“Homosexuality” versus “Homosexualism” is it Scriptural?

Readers of THE OUTLOOK are familiar with the decision of the 1973 CRC Synod concerning homosexuality. The text of those decisions may be found in Acts of Synod 1973 (pp. 50–53). Rev. Dennis J. Prutow, upon our request for information about himself, has written the following:

I was graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1968 with an M. Div. degree. Upon graduation, I was ordained in the United Church of Christ and entered the army chaplaincy. As a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, I went to seminary under an army program to bring men into the chaplaincy. My boyhood church connections with tho Congregational Church led to my tie with the United Church of Christ.

I served as a military chaplain both here in the States and in Vietnam. Because of the extreme liberal and modernist stand of the United Church of Christ, I felt that I could no longer represent this body fairly. I therefore left the chaplaincy and my wife and I sought to align ourselves with a church that we felt best typified the Biblical norm on both a theological and organizational plane. Our strong Reformed persuasion led us to examine all the churches of a Calvinistic heritage. In the providence of God we have been brought to the Christian Reformed Church and find its Reformed stand and honest desire to adequately apply the theology of the covenant to all areas of life refreshing. We are particularly appreciative of the outlook on Christian education and catechetical instruction I was examined and have been granted licensure to exhort in the churches of Classis Pella. We have a mission here in Dallas where we are now attending and helping where we can.” Rev. Prutow’s address is; 3510 Clover Lane, Farmers Branch, Texas 75234.

It is well known by now that the CRC Synod of 1973, in its Report 42 by the Committee to Study Homosexuality, states, “An important distinction that must be made is the difference between homosexuaiity as a condition of personal identity and homosexualism as explicit homosexual behavior (Acts, p. 612).”

In his editorial of July 13, 1973, Dr. DeKoster of The Banner says, “Synod was able, following its Committee, to shed biblical light upon a very difficult problem by making careful use of words . . . .” It is said that we mllst distinguish between the person who is homosexual in his sexual orientation without endulging in specific homosexual acts (homosexuality) and the person who engages in specific sexual acts with persons of the same sex (homosexualism). It is Dr. DeKoster’s contention that the discussion of the homosexual can be profitable for us only if we always keep clear the distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism.

The distinction a major premise – This distinction is a major premise of the Report set forth by the Study Committee. The churches are exhorted to a full understanding of this distinction lest the Report be gravely misunderstood. The question should however be asked, is this distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism warranted? It is obviously warranted according to the disciplines of science referred to by the Study Committee.

But is this distinction warranted in the light of Scripture and the Creeds of the Church? If the distinction is not made in Scripture, and for explicable philological and theological reasons, then we too must ask ourselves if we are indeed correct in making such a distinction. If we do not find the distinction made in Scripture, will the Creeds support us. And if the Creeds do support us in a position found in Scripture against making the distinction so boldly set forth by the Study Committee, the final question becomes one directed to the Church‘s doctrine of the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Is Scripture in fact our starting and finishing point? And does Scripture hold the preeminent position of being the final authority in the realm of Christian faith and practice?

It is interesting to see that the Study Committee, after setting forth its important distinction, and after plunging headlong into a study of the relevant Old Testament passages, says, W e must observe, however, that the Old Testament did not distinguish between homosexuality and homosexualism any more than it distinguished for example between kleptomania and stealing when it prohibited stealing (Acts 1973, p. 619).It is concluded that homosexualism is condemned in the Old Testament but, “Whether the judgment which the Old Testament makes on homosexualism would be the same if such a distinction had been known we cannot say at this point (Acts 1973, p. 619).” It is assumed that we are at a distinct advantage over the biblical writers since we can see a distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism where they could not.

Not allowed by the Hebrew – The deeper question ought to be asked: why was this distinction not made in Scripture? The Study Committee, as we shall see, feels that Scripture, when it speaks to the problem of homosexualism does just that. It speaks only to the explicit acts. But is this in fact the hue reason that no distinction is made in Scripture? I think not.

The real reason that no distinction is made in Scripture between the level of the overt act and the plane of passion (or constitutional being as the Study Committee expresses it) is that the Hebrew mind does not permit such a distinction. When the Hebrew uses a verb to express a state of being or position such as sitting or lying, it is done with a verb which can also show movement. One verb in the Hebrew is used to express each of the following duos; arise and stand, alight somewhere and stand, stretch oneself out and dwell, take a firm stand and hold ones ground, settle down as a stranger and dwell. “These examples show that motion and standing are not opposites as they are for us, but they are so closely related together they can form a unity. Movement is carried through to a standstill, standing is viewed as the result of a rising or a placing (Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek, Thorleif Boman, p. 29).”

In a similar fashion, we often think of words and deeds as separate. “A word spoken or written, seems to communicate an idea. It exercises the mind. A deed, on the other hand, seems to be a physical action. It exercises the body. But the Bible docs not sec the distinction between words and deeds in the same way at all. In fact, the Old Testament uses the same Hebrew word, dabar, for both word and deed (“Forms of Witness,” The Banner, Harold Dekker and Carl Kromminga, May 25, 1973).” It is interesting that here too, the lack of overt action and the explicit action of the body in performing a function are not distinctive but tied in a unity. The Hebrew mind cannot separate a state of being and explicit action. The reason for this is that “motionless and fixed being is for the Hebrews a nonentity; it does not exist for them. Only ‘being’ which stands in inner relation with something active and moving is a reality to them (Boman, p. 31).” For the Hebrew then, the thought form and thus the verbiage would not permit the separation of the concepts of homosexuality and homosexualism. The exercise of the heart or mind, passion, is not to be held distinctive from the exercise of the body. The state of being of an individual should not then be judged solely on the basis of bodily action “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

No New Testament warrant – In moving to the New Testament, the Study Committee first looks at I Corinthians 6: 9, 10. It is concluded that “Paul does not make the kind of distinction we have made between homosexuality and homosexualism (Acts, p. 619).” This the Study Committee is ready to accept. But before any other considerations arc made, the statement is made: “He [Paul] speaks only of those who practice homosexual acts (Acts, p. 619).” The Committee seems to move on the premise that a distinction would have been made between homosexuality and homosexualism had the distinction been known. In concluding a study of the New Testament data with a review of Romans 1:26,27 it is acknowledged that “homosexual acts are sinful (Acts, p. 621).” This judgement is immediately qualified with, “But again we need to ask whether the judgment of Paul applies to those who are homosexuals as we have defined them, i.e. those who are constitutionally homosexual in their sexual orientation (Acts 621).” Because of the distinction being made between homosexuality and homosexualism, the question is brought forth as to the extent of the prohibition against a distorted and  perverted sexual orientation held by some.

The question again needs to be asked from a New Testament perspective, is such a distinction warranted. Following on our study of the Hebrew thought patternwe can see that it was natural for the apostle Paul not  to make the distinction suggested. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3: 5 ), a doctor of the Law having studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and hiHebrew mode of thinking is further attested to in hiuse of allegory (Gal. 4). Paul was a Hebrew. Himind worked in the channel of Hebrew thought forms. Paul would not make the distinction alleged between homosexuality and homosexualism. In his mind, the passion, the constitutional being, and the explicit acwould be tied in a unity as we saw above.

Our Lord was no less a Hebrew. His teachings in parables and in other word forms of the Hebrew wisdom literature amply attest to this. It is Christ who taught: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Mat. 5:28).” For Christ our Lord, the lust of passion was not divorced from the explicit act. To think and to do were for Him equal. And those who made the distinction were chastised. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say to you . . . . (Matt. 5:27 ).” Given the Hebrew thought forms behind our Lord’s words, and given His joining of thought and deed with reference to adultery, would it not be safe to say that those Sodomites pictured in Genesis 19 as bearing the perverse passion of a distorted sexual constitution were as guilty as those who fulfilled this passion in overt acts? If we rightly understand the teaching of Christ in Matthew 5, we must say yes.

Not in Heidelberg Catechism – The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord‘s Day XLI with its proof texts, supports what we understand our Lord to be teaching. Question 108: What does the seventh commandment teach us? Answer: That all unchastity is accursed of God; and that we must, therefore, detest it from the heart, and live a chaste and continent life both within and outside of holy wedlock. The proof text for “all unchastity is accursed of God,” is Leviticus 18: 28. This text refers to several forms of perversion, verses 6 through 23, to include lying with mankind as with womankind, verse 22. Leviticus 18: 22 is one of the verses examined by the Study Committee. The use of  this proof text shows that our fathers felt that the seventh commandment does have reference to the question at hand. And it is common for the modern commentators such as Rousas Rushdoony for example to discuss homosexuality under the heading of the seventh commandment (The Institutes of Biblical Law by Rousas J. Rushdoony).

Question 109 follows logically: Does God in this commandment forbid nothing more than adultery and such like gross sins? Answer: Since our body and soul are both temples of the Holy Spirit, it is His will that we keep both pure and holy; wherefore He forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice one thereto. Note in

the answer that the body, the functional flesh and bones of the human being, is united with the soul, the heart of the human being with all of its thinking, feeling, and volition. They are “both temples of the Holy Spirit.And this uniting is no accident. For all actions and gestures, functions of the body, are next united with words, thoughts, and desires, functions of the soul. One of the proof texts used to support what is stated in the answer to question 109 is Matthew 5:27, 28 which was discussed above. The Catechism then would support a position that there should not be a distinction made between thought life, inner passion, or constitutional being, and the associated explicit acts. In other words, the Catechism, in speaking to the issue of homosexuality and homosexualism via the seventh commandment does not make a distinction between the two. Both are united as equal and both are equally forbidden.

Vs. the inspiration and authority of Scripture – An important step must now be taken to rightly understand the Significance of making a distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism when for philological and theological reasons we do not find the distinction made in Scripture. The simple fact is, if Scripture does not make the distinction, God does not make the distinction. In other words, what we are saying is simply: “Scripture says” equals “God says.”

B. B. Warfield, in speaking about the writers of the Bible, says: “Among the rich variety of the indications of their estimate of the Old Testament as direct utterances of Jehovah, thereare in particular two classes of passages, each of which, when taken separately, throws into the clearest light their habitual appeal to the Old Testament text as to God Himself speaking, while, together, they make an irresistible impression of the absolute identification by their writers of the Scriptures in their hands with the living voice of God.”

In speaking of verses like Galatians 3:8, Warfield goes on to say, “In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God . . . .” Of passages like Matthew 19:4, 5 he says, “in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures . . . .” And of both classes of passages Warfield says, in the two together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, B. B. Warfield, p. 299).”

Synod affirmed this position in its 1972 study on “The Nature and Extent of Biblical Authority.” Synod states simply that because Scripture speaks with divine authority, what Scripture says, God says ( p. 20). “And because the entire Scripture is the inspired Word of God, it must be affirmed also that the extent of the authority of Scripture is pervasive; it is plenary and verbal authority just as it is plenary and verbal inspiration. The entire Scripture—its whole extent, all of its parts, its very words—is the inspired and authoritative Word of God (p. 20).” Our making of distinctions where Scripture does not make such distinctions bears directly then on our view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

“By inspiration we understand that supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Holy Spirit, by virtue of which their writings are given divine truthfulness, and constitute an infallible and sufficient rule of faith and practice (Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Louis Berkhof, p. 41).” But we also understand this inspiration to mean that the influence exerted on the writers did no violence to their nature as men. God in His providence prepared those who were to set forth His Word so that Scripture in every part is expressive of the mind of its human authors. “Consider how a psalmist would be prepared to put into moving verse a piece of normative religious experience: how he would be born with just the right quality of religious sensibility, of parents through whom he should receive just the right hereditary bent, and from whom he should get precisely the right religious example and training, in circumstances of life in which his religious tendencies should be developed precisely on right lines; how he would be brought through just the right experiences to quicken in him the precise emotions he would be called upon to express, and finely would be placed in precisely the exigencies which would call out their expression (Warfield, p. 157).”

In looking at and properly understanding the inspiration of Scripture, this “organic concept” must not be lost. And when we look at the Scripture in this light, an understanding of the Hebrew mind and thought patterns becomes important. To misinterpret these thought patterns and the words represented by them means to misunderstand Scripture and thus God Himself.

The “Decision of the Synod of 1961 on Infallibility and Inspiration” speaks very pointedly to the question of biblical authority in connection with inspiration. “As an inspired ‘rule for faith and practice’ Scripture must be supposed to speak with divine trustworthiness (authority) on all matters—matters of fact (historical, phenomenological, theological, psychological, or whatever), matters of experience, morality, promise, prediction—on which Scripture claims to speak authoritatively. And the area of Scripture‘s authoritative speaking cannot be limited or restricted in any way except by the actual speaking of Scripture (p.36).”

The Belgic Confession backs up this judgement in Article VII: “We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will bf God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein . . . . Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value to those divine Scriptures . . . .” Scripture as it stands and properly interpreted is our final rule for faith and practice. Where Scripture makes no distinction, we ought not to make a distinction. If we do, we compromise the Church‘s doctrine of the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

From the sciences – Where then did the Study Committee derive the distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism used as a major premise in its report? The Study Committee plainly states that the distinction is drawn from the sciences. “As we have seen in the earlier part of this report, we have learned from the sciences that homosexuality often is a condition which is rooted deeply in biological and psychological aberrations that create a disorder for which the individual can be held only partly responsible, if at all (Acts, p. 623).”

Homosexuality must be held distinct from homosexualism in this quote as desired by the Study Committee. It is then from the sciences that the distinction is drawn. And the Study Committee feels that this deduction from the sciences should carry some weight. “Must we not recognize the authority of scientific truth even though we recognize the priority of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures? (Acts, p. 622).” For the Study Committee, science has authority; and as we have seen, it has enough authority to call for a distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism where Scripture, for philological and theological reasons, does not make such a distinction. The authority of Scripture is therefore clearly challenged.

According to the Belgic Confession, we may not consider any writings of men, no matter how holy they may be, to be of even equal value with Scripture (Article VII). And Synod has also properly spoken to this issue. The need for its speaking is obvious. Specific instances of science controlling the interpretation of the Scriptures have occurred in modem times. The church, however, may not allow its message to be made dependent upon the scientific enterprise, nor allow the scientific findings to dictate its interpretation of the Bible, nor allow the claims of science to call into question its confession of biblical authority, nor allow any science, including theology, to determine what is believable and what is not believable in the Bible. For such concessions to science would mean reversing the right order of Christian thinking. Scripture itself is the lamp to our feet and the light upon our path as we walk through the various fields of scientific inquiry (‘The Nature and Extent of Biblical Authority,’ p. 54).”

The central issue in the Study Committee making its distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism is not the confusion which it has fostered among the people of our churches. The central issue is the weakening of the doctrine of the inspiration and authori ty of Scripture. Science has dictated a norm rather than Scripture. This is in contravention to a proper understanding of the Bible, the Creeds of the Church, and previous Acts of Synod. The argument presented above tells us that we are being asked to hold a lower view of Scripture than is set forth in Scripture itself and in the Creeds of the Church.

Three basic errors – A lowering of our view of Scripture does three basic things which are manifested by the report of the Study Committee.

1. First, a lowered view of Scripture truncates our ability to call sin sin. The Study Committee states that homosexualism refers to explicit acts which are sinful. Homosexuality, on the other hand, refers to a condition of personal identity (Acts, 1973 p. 612) where individuals because of their biological and/or psychological makeup are constitutionally predisposed to homosexuality (Acts 1973 p. 613). Therefore the homosexual may bear for himself only minimal responsibility (Acts, p. 631). And the homosexual is therefore caught in a dilemma (Acts, p. 614). The Scriptures do not, however, make the distinction alleged by the Study Committee. Homosexualism and homosexuality are seen as one and arc equally sinful.

2. Second, because sin is not recognized for sin, repentance is not sought and salvation and deliverance are denied. The Study Committee says that although “the homosexual is to be admonished and encouraged not to allow himself to be defeated by lapses in chastity, but rather to repent and thereafter to depend in fervent prayer upon the means of grace (Acts 1973 p. 632), . . . to expect the means of grace and prayer to redirect a firmly fixed homosexual is to expect a miracle (Acts 1973 p. 627).” Yet the very essence of Christianity is the redirecting of sinful lives by sovereign grace through regeneration which culminates in a conversion consisting of repentance and faith. 3. Third, because it is characteristic of a lowered view of Scripture to be negligent in anticipating miracles of grace, those who are yet in sin are seen as sanctified in the fellowship of Christ. As the Study Committee puts it, “Within this fellowship of love the homosexual who has been justified and sanctified by Christ (I Cor. 6:11) must be accepted in his homosexuality (Acts 1973 p. 626) . . . .” And with reference to I Corinthians 6:11 the Study Committee says, “. . . It does not follow that if there were constitutional homosexuals among the saved in Corinth, that they were also liberated from their inversion and became heterosexual in their sexual propensity (Acts 1973 p. 627).” This results in the stand that the “. . . churches should recognize that their homosexual members are fellow-servants of Christ who are to be given opportunity to render within the offices and structures of the congregation the same service that is expected from heterosexuals (Acts 1973, p. 632).” Scripture, however, in making no distinction between homosexuality and homosexualism, teaches that where known sin exists in the life of the believer, he ought not to be placed in a position of guidance within the church.

It is the tendency to diminish the authority of Scripture in areas such as homosexuality that has brought the weakening and demise of other Reformed bodies. What Scripture says, God Says. “We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for anyone, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take anything away from the Word of God, it does evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects (Belgic Confession, Article VII).” We ought to hold fast to this confession even as we have in former days subscribed to it.