The deplorable decision of the 1973 CRC Synod on Homosexuality is familiar to readers of THE OUTLOOK, In tl1is article, Rev. Ring Star contrasts the Sodom of Report 42 (Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 609–633) with that which he finds in the Bible. Rev. Star (emeritus) is affiliated with the Cottonwood Heights Christian Reformed Church of Jenison, Michigan.
Careful reading of Report 4 on the homosexual problem (Acts of Synod 1973) may reveal at least two elements which could have caused much of the unfavorable reaction against it. One is that the homo. sexual in his homosexuality bears a minimal or no responsibility for his condition. The other element is the way some outstanding Scriptural passages bearing on the subject are interpreted.
The first element immediately brings up the question as to how homosexuality stands related to the total depravity of man. One can hardly improve upon the excellent manner this subject was handled by Norman Shepherd, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in THE OUTLOOK (Nov. 1973) , and pointedly referred to by the editor of THE OUTLOOK in his reply to Dr. Hugen (THE OUTLOOK, Dec. 1973). We therefore at once proceed with the second element.
Cf. Calvin and Jude 7 – The Scriptural passages referred to are found on page 617 of the Acts of Synod 1973, and arc as follows: Genesis 13:13; 18:20; Deuteronomy 32;32; Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14; Lamentations 4:6; Ezekiel 16;46ff; II Peter 2:6; Jude 6, 7; Revelation 11:8.
From the paragraph in which these passages are referred to it is plain that the report wishes to bring out that Sodom and Gomorrah and neighboring cities were not destroyed because of their homosexual practices but because of a general situation of wickedness. To prove this contention the above passages are mentioned. It is also clearly stated that the Scriptural account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah taken by itself does not necessarily condemn homosexual ism.
Before slating that “all” the passages in which Scripture mentions Sodoro and Gomorrah refer to a general degenerate condition one should read care· fully Jude 7. And this is what Calvin in his commentary on the passage bas to say: “To go after strange flesh, is the same as to be given up to monstrous lusts; for we know that the Sodomites, not content with the common manner of committing fornication, polluted themselves in a way the most filthy and detestable.”
We have no way of knowing what these “monstrous lusts” the Sodomites had given themselves up to except through the detestable incident that took place at Lot’s home. And that, according to Jude, constituted the reason for which God destroyed the cities. Jude’s reference is significant. Jude, the inspired writer, had full knowledge of the Old Testament and therefore also of the references to Sodom and Gomorrah in which the report sees no more than “a general corruption and degeneracy” of the cities concerned. If Jude would have understood these passages in the same light he could then not have stated specifically that God destroyed the cities because of gross and unnatural sex perversion.
Remember Sodom! – Again the manner in which the above passages are used to lend support to the report suffers from another apparent weakness. The key to the proper interpretation of all of Scripture is the correct understanding of Genesis. To the best of my knowledge this has always been the Reformed position. And in dealing with the nature and extent of Biblical authority, Report 44 makes a significant observation. You find it on page 526 of the Acts of Synod 1972. At the top of the page a resume is given of the contents of the book of Genesis concluded by this statement: “That constitutes the revealed prologue to God’s covenant dealings with Israel and this prologue is basic to an understanding of the entire Scripture.” What else can this mean than that if you misread Genesis you are on the dangerous road of misreading all of Scripture?
When the United States entered into war with Japan, President Roosevelt passed this slogan on to the nation: “Remember Pearl Harbor!” By this the president did not mean to say that as the war progresses you will gradually learn as to what happened at Pearl Harbor. Quite the contrary! The slogan assumes that all who hear it know all about Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
In His dealings with His covenant people Cod repeatedly finds it necessary to remind them of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord is actually telling Israel: “Remember Sodom—remember Sodom from what I told you about that wicked city in the beginning!” The writers of Israel’s sacred history are assuming that God’s people have a full knowledge of the moral corruption and overturn of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Genesis records and in the light of that they must understand the seriousness of their own God–provoking practices which are like that of the wicked cities referred to.
But Report 42 proceeds quite differently. In fact its method is just the opposite. The report sums up all the passages where Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned and from them would determine how the Sodomitical catastrophe is to be rightly understood. This is faulty exegesis. It puts the Genesis record in the wrong light and completely ignores the account of Jude.
The Genesis record – What is the Genesis record? Key passages undoubtedly are these: Genesis 13:13, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners against Jehovah exceedingly.” And Genesis 18:20, 21: “And Jehovah said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not I will know.”
The record is plain. The fact is that the moral condition of Sodom and Gomorrah is exceptionally wicked. God has heard about this in heaven and the situation calls for His retribution. But to make sure that He makes no mistake, anthropomorphically speaking, God will go down into the cities to get first hand information. The further record shows that He did this through his angelic ambassadors.
Now there is no thought more clearly expressed in Scripture than that if God finds it necessary to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah He will do so on the basis of what He sees first hand through His ambassadors. So if the reasoning of Report 42 is to hold, then, to continue the anthropomorphism, God would have had to inspect all areas of sin throughout the cities concerned.
But God did not do that. The angels took refuge in the home of Lot. And the entire city, by a full representation of the males, young and old, surrounded the home of Lot with the intent of satisfying their bestial lusts upon God’s holy ambassadors. This is what God saw and what constituted the extent of His investigation. God needed to see no more. Lot was rushed out of the city, for destruction was imminent.
Does that now mean that God singled out one outstanding sin upon which to spend His wrath and ignored the rest of the cities’ moral degeneracy? Emphatically not I The situation is this. When God created man He made of one flesh two, male and female, uniting them into a beautiful marriage relationship. This union constituted a place of such importance that without it the purpose of creation could not stand; and any attack upon it is a direct attack upon this holy purpose. It is therefore not going beyond the bounds of Scripture to assume that much of Satan‘s hellish intents will be directed at destroying the original institution of marriage.
This must not be overlooked in stressing the cause for the destruction of Soclom and Gomorrah. All the moral degeneracy, various and pronounced as this may have been, converged itself into one head, so that in all their fO\ll practices the inhabitants of the cities finally stooped to the lowest level of sin fomenting into homosexualism. This practice in its own sphere spells the complete annihilation of the marriage bond so beautifully consummated in paradise. Could Satan use a more effective weapon against God’s holy purpose with His creation?
So then when God saw the homosexual passions bent on spending themselves on His holy ambassadors at the home of Lot He had seen the very depth to what sin in all its ramifications can come to. He therefore did not need to extend His inspection further. He had seen all.
Natural and Spiritual Sodomy – In this light the repeated references to Sodom and Gomorrah in the history of God’s chosen people take on a striking meaning. It is true that in these passages, and as quoted in Report 42, Israel’s moral degeneracy is described in a general way. But that is not the point.
The covenant relationship between God and His people God chooses to call a marriage relationship. An elaborate account of this is given in Ezekiel 16 and in the first chapters of the prophet Hosea. Other passages too bring out this union very plainly: Isaiah 54;5; Jeremiah 3;14; 31:32. Just how much symbolism must be taken into account here does not matter. The Scriptures bring out that the union between God and His chosen people is the closest possible, and there is no other relationship closer than the marriage tie. The redeemed shall live forever with Christ as the Groom and themselves as the Bride (Rev. 21, 22).
The point of comparison is that God is really saying: “My people, you know of the grievous sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and why I destroyed the cities. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was very great but your sin is equal to it. Even as these cities by their homosexualism completely corrupted the beautiful marriage relationship which I consummated in Paradise, so you with your corrupt and immoral practices are on the road of disrupting our beautiful marriage tie. Theirs was natural Sodomy—yours is spiritual Sodomy.”
And since the apostasy by which Israel was breaking faith with God, her husband, is repeatedly likened with the moral decay of Sodom and Gomorrah, it is safe to assume that in this apostasy there was much of the homosexual conduct that constituted so much of the wickedness of these cities (See Judges 19; I Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; II Kings 23:7).
Sodom in Revelation – The reference of Sodom in Revelation is important in this connection. It reads thus: “And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is caned Sodom, and Egypt where also their Lord was crucified” (11:8). The use of the term “Sodom” here is plainly symbolical. But that docs not mean that this symbolism has no literal history of the Sodom of Genesis in it. Quite the reverse may very well be true. Then the meaning is this, that the utter sexual perversion which characterized Sodom of the Genesis record will characterize the moral situation of the world at the end of time.
Let us pursue Revelation on this a bit more in detail. Unmistakably Sodom here is to be identified with the Dragon and his allies a few chapters down.
The Scriptures throughout fix a marriage relationship between God and His own. As in the Old Dispensation God’s chosen people are called the wife of God with God as her husband, so in the New Dispensation the redeemed church is called the Bride of Christ with Christ as the Groom. Over against this blessed marriage relationship between Christ and His redeemed, Revelation places the hostile activities of the Dragon and his allies. a combination of anti-Christian forces directed by Satan himself.
One need not go into all the details here of the vile and anti-Christian activities of these cooperating forces. Let it suffice then that, if Christ’s redemptive work was intended to bring about the full and glorious marriage union between the Savior and His own, Satan‘s final efforts especially at the end of time will be directed at disrupting that union. He put forth every effort to destroy the marriage union of the creation order. He left no stone unturned to disrupt the symbolic union between God and His Bride of the Old Dispensation. And surely at the end of time he will once more muster all his diabolical forces to destroy the spiritual marriage of recreation.
What then will be the nature of this Satanic attack upon Christ’s holy Bride? From the side of the beast that comes up out of the sea it is that of persecution—Satan appearing as a roaring lion. Through the beast that comes up out of the earth Satan’s tactics are those of false teachings—Satan appearing as an angel of light. These are two carefully calculated methods to turn the Bride away from her Lover.
But Revelation has more to say of Satan‘s crafty schemes against the Bride of Christ. As we read on, mention is made of a third beast. This beast is so similar to the one that comes up out of the sea that it would seem natural to say that the two are one and the same. Yet this would not do justice to the Scriptural account, since in so doing the beast out of the earth would be pushed out of consideration. But Scripture has put an inseparable connection between the sea–beast and the earth–beast, the one complementing the other. It would therefore be the part of sound interpretation to consider this third beast a composite of both the sea–beast and the earth–beast. This thought receives support also from the fact that upon the third beast sits the Great Harlot who is not just associated with a certain aspect of sinful corruption but with the wickedness of the world in its broadest dimension.
This brings us back to Sodom of Revelation 11. The Great Harlot clearly symholizes the totality of world corruption which comes to a climax at the end of time. This interpretation is demanded by her position upon the composite beast and by her identification with Babylon the Great. And the conclusion is inescapable that Babylon the Grcat is called Sodom in Revelation 11. That being so, the Great Harlot bears all the characteristics of what Sodom in Revelation 11 stands for. And that in turn must be determined by the description of Sodom in Genesis.
The Great Harlot bears a most anti–Christian name from which sex: perversion cannot be expected. Here it is: “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth” (Rev. 17:5). But her corrupt influence undoubtedly is in the mixture of her golden cup said to be “full of abominations even the unclean things for her fornication” (17:4).
This Great Harlot is definitely proficient in the art of fornication. Her very name indicates it. Her golden cup is full of it. Great Babylon which she represents is called the mother of fornicators. And being identificd with Sodom she excells in the sin of fornication. And although this is symbolism, the language leads one’s thoughts directly into the Geld of sex: perversion in which the sin of Sodom plays no small part.
Scripture versus Report 42 – And let it be interspersed here that, whenever Scripture refers to extreme forms of apostasy, homosexualism time and again is specifically mentioned. The tribe of Benjamin was almost wiped out as a direct cause of this sin. Other significant passages are I Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; II Kings 23:7. Paul in giving an extended account of the moral decay of heathendom in Romans 1 places special emphasis upon homosexualism. He places the sin at the head of a long list of sins, describes it in detail, and accounts for it as a Divine curse upon all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
So then whatever abominations and sinful impurities the Great Harlot’s golden cup may contain it will have in its mixture a large quantity of sex perversion from which homosexualism may not be excluded. This is the potion in her golden cup that the Great Harlot with all her allurements reaches out to the Bride of Christ to entice her to sin.
And at first blush it would seem that she is successful in this. For in the end the two witnesses (the Church) lie dead in the street of Sodom. That does not mean that the Church herself was destroyed. But the Great Harlot did succeed in robbing the Church of her witnessing power. However she rises again out of the midst of the Sodomitical turmoil of the world as Christ‘s holy Bride, adorned with a wedding gown unsullied by the smut of this world.
Tn the light of all this it is well to take note of the astounding sex irregularities finding their way into the social order today and whose inroads are clearly evident within the confines of the visible Church.
This is the situation Report 42 must face in the quotations from Scripture where Sodom is mentioned. And if the above observations are correct, and who dare deny it, there is work to do and Report 42 will have to be revised to fit into the records of Holy Writ. For the sodomitical practices traced through Scripture can in no way be accounted for by a constitutional condition for which the perpetrators of these practices bear but a minimal or no responsibility.