EthicsArticles on Morality, Social Issues and the Law of God
A Further Look at Pro-Homosexual Theology by Derrick K. Olliff and Dewey H. Hodges
Our original paper [“A Reformed Response to Daniel Helminiak’s Gay Theology,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (http://www.reformed.org)] presents many arguments against pro-gay theology as espoused by Daniel Helminiak and others. Therein, we also present a case for the orthodox position of the Christian faith concerning homosexual behavior. Helminiak has recently written a paper intended to be a rebuttal to ours, but in so doing he failed to refute any of our arguments, leaving our case untouched. Moreover, we believe honest scholars will see that he has done his position a disservice by his extremely poor scholarship, numerous misrepresentations, wild accusations, unwarranted assumptions, and numerous logical fallacies. In this paper we will only be able to scratch the surface concerning these many problems.
First, we will deal with unsubstantiated claims and misrepresentations of a general nature that he makes. Then we will turn to specific topics, including principles for interpretation of the Bible and the Old Testament law. After then dealing with his mistreatment of various Bible passages, we will finally conclude.
There are many misrepresentations of our position in his paper. Here are but a dozen or so:
1. Helminiak says that “…they [the present authors] also appoint themselves as solely qualified to say what Christian means.”
This is false, and Helminiak never quoted us in order to substantiate this charge. Nowhere in our paper will such a claim be found.
2. Helminiak says that “In the end, they are Christians because they say they are, and others are not because these self-proclaimed ‘Christians’ say they are not.”
This is false, and Helminiak never quoted us in order to substantiate this charge. The claim that “individual X is not a Christian because we say so” does not appear in our paper. We did conclude, after exegeting 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, that the Bible says practicing homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. This, however, is clearly very different from what he claims that we wrote.
3. Helminiak says that “They dismiss my treatment of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 in these words: ‘this argument does not have one redeeming aspect.'”
This is very misleading. We did not “dismiss” his argument with that statement. That statement came after we demonstrated why his argument was flawed in a number of substantial ways. The statement was a conclusion/summary, not a dismissal.
4. Helminiak said that we misrepresented him when we said that his view of “love” is basically eroto-centric. We do not think, however, that we misrepresented what he wrote in his book. Over and over again, he equated (or at least inextricably linked) “sexuality” with “love.” He said that sexuality is “at the core of…being in love…. Sexuality is part and parcel of the human capacity for love…. To have to be afraid to feel sexual is to restrain that noblest of human possibilities, love.” (pg. 18) In his paper, he attempted to mitigate, somewhat, the meaning of “sexuality” by referring to modern psychology. He then chastised us because we are, in his words, not sufficiently “conversant with current social-science research” to be familiar with this watered down definition of “sexuality” (the reader can judge whether or not such a definition can be found in his book). Two points are in order. First, did Helminiak assume that the readers of his book would be “conversant with social-science research” at this point? This would clearly have been a bad assumption; his book was not aimed at psychologists and sociologists. Ultimately, we do not think this appeal to “modern research” helps Helminiak, because it is clear that there are vast differences between his definition of “love” and the biblical discussion of that concept (see the comparison in our original paper). Second, his comments actually reinforce our argument. With his comments regarding modern research, Helminiak shows again his propensity to read modern definitions back into the biblical text. The point of our discussion regarding his definition of “love” was to show that he read an orientation toward “sexuality” into the biblical account of the relationship between Jonathan and David, thus distorting the message of the text. The reader is referred to our original paper for our discussion. Had Helminiak concerned himself with what the Bible says about love, instead of concerning himself with modern secular theories, he would not have stuffed the biblical language with unbiblical assumptions. It seems, however, that Helminiak is oblivious to the fact that the Bible does, in fact, teach a view of human psychology. This view, unlike the many ephemeral views of modern secular man, is infallible. Yet again, we see that Helminiak’s errant epistemology is at the core of his mistake. This “root cause” will be addressed below.
On a related note, Helminiak says of us, “Unfortunately, it seems that when they think of sexuality, their minds are fixed on the groin. They project onto me and others their own preoccupation.” There is real irony here. The reader should again compare our treatment of the relationship between Jonathan and David with Helminiak’s treatment in order to see who is quick to find sexual content. In addition, the reader should review Helminiak’s attempt to find sexual content in the story of the centurion servant. Moreover, the reader should consult Helminiak’s book for his speculations concerning Ruth/Naomi and Daniel. Finally, the reader should keep in mind that it is Helminiak who has a web page almost exclusively devoted to legitimizing homosexuality, and it is Helminiak who gives lectures for the same purpose. Nothing needs to be projected onto Helminiak. His unrelenting focus on, and propensity to see, aberrant sexual behavior speaks for itself.
5. Helminiak says that “Contrary to Olliff and Hodges’s assertions, for example, as of 1992 the United Methodist Church has taught officially that sexual orientation is not chosen. Likewise, in 1997, the American Catholic bishops have gone on record teaching that sexual orientation is a given, not a choice, and that people should not expect that it could be changed.”
We did not make such assertions. We never even mentioned the United Methodist Church, and we never discussed the RCC’s view of orientation. What we did discuss, however, was the RCC’s view of homosexual acts, which acts the RCC calls “acts of grave depravity.”
6. Helminiak said at least once that we disdain anything human. This is false; we never advocated such a position. At one point, he said that we want to “get the human out of the picture” and then mentioned Christ’s two natures. Our paper, however, never discussed the doctrine of Christ’s two natures. The Bible, of course, teaches that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God. We affirm these truths without hesitation. We affirm the Nicean, Athanasian, and Apostles’ creeds. Does Helminiak? At any rate, Helminiak appears to have misunderstood the epistemological argument at the beginning of our paper. This will be discussed below.
7. During a discussion of his 1996 lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Helminiak mentioned some “hecklers in the audience [who] shouted in reference to the Pope, ‘Antichrist! Antichrist!'” He then went on to say, “I believe that Olliff and Hodges are of the same school of thought as those hecklers. Their theologies are certainly compatible.”
To begin with, neither we nor anyone we know who was present heard any cries of “Antichrist.” While this does not mean that such statements were not made, we believe that if someone were to have “shouted,” we would have heard it. At any rate, this is not important. What follows is. How does Helminiak know the theologies of all the parties he mentioned? He has only seen us write on a few subjects, and unless he had an in depth conversation with the “hecklers,” he knows much less about them. In point of fact, we would strongly argue that, because the current Pope does not fulfill, to our knowledge, the requirements outlined in 1 John 2:22 and 4:3, the Pope is not an antichrist. While Helminiak seems to identify himself with the scholarly community, this kind of unsupported presumption is most unscholarly.
8. Helminiak says that
Criticizing my way of using the Scriptures, Olliff and Hodges make a sweeping comment: the same kind of thinking, ‘not Christian in any sense…has infiltrated (and adulterated) many one-time Christian churches in the century’ (emphasis added). In light of what I explained above and of what I know about Fundamentalism, I believe that with this comment Olliff and Hodges are writing off all the churches except those that adhere to Biblical Fundamentalism…. This is precisely what I take Olliff and Hodges to mean when they call their position ‘Reformed.’ Supposedly, none of the Christian churches are Christian any more except those that hold to Olliff and Hodges’s brand of religion.
Helminiak should know very well that this caricature of the term ‘Reformed’ is false. He should know that ‘Reformed’ is generally used to indicate that someone “aligns himself,” if that phrase be proper, with the Reformation and the Reformers. In its broadest sense, it refers to those who are reformed Catholics. More specifically, it refers to a set of doctrines that describe God’s plan for salvation along with man’s place within that plan. These “five points” are commonly described as: 1) total depravity, 2) unconditional election, 3) limited atonement, 4) irresistible grace, and 5) perseverence of the saints. Further, most Reformed churches will adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith as the best summation of the Reformed faith, in addition to being the church summary most faithful to the biblical message. The term ‘Reformed’ has nothing to do with elimination of other churches from the body of Christ. (Reformed theology also has very little, if any, resemblance to Helminiak’s view of “Fundamentalism”; we will briefly discuss this issue below.) The authors, as well as the general congregation of Reformed churches, would be quick to point out that there are many faithful Christian churches as well as Christian individuals who do not adhere to Reformed theology. Moreover, although we hold that there are a significant number of churches that have adulterated the Christian worldview to the point of apostasy, it does not follow from this that we believe all non-reformed churches are apostate. Helminiak’s inference simply does not follow. On the contrary, we have seen fine churches that are not Reformed as well as some churches that, while they have been weakened by the lure of the modern secular society, still play an important role within the body of Christ.
Helminiak makes the preposterous claim that recently, “under the astute political leadership of Ralph Reed, the Fundamentalist movement began calling itself ‘Evangelical,’ and thus the ‘Christian’ Coalition attempted to associate itself with a more moderate emphasis on the Bible as, for example, in some Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist forms.” The second author’s friend, Ralph Reed, would certainly find this humorous. He has never been a Fundamentalist, and he is certainly not Reformed. In fact Reformed scholars have been openly critical of the Christian Coalition and of its former leader, Ralph Reed. This does not mean that they regard Dr. Reed as a nonchristian. Rather, they view the Coalition as not being consistent with Christian presuppositions. Thus, not only has Helminiak taken it upon himself to speculate as to our general theological beliefs, he also has felt the need to redefine the theology of Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition. In both cases, he has greatly erred.
9. Helminiak says that “Olliff and Hodges and their Fundamentalist cohorts are deliberately waging a campaign of repression against homosexual people and, presumably, against any one [sic] else with whom they disagree. Apparently, they intend to take over the American government….”
To begin with, Helminiak has presumed wrongly. The authors disagree with some in their respective churches, with some in other churches, and with each other on more than one issue. All of us, however, “get along” just fine. In addition, Helminiak provided no proof that the authors have ever “repressed” homosexuals. This is the case, because such repression has not taken place (“waging a campaign” only heightens the emotional level of the rhetoric as well as the erroneous character of the statement). It saddens us to see that Helminiak felt such a slanderous ad hominem necessary. Finally, there is nothing in our paper that suggests that we “intend to take over the American government.” We did briefly discuss what standard of ethics the Christian should hold his civil government to, but this hardly implies a plan to take over the government. Many people have views concerning the role of the civil government, and they explain these views to their elected representatives. This certainly doesn’t require some dark plan to overthrow the civil government. We could have been clearer, however, about the necessity of church transformation as a prerequisite to meaningful petition of the civil government. We did discuss church discipline before commenting on the civil government, but the connection was not made clear. Though we should care what happens to the society around us, Christians should first focus on God’s house. The fragmentation of the Body and the lukewarm nature of a fair number of churches are large problems, which problems Christians should address as the most pressing concerns of our day.
10. In a related charge, Helminiak claims that we are part of a “determined, focused, well-organized, and well-financed contingent, and I fear that many of their leaders are unscrupulous.” We certainly wish that we were part of a determined, focused, well-organized, and well financed group, but we are not. Moreover, we doubt that Helminiak can name one Reformed leader whom he can prove to be unscrupulous. Even if he could, such an individual would be going against Reformed Christian presuppositions. We would hope and believe that such an individual would not be tolerated within Reformed circles. This comment appears to be just another example of Helminiak’s attempt to poison the well by using unsupported claims designed to evoke an emotional response.
11. Helminiak seems insistent on the silly notion that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are a good person.” He writes, “What ultimately counts is not words but deeds, not what is professed but how one lives.” After poorly exegeting a few passages of Scripture, none of which imply that “it doesn’t matter what you believe,” he concludes by rhetorically asking, “But if in good will a non-believer feeds the hungry and if a believer also feeds the hungry, what difference is there in the charity that they both perform? Should the humanist’s charity be written off because it does not carry the label ‘Jesus’?” The numerous problems with this heretical notion will be listed below.
First, Helminiak’s position posits a false dichotomy between belief and actions. Generally, what one believes determines, for the most part, how one will act. His statement that “what ultimately counts is not words but deeds” has a sliver of truth to it, inasmuch as “talk” without actions to “back it up” is useless. But this has nothing to do with whether or not beliefs “matter.” One’s ideology will generally dictate how one acts. Ideas have consequences. There is no dichotomy between belief and actions.
Helminiak’s position is also incoherent, because in order to know what it means to be a “good person,” one must first discuss theories of ethics. What one calls “good” or “evil” will be dictated by one’s beliefs about ethics. Helminiak’s example of feeding the hungry only hurts his position, because there are many different beliefs regarding when, where, and how one should feed the hungry. If we feed a drug addict without asking any questions and without requiring anything of him, have we really been charitable? Notice that any answer to this question will presuppose a theory of charity – a belief about ethics. Indeed, the consistent social Darwinist might claim that it would not be good to feed the hungry, because that would only support the weaker members of the species, thus retarding the evolution of the gene pool. This belief would need to be addressed. Therefore, in order to sufficiently define Helminiak’s position, one must first discuss beliefs – the very thing the position says is irrelevant.
Apart from its self-refuting nature, the position is clearly unbiblical. One can first note that the passages that Helminiak mentions (Ps. 15; Is. 1:17; Matt. 7:16, 21; 25:31-46; Phil. 4:8) do not assert that belief is irrelevant. It is true that the behavior of the Christian is very important. Indeed, we are saved unto good works (Rom 1:5, 7:5-6, 8:3-4; Eph 2:10; 2 Tim 1:14; Heb 8:10 cf. Ezek 36:24-27). But this, of course, in no wise implies that belief is irrelevant. The Scripture that Helminiak quotes is therefore useless to his position. On the other hand, it is clear that the Bible refutes such a position.
For example, an individual must believe in Christ as Savior and Lord in order to be saved (Luke 8:11-12; John 3:14-18; 8:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 10:43; 13:38-39; 16:29-31; Rom. 3:21-26; 10:8-14; Gal. 2:16; 1 John 5:9-13). As Christians, we are to guard the truth, and we are to avoid false knowledge and doctrine contrary to the Gospel (Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:20-21). We should hold fast to the Christian faith (2 Tim. 1:13-14). The apostles and early Christians knew this very well, and thus, they taught new converts and refuted those who held false beliefs (Acts 7:30-35; 10:40-43; 17:1-4, 16-31; 18:24-28). Proper doctrine is important, and some stray from such doctrine because of their own desires (2 Tim. 4:1-3). Indeed, false doctrine brings terrible punishment (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Those who teach in opposition to the Gospel actually know nothing; their minds are corrupt (1 Tim. 6:3-5). God is not with them (2 John 7-11). They are cursed (Gal. 1:6-9). (Indeed, the Roman Catholic hierarchy would be very surprised to learn that there is no “difference” between the charitable giver who believes in the ex cathedra infallibility of the pope, transubstantiation, the Marian doctrines, and penance and the charitable giver who believes that the pope is ignorant, the Bible is a collection of myths, men do not need to be saved from anything, and God is a projection of the imagination of men a la Feuerbach.) Helminiak should be very careful inasmuch as he appears to be flirting with destructive heresies.
Moreover, we should note that “good works” are not truly good if they are not done to the glory of God. Everything that Christians do should be done to the glory of the Triune God (1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:11; Col. 3:17). Moreover, while the unbeliever may help many with his “good works,” these works will carry no soteriological benefit (Rom. 3; 4; Gal. 2; 3). We are saved for the purpose of performing good works. We are not saved by good works. Ultimately, the unbeliever is an enemy of God in his mind (Col. 1:21). He is without Christ and therefore without hope (Eph. 2:11-12). His thoughts are futile, and his heart is dark (Rom. 1:20-21; Eph. 4:17-19). He is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1-5). Any individual, before God regenerates his heart, is in this position. Thus, while unbelievers may provide much benefit to people who need help, they cannot please God while they are in their rebellious state. Indeed, even the most helpful and wonderful works are accounted as “lawlessness” to those who are not loyal and obedient to the Lord (Matt. 7:21-23). Without faith and trust in the God, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). If we, as Christians, truly care about the unbeliever, we will want to show him why he is in need of Christ and His atoning work. We will show him that he cannot please God if he lives his life as if he were the captain of his own ship. And we will do it all for God’s glory.
12. Throughout his reply, Helminiak treats Evangelical and Reformed theology as being identical to what he defines as “Fundamentalism.” This is completely inaccurate inasmuch as many Evangelical churches and probably all Reformed churches are very different from his concept of Fundamentalism. Helminiak simply claimed that there was no real distinction to be made without quoting any Reformed or Evangelical scholarship to show that they hold the positions that he describes. Once again, this is most unscholarly. A fine example of this strawman can be seen in his comments on hermeneutics. He said that we “claim to be reading the Bible without interpretation.” He did not, however, quote us to this effect. The reason is simple. We nowhere said that someone can read the Bible (or any other document) without interpretation. In fact, we discussed principles of hermeneutics several times in our paper! The first part of our Romans 1 section, for example, dealt with hermeneutics. It is very difficult to explain this error from Helminiak. For a mistake, this is too large. It appears to us that Helminiak has relegated anyone who claims to take biblical authority seriously into the same pot. They are all slobbering Fundies. As we have shown, however, the errors that he made while attempting to describe our position are numerous and important. If he wanted to know our position on hermeneutics and theory of language, he should have asked. At least, he could have paid attention to our comments.
The position spelled out in our paper is distinctively Reformed; and, while some Fundamentalists may agree with us on some points, most have openly expressed contempt for certain aspects of our position. Fundamentalism does not believe that Christians should work to reform society and its institutions by the Word of God. Fundamentalism does not believe in the abiding authority of the Law of God. Fundamentalism does not accept the clear teaching of the Bible on the sovereignty of God.
At any rate, his discussion of hermeneutics is quite problematic. Consider, for example, his discussion of “literal” and historical-critical interpretation. It appears that Helminiak did not sufficiently define his terms. What, we may ask, does “literal” mean? Those who employ historical-critical principles think that the literal sense of the text is quite important. We quote from Krentz:
The first task of the historian who wishes to meet this goal is simply to hear the texts with which he is working. He uses every linguistic tool at his disposal to determine the sense the text had for its writer and first audience (the sensus literalis sive historicus)…. Exegetical scholars are agreed only that historical criticism, the best method of discovering the literal sense, cannot be given up [Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), pp. 39, 72)].
Notice that this is also what the Reformers stressed, in opposition to the medieval “quadriga.” This was the fourfold sense of interpretation that Luther said turned the Bible into a chameleon. The Reformers wanted to find the sensus literalis, the literal sense of the text. They wanted to know what the author meant to convey. We also see this as very important, as our concern for the context of passages should demonstrate. Thus, one can see that there is no conflict between historical-critical analysis and the literal sense of the text, properly defined. Again, the reader can see that Helminiak is working with a strawman that does not, in the least, resemble our position nor that of Reformed churches in general. For the reader interested in books on hermeneutics that we would consider helpful, the following list can be consulted.
Walter C. Kaiser and Moises Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, Zondervan Publishing House.
Harvie M. Conn, ed., Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, Baker Book House.
D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, eds., Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, Baker Books.
Moises Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning, Academie Books.
It is clear that Helminiak knows very little about the principles of hermeneutics held by us and by Reformed theologians who have written on the subject. Had he read our paper with any detail, however, he could have avoided most of his errors.
We now turn to some major topics, including biblical texts, that need to be addressed in order to show the numerous problems in Helminiak’s attempt to refute our position.
In our paper, we presented an opening argument to show that Helminiak’s worldview was self-refuting. We showed that while he professes the Christian worldview, his epistemology is based on the same presuppositions that set the foundation for an atheistic or “autonomous man” worldview. While the Christian worldview is predicated on the beliefs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and that God’s Word is the final standard for truth, Helminiak assumes that man’s scholarship is the final epistemological authority. Thus, at the heart of Helminiak’s worldview, there lies a contradiction.
This antithesis in his position was shown by reference to the Bible and the RCC as final authorities. It is clear that the Bible is not Helminiak’s final epistemological authority. The reader can review our discussion. In addition, the following provides an interesting insight into Helminiak’s low view of the Bible’s authority. “Now, relying on historical-critical method, the Christians churches can understand the Gospels, including John, not as factual reports on the historical Jesus himself but rather as evocative expressions of normative Christian faith about Jesus.” (http://members.aol.com/stephven/fund.html) Jesus Seminar, anyone? (As an interesting aside, the reader should recall that in an attempt to defend his statement that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re a good person,” Helminiak claimed that Jesus said something similar. He then quoted Matthew 7:21. He also quoted Matthew 7:16 and 25:31-46 as if they were Jesus’ words. Yet again, he contradicts himself. When he thinks it will help his view, he assumes that the Gospels give an historical account of Jesus’ words. Usually, however, he assumes that they are not factual reports about the historical Jesus but are instead the “evocative expressions” of other men.) The reader should note that this view of Scripture does not result from the historical-critical method as a hermeneutical theory. It results from biblical minimalism as a theory of epistemology. Helminiak assumes that modern scholarship sets the epistemological criteria which Scripture must meet, whereas the Bible sees things from the opposite perspective (cf. Ps. 119:97-100; Is. 8:19-20; Jer. 8:5-9; Matt. 22:29; Acts 17:10-12; 1 Cor. 14:36-37; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:13-17)
We also showed that the RCC was not Helminiak’s final epistemological authority, and it is here that he objects to our comments. With regard to this topic, the reader should first note that, though he charged us with an “uninformed appeal to Catholic Teaching,” he did not actually show how we had misunderstood the RCC source that we quoted. His charge is therefore unsubstantiated. Second, Helminiak badly misunderstood this part of the argument. Nowhere did we quote the RCC as authoritative proof of our position, as Helminiak supposes. The argument was an internal critique of his position. As a Roman Catholic, Helminiak should acknowledge the RCC as his final epistemological authority, but because he does not do this, his position is self-contradictory. The argument is of the type known as reductio ad absurdum, and like a fortiori arguments, Helminiak seems to have trouble recognizing them. Finally, with regard to the RCC, the reader can note that Helminiak’s attempt to show that there is no conflict between the RCC and himself does not succeed. He said that while he believes that the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior, he “leaves open” the question of whether or not such behavior can be condemned on other grounds. Thus, there is not necessarily a conflict. There are two main problems with this. First, even if we grant this, it still shows that he rejects the RCC’s position, and thus, that he rejects the RCC as final authority. Remember, the RCC’s position is that, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994, p. 566) The official RCC position condemns homosexual behavior from Scripture, and Helminiak does not. Therefore, Helminiak has rejected the RCC’s authority for his own opinions. Of course, Helminiak knows quite well that he does not condemn such behavior on any grounds, something that could be clearly seen during his lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He could, of course, clear the air. He could release a second edition of his book in order show his submission to the RCC’s authority and to its condemnation of homosexual behavior. He could state with the RCC that, “under no circumstances can they [homosexual acts] be approved.” We do not, however, expect this to occur. (The reader can examine still more of Helminiak’s work in order to see the low level of authority he believes the RCC to have. See http://members.aol.com/stephven.dignity1.html)
Thus, we are back to our stated conclusion. Neither the Bible nor the RCC constitute his final epistemological authority, because he is his own final authority. (This will be shown again when we discuss ethics below.) This is the epistemology of the autonomous man, and it is in direct conflict with the Christian view of epistemology. For Christians, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10) Reverent submission to God is a governing presupposition for Christian epistemology. God’s understanding is ultimate, while our understanding is not (Prov. 3:5-7). Thus, as already discussed, we are to test our views against God’s Word. If there is opposition between the two, we are wrong. His Word is the standard by which our epistemic claims are to be judged. It is here that we see yet another misinterpretation by Helminiak. He claims that we contradicted ourselves by using reason, while at the same time, we repudiated the use of reason. “If human thinking is no path to truth, why do they [the present authors] use their minds?… Across the board human reasoning is dismissed as irrelevant – depraved, godless, atheistic.” This is yet another embarrassing error by Helminiak, and it shows again that he completely missed the epistemological argument. The reader will notice that Helminiak again fails to support his contention by quoting our paper. Had he done so, perhaps he would not have made this error. This is what we said.
Therefore, it seems quite apparent that neither the Bible nor the RCC constitute his final authority, because he is his own final authority. Helminiak has assumed the worldview that provides the basis for atheism, the “autonomous man worldview”! We are not saying that he is an atheist, but he is doing exactly what the atheist does when he rejects God, i.e., the atheist rejects God in order to be his own final authority, his own god. He has assumed that man as a autonomous agent can “objectively” approach “neutral” (and extra-biblical) evidence and find the truth for himself. Man’s mind is the highest authority.
Nowhere did we claim that human reason was “no path to truth.” Nowhere did we repudiate “reason” as such. What we rejected was autonomous reasoning that does not start by submitting itself to God and His Word. Abstract logic or “reason” as explained by man is not the ultimate criterion for truth. Indeed, anyone who has even glanced at the history of logic knows quite well that men have delineated many different systems of logic over the centuries, and most of them are incompatible with most of the other systems. In the end, what one sees as logical will depend on one’s theory of epistemology (specifically, one’s final epistemic authority). Though secular philosophy has given us many different paradigms, they all have one thing in common. Man, not God, is the final epistemic authority. What is and is not logical is ultimately determined by the mind of man. This is what we repudiated by showing that God, through His Word, constitutes the final epistemic authority. Human thought is certainly a source of truth (we never denied this). We did not, however, frame the question by asking about sources of truth. We framed the question with respect to the final epistemic standard by which sources of truth are tested. Specifically, we opened the topic by asking, “We want to understand, therefore, what does Helminiak consider to be his ultimate authority?” We gave the consistently Christian answer by saying that men, traditions, miracles, prophets, and angels were all epistemically subordinate to the Bible. Ultimately, the criteria for rationality are to be found in God’s Word, not in man’s philosophical speculations that fail to reference Him. Helminiak completely missed the subject of our argument, and in the process, attributed a position to us that we do not hold and did not advocate. Incidentally, the reader should also note that, in opposition to Helminiak’s unsupported claim, we never called Helminiak an atheist. In fact, we made it clear that we were not labeling him an atheist. “We are not saying that he is an atheist….” That sentence was included specifically to avoid misinterpretation, yet Helminiak still misinterpreted what we wrote. The argument is clearly a reductio ad absurdum argument. We showed that Helminiak’s worldview is self-refuting because, while Helminiak professes Christianity, his epistemology rests on the same assumptions that characterize an atheistic epistemology.
We also applied this type of argumentation to Helminiak’s view of ethics. We showed that his assumptions regarding ethical theory are inconsistent with the Christian worldview. He has assumed the same ethical foundation that the atheist/humanist assumes. Homo mensura – man is the measure. The reader can see strong confirmation of this in Helminiak’s reply. During his discussion of Leviticus 18 and 20 (which we will address in full below), he presented his argument with regards to toevah. He then concluded that the “biblical teaching on homosexuality is highly debatable.” He then said,
I would consider it a major advance… if we could agree that there are legitimate differences of opinion…. We would have at least agreed that merely quoting the Bible resolves nothing about the ethics of homosexuality. Then we could open real discussion on the matter and begin forging an ethics that fits the know [sic] facts and that fosters the common good – for is this not what ethics is about?… My hope is that reasonable people of good will might grasp what Scripture scholars are saying and, every time Fundamentalists simplistically quote the Bible, start protesting out loud that the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality is highly debated. Then we might get the totalitarian biblical arguments out of the discussion. Then we might get down to the serious business of responsibly addressing our society’s real needs.
It appears that Helminiak is less concerned with whether or not his position is accurate than he is with muddying the waters. It seems like he thinks he has worked just hard enough to show that there are “differences of opinion.” He then seems to think that because these differences exist, we can put the Bible aside and, like the atheists and humanists around us, forge our own theory of ethics. Notice that for Helminiak, God’s Word is something to be neutralized, so that we, as autonomous men, can create ethics from our own minds. We will do what is right in our own eyes. We shall be as God, knowing good and evil. Helminiak asks rhetorically if this is not the core of ethics? It is – it is the core of God-denying, man-centered, pagan ethics. It is the very antithesis of Christianity. The minute Adam and Eve put God’s command and Satan’s view on equal footing in order to judge between the two, they became rebels. God became a source of information, while Adam and Eve became the final judge between competing sources. This is autonomous man, and this is what Helminiak proposes. (Actually, his view may be even more autonomous because, in this instance, he seems to be dismissing God’s Word from consideration as a source as well as from consideration as the final authority.)
Yet another example can be seen in Helminiak’s description of the organization known as Dignity, of which he is a member (http://members.aol.com/stephven.dignity1.html). “What options are open to a person who is homosexual and Catholic? Official Catholic teaching requires that homosexual people abstain from sex. But the Catholic Church also teaches solemnly that people are obliged to form their conscience carefully and responsibly and to follow it as the bottom line in every moral decision.” (our emphasis. We do not think this is the official RCC position, but that is not important here.) Lest we missed it, he tells us again that, “We sin when we do what we believe is wrong. Then in our hearts we opt for evil…. It may well be that what you do is not wrong at all. But if you think it is and you do it anyway, well, you are corrupt. That’s sin! Or what you do may be wrong. But it you don’t honestly think so and you do it, well, your heart is not really amiss. You may be uninformed, naive, or stupid, and even dangerous, but unless you have neglected properly informing yourself, you are not sinful.” (our emphasis) The first part of the second quote is true, but the italicized parts are vintage autonomous man. If the individual’s conscience tells him that what he is doing is not sin, then he does not sin. Thus, if Marquis de Sade truly believed that torturing women was not a sin, then for de Sade, torturing women was not a sin. His conscience is the bottom line. Thus, ethics is completely relative and utterly arbitrary. There is no objective standard; there is only opinion. The Bible, of course, refutes this position. That which defines “good” and “evil” is God’s law (Rom. 3:19-20; 7:7-12). Thus, His Word, not our conscience, is our final guide for “instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, also Ps. 119; Matt. 7:21-27; Rom. 13:8-10; Jas. 2:8-11; 1 John 5:2-3). His Word is our “bottom line in every moral decision.”
It is the sinful, autonomous man who judges his actions with himself as the final “measuring stick” (Judg. 17:5-6; Prov. 12:15; 28:26; Jer. 7:23-24; 16:12; 18:12; 2 Cor. 10:12). In other words, he strives to exalt himself (Ex. 9:17; Pss. 66:7; 140:8), and he boasts in his autonomy (Ps. 12:2-4). He cannot be subject to God’s law (Rom. 8:7), because he is an enemy of God in his mind (Rom. 8:7; Col. 1:21). Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10), the autonomous man’s rejection of God as the final authority means that he is a fool (Ps. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:19-20). (Notice that this is an ethical, as well as an intellectual, judgment.) There is some irony here. Romans 1:18-32, a passage that Helminiak works hard to reinterpret (i.e., neutralize), tells us that God sometimes gives sinners over to their own depraved consciences. They live according to the lusts of their hearts and see nothing wrong with this, because God has given them up to their own darkened hearts and reprobate minds. We therefore see yet again that Helminiak’s theory of ethics is, at its very foundation, self-refuting. While he professes Christianity, he has adopted the autonomous man’s position for the basis of his ethics. Again, this does not imply that Helminiak is an atheist. What is does show is that he should either give up his unbiblical assumptions regarding ethical theory or renounce Christianity. The conclusion in our original paper was accurate. Helminiak will not be able to tell us “what the Bible really says” about ethics until he rejects his unbiblical presuppositions regarding the metaphysical and epistemological foundation of ethics.
The Law of God
There is one last issue that should be discussed before we move on to the biblical texts in question. We see now that we should have discussed this issue in more detail in our paper, inasmuch as Helminiak’s view of this issue helps explain how thoroughly erroneous is his view of Old Testament law. The issue revolves around the nature of those Old Testament laws that Christians are no longer required to keep. What is the nature of those laws? Why are they in the Scriptures? As we demonstrated in our original paper, Helminiak’s view of these laws reflects, in general, his low view of Scripture. Helminiak is under the impression that these laws (perhaps along with much of the rest of the Bible) were the arbitrary decrees of barely civilized men. We refuted this view in our paper by showing that those decrees, along with the rest of the Bible, are God’s decrees. They were God’s words placed in the mouth of His prophet Moses (Deut. 18:17-18). It was these written decrees that condemned the Levites when they strayed (Deut. 31:24-27). Thus, the book of Nehemiah can state that this written record is that “which the Lord commanded Israel” (Neh. 8:1). Thus, Jesus could quote a portion of Exodus and refer to it as “what was spoken to you by God” (Matt. 22:31-32). Like the rest of Scripture, those decrees are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16).
Why, then, do we not, for example, practice circumcision? Why does the New Testament abrogate this practice? In what follows, we will present brief outlines detailing why Christian’s no longer need to uphold the circumcision, dietary, and purity laws — three subjects that Helminiak thinks are connected to the prohibition of homosexual acts. The differences between the former and the latter are immense.
1. Circumcision was the sign of the O.T. covenant that began with Abraham. It was an outward sign of inward grace: Gen. 17:1-14; Rom. 4:11
2. This circumcision of the foreskin symbolized God’s circumcision of the sinner’s heart. It signified God’s cutting away of the individual’s sin: Deut. 30:4-6
3. Notice that circumcision, like the Passover meal (the other O.T. sacrament), required the shedding of blood: cf. Lev. 17:11
4. The change from the old covenant to the new covenant brought about a change in the mode of the sacraments. The N.T. circumcision, the circumcision of Christ, is baptism: Col. 2:11-12
5. Just as circumcision symbolized the cutting away of sin, baptism symbolizes the washing away of sin via Christ’s death: Rom. 6:3-6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Pet. 3:21
6. Notice also that the sacraments of the new covenant (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), unlike the sacraments of the old covenant, do not require the shedding of blood. This is so because Christ has shed His blood once and for all as an unrepeatable sacrifice for our sins. There is no more blood shedding: Heb. 7:26-27; 9:9-12, 24-28; 10:10-18
7. Thus, the requirement of circumcision today would be a denial of Christ’s finished work and a claim to be under the old covenant: Gal. 5:1-6
Ritual Purity Laws
1. As a result of the Fall, man lost direct access to God. He was separated from God.
God will not tolerate any sin in His presence: Hab. 1:13
Because of sin, man was separated from God; he was driven out of the garden tabernacle: Gen. 3:22-24
Death and decay (which are incommensurable with God) were additional results of the Fall: Gen. 2:16-17; 3:16-19
2. The purity laws symbolized this separation.
The purity laws dictated that someone/something was unclean due to: a) contact with a corpse (Num. 5:1-2; 9:6), b) deteriorating/spreading skin diseases (Lev. 13:1-46), c) rotting/spreading mold and mildew (Lev. 13:47-59; 14:33-56), d) flow of blood from childbirth (Lev. 12), and e) general loss of body fluid such as blood, semen, menstruation, etc. (Lev. 15).
Notice that all of these occurrences represented death and decay, the very things which are incompatible with God’s presence. They represented death directly (a), general decay (b and c), and the loss of “life fluid” which suggested death (d and e, cf. Lev. 17:11)
Notice also that the purity laws emphasized the spreading nature of uncleanness. To touch something that was unclean was to become unclean (cf. Lev. 15:4-12, 17-18, 20-24, 26-27). This probably represents the spreading nature of sin and death (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 5:6).
Just as man was separated from God’s presence because of sin, so also the unclean person was to dwell outside the camp, separated from the presence of God and the clean Israelites: Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:1-4; 31:19; Deut. 23:9-14
Other O.T. types, such as the Levitical priesthood and the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, also pointed toward man’s separation from God, and his need for mediated fellowship with Him.
3. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God. He has given us direct access into God’s presence.
After Christ’s sacrifice was complete, the veil of separation between God and man was torn in half: Matt. 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38; Luke 23:44-46
He “paved the way” for us to enter into God’s presence behind the veil: Heb. 6:19-20
We now have direct access to God through faith in Christ: Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:18; 3:10-12; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 4:16; 10:19-20
4. Thus, Christians do not follow the ritual purity laws. Christ has closed the separation between God and man; therefore the purity laws, a symbol of that separation, have been abrogated.
Dietary Laws (Clean/Unclean Food)
1. The dietary laws (clean/unclean distinction) symbolized the separation between God’s elect and the gentiles.
The discussion of the clean/unclean distinction concludes with the statement that the Israelites were brought out of Egypt (separated from the gentiles) in order to be holy : Lev. 11:44-45
God separated the Israelites from the gentiles. Therefore, the Israelites were to distinguish between clean (Israelites) and unclean (gentiles) animals: Lev. 20:24-26
2. God revealed to Peter that he had cleansed the unclean animals: Acts 10:9-16
3. Peter rightly understood that this meant that the gentiles had been cleansed and given access to the covenant: Acts 10:24-28, 34-35; 11:1-18
4. It was Christ, through His sacrifice, who abrogated the distinction between Jew and gentile: Eph. 2:11-18, cf. Rom. 3:27-30
5. Thus, just as the dietary laws were symbolic of Israel’s separation from the gentiles to be God’s elect, the reconciling of both Jew and gentile into the one body of Christ has resulted in the abrogation of the symbol. This is why Christians are not required to follow the dietary laws.
Though these outlines are necessarily brief, the point should be clear. The Old Testament ordinances just discussed were not the arbitrary social taboos of ignorant sheep herders. They were God-given commands which played an important role in God’s redemptive-historical framework. One was the sign of the Old Covenant, one typified man’s separation from God and his need for purification and cleansing (cf. Acts 15:8-9; Eph. 5:25-26; Titus 2:13-14), and one typified the separation between the Jews, as God’s elect, and the gentiles. What, we may ask, did the law forbidding homosexual activity symbolize? Was it a sign of the old covenant? Of course not. Was it typological of man’s sinfulness or of Christ’s redemptive activity? Of course not. It is clear that the prohibition of homosexual acts provides no picture of Israel as a holy people separated from the gentiles. Neither does it symbolize man’s separation from God. It has nothing to do with the avoidance of death or “life fluid” loss. Homosexual acts were not followed by exclusion from the camp, a symbol that pointed toward man’s separation from God. Instead, they were punished by death. It should be obvious that the Old Testament prohibited homosexual activity for the same reason it prohibited pre-marital sex, adultery, incest, and bestiality. All of these activities constitute attacks on, and repudiations of, the marriage covenant that God ordained (cf. Gen. 2:23-24; Eph. 5:22-33), the only legitimate expression of human sexuality.
Thus, it is clear that Helminiak’s view of Old Testament law is in error. Old Testament laws are not the decrees of men, they are God’s laws. Moreover, the laws pertaining to homosexuality have no connection with, for example, the requirement of circumcision or the ritual purity laws. This is why, though Helminiak claimed that the laws pertaining to homosexuality were of a piece with the circumcision, purity, and dietary laws, he did not demonstrate this point. The connection that he seeks does not exist.
Nothing new needs to be added to this section of our paper. We should, though, clear up the errors committed by Helminiak regarding our position. Helminiak said that we “vehemently deny that hospitality is an aspect of charity.” This is false, and once again, Helminiak fails to demonstrate this claim from our paper. What we actually said was, “Failure to render charity to the poor is not at all the same as inhospitality to travelers.” We clearly argued that the two are not identical, and thus, Helminiak’s interpretation of Ezekiel 16 is inaccurate. We said nothing about the extent to which one was “an aspect of” the other. Moreover, Helminiak said that “we see” the specific sin of homosexuality in Ezekiel’s use of “abomination” (Ezek. 16:50). This again is false. We mentioned verse 50 to show that there is more to the story than Helminiak had discussed in his book, and that there is a possible connection between “abomination” (toevah) and homosexual activity. Our conclusion, based on Ezekiel’s use of toevah was that, “This shows, along with the previous rebuttal to the hospitality argument, that the sins of Sodom were quite different from the picture that Helminiak paints.” That was our only conclusion based on this specific use of toevah. Thus, Helminiak was wrong to claim that “we see” a specific sin associated with the use of toevah. In addition, Helminiak tried to get around the use of toevah by claiming that “verse 49 says exactly what those abominable things were. It says outright what the wickedness of the Sodomites was….” Some comments are in order here. First, Helminiak did not in any way support the claim that the toevah of verse 50 were nothing more than the sins listed in verse 49. He simply stated it. This is not argument, this is pontification. In contradiction to this belief, verse 50 clearly lists additions to verse 49. “[They committed several sins.] And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me….” (16:49-50) Verse 50 is clearly adding something, it is not simply a repetition of verse 49. Second, Jude 7 mentions the Sodomites’ “sexual immorality” and desire for “strange flesh” as specific reasons why Sodom “suffered the punishment of eternal fire.” Thus, it is clear that the “hospitality argument” is just plain wrong; there is far more to the story than Helminiak’s book discussion would lead one to believe. Helminiak’s failure to mention these important considerations is quite revealing.
Helminiak stated that our a fortiori argument begs the question. For a second time, the reader can see that Helminiak does not understand this basic form of argumentation. Helminiak is welcome, if he so chooses, to quote a textbook on logic that equates a fortiori argumentation with the fallacy of petitio principii. The problem, of course, is that he will find no such textbook. The reader can review our argument and see that there is no circular reasoning involved in our a fortiori argument.
One final misrepresentation should be mentioned. Helminiak claimed that, “In their [the present author’s] minds, it was only Sodom’s sexual interest that merited God’s punishment. In their minds, although Sodom had indeed ‘committed a multitude of sins,’ apart from the sex, all that wickedness lacked ‘a specific and powerful reason for the city’s destruction.’ That is, except for the sex, Sodom would not have been punished.” This level of misrepresentation is difficult to explain. Helminiak not only misrepresented our position, he also quoted us our of context. This is what we said.
Was this [homosexuality] the only sin of Sodom? Of course not. However, as Bahnsen has pointed out, “Although a general wickedness characterized Sodom [Genesis 18:20], the fact cannot be suppressed that the Sodomites’ desire to ‘know’ Lot’s guests is the manifest sin set forth in Genesis 19 and the specific confirmation that the city was worthy of devastation [Genesis 19:13; cf. 18:21]. This was the mark of their extreme degradation and rebellion against God.” The inhabitants of Sodom committed a multitude of sins. The Sodomites’ “wicked” attempt to homosexually “know” the visitors in chapter 19, however, gives us a specific and powerful reason for the city’s destruction.
Notice that Bahnsen stated that homosexuality was “the manifest sin set forth in Genesis 19,” and that it was “the specific confirmation that the city was worthy of devastation.” Notice that we stated that homosexuality was “a specific and powerful reason for the city’s destruction.” Notice that neither we nor Bahnsen advocated the position that Helminiak claimed we advocated, and notice as well that Helminiak completely stripped the phrase beginning “a specific and powerful reason” from its original context. Helminiak said that, “It is hard to believe that Olliff and Hodges actually said that [referring to his strawman].” Indeed. This is because we did not say such a thing, and we would not advocate such a position. Perhaps this is another example where Helminiak has erroneously read his assumptions about “Fundamentalism” into our position. At any rate, this kind of misrepresentation is not helpful.
Thus, it is clear that Helminiak’s position with respect to Genesis 19 is in error. His book’s discussion of “the sin of Sodom” is woefully inadequate, and Lot’s actions demonstrate, a fortiori, that homosexual acts are quite sinful. (The reader may also be interested in a “Jewish” discussion of this topic. See our Romans 1 section below for Josephus’ and Philo’s views of the “sin of Sodom.”)
Leviticus 18 and 20
Helminiak first takes us to task for allegedly misrepresenting his comments on the so called “Holiness Code.” At first, he seems to have good reason. It is true that on page 46 of his book, he does say that “a main concern” of the Code was to separate the Israelites from the gentiles. He did not say “the only concern.” Continued reading on pages 46 and 47, however, shows quite well that he assumed it was the only concern. After a few words about Canaanite practices, he concluded his thoughts on the “Holiness Code” by saying,
The point is that The Holiness Code of Leviticus prohibits male same-sex acts because of religious considerations, not because of sexual ones. The concern is to keep Israel from taking part in Gentile practices. Homogenital sex is forbidden because it is associated with pagan activities, with idolatry, with Gentile identity. The argument in Leviticus is religious, not ethical or moral. (pp. 46-47).
With no considerations other than the fact that the proscription of homosexual acts is to be found in the Code, he concluded that such a proscription occurred on “separation” grounds and not on ethical grounds. In his book (pp. 45-47), he brought up the Code, mentioned separation, and then concluded that the issue was separation and not righteousness. This can only be done, however, if it can be demonstrated that the Code is nothing other than a set of separation ordinances (and that the separation did not occur because the acts of the gentiles were wicked). If a number of acts outlawed in the Code were outlawed because they were intrinsically evil, Helminiak’s discussion was a waste of time, and his conclusion is completely false. Thus, the reader can see that our analysis was accurate.
After reviewing Helminiak’s attempt to clarify his argument concerning Leviticus 18 and 20, it should be clear to the reader that our discussion of his hermeneutical fallacies was accurate. In this section, he again focuses on one word, toevah. After attempting a convoluted and subtle question-begging (with respect to bdelygma) connection between sheqets and toevah, he concludes that the meaning of toevah is ambiguous. (This is an admission that one will not find in his book. After reading the discussion of toevah in his book, one gets the impression that the matter is clear and that toevah, for all practical purposes, refers to cultural taboos.) Secondarily, he claimed that we simply assumed that toevah carried ethical connotations when applied to homosexual acts, but the reader can review what we have written and see that this is false. We gave our conclusion after discussing the context of the commands. At any rate, Helminiak concluded his discussion of toevah by saying, “Therefore, it would be perfectly correct to understand the toevah of Leviticus 18:22 to be a mere ritual condemnation, one without ethical implications.”
The first thing to notice is that if Helminiak had compared the usages of sheqets and toevah directly, it would have been apparent that while sheqets only condemns actions that were typological in nature (it is basically used only in connection with the dietary laws), toevah is used to describe many wicked acts. (Even here, the discussion could be misleading. Remember that Christians do not, i.e. should not, simply assume that the dietary laws are irrelevant today. We know that such laws were typological of the separation between the Jews and the gentiles, and now that the wall of separation has been removed, the laws have been “fulfilled.” In this connection, see Leviticus 20:24-25 and Acts 10:9-16 with 10:28. In other words, we have God’s word that the dietary laws are no longer binding. We have no such N.T. fulfillment of the laws pertaining to sexual behavior including the proscription of homosexual acts.) Indeed, toevah is used several times (probably for emphasis) in Leviticus 18:24-30 to describe incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. The context of the word in chapter 18 is that of evil actions. The gentiles did such things, and as a result, “the land vomits out its inhabitants.” There is little connection between sheqets and toevah – the former was used mostly in connection with the dietary laws while the latter was used to describe a number of heinous acts (as well as other acts that are no longer forbidden because the relevant laws have been fulfilled by Christ).
This is where Helminiak’s argument ends. He did not discuss the overall context of the proscription. His entire argument is based upon the use one word, which has more than one possible definition, to explain the entire issue at hand. When we look at the context, we see that homosexual acts are connected with, and are just as evil as, adultery and bestiality (they are all perversions of God’s design for sexual intercourse). We showed in our original paper that the Israelites were to avoid the acts of the gentiles because they were by and large wicked. Because of such iniquity, God brought devastating judgment on the gentiles. In addition, it can be seen that Leviticus 20 treats many of the sexual perversions mentioned in the Bible, and it treats them as but variations on a theme. They are all serious distortions of the proper place of sexual intercourse. They are therefore all met with the same devastating punishment. The offenders “shall surely be put to death” (literally “dying they shall die”). This applies to adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. All are gross distortions of the marriage covenant given in Genesis 2. Both participants were surely to die because of such a distortion. The punishment was to fit the crime.
Moreover, Leviticus 20:13 says of the perpetrators that, “Their blood shall be upon them.” This metaphor refers to the fact that the individuals were responsible for the shedding of their own blood that came with the punishment of stoning. In the case of those who have committed a homosexual act, God’s judgment comes upon them; they pay for their sin with their own blood. There are other examples where blood was to come upon someone. God brought judgment upon Abimelech as well as the men of Shechem for their evil acts (Judg. 9:22ff.). Joab was guilty of bloodshed, and his own blood was shed as judgment (1 Kin. 2:31-34, see also 2:36-37). The young Amalekite killed the Lord’s anointed, and as a result, he received the punishment that was due him (2 Sam. 1:13-16). Jeremiah told the people that if they killed him (an innocent man), they would have to bear their guilt (Jer. 26:15). God took vengeance on Babylon because of its wicked treatment of Jerusalem (Jer. 51:35ff.). The Jews were guilty of the blood of the prophets (Matt. 23:35). The Jewish leaders did not like the fact that the apostles had pronounced them guilty for Jesus’ death (Acts 5:28). The Jews who rejected Paul’s testimony would have to pay the price for their sins (Acts 18:5-6). In Leviticus 20 alone, the metaphor is used five times (v. 11, 12, 13, 16, 27) for the punishment required because of various evil acts. Recall that, in the case of a sacrifice, the blood of the animal (typological of Christ’s blood) was spilled at the altar as a propitiation for sin. When the above metaphor is used, however, there is no vicarious atonement. The individual pays the price himself. In Leviticus 20:13, we see that this is God’s stipulated punishment for a homosexual act. Like a number of other evil acts to which this metaphor was applied (e.g., bestiality and murder), the guilt of the individual was returned on his own head. Cultural taboos do not require one’s blood (i.e., guilt) to be visited upon one’s own head. We therefore see that the Roman Catholic Catechism is correct (i.e., biblical) when it calls homosexual acts, “acts of grave depravity.”
Helminiak’s discussions of Leviticus 18, 20 and Romans 1 show again that his argument rests on a fallacious approach to hermeneutics. Again, he is determined to single out a few words, give inadequate treatment to the use of those words, and then declare that the issue has been solved. In our paper, we demonstrated that isolated words do not define the context of a passage, and Helminiak failed to interact with our discussion. This principle of hermeneutics can be demonstrated from another angle as well. Let us say, for the sake of argumentation, that a couple of the words in Romans 1:24-27 are generally used without implying ethical condemnation. Does this show that the entire section is void of ethical condemnation? Consider the following.
John Doe is a disgraceful person. His lustful cravings toward his coworkers are reprehensible. He shamelessly propositions anyone who he thinks will listen, thus openly displaying the depths of his sinful mind. The secretaries should inform their supervisor when and if he gropes them. Such filthy behavior should not be tolerated at a company concerned with an ethical work environment.
Notice that in the above passage, there are several words that do not generally imply ethical condemnation. We could list ‘disgraceful,’ ‘shamelessly,’ and ‘filthy.’ Nevertheless, the passage clearly condemns John Doe by noting his “lustful cravings,” his “sinful mind,” and by stating that his behavior is antithetical to an “ethical work environment.” This just shows, from another angle, that a few isolated words do not define the extent of a passage. Similarly, even if atimia and aschemosyne are generally benign terms from an ethical standpoint, his conclusion is a massive non sequitur. The reader can compare our treatment of akatharsia, epithymia, pathos, and ekkaio/orexis with his obvious disinterest in those words. (We will add to our discussion of physis below.) Interestingly enough, though Helminiak tries to make much of historical-critical hermeneutics, his attempt to define the context of a passage by singling out a few words has absolutely nothing to do with historical-critical analysis. Nowhere will the reader find this maneuver to be part of the historical-critical method. This can be seen as a point in that method’s favor. If people consistently employed Helminiak’s theory of hermeneutics in their daily activities, communication would be impossible. His view of language makes no sense, and the reader would be hard pressed indeed to find a book on hermeneutics and language theory that would support his view. (We hesitate to say “never find” because, as the reader who has studied literary theory at any length knows, there are some really bad linguistic theories, however unpopular, floating around out there.)
With regard to physis (nature), several points can be made. The reader can again see that Helminiak contends that para physin refers to something which is “atypical” or “unusual” and, by implication, that physis refers to that which is “normal.” He does not, however, provide any evidence which shows that para physin, when applied to homosexual acts, simply means “out of the ordinary.” We do not think much more needs to be said about this. The reader can compare Helminiak’s unsupported claims with our discussion of the word as it appears in the New Testament. It appears, however, that we should have said more about the relationship between physis and homosexual acts in our original paper. As it turns out, condemnation of homosexuals acts as “unnatural” and discussion of heterosexual acts as “natural” are not unique to Paul. In what follows, we will give an extended quote from Richard Hays that shows the relevance of physis to the condemnation of homosexual acts. Other examples will follow Hays’ remarks.
There are abundant instances, both in the Greco-Roman moral philosophers and in literary texts, of the opposition between “natural” (kata physin) and “unnatural” (para physin) behavior…. In particular, the opposition between “natural” and “unnatural” is very frequently used (in the absence of convenient Greek words for “heterosexual” and “homosexual”) as a way of distinguishing between heterosexual and homosexual behavior…. For example, the Stoic-Cynic preacher Dio Chrysostom, after charging that brothel-keeping dishonors the goddess Aphrodite “whose name stands for the natural (kata physin) intercourse and union of the male and female,” goes on to suggest that a society which permits such practices will soon find its uncontrolled lusts leading to the still more deplorable practice of pederasty: “Is there any possibility that this lecherous class would refrain from dishonoring and corrupting the males, making their clear and sufficient limit that set by nature (physis)? Or will it not, while it satisfies its lust from women in every conceivable way, find itself grown weary of this pleasure, and then seek some other worse and more lawless form of wantonness? …The man whose appetite is insatiate in such things…will turn his assault against the male quarters, eager to befoul the youth who will very soon be magistrates and judges and generals, believing that in them he will find a kind of pleasure difficult and hard to procure. (Discourse 7.135, 151-52)” Likewise, Plutarch has Daphnaeus, one of the speakers in his Dialogue on Love, disparage “union contrary to nature with males” (he para physin homilia pros arrenas), as contrasted to “the love between men and women,” which is characterized as “natural” (te physei). A few sentences later, Daphnaeus complains that those who “consort with males” willingly are guilty of “weakness and effeminacy,” because “contrary to nature (para physin),” they “allow themselves in Plato’s words ‘to be covered and mounted like cattle'” (Dialogue on Love 751C, E). Plutarch’s reference to Plato demonstrates the point that Paul did not originate the application of the kata physin / para physin dichotomy to heterosexual and homosexual behavior. Its common appearance in the writings of the Hellenistic moral philosophers is testimony to a convention which can be traced back at least as far as Plato (Laws I.636C), almost invariably in contexts where a negative judgment is pronounced on the morality or propriety of the “unnatural” homosexual relations (Richard B. Hays, “Relations Natural and Unnatural: A Response to John Boswell’s Exegesis of Romans 1,” The Journal of Religious Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, Spr. 1986, pp. 192-193).
To these may be added examples from Jewish and Christian writers. As with the above examples, two things can clearly be seen with these examples. The first is that physis did not simply mean “ordinary.” The second is that homosexual acts were often condemned as immoral by showing that they are against physis. In Against Apion, Josephus draws a sharp contrast between heterosexual and homosexual sex. “But then, what are our laws about marriage? That law owns no other mixture of sexes but that which nature (kata physin) hath appointed, of a man with his wife, and that this be used only for the procreation of children. But it abhors the mixture of a male with a male; and if anyone do that, death is his punishment” (2.199). A little later on, Josephus accuses the Greeks of inventing stories of gods who have homosexual encounters in order to justify their own unnatural practices.
And why do not the Eleans and Thebans abolish that unnatural (para physin) and impudent lust, which makes them lie with males? For they will not shew sufficient sign of their repentance of what they of old thought to be very excellent, and very advantageous in their practices, unless they entirely avoid all such actions for the time to come: nay, such things are inserted into the body of their laws, and had once such a power among the Greeks, that they ascribed these sodomitical practices to the gods themselves, as part of their good character; and indeed it was according to the same manner that the gods married their own sisters. This the Greeks contrived as an apology for their own absurd and unnatural (para physin) pleasures. (2.273-75)
Philo also had harsh words for homosexual acts.
Moreover, another evil, much greater than that which we have already mentioned, has made its way among and been let loose upon cities, namely, the love of boys, which formerly was accounted a great infamy even to be spoken of, but which sin is a subject of boasting not only to those who practice it, but even to those who suffer it, and who, being accustomed to bearing the affliction of being treated like women, waste away as to both their souls and bodies… And it is natural for those who obey the law to consider such persons worthy of death, since the law commands that the man-woman who adulterates the precious coinage of his nature shall die without redemption… as he is a disgrace to himself, and to his family, and to his country, and to the whole race of mankind. And let the man who is devoted to the love of boys submit to the same punishment, since he pursues that pleasure which is contrary to nature (ten para physin hedonen), and since, as far as depends upon him, he would make the cities desolate, and void, and empty of all inhabitants, wasting his power of propagating his species, and moreover, being a guide and teacher of those greatest of all evils, unmanliness and effeminate lust, stripping young men of the flower of their beauty… (Spec. Leg. 3.37-42)
Philo’s treatment of Sodom is no less condemnatory.
As men, being unable to bear discreetly a satiety of these things, get restive like cattle, and become stiff-necked, and discard the laws of nature (ton tes physeos nomon), pursuing a great and intemperate indulgence of gluttony, and drinking, and unlawful connections; for not only did they go mad after women, and defile the marriage bed of others, but also those who were men lusted after one another, doing unseemly things, and not regarding or respecting their common nature… and in this way engendered among themselves the disease of females, and intolerable evil; for they not only, as to effeminacy and delicacy, became like women in their persons, but they made also their souls most ignoble, corrupting in this way the whole race of man, as far as depended on them…. But God, having taken pity on mankind, as being a Saviour and full of love for mankind, increased, as far as possible, the natural (kata physin) desire of men and women for a connexion together, for the sake of producing children, and detesting the unnatural and unlawful commerce of the people of Sodom, he extinguished it, and destroyed those who were inclined to these things… (De Abr. 135-41)
A similar, though less aggressive, discussion of Sodom comes from the pseudepigraphal literature of the Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs.
But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made them all, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of its nature (taxis physis). In like manner also the Watchers changed the order of their nature (taxis physis), whom also the Lord cursed at the flood, and for their sakes made desolate the earth, that it should be uninhabited and fruitless. These things I say, my children, for I have read in the holy writing of Enoch that ye yourselves also will depart from the Lord, walking according to all wickedness of the Gentiles, and ye will do according to all the iniquity of Sodom. (T. Naph. 3:4 – 4:1)
Finally, we can mention a useful reference to homosexual acts in the Apostolic Constitutions.
For the conjunction of man and wife, if it be with righteousness, is agreeable to the mind of God. “For He that made them at the beginning made them male and female; and He blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” If, therefore, the difference of sexes was made by the will of God for the generation of multitudes, then must the conjunction of male and female be also acceptable to His mind. But we do not say so of that mixture that is contrary to nature (para physin), or of any unlawful practice; for such are enmity to God. For the sin of Sodom is contrary to nature (para physin), as is also that with brute beasts. But adultery and fornication are against the law; the one whereof is impiety, the other injustice, and, in a word, no other than a great sin. But neither sort of them is without its punishment in its own proper nature. For the practicers of one sort attempt the dissolution of the world, and endeavor to make the natural course of things to change for one that is unnatural; but those of the second son — the adulterers — are unjust by corrupting others’ marriages… All these things are forbidden by the laws; for thus say the oracles: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind.” “For such a one is accursed, and ye shall stone them with stones: they have wrought abomination.” “Every one that lieth with a beast, slay ye him: he has wrought wickedness in his people.” “And if any one defile a married woman, slay ye them both: they have wrought wickedness; they are guilty; let them die.” (6.27-28)
We trust that by now, the reader can see that Helminiak is severely mistaken with regards to physis, kata physin, and para physin. (We note in passing that the Apostolic Constitutions, a popular Christian treatise, treated the subject of homosexual acts in much the same manner as did our paper. It described the heterosexual marriage covenant as the standard, and it condemned homosexual acts as sinful and “unnatural.” It also assumed that the prohibition of homosexual acts found in Leviticus was still in force.) In opposition to the definitions of “usual” and “unusual” proposed by Helminiak, we see that homosexual acts were often characterized as a distorted, not an “unusual,” act. Such acts distort the very nature of sex itself. They violate what is intrinsic to the created order. The previous examples fit in well with our original discussion of physis which was based on New Testament examples. Moreover, it is clear that numerous authors before and after Paul condemned homosexual acts, and they did so by referring to such acts as “unnatural,” para physin. It therefore appears that applying para physin (or a similar phrase containing physis) to homosexual acts was a common way to denounce such acts as sinful. This linguistic convention gives us good warrant to suppose that, when Paul applied the phrase to homosexual acts, he was employing the standard terminology with which to condemn homosexual acts. Of course, this does not prove with “mathematical certainty” that Paul used the phrase to imply such ethical condemnation, but Paul’s use of para physin to condemn homosexual acts would fit in well with previous usages of para physin to denounce such acts. Paul’s description of heterosexual acts as physikos and homosexual acts as para physin is therefore a serious problem for Helminiak, inasmuch as those phrases were often used to extol heterosexual acts and condemn homosexual ones.
With regard to the context of the passage, we showed in our original paper that there are no “discontinuities” with verses 18-32. Helminiak mentions the context very briefly (after a predictably heavy emphasis on three words) in his reply, but most of what he says amounts to no more than a restatement of his view. He offers nothing to refute our discussion. He also tries to make sense of the fact that his position leads to the absurd notion that God punishes false worship with a social taboo. He does not, however, succeed. The reader can notice as well that Helminiak never gives an example where false worship was punished with a social “no-no.”
Although the heinousness of false worship should be “common knowledge,” we will nevertheless discuss the topic in order to show all the more forcefully that the text in question is treating matters far weightier than culturally relative taboos. We will first discuss the serious nature of false worship followed by a discussion of what it means when God “gives someone up” in response to sin. We will also mention some other relevant points along the way. These additions to our previous remarks on the overall context of the passage will confirm the accuracy of our treatment. There are no taboos in the text.
We first begin with false worship. The first thing to notice about false worship is that it is a deliberate rejection of the knowledge of God, which knowledge everyone has (Rom. 1:18-23). It is an exchange of the glorious Creator of the universe for lowly creatures within that universe. Such worship is fundamentally opposed to true worship (1 Cor. 10:14-22). It is an exchange of the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). It is the foundation of all evil. It is evil, par excellance. Hence, it is not surprising that such an act would elicit severe judgment. Numerous examples in the Old Testament show that false worship justly merits the death penalty (e.g. Ex. 32:15-28; Num. 25:1-5; Deut. 13; 17:2-5). False worship was a serious matter. The evil had to be purged. God would destroy those who practiced false worship (Ex. 22:20). There are certainly no taboos here. He who sows in false worship will reap a just recompense for his error (Rom. 1:27).
One can see the serious nature of this recompense from the text in question. The penalty is nothing less than the “wrath of God” (Rom. 1:18). Interestingly, the first example of the wrath of God mentioned in Romans 1 is none other than individuals being given over to homosexuality. God shows his wrath by “taking off the brakes” as it were and allowing the individual to wallow in the filth of his own perverted desires. The reader will search in vain for an example of God’s wrath that amounts to a social taboo (which taboo, Helminiak claims, is abolished in the very same epistle in question). The wrath of God is not nearly so trivial, as the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation make clear. It is thus apparent that the implication of Helminiak’s position is quite absurd.
By looking at yet another aspect of the text in question, one can again see the sinful nature of homosexual acts. What, one may ask, does it mean when God “gives someone up” after they have sinned? To what does He give them up? As it turns out, the consequences are not pleasant. God “gave up” / “delivered over” the depraved inhabitants of Canaan to destructive judgment via the Israelites (Ex. 23:27-31; Deut. 7:21-24; Judg. 1:1-5). Not to be outdone, the Israelites rebelled from God’s rule, and as a result, He “gave them over” to destructive judgment via the gentiles (Lev. 26:23-25; Josh. 7:6-12; Judg. 2:11-14; 6:1-2; 13:1; Ps. 106:34-42; Jer. 24:8-10). It was therefore common for God to give individuals over to death and destruction. In addition, He also gave them over to their own desires. When the Israelites ungratefully complained about the manna they have been given and demanded meat instead, God gave them meat – with a vengeance! (Ps. 78:17-31, cf. Num. 11) “He gave them their own desire” (Ps. 78:29) along with judgment for their rebellion. Stephen told the Jews that God punished the idolatrous Israelites in that he “gave them up to worship the host of heaven” (Acts 7:37-42). In this instance, God punished the Israelites by giving them up to there own wicked desires. This “giving up” is, in fact, the basis of excommunication, the most severe punishment that a church can impose (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-5, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”). Thus, one can see that when God gives a sinner up, the results are desolation and/or depraved sinfulness. The relevance of this to Romans 1 is obvious, inasmuch as Romans 1 describes at some length how God gives sinners over to their own wicked desires. The phrase “God gave them up” is not a rhetorical device as Helminiak suggests (without proof). Additionally, God does not give the sinner over to a bad social reputation. He gives the sinner over to devastation and to his own self-destructive desires. Indeed, the parallel between Romans 1:24-27 and Acts 7:37-42 is especially strong. As a result of his rebellion, God sometimes gives the sinner over to the lusts of his own heart. “He who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). It is important, however, to note that when God gave someone up, it was rarely done as a final abandonment. God is often said to have temporarily punished someone by “giving them over.” This was done so that they may repent from their iniquity and turn back to Him. Additionally, note that the “giving up” of excommunication has as its goal the saving of the spirit (1 Cor. 5:5). Thus, it would be most incorrect to assume that homosexual acts are a sign that God has permanently rejected someone. Indeed, some in the Corinthian church were former homosexuals (“and such were some of you…”) whom God had regenerated (1 Cor. 6:9, 11).
One last contextual point should be mentioned. Helminiak claims that, “Paul is mounting an argument regarding the Jewish Law… Paul is merely suggesting that, because the gentiles do not worship the God of Israel, they do not know the Jewish Law and – well, of course – they indulge in ‘dirty’ practices forbidden by the Jewish Law as well as in real sins.” Simply by reading Romans 1, the reader can see that this is false. The Old Testament prohibitions are not mentioned in the text. Paul was clearly not discussing special revelation. His argument is based on general revelation. He said that “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” (Rom. 1:19:20). There is no mention of the inscripturated special revelation that was given to the Jews. His argument is based solely on the knowledge of God that everyone has through general revelation. The gentiles’ knowledge of Old Testament statutes is simply not relevant to Paul’s comments in Romans 1:18-32. Yet again, the reader can see that Helminiak’s explanation is false.
There are numerous other interesting errors from Helminiak that we do not have time to discuss. We will just mention one in passing. The reader will recall that in his book, Helminiak tried to explain why Paul mentioned homosexual acts instead of the dietary laws or circumcision. We showed, with an internal critique of Helminiak’s argument, that the argument was useless because it did not make the distinctions that it needed to make. Apparently, Helminiak completely missed the force of the argument. He claimed that our argument supports his position because his point was to show that “purity issues are purity issues.” This, of course, is false. His point was that there was a reason for the mention of homosexual acts over against, for example, circumcision. We showed that, based on his own assumptions, his argument failed. Thus, yet again, Helminiak seems to be quite confused regarding the nature of his argument and our counter-argument. We may change gears, however, and mention that his assumptions are wrong. Recall that in his book, Helminiak claimed that, “The Jews were well aware that Leviticus forbade male-male sex only as an impurity” (pg. 81). As we demonstrated previously with quotations from Josephus, Philo, and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, this is false. Other examples could be given (Pseudo-Phocylides 190-191; Sibylline Oracles 182-87, 591-600, 762-64). Contrary to Helminiak, the Jews were well aware that homosexual acts were sinful. Thus, not only is Helminiak’s argument useless with respect to its stated goal, its main assumption is false. The argument utterly fails.
It should be plain, then, that Romans 1 thoroughly condemns homosexual acts. Most of the terms used to describe such acts either always or almost always carry ethical condemnation (e.g. akatharsia, epithymia, pathos with atimia, and orexis with ekkaio). In addition, the phrase para physin was a common way to condemn homosexual acts. The fact that all of these condemning terms are jammed into such a short space carries real weight. When the overall context is considered, Paul’s point is clear. The context is quite continuous, and all of the surrounding phrases point to the same conclusion — homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity. In addition, one can see that all of Helminiak’s attempts to explain his position end in logical fallacies (such as his approach to hermeneutics) and false statements (such as his claims regarding physis).
1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10
In this section, Helminiak made no effort to counter our refutation of his argument. Thus, we do not think anything else needs to be said on the subject. He did, however, make three rather large errors that should be addressed. The first can be seen with his statement that, “They call me names and preach at me and others. Their treatment is filled with personal attack. They make me and not my argument the focus of attention.” Once again, we may note that Helminiak did not quote our paper in order to support this statement. The reader should reread our section on this subject in order to see how wildly inaccurate this statement is. We did not call Helminiak any names, let alone fill our section with personal attacks. Moreover, to say that we made him, and not his argument, the focus of attention is utter nonsense. We clearly demonstrated that his argument contained two logical fallacies and one factual error. That was what we addressed. We assume that this is another place where Helminiak missed the fact that one of our arguments was a reductio ad absurdum. Again, the point is not that Helminiak is an atheist, for if he were, there would be no contradiction. It is just because he professes Christianity that his comments are inconsistent with his religious commitments. That was an argument dealing with theory of ethics, not a personal attack.
The second error can be seen with Helminiak’s statement that, “First, Olliff and Hodges are badly mistaken when they deny that there was any concern about exploitative and abusive male-male sex in the Roman Empire.” Once again, Helminiak did not quote us, and this is because we never made such a denial. We did point out that it was not simply abusive sex that was condemned. We concluded our comments about this point by saying that, “For Helminiak to claim that abusive sex alone was seen as unsatisfactory is simply not accurate.” We showed that other forms of behavior besides abusive male-male sex were condemned, and for this reason (among others), Helminiak’s argument is unsound.
Finally, we come to a truly bizarre error by Helminiak. He tried to show that we contradicted ourselves when we said that Paul used a word (arsenokoitai) that someone else had coined. Helminiak described this by saying that Paul “borrowed this term from his culture.” Helminiak seems to think that this contradicts our position that the Bible does not borrow its theory of ethics from the surrounding, uninspired culture. He thinks that this is a contradiction because, in his words, “Cultural influences are allowed in one case but not in another….” This may be the most bizarre error to date that we have seen from Helminiak. We could spend several pages discussing ethics and language theory, but we will be brief. To begin with, we never affirmed the universal, unqualified statement that, “There are absolutely no ‘cultural influences’ of any kind whatsoever on the Bible.” Thus, Helminiak starts off with a strawman. The strange part, however, is that he appears to see no difference between the socially conventional nature of language and a theory of ethics that is borrowed from a surrounding culture. In reality, there is no connection to be drawn between the above topics. All language is socially conventional. This is why we are able to communicate with one another. This explains why a specific language may appear to be significantly different from one region to another (e.g., the “Queen’s English” in England vs. English in America). It also explains why the meaning of a word can evolve over time. For example, ‘awful’ used to mean “awe-inspiring.” This would have been a good adjective with which to describe God. Now, however, the word is generally used to describe something that is really bad. Language, as a medium of exchange for ideas, is culturally conditioned.
This, however, has nothing to do with whether or not the ideas themselves are culturally conditioned. The present authors’ vocabularies are highly “conditioned” by late 20th century American English, but it would be absurd to claim that because of this, our theory of ethics must also be taken from the culture at large. Our theory of ethics has little in common with those theories popular among the majority of Americans, but we communicate our theory using the standard cultural formulation of the English language. Helminiak’s argument would required that, because we use the common language of the American culture, our theory of ethics must also be influenced by the American culture. This is nonsense. It should be painfully obvious that the conventional nature of a medium of thought exchange (i.e. language) has nothing to do with whether or not the thoughts themselves are culturally conditioned. We simply do not understand how someone could earn two Ph.D.’s and have such a poor grasp of this elementary concept. Did Paul use the “language of the day”? Of course he did. What does this have to do with the origins of his theory of ethics? Nothing. Paul’s use of the common language of his day no more requires his theory of ethics to be culturally conditioned than our use of late 20th century American English requires that we believe premarital sex is ethically acceptable behavior.
One last point should be addressed. In our section on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, we showed that Helminiak was wrong to assume that, in the 1st century Roman Empire, male-male sex was only denounced when it was abusive. In the first part of his paper, Helminiak said that we misrepresented his position; he said he did not argue that male-male sex was only condemned because it was abusive. We do not think that we have misrepresented his position. In his book (pg. 93), Helminiak stated that “to understand what was being condemned as arsenokoitai, we need to know what first-century critics condemned as male-male sex.” After a brief discussion, he stated his conclusion.
Still, this much is clear: social critics of the day thought of exploitation, inequality, abuse and lust when they thought of male-male sex. So that is what the first-century moralists were condemning when they objected to same-sex behavior: exploitation, inequality, abuse, and lust. That is what the Greek-speaking Jews were likewise condemning in Roman society. That, then, we must conclude, is what the term arsenokoitai condemns…. Even to say that arsenokoitai refers to “sex-between-men” is not accurate. For in using the term, the first-century authors had particular abuses in mind, and not all sex between men includes these abuses. (pp. 93-94)
We think the meaning he attempted to convey is clear. Let us suppose, however, that he did not mean to restrict 1st century behavior to that which was abusive. A problem then develops. If denunciation was not restricted to abusive male-male sex, this part of his argument becomes a non sequitur. He claimed that we need to know what was denounced in order to know what arsenokoitai means, but if a number of non-abusive activities relating to male-male sex were denounced, his attempt to restrict arsenokoitai to the “particular abuses” that he mentioned is erroneous. Indeed, it is the case that social commentators in and around this time period denounced homosexual acts in general (especially Jewish commentators — see our quotations in the Romans 1:18-32 section above). Thus, by his own standard, Helminiak has failed to accomplish what he set out to accomplish.
As we showed in our paper, however, this particular point of the argument fails all the more to prove anything. This is because that which commentators condemned using language other than arsenokoitai is irrelevant to the meaning of arsenokoitai. Helminiak’s point would have been at least somewhat relevant if he had shown (preferably with quotations) what commentators condemned through the use of arsenokoitai. Thus, non sequiturs abound. The reader is again directed to this section of our original paper for other important considerations.
Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve
With respect to this section, we do not think much more needs to be said. It is clear that Helminiak completely missed the force of the material which we presented. We suspect that this occurred because we did not present the argument in the way that Helminiak normally sees it presented. Indeed, we expanded on the Genesis account by including a discussion of the marriage covenant, its analogy with the relationship within the Godhead, and its analogy with Christ’s marriage to the church. As we have seen over and over again, Helminiak reads our arguments through the rose colored glasses of “anti-fundamentalism.” He therefore erroneously tries to read our arguments as having come from a “Fundamentalist” position. Thus, we suspect that because we do not argue from that position and do not formulate our arguments the way “Fundamentalists” formulate them, Helminiak simply did not see the argument. He was looking for something else, and thus, he missed what was presented (just as he missed most of our reductio ad absurdum arguments). At any rate, it is clear that the homosexual relationship can make no sense of the four points that we mentioned in our paper: the creation of biologically distinct and complementary entities, the analogy drawn from the unity and diversity within the Trinity (thus solving the philosophical problem of “the one and the many”), the dominion mandate (Gen. 1:28), and the analogy of Christ’s marriage to the church. Any attempt to create an analogy from the homosexual relationship would result in heretical notions of the Godhead and the New Covenant. One last point should be mentioned. Helminiak erred yet again when he claimed that we did not “engage” the biblical material. For anyone who has read this section of our paper, it is quite clear that we “engaged” Genesis 1 and 2 as well as some other passages (including Ephesians 5). Again, we suspect that this error came about because we did not argue in the manner that Helminiak expected us to argue.
One last subject, relevant to this section, should be addressed. Helminiak makes the curious claim concerning 1 Corinthians 7 that, “in Paul’s mind there is no one right way for Christians to live their sexuality. Paul is open to all the options of his day. Not one’s specific lifestyle, but the Christian virtue one expresses through it, is what matters.” We say “curious” because it is perplexing that anyone could read 1 Corinthians 7 and come to this conclusion. A review of that chapter does not at all support such a conclusion. The reader will find no support in that chapter for sexual preferences such as premarital sex, incest, polygamy, adultery, bestiality, necrophilia, sadomasochism, rape, pederasty, or homosexuality. Indeed, the chapter makes several points that exclude some of the forms of sexuality just mentioned. Premarital sex, for example, is basically eliminated by verses 1-9. Adultery and polygamy appear to be the targets of verse 39. Furthermore, it is at this point in his epistle that Paul had just called for the excommunication of a man for the violation of a Levitical law against incest (1 Cor. 5:1-5)! Helminiak, however, insists that Paul was “open to all the options of his day.”
Finally, the reader can note that the whole of chapter 7 actually presupposes that heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate form of marriage. Paul simply assumed that marriage entails a relationship between a man and a woman. The various semantic pairs such as man/woman, husband/wife, and him/her simply give no room for a homosexual alternative. Thus, this chapter actually gives an example (among many that could be cited) of how the biblical language often assumes that when marriage is the subject, the him/him or her/her relationships are simply not credible options. Thus, Helminiak’s claim is clearly erroneous. Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21), was not at all open to all the options of his day. The reason for this is simple. God is not open to all the options of the day. One’s specific lifestyle is quite important.
The Centurion’s Servant
In this section, Helminiak gives the reader yet another example of how he is his own final authority. Before this is discussed, though, we should note that the reader can again see Helminiak’s propensity for speculatively reading homosexuality into a passage where it is not to be found. The reader can compare his many non sequiturs regarding the relationship between the centurion and the slave with our original discussion. Further, it is clear that Helminiak has tried to attenuate the conclusions that he draws from this story; he did not spend 15 minutes on this story in his lecture in order to conclude that there is some possibility that this story could help, in some vague way, his position. More interesting perhaps is the following question. Is this story a factual report about the historical Jesus, or is it an evocative expression of men at some later date? Additionally, if Fundamentalists consider homosexuality “the greatest of all sins,” this would show from yet another angle that we are not Fundamentalists, inasmuch as we do not think that homosexuality is the greatest of all sins.
Helminiak further alleges that were homosexual behavior really as sinful as we argue that it is based on Scripture, surely Christ would have mentioned it. But Christ “never mentioned it. Moreover, neither did Matthew and Luke make an issue of the relationship between the centurion and the slave boy. They did not even provide the historical evidence needed to characterize with certainty what was very likely a homosexual relationship.” As far as the “very likely” goes, it is clear that Helminiak has not come close to proving this, although he did freely speculate about the relationship in question. At any rate, it is clear that Helminiak tries to make much of this argument from silence. But what if Christ did not address the subject of homosexuality in His earthly ministry? Christ did not teach against a number of other sins which the rest of the Scripture strongly condemns (kidnapping, bestiality, incest, marriage of believers to unbelievers, etc.). Should we then conclude that theses acts are not sinful? In reality, He did not have to re-teach against these and other violations of the Old Testament law, because His teaching presupposed the abiding ethical standard of the Old Testament laws (Matt. 5:17-19). Thus it is clear that Jesus’ silence on this issue does not help Helminiak at all.
Finally, it is interesting to see how Helminiak attempts to avoid the force of our reductio ad absurdum argument. We should first note Helminiak’s erroneous and irrelevant assertion that “What is revealing is that Olliff and Hodges think Jesus did oppose slavery.” The only thing that is revealed here is Helminiak poor scholarship. Nowhere did we claim that we thought Jesus opposed the institution of slavery. We did not mention our view of this subject at all. This is because our position on this issue is completely irrelevant to our argument. The argument was an internal critique of Helminiak’s position, and thus, our view is not relevant to our counter-argument. Yet again, the reader can see Helminiak’s poor scholarship at work.
At any rate, Helminiak’s attempt to avoid the force of our internal critique is informative. The reader will recall that, based on our argument, any support that this story gives to homosexuality must also be given to slavery. If Helminiak thinks that this story helps legitimize homosexuality, then he should see that the same amount of support be given to slavery. However, Helminiak tries to use this story to support homosexuality while he simultaneously condemns slavery. How does he get out of this apparent contradiction? He claims that Jesus “simply took the practice [slavery], ingrained in his culture, for granted.” Furthermore, he stated that “it is absolutely to be expected that the culture in which he [Jesus] lived would limit his [Jesus’] judgment.” Though he does not state it clearly, it appears that Helminiak is here hinting that Jesus’ ethic regarding slavery was culturally conditioned, and thus, he erred by not condemning slavery on this occasion. This view would then allow Helminiak to support homosexuality with this story without being forced, by the same logic, to support slavery with this story.
Several points should be made. First, Helminiak’s response clearly begs the entire question. How, we may ask, does Helminiak know that Jesus erred in one instance but not in the other instance? By now, the reader should know the answer. Helminiak simply assumes, via his own conscience as his final ethical authority, that slavery is inherently sinful. He then approaches the story of the centurion servant and arbitrarily picks the implication he likes (i.e., Jesus’ silence toward a homosexual implies He did not condemn homosexuality) while he discards, using his own conscience as the standard, the implication he does not like (i.e., Jesus’ silence toward a slave owner implies He did not condemn slavery). The biblical material presents a possible source of truth, while it is Helminiak’s conscience that is the standard by which he separates the wheat from the chaff. Without any attempt at proof, he assumes that Jesus was right in one instance and wrong in the other. The arbitrary, question begging, autonomous-man nature of his position is again demonstrated.
More devastating though is his insinuation that Jesus accepted, as legitimate, an activity that was in fact a sin. God incarnate accepted what was in fact a gross evil! This, however, would be quite sinful. God’s Word states that the doer of the sin as well as the individual who approves of the sin deserve death (Rom. 1:32). They are cursed who call evil good and good evil (Is. 5:20). Helminiak’s view would require us to believe that Jesus sinned, because He accepted a practice that was in fact a sin. This, of course, would ruin the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Thus, we see the absurd lengths that Helminiak is willing to go to in order to support homosexuality. Not only is his view of Scripture quite low, he apparently has a rather low view of Christ’s authority as well. The Scriptures tell us that Christ taught with authority (Matt. 7:28-29). While the scribes and Pharisees appealed to what Rabbi so-and-so had said, Jesus spoke with His own inherent authority (“Truly, truly I say to you…”). Further, we are told that it was truth that came through Jesus (John 1:17). We are told that His word is to be identified with truth (John 8:31-32). He even claimed that He was the truth (John 14:6). Helminiak, however, would have us believe that, far from speaking from His own authority, He simply regurgitated His culture’s prejudices; far from being the truth, He made all kinds of silly errors. We think this speaks for itself. Thus, it is quite clear that Helminiak has proven absolutely nothing by referring to this story. His position is one big, question begging argument from silence; it is fallacious from every angle. (We leave it to the reader to refute Helminiak’s examples of Christ’s so called “blatant mistakes”; we have seen better attempts to undermine Christ’s authority from atheists on the Internet.)
Helminiak’s attempt to refute our critique of his book has utterly failed. We believe that anyone who takes the time to read our original paper and his attempt to refute it will see in his works a myriad of fallacies and errors of many types, as we have pointed out time and time again. Numerous examples were provided which show his poor scholarship. We also demonstrated that there is very little in Helminiak’s writings that is free from logical fallacies. Indeed, it was often the case that his argument in favor of a certain point fell prey to more than one logical fallacy. Moreover, we have demonstrated that many of his important claims are simply factually inaccurate (e.g., his discussion of kata physin and para physin). Specifically, the reader has seen numerous problems with Helminiak’s hermeneutical methods, methods that have nothing whatsoever to do with the historical-critical method. He also appeared to be unable to grasp rather basic concepts in language theory (i.e., his confusion of the sociological nature of language with the social influence on ideas). Finally, the root of his theological errors was clearly seen. Because Helminiak assumes that he (or man in general) is his own final authority, he totally eviscerates the foundation of the Christian worldview. Epistemologically, the Bible and Christ are possible sources of truth; sources that must satisfy the criteria of truth as delineated by Helminiak and/or modern liberal scholarship. Epistemologically, man and God have switched places. Ethically, it is Helminiak’s conscience which is the final authority; biblical statutes must first past that test before they can have ethical authority. Again, man and God have changed places. Thus, the reader can see the structural reductio ad absurdum of Helminiak’s position. He stands on the autonomous man worldview in order to explain the Christian worldview. From thence flows a multitude of errors.
With regard to the subject at hand, we have actually strengthened our previous case. The reader can note that Helminiak did nothing to diffuse our argumentation regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality. With the expansion and addition of several points in this paper, we think that the sinfulness of homosexuality is even more obvious than we had let on in our original paper. Our original point stands: the most loving and biblical thing anyone can say to one who engages in homosexual behavior is that such behavior is inconsistent with the Christian faith, so that homosexuals are outside the kingdom of Christ. However, through God’s gift of repentance and the new birth through the Lord Jesus Christ, any homosexual can say, “I was a homosexual, but now I am washed, now I am sanctified….” Narrow-minded? Certainly by today’s do-what-you-like standard it is. Remember, however, that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14).