Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: The Role of the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian

Should Christians embrace homosexuality as normative since they ignore the rest of Old Testament Law?

The significance of this question is huge. LGBTQ apologists are attempting to entice Christians away from orthodoxy by arguing for Biblical precedence on this very point. And the angle by which they approach this is the popular evangelical doctrine, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” Why do I call this a “popular evangelical doctrine” and not “biblical doctrine” since it is a quote of the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:14?

A Background of Controversy

I do so because the popular doctrine skews the balance of biblical doctrine by having one truth eclipse another. Prominent Dispensational theologians from my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, were engaged in a highly visible, public debate with John MacArthur in the late 1980’s and 1990’s in what is known as the “Lordship Salvation” vs “Free Grace” controversy. At stake was the centerpoint of Christianity, the Gospel. One side accused the other of “easy believism” and “antinomianism” (without law) while the other accused “legalism” and “works-based salvation.” The debate affected arguably millions of Evangelicals. As John MacArthur states about his book that launched the debate, The Gospel According to Jesus, “There are now [2003] about half a million copies in circulation, and the book is still in print. That is almost unprecedented for a polemic book dealing with a theological issue.” Evangelicals were faced with a decision to make: which side are you on? Is the Law good or is it bad? Does it have a place for Christians or not?

The Free Grace controversy was such a hot topic for the Dispensationalists for the same reason it concerns our question about there being a biblical argument for homosexuality. The topic hit very close-to-home on a fundamental tenet of Dispensationalism, namely the duality of, or separation between, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That foundation was part of the backdrop for stressing “saved by grace alone through faith alone” and “once saved always saved” but at the expense of any expectation of personal holiness (see Hebrews 12:14). The practical effect in the pew was a very pejorative view of Old Testament law. For them, to view the law favorably was tantamount to being a Pharisee, Jesus’ earthly antagonist. The doctrine communicates that there is absolutely no place for the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian. And this doctrine now finds welcome support by the LGBTQ apologist. The “Free Grace” doctrine, with its staunch opposition to the Law, is now being used by LGBTQ apologists to promote a theological argument favorable to homosexuality. I’m not making an ad-hominem argument against my Dispensationalist brothers’ doctrine.  The point is, you can see the doctrine residing in the question: “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” It is no wonder that the LGBTQ apologist can stump some Christians by asking the question; because a large number of Christians do indeed ignore all the “other” Old Testament laws.

The Ten Commandments are for Today

The Covenantal position, in my view, provides the best biblical theology for addressing the  role of the Law for the Christian. I point to Reformed theologian John Calvin’s statement of the doctrine of the Law, not as proof, but for a definition: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.” (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.) With the Law of Moses divided into parts, we are able to make better sense of the Apostle Paul’s multiple uses of the term “law” in the book of Romans. It helps us understand which laws remain and which do not. While Romans 6:14 seems to support the LGBTQ / Free Grace position and disfavors the Law: “you are not under law but under grace,” Romans 7:12 speaks favorably of the Law, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

In Romans 7:12, Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver. The Law is holy and righteous and good, because God is holy and righteous and good. It is that quality of the Law that gives it the nomenclature “Moral Law.” The Ten Commandments are uniquely set apart in Scripture, written in stone by the very finger of God amidst smoke and fire and fear. They serve as standards, transcending the 613 civil and ceremonial laws that governed ancient Israel socially and religiously. It is not hard to make the connection that the 613 laws were detailed, specific out-workings of the ten. Christ had this perspective too it seems, evidenced by His further summarizing the Law of Moses this way:“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The point being made here is that the Moral Law is eternal. It cannot and must not be ignored today. It expresses what is holy and righteous and good for all of mankind, God’s preeminent creature, made in the very likeness of God. The Moral Law existed prior to its being codified on Mt. Sinai; it permeated the temporary Mosaic Covenant laws; and it continues to govern the consciences of the New Testament believer. For example, it was sin to murder before Moses, during Moses, and after Moses. As to the new covenant believer, what other Law could God have meant when He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”?

For the above reasons, it is evident that the question posed:  “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” perpetuates a wrong, but popular, doctrine that Old Testament Laws are to be dismissed. They are not. The Moral Law remains.  Let us go forward with confidence in the manner Paul writes in Ephesians 5:3 “But immorality [porneia-sexual sin] or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints….

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