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INTRODUCTION

The pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC is wrong to dismiss Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 from the Bible for the 21st Century because of the close connection between homosexual sex and idolatry.  God’s condemnation of idolatry goes beyond the time constraints and cultural boundaries of Leviticus 18 and 20 so it is relevant for the 21st Century.  The same is true for God’s condemnation of homosexual practice, which is closed tied to idolatry so that similar factors apply.

THE OLD TESTAMENT REVEALS THAT GOD HATES IDOLATRY

It is a clear biblical truth that God is a jealous God who hates idolatry no matter what form it takes.  The Second Commandment makes that clear per Exodus 20:3–6 (ESV)

3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

One Bible encyclopedia [DeVries, C. E. (1988). Idols, Idolatry. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 1015). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House] shed some light on the topic of idolatry:

The prohibition of idolatry is explicitly stated in the second commandment (Ex 20:4, 5; Dt 5:8, 9): “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (cf. Ex 34:17; Lv 19:4; 26:1; Dt 4:15–19; 27:1–5). This commandment is an extension or auxiliary of the first, for it seeks to preserve God’s uniqueness and to protect his glory. The definition of idolatry was broadened during the time of Samuel, who confronted King Saul with the charge that “stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (lit. “teraphim”; 1 Sm 15:23). In the NT the concept of idolatry was extended even more; covetousness is equated with idolatry (Gal 5:20; Col 3:5).

The Hebrew word tôʿēbâ and the Greek word βδέλυγμα refer to or are classified with idolatry.   For example, 2 Kings 21:11 (ESV) reads:

11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations [tôʿēbâ] and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols,

4 Kingdoms 21:11 (LXX Swete)

11 Ἀνθʼ ὧν ὅσα ἐποίησεν Μανασσῆς ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἰούδα τὰ βδελύγματα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἀπὸ πάντων ὧν ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἀμορραῖος ὁ ἔμπροσθεν, καὶ ἐξήμαρτεν καί γε Ἰουδὰ ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτῶν·

In reference to 2 King 21:10-13, one commentary [Constable, T. L. (1985). 2 Kings. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 580). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books] refers to Manasseh practicing idolatry:

21:10–13. God’s judgment against Manasseh and Judah came through … the prophets (probably Isaiah and perhaps others). The Amorites were one of the most wicked people of Palestine in Joshua’s day. Besides practicing idolatry himself Manasseh compounded his wickedness by leading the Judeans into sin with him.

Ezekiel 6:9 (ESV) reads:

9 then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations [tôʿēbâ].

Ezekiel 6:9 (LXX Swete)

9 καὶ μνησθήσονταί μου οἱ ἀνασωζόμενοι ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν οὗ ᾐχμαλωτεύθησαν ἐκεῖ· ὀμώμοκα τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν τῇ ἐκπορνευούσῃ ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ καὶ τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτῶν τοῖς πορνεύουσιν ὀπίσω τῶν ἐπιτηδευμάτων αὐτῶν, καὶ κόψονται πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς βδελύγμασιν αὐτῶν·

Another commentary [Cooper, L. E. (1994). Ezekiel (Vol. 17, p. 109). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers] refers to the idolatry of Ezekiel 6:9:

When the scattered remnant were among the nations, they would remember God in anticipation of their repentance (v. 9). Remembrance as used here was more than mental recall of the facts but also included the idea of a new openness to God. Idolatry is spoken of elsewhere in the prophets (e.g., Hosea) as spiritual harlotry but was further developed in Ezekiel. The prophet saw a future time when a repentant Israel would “know him” again, turn from idolatry, and return to Yahweh (v. 10). This idea is developed again in Ezek 16:59–63; 23:1–49; and 36:1–38.

Throughout the Old Testament idolatry was a practice that God hated and the penalty was severe. 

THE NEW TESTAMENT SHOWS THAT GOD HATES IDOLATRY

The New Testament strongly condemns idolatry per Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV), which reads [boldfacing added]:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

One commentator [George, T. (1994). Galatians (Vol. 30, p. 389). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers] refers to the “works of the flesh”:

In 5:19–26 Paul developed further the antithesis between flesh and Spirit in terms of two distinctive listings of ethical qualities, the first a series of malevolent acts Paul described as “the works of the flesh” …

These malevolent activities include ”idolatry” which one commentary [Bruce, F. F. (1982). The Epistle to the Galatians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co] describes:

5:20 εὁδωλολατρία, ‘the worship of idols’—not only of graven images but of any substitute for the living and true God. In Col. 3:5 covetousness is described as a form of idolatry, because the thing coveted becomes an object of worship. In 1 Cor. 10:14 participation in a feast in a pagan temple is participation in idolatry.

It is clear from this passage in Galatians, that the practice of idolatry is enough to send someone to hell for eternity per the statement “that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “ 

There is no legitimate way to argue against the biblical truth that God’s hatred of idolatry carries throughout history into the 21st Century.  In other words, God’s hatred of idolatry transcends time and cultural boundaries. 

GOD USED THE SAME WORD TO LINK IDOLATRY AND HOMOSEXUAL SEX 

As discussed above, God used the Hebrew word tôʿēbâ , as well as in the LXX the Greek word βδέλυγμα, to refer to idolatry.  God used the Hebrew word tôʿēbâ when He condemned the sexual sin of male-male homosexual practice per Leviticus 18:22 (ESV), which reads:

22 You shall not lie with a male [zā·kār] as with a woman [‘iš·šā(h)]; it is an abomination [tôʿēbâ].

The punishment was death for both parties per Leviticus 20:13 (ESV):

13 If a man [‘ĩš] lies with a male [zā·kār] as with a woman [‘iš·šā(h)], both of them have committed an abomination [tôʿēbâ]; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

The LXX used the Greek word βδέλυγμα to correspond to the Hebrew wordtôʿēbâ:   

Leviticus 18:22 (Logos LXX) – 22 καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός, βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν.

Leviticus 20:13 (Logos LXX)  – 13 καὶ ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην γυναικός, βδέλυγμα ἐποίησαν ἀμφότεροι, θανατούσθωσαν, ἔνοχοί εἰσιν.

By using the Hebrew word tôʿēbâ , as well as in the LXX the Greek word βδέλυγμα, to refer to idolatry and homosexual sex, God establishes a link between these two exceptionally grievous sins.

ROMANS 1:18-32 ESTABLISHES HOMOSEXUAL SEX TO BE IDOLATRY

The same principle applicable to idolatry holds true for the practice of homosexual sex because it is a form of idolatry per Romans 1:18-32.  The practice of homosexual sex demotes the God-ordained sexual relationship of Genesis (i.e., monogamous heterosexual husband-wife marriage) to a rank below that of the abomination (tôʿēbâ, βδέλυγμα) of homosexual sex (male-male and female-female).  There is the sense of idolatry in what Paul wrote in Romans 1:18–32. 

Romans 1:22-25 (ESV) clearly shows the connection between idolatry and homosexual sex:

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Most likely, verse 32 (ESV) makes a reference to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13:

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

In reference to the idolatry reflected in Romans 1:18-32, one commentator [Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 86, 88). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press] writes (boldfacing added):

23. The summit of their folly was realized in their acceptance of idolatry … Therefore introduces the reason for what follows and links it with what has preceded in logical order. It was on account of their rejection of the divine revelation and of their preferring idols to the true God that God gave them up to the results of their folly.

Another language resource [Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 2, p. 33). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans] reads (boldfacing added):

“Changed” is allassō (ἀλλασσω), “to change, to cause one thing to cease and another to take its place, to exchange one thing for another.” The human race exchanged the glory of God for idols. The latter took the place of the former

The Bible makes a close link between idolatry and homosexual sex.  No one can advance a persuasive argument that idolatry is acceptable in the 21st Century.  Because homosexual sex is one form of idolatry, no valid argument exists that supports the acceptance of homosexual practice in the 21st Century. It is crystal clear that the pro-LGBTQ faction of the UMC is wrong to discard Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 from the Bible for the 21st Century. 

Please send me any comments to steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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