The impact on medical and dental professionals
15 MINUTE READ
We’ve had the nationwide vote; arguments, voting and jubilation in national parliament; new and ongoing same-sex marriage ceremonies and now the follow-up concerns from Christian groups about other freedoms – of religion, thought, speech, public expression and education.
How are our lives as medical and dental professionals impacted – in family, community and professional practice? There are many areas which could be examined – psychological, sociological or political but I will explore only the scriptural basis for our beliefs. I discuss this in some detail in the recently published: Malcolm Dunjey, 136 Questions about God’s Word and his World.1
Here I will use the framework of a dedicated chapter in that work and expand relevant areas.
The Old Testament
The key texts are Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 and Genesis chapter 19.
Let us first examine the second Levitical passage, Lev 20:13:
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, each of them has done what is detestable. Each of them is to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
As 21st Century Christians what are we to make of this dramatic statement and brutal sentence? Here are some quick points:
- God’s attitude on homosexuality in the Old Testament (OT) is crystal-clear: detestable.
- This penalty is ‘over-the-top’
- By our current standards but in keeping with a very wide range of OT death penalties for offences such as blasphemy, cursing parents, adultery, bestiality and so on.
- To whom were these teachings directed? The commandments, penalties and teachings were part of God’s covenant relationship with Israel, his chosen people. They were not, along with the rest of the OT given to the surrounding Gentile nations who made no profession of faith in YHWH, the personal name of the God of Israel.
- While Christians accept the OT as inspired scripture, it doesn’t mean we practice it in its entirety, ie. the death penalty for homosexuality.
The following are the key points in deciding which parts of the OT are for practice for us today:
- If it is repeated in the NT we accept it.
- The proclamation from the Jerusalem Council in the letter to the Gentiles was specifically to clarify what the Jewish believers in Jerusalem thought was obligatory for Gentile believers to observe from the OT: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:20). This is very interesting in the things it didn’t mention. The new Gentile believers weren’t required to keep the Law of Moses: they didn’t have to be circumcised (the major issue). This proclamation is not inspired but is indicative and historically important.
- There are no death penalties in the NT and Jesus seemed to not approve them.
The Genesis 19:1-29 passage
This is an amazing OT story which precedes the above discussion on the Levitical texts. The setting is pre-Mosaic – Sinai and the giving of the Law – and these texts has not yet been given. There is no OT and no written revelation from God, although the stories of creation, the Garden and subsequent events up to the time of Abraham must have been orally ‘preserved’ up to the time when Moses recorded them (presumably during the 40 years in the wilderness prior to the entry into the promised land of Canaan). Revelation from God during this period was by personal appearances, often through angels (‘messengers’ being the Hebraic word), when sometimes one of the angels seemed to be God.
The account begins two chapters before in chapter 17, when the LORD (YHWH) personally appears to Abram, initiates a covenant, changes their names to Abraham and Sarah and announces that Sarah will become pregnant.
In chapter 18, the LORD appears again to Abraham with two angels revealing the forthcoming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their “so grievous sin” and Abraham negotiates with the LORD over the destruction. In chapter 19, two angels come to Lot who has settled in Sodom and the story proceeds.
This concerns Lot, the angels and the attempted homosexual rape of the angels and the destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain. The passage is too long to reproduce here but it would be important for you to read it before reading my analysis (Gen 19: 1-29).
“… in our modern society there is almost a glorification of same-sex relationships.”
The story is Eastern in character – it’s so unusual – but it has to be true, especially with the extraordinary postscript in 19:30-38 – the story of how a drunken Lot fathered the Moabite and Ammonite nations through sex with his two daughters who had made it out of Sodom with him.
The story is also noteworthy for the following:
- Lot’s unbelievable interpretation of his obligatory protection of his two visitors. Did he suspect they were heavenly in origin? He would surely have done so by the time the whole episode was over with entire plain turned into a smoking ruin.
- “YHWH rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah… he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living… dense smoke rising from the land… like smoke from a furnace”, (19:24-25, 28).
- Lot’s also unbelievable offering-up of his two virginal daughters, attempting to deflect the sexual rage of the men of Sodom. “You can do what you like with them” (19:8).
- Lot’s wife’s punishment. She disobeyed the angels “don’t look back” (19:26) possibly lingering and being caught up in the judgement. She might have initially come from Sodom.
- The OT does reveal God’s intervention in acts of punishment for sin in which the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the settlements on the plain was a key event, preceded by the Flood, followed by conquest of Canaan.
All this is the context to the ‘vexed’ texts in Leviticus, 18:22:
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”.
For the full picture we must read the unexpected expansion on the sins of Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49-50:
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”
Subsequently, Jesus, 2,000 years later in sending out the Twelve to preach, states if “anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words… it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.” (Matt 10:14-15) – surely an interesting comparison of sins and judgement. Keep all that in mind!
The New Testament
There are several relevant texts in the New Testament. Let us start with Romans 1:18-32:
“The wrath of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of the people… for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen… so that people are without excuse… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones… men were inflamed with lust for one another… men committed shameful acts with other men… so God gave them over to a depraved mind”.
There were other sins, of which homosexuality was part:
“… every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity… full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy (v.29-31)”.
In our modern society there is almost a glorification of same-sex relationships which the post-vote scenes in our Parliament typified and against which God’s deeper analysis needs to be compared.
It is relevant to examine one further NT text, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
“Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves… greedy… drunkards… slanderers… swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed… sanctified… justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
In the Greek the phrase “men who have sex with men” uses malakoi (the passive participant) and arsenokoitai (the active participant) thus covering both aspects of the homosexual act. Although the sentence of not entering the kingdom of God sounds fixed, it could be reversed as it had been for repentant Corinthian Christians. Once again homosexuality takes its place in a long list of other sins as it does in the letter to the Romans.
Homosexuality is not singled out as being the worst of sins nor does it attract a special penalty.
“At the political level we should fight for our freedoms: of religion, thought, speech, choice and education, including what some teach our children.”
There is no scriptural prohibition to intense same-sex friendships, of either sex, providing they do not become physically sexual. The friendship between David and Jonathan is often referred to as an example. The biblical teaching on marriage is that it is heterosexual, life-long to the exclusion of others and, if the participants are able, it usually produces children. Same-sex marriage is not discussed anywhere in the Bible. However, because it is sexual and same-sex, it falls under the ‘umbrella’ of homosexuality and therefore the condemnation of scripture. This is the scriptural argument against same-sex marriage as brief as it is.
The scriptural references to marriage start in the Garden of Eden when “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:24-25).
Paul quotes this again, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”. He then adds “This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31-32).
This is a new and overwhelming statement: that the intensity of physical, sexual and spiritual love between a husband and wife is overshadowed by that between the individual believer and our heavenly lover, Jesus – God himself, who gave his life and love for us. For this reason, same-sex marriage is tragic, unscriptural and has God’s condemnation. It has no role to play in this earthly/heavenly drama.
‘Pastoral’ and Community implications
We must be clear in our own minds as to the scriptural teachings outlined above. Many people get entangled in psychological and sociological arguments which have no end. If we are defending our position we must stick with scripture.
We are entitled to a community voice and have not become disenfranchised as some would claim. At the political level we should fight for our freedoms: of religion, thought, speech, choice and education, including what some teach our children.
It is not our role to condemn others personally. We cannot be censorious with family members, patients, colleagues or community. In my long career as medical practitioner, pastor and missionary I have never been asked for my opinion, face-to face, on an individual’s chosen lifestyle. If I had, I would have replied along the lines of an inclusive, friendly “All of us answer only to God for our lives”.
The Spirit of Jesus is to live out in us through the “fruit of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5: 22-23).
Rev Malcolm Dunjey Rev Malcolm Dunjey and his wife Audrey, married for 61 years, have a large family including 5 great-grandchildren. They were Interserve missionaries in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Yemen and worked with government in WA, NT and PNG. Malcolm is an ordained Baptist minister with a post-graduate BD from MCD and has qualifications in public health medicine as well as medical administration. He has written an autobiography To the City of the Great King,(Ark House:2009), and 136 Questions about God’s Word and his World, (Ark House: 2017). Malcolm is currently studying Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.