The other day I heard someone say:"I take a liberal view of homosexuality
because, if Christianity is about anything, it is about love. Sexuality, as an
expression of love between two people (even if of the same gender), is therefore
surely a good thing."
Of course you have heard it all before; but I am interested
in 'unpacking' this particular argument, and am interested in your
Let us unpack it:
There is the assumption that Christianity is all about love.
Certainly in the Christian doctrine of God, God is Love – that which is of the very essence of what unites the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as One God, A Trinity of Persons, is Love.
Certainly, what causes this Trinity of Love first to create and then to redeem the world is Love – “God [the Father] so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son …”
Certainly, this Trinity of Love in the saving and redeeming of man has the aim of calling forth from redeemed man, the response of love – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength…”.
Certainly in his living of his human life the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, both provided an example by word and deed of genuine love to God and to man and he also left commandments requiring his disciples not merely to love one another but also to love their enemies.
Therefore, Christianity is all about love, but the love that seeks, wills and performs for the other what is for his true good. The Greek word most often used in the New Testament of this love is AGAPE – see e.g. 1 Corinthians 13.
2. There is the assumption that sexuality is an expression of love between two people.
In English we use the word “love” to cover a vast range of meanings, which in
other languages would be covered by other words. So if we take a married couple we expect them to love one another in the sense of desiring and willing the true good of each other and of their children, as we also expect them to engage in sexual intercourse for procreation (and for mutual pleasure). In Hebrew the verb for sexual intercourse is “to know” (i.e., to know intimately) and it is well known that in Greek EROS refers to erotic feelings and relations between persons.
Sexuality used to refer to the biological make up of one’s body – male or female – and to the feelings and drives associated with this. These days it is often used to refer to the “orientation” of a person, which it is said may even be “towards a male” even when the biology of the desirer is that of a male, and likewise with a female towards a female.
So if any two persons feel a sexual drive or passion for one another and they also feel they have a certain desire to be together more than in terms of “a one night stand”, then it is asserted that they have the right to know each other in the intimate sense through sexual gratification. They have love one for the other and this is seen, it is said, in their “committed relationship” involving sexual interplay. In a culture dominated by rights, it is assumed by many that each of us has a right to self-fulfillment and this includes sexual gratification with a willing partner. And with the use of contraception and the like it is said that no-one is harmed and no-one is procreated and so what is the problem!
3. There is the assumption that any expression of “love” is a good thing.
Let us be clear. It is a good thing, a worthy and commendable thing, when AGAPE is shown between persons, that is when the true good of the other person is sought, even at great cost. The more AGAPE there is in the world the better for everyone. Further, the more AGAPE there is in families (here we may call it PHILIA, brotherly/sisterly love) the better for families, tribes and nations. Most human beings at least secretly admire the person who genuinely seeks to do good to others and societies reward those who in courage save others. In fact part of the very basic commandment of God is “love thy neighbour as thyself”.
However, if the love in question is EROS, then unless it is intimately related to AGAPE it is usually a bad thing and belongs (in Christian teaching) to the realm of lust, or immorality, or fornication or adultery or other sins.
The Christian way of looking at sexual relations is not by beginning on the horizontal plane where sociology and psychology flourish. It is to begin with the primary doctrine of Christianity, the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Trinity has made man, as male and female, in his image and after his likeness. Male and female in their union and complimentarity are called by God to mirror the unity of the Trinity, a unity of AGAPE. Thus the union of man and women in holy matrimony, in AGAPE, is the sphere wherein EROS has its proper sphere, and even here it is not an unbounded & unlimited sphere for it is subject to AGAPE.
In this light, all other relations between persons are to be governed by chastity not by a claimed right by any to self-fulfillment or self-realization. In the modern world this is a hard saying, and because it is very hard, many churches and many Christians have tried by all kinds of means and methods to get around it!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)