Is the Armenian Church Against Homosexuality?
He called them “Hatemongers”. On a recent National Public Radio interview the leader of a homosexual rights group was discussing his organization’s struggle to pass legislation in Hawaii for the legalization of same sex marriages. The supporter of homosexual rights called those who opposed the proposed changes “hatemongers”. The implication of not only this man but also of gay activist groups in general, is that those who oppose them are guilty of prejudice against gays.
Their stance is that it is no different to oppose gay rights than it is to oppose the rights of women, African Americans, Orientals, Hispanics, or any minority group. Those homosexuals who state that they believe in God, say that God created them gay, just as others were created with their own particular diversities. While some homosexuals would not go so far as to call non gay-right supporters ‘hatemongers’, they would refer to their legislative opponents as ‘unenlightened’.
The current clamor over homosexual rights encourages us to ask if society’s mainstream anti-homosexual views are simply a vestige of a jaded and unhealthy conservatism that has squelched the free expression of people’s God-given humanity. Some Protestant ‘churches’ now bless homosexual marriages and both knowingly and willingly ordain homosexual priests and bishops. The current societal and church situation has created a need for us, as Christians, to examine the Armenian Apostolic church’s teaching on homosexuality. The remainder of this article will be devoted therefore, to a cursory examination of the Biblical view of homosexuality, followed by a discussion of the Apostolic Christian Church’s rationale for its position regarding homosexuality.
In order to understand the position of the Armenian Apostolic Church on homosexuality we need to look to the greatest source of our doctrine, the Bible. Some would claim that while there are events in the Old Testament that speak disparagingly of homosexuality, the New Testament does not contain such a view. Even a quick look at the Bible, however, indicates a rejection of homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. Let’s begin, therefore, by looking at some Old Testament references to homosexuality.
Genesis 19:1-11 tells the story of an attempted homosexual gang rape at the house of Lot by the wicked men of Sodom. Verse 5 mentions specifically the homosexual intentions of the men of Sodom ("to know" referring to having sex). Lot considers this behavior wicked (v. 7). Raping his daughters was considered the lesser of two evils (v. 8). This evil of Sodom is mentioned elsewhere (Jeremiah 23:14 ; Ezekial 16:49-50; 2 Peter 2:6-10 ; Jude 7 ) in the strongest terms of condemnation. The term "sodomy" has its roots here. A similar story is found in Judges 19:22-30 .
In the Holiness Code of Leviticus, homosexuality is considered an abomination, (Leviticus18:22) You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (20:13) Such behavior was to be punished by death .
In the New Testament the early church also considered homosexuality as sinful behavior. The Pauline Epistles clearly condemned homosexuality. Romans 1:26-27 considers homosexuality to be a sign of God's wrath upon blind sinfulness.
... because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever ... God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:25-27 ) Such behavior is considered unnatural, an indecent act, and an error, even worthy of death ... Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. (Rom. 1:32 ).
Paul writes to the community at Corinth stating that sexual deviants, (among others), will go to hell. (Not inherit the kingdom of God). Paul goes on to say that while some of the Corinthian Christians apparently had been homosexuals, God had cleansed them of this sin.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 )
Read in the light of Roman’s 1:25, Paul’s position stated in 1 Cor. 6:9 is that homosexual behavior is forgivable through the gospel and that any homosexual temptations should be resisted as seriously as those toward fornication or adultery. Paul also taught that homosexuality was contrary to "sound doctrine" ... the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. (1 Tim 1:10 )
As the preceding cited verses indicate, the position of the Bible, both Old and New Testament alike, is clearly opposed to homosexuality. Homosexuals are on the Biblical list of sinners who deserve death; but through the power of a right relationship with Jesus Christ homosexuals, and all sinners can be cleansed of thier sins.
What about a Homosexuals Claim that their Feelings are God Given?
Some homosexuals would argue that the church’s position, ‘God is against homosexuality’, is merely a result of the church attributing to God what is really no more than a projection of the church’s own discomfort about homosexuality. Armenian Christians, however, do not believe that God is a creation or projection of their own humanity. Rather we believe that God revealed himself to the Jews first and then to all peoples. The bible is the history of God’s progressive revelation of himself to humanity. Therefore the Bible is for us a guide to determine what is from God and what is not. Many homosexuals would claim that they have homosexual feelings and identify the source of these feelings as God-given. The issue for us as Christians is not whether or not homosexuals feel attraction to those of the same sex. They do. The issue is whether or not these feelings have their origin in God.
For the Christian, all feelings do not originate in God. We believe in and recognize the presence of a tempter, the devil, who can give us ungodly passions. No one denies the alcoholic really feels like getting drunk or the smoker really wants another cigarette or the kleptomaniac wants to steal. The issue is not whether or not they really feel like doing these things, they do. Merely feeling a desire to do something is insufficient in and of itself to conclude that the origin of that desire has its place in the Lord. The issue from a Christian standpoint is that certain things have been revealed as immoral and even though people really feel like doing them they should exercise strength over their passions. St. Paul writes Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:12 ) Paul goes on to say that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24 ) The Bible, therefore, does not deny the reality of homosexual feelings. Rather it recognizes them while equating them with other evil passions.
Possible Responses to Homosexuals
From a biblical standpoint, the primary approach to addressing another’s sin must be one of gentleness and sincere concern for the well being of the other. We are not to approach one another in a self-conceited manner desiring to exhibit a moral superiority or to provoke argument.
Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness...(Gal 5:26-27 )
... the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:23 )
Therefore Paul says the approach to addressing someone caught in a particular sin is one of gentility. This gentility, however, is not to be weak and permissive. If one continues in their sinful ways and so creates division in the church, separating the congregation from one another or from biblical doctrine, Paul writes, As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:9-11 )
What if the Bible is Wrong?
As Apostolic Christians we believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. Yet some proponents of gay rights would argue the Bible is simply an antiquated document which, in certain cases, is wrong in what it professes. It is impossible to convince a homosexual who does not accept either the accuracy or the authority of scripture, of the evil of homosexuality by quoting scripture. Therefore one needs to address other issues which may open their minds to questioning their persuasion.
The first issue to address is that of procreation. Since homosexuals can not procreate, they cannot generate new life to continue human race. There was actually an heretical Christian sect some centuries ago which believed all sexual relations were evil. They won many converts, but since they did not reproduce, they quickly died out. Why would God create an animal that could not continue its own kind? Were God to do so, he would certainly be breaking the pattern he has established throughout the rest of the animal kingdom. Therefore if one believes that the rest of God’s creation is evidence of God’s will, he or she must take into account the conflict that arises through trying to reconcile homosexuality with the needs of humans to propagate their own species.
Next is the issue of human sexuality. From a church standpoint there are variances in the makeup of men and women that go beyond the obvious biological differences. The church believes that men and women each have something the another needs for completeness. The various God-made male and female attributes are intended to be complementary to one another. The church would argue that homosexuals cannot experience the fulness of their humanity without a healthy emotional, spiritual and intellectually intimate relationship with someone of the complementary (often referred to as opposite) sex. Were sexual diversity to have none other than a procreative value, then could not God have created one androgynous self-procreating sex? Why would he bother to create men and women if sexual diversity was to serve no purpose? The homosexual must come to terms with the difficulties involved with trying to reconcile a belief in a God who designs with purpose, with the existence of male-female sexual diversity.
The church believes that the male-female union is necessary for us to experience our full God-given humanity as he intended. While one frequent, and for many important, aspect of this union is the physical, it need be noted that even with those who live a life of celibacy still have the capacity to fully experience their humanity. Celibates, however, are called to have a non-physically sexual union with someone of the opposite sex. That is to say for instance, celibate monks may have an intimate emotional prayer based relationship with the Virgin Mary. Still, however, for celibates and non-celibates alike, the church maintains that the fulness of our God given humanity can only be experienced through a healthy union with someone of the opposite sex. God grants us, through the Holy Spirit, essential gifts vital to our full spiritual development through male - female relationships. The rejection of this divine design through living a homosexual life style is therefore ultimately a kind of rejection or blasphemy against an essential gift of the Holy Spirit.Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Mat 12:31)
While as Christians we are called to strive for a close relationship with all people, homosexual relationships are a sinful turn from the direction God has given us towards the fulness of life. God’s directions to us are not intended to inhibit us experiencing our humanity, on the contrary, they are given so that by following his caring guidance we might be filled with his joy and love. This is why Jesus came; to teach us and to die for our sins, so that we might have abundant life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10: 10b) As Christians we are called to exhibit divine compassion to all people while both humbly and confidently representing by our words and actions God’s loving will for his children. Representing God’s will towards homosexuals requires firm, patient, compassionate, loving and gentle correction which simultaneously acknowledges the importance of seeking close relationships with all people while maintaining a loving stance as to the biblical parameters of these relationships.
In the eyes of God, homosexuality is a sin. Yet God did not come into the world to condemn the sinners, but so that all people might be saved through him. During Jesus’ earthly ministry his powerful representation of his Father’s love drew people to him. In the same way we too must strive to be filled with his love so that through us others may experience the love of the Lord and be drawn to the church to repent and to receive God’s salvation. Let us pray therefore, brethren, for the souls of those who have been deceived by the devil and led astray. Through prayer and meditation upon the Holy scriptures, may we become filled with the love of God, so that he may use us as his instruments to direct sinners back toward the love they have lost by straying from his holy path. May his name be praised forever.