt, which is why the Gospel is so offensive. Repentance requires one to be offended! It requires one’s pride to be hurt! Only those who can recover from the pain and recognize the truth will be saved.
He engages in other distractions about rules that much of professing Christianity does not keep. Honestly, it initially looks like a section right out of the skeptics playbook. I don’t see how such a man can even call himself “Christian”. However, it is actually a worse list than most skeptic lists I have seen! Supposedly, Christians “ignore” things like “perverters of justice, those who discriminate against the poor or show favoritism to the rich and powerful”? Really? Apparently, some ignore consulting mediums! Really??!! What sort of “Christians” do you associate with, Mr Hendrix? Apparently, you don’t have the first clue what one is.
Again, it is a logical fallacy. Just because certain laws are supposedly ignored, then it is alright to ignore any other one that inconveniences you.
You want to know something? That means there is no law if what he says is true. At least most Christians acknowledge a “law”, even if it is a watered-down buffet-style picking and choosing. However, in the end, if you can conveniently ignore a law, it is not a law. Instead, it is a suggestion.
He goes on to list the same old tired and discredited arguments that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of homosexuality. He states it was forcible rape. However, that is self-refuting because they were specifically looking for homosexual rape. Whether or not Lot’s reaction was “righteous” is just another attempt to cloud the issue. What is interesting is that it proves they were specifically looking for homosexual rape because they refused Lot’s offer! They were not interested in heterosexual rape, so to say they were only looking for rape is a bald-faced lie.
Furthermore, to say that it was the only sin counted against Sodom is disingenuous. However, Hendrix does the opposite yet it is the same fallacy by claiming Ezekiel doesn’t mention homosexuality, as though it were not destroyed for multiple sins rather than any selective one. It is a fact, however, that “strange flesh”, which would be a broader category of sexual sins (like listed in Leviticus 18, no doubt), was a significant part of the list of crimes against Sodom.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
~ Jude 1:7
More to the point, let’s look at it in the NIV:
7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Can there be any doubt to a reasonable English speaker what sorts of things are being discussed here? If there is any doubt, then I suggest beginning with Leviticus 18 once again. Then, follow up with Leviticus 20.
Finally, square that against what Jesus said was the ideal. Let’s face it: If it doesn’t measure up to that, then it “misses the mark”, which is another way of saying “sin”! So, yes, while Jesus’ remarks about divorce were “conservative”, they basically tie up the idea that marriage is between two people of the opposite sex for life. Homosexuality does not fit this pattern, premarital sex does not fit this pattern, and even divorce does not fit this pattern.
To argue that porneia does not include premarital sex simply isn’t logical. To stress that the sin is “adultery” and that is because of the vows and/or commitment involved in marriage but only that carries no weight. It would also mean that incest is OK as long as neither party is married. I wonder if Vines and/or Hendrix would actually come out and advocate for incest in the same way they have done for homosexuality?
Hendrix goes into great pains to distinguish that attraction itself is not a sin. Why? Frankly, that makes little sense. People just don’t get involved sexually unless attraction comes first. If sex outside of marriage is sanctioned in the Bible, then making a lot of fuss about attraction is yet another distraction.
However, it should be noted that sexual attraction alone is not a sin. That doesn’t matter if it is attraction towards the same sex or the opposite sex. It becomes a sin only when allowed to linger in the mind and become much more than a simple attraction.
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
This is why it is important to distinguish between urges (temptations) and behavior. All men and women are tempted by various things in various ways. Sex is just one of those areas. However, it is a common area.
The question remains, as always, is whether we are intended to change and become like Christ, or if we expect God to be wishy-washy and squishy and be like us. If the latter, then what’s the point? All will be lost. However, if God is the omnipotent Creator, then He already knows what is best for us. He sent Jesus to be the prime example, and we are instructed to become more and more like Him, not the other way around.
One thing that the NT makes clear is that Christ will return and marry His Church. He was not married or involved with anyone while a physical human. He was considered odd for His time as a consequence, for it was considered normal for men to be married by the time they were 30. Yet, how could He have taken another while here when He was waiting for His ultimate bride?
Ultimately, that is what sex and marriage symbolize: the relationship between Christ and His Church. It is an intimate relationship. HWA used to explain that marriage was a “God-plane relationship” for this reason. Sex and marriage were created by God, and He knows not only the proper use of it, but He knows what is best for us.
Anything else is just twisted Scripture.