Clark Kroeger holds a Ph.D. in classical studies from the University of
Minnesota. She is adjunct associate professor of classical and
ministry studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and coauthor of
No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources for Addressing
Domestic Violence, and she is coeditor of The IVP Women’s Commentary.
Dr. Kroeger was CBE’s founding organizer and currently serves as president emerita.
Dr. Kroeger is also a founder of
PASCH, (Peace and Safety in
the Christian Home), a biblically-based international network providing
spiritual insights, practical resources and positive guidance to all those who
in any way address domestic violence. Its outreach extends to victims,
perpetrators, law enforcement, medical personnel, shelter workers, safe home
providers, social workers, clergy, therapists and counselors. The primary
emphasis is on God's pattern of peace and safety in the home and on the
deterrence of domestic violence and abuse.
The following article was published by Christians for Biblical
quality in Pricilla Papers in 2004.
For Dr. Kroeger's Testimony
Does Belief in Women’s Equality Lead to an Acceptance of Homosexual
BY CATHERINE CLARK KROEGER
As Katharine Bushnell pointed out nearly a century ago, there are some
hundred passages in the Bible that bespeak God’s direction, affirmation
and blessing upon the ministry and leadership of women. There is also
profound sympathy for those conditions that leave women most vulnerable:
widowhood, childlessness, pregnancy, famine, and atrocities in times of
war. It is the very breadth of these supportive passages that
started many of us on the journey to understand the limited number of
scriptural selections that appear restrictive of women and their
Respected theologian Cornelius Van Til once taught me that if one finds
apparent contradictions in scripture, then it is important to study far
more deeply, to ask the hard questions, to examine both text and context
with the confidence that God’s word can stand the test. I became
convinced that the Bible provides a consistent, though multi-faceted,
unity built of many disparate parts. There is harmonization that
may not at first be evident, and it is the Christian’s duty to seek it
It was necessary to weigh Bushnell’s hundred-odd passages of affirmation
with the putatively negative texts that could be counted on the fingers
of one hand. I do not think that Dr. Van Til would necessarily approve
of the direction in which my quest took me, but he was one of the
important influences in my growing conviction that the scriptures are
essentially life giving and life saving, empowering and supportive of
I have been asked to explain why the conviction that the Bible affirms
the equality of men and women does not logically lead to an endorsement
of homosexual practice. My first response is that although the Bible
contains a handful of references to same-sex eroticism, nowhere is there
given any sign of approval to homosexual behavior. Rather, there is
loving sympathy for the individual but condemnation of the conduct. Therefore an examination of the subject must be based upon the wider
consideration of biblical teaching on human sexuality, as well as on
My second response is that the very statements in scripture that women
find to support their claims of equality are also ones that call for a
close association with men. Women who espouse biblical equality do not
seek exclusively their own kind in their most intimate
relationships—rather they acknowledge the creational purposes of a
shared reflection of God’s image, a shared mandate to fill and subdue
the earth, and a shared mission to declare Jesus Christ and his love in
every dimension of life. They ask to share their gifts and talents,
their endeavors, and godly aspirations with the whole body of Christ. They wish to be part of the decision-making processes of the church. Within marriage, they ask to bring all that they are to the union, to be
like Adam and Eve naked and unashamed, with no need for a woman to hide
her abilities, her mental acumen, or her potential for leadership. For
this there is ample warrant within the pages of scripture.
Elaine Storkey maintains that there are in the Bible four aspects in
male-female relationships: difference, sameness, complementarity and
union. She writes, “Correlation, reciprocity, symmetry are all
built into the way male and female echo each other. Complementarity does not
imply hierarchy, therefore, as many have taken it to imply. It is
premised on the reciprocation and completion of female by male, and male
by female.” 1
Male and female are indeed different and need each other to reflect the
image of God and to bring one another fulfillment. The message of the
Bible is not that of separatism or exclusivism on the part of either
gender, but rather it presents a unifying principle in Christ. This
principle allows for no subjugation or degradation of one gender by the
other. Animosity is subsumed in the unifying power of God’s grace.
The Creation Narrative
Within the deceptive simplicity of the Genesis account are responses to
many of life’s most critical questions. Is there a supreme intelligence
controlling the universe? Is there a deliberately structured design? Are
there absolutes—both moral and physical—in the world? Who or what made
me and why? Can I actually make contact with the divine Creator? How can
I explain my relationship to the world of nature? What are
my responsibilities in caring for the earth?
Who am I as a sexual being? How can I understand myself and the other? Is there a plan to meet the needs of my soul at a human level? How can I
express the love and longings I have within me? With whom can I share
all the experiences of intimacy and tenderness? How shall I find
the one who is right for me, the one who can make me complete, the one
to whom I can impart joy and fulfillment?
In the opening words of Genesis, male and female were made equally in
God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), equally the recipients of God’s care and
affirmation. The point is emphasized in Genesis 5:1-3. “In the day that
God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female
created he THEM and blessed THEM and called THEIR name Adam (i.e.
humankind) in the day when THEY were created.”
The name “Adam” or “human” applied to both men and women, and they were
related in design. The account in Genesis 2 tells of the aching
loneliness of Adam without a soul mate. The story is markedly different
from other early histories of creation where women may appear as actors
in the drama, but where the aspect of deeply meaningful attachment is
missing. The Hebrew narrative highlights Adam’s need for a
Although he has fellowship with God and daily visits from his Creator,
they do not fill the void. Neither does his association with the animals
and other creatures satisfy his need for a companion, though he studies
them carefully. Both God and Adam conclude that there is a far
deeper need to be met.
God’s purpose is to make a “help of his like”, a fit companion. She is
neither subordinate nor superior, but she stands beside the man as a
fully responsive and responsible human being. Woman is taken from the
very same substance as man, capable of the same thoughts and emotions
and aspirations. She is able to share with man a full-orbed life,
with its adventures and challenges and perceptions.
The creation of woman is described as a deliberate act of God,
specifically designed to deliver man from loneliness, to strike a chord
in the depth of his being. Woman was carefully crafted so that
each sex could meet the need of the other, and each could be filled with
wonder at the other who was so dissimilar and yet so desirous of being
The depth of Adam’s longing is revealed in his love song, “This at last
is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 3:23). This is the one
for whom he has been waiting, the one who was needed to make him
complete. Together they reflect the image of God. They are naked before
each other in both body and soul, delighting in one another,
experiencing union at a profoundly satisfying level. As the conclusion
notes, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
Paradise contains a bliss shared by a man and woman, open to God and to
Marriage and Monogamy
Truly remarkable is the freedom of sexual expression that is the bride’s
in the Song of Solomon. She is as capable of erotic advances as is the
bridegroom. She is valued as a person in her own right; her wishes,
needs, concerns, and vicissitudes are respected. She displays not
meek submission but passionate participation in the lovemaking.
The biblical view of wives is, with some notable exceptions, essentially
positive. They are valued for their excellent virtues and prized as
persons. Wise women build strong homes (Prov. 14:1). Whoever gets a wife
from the Lord gets a good gift (Prov. 18:22), one of noble character is
the crown of her husband (Prov. 12:4), to be forever cherished (Prov.
5:16-19), admired for her industry, initiative and godly influence (Prov.
31:10-31). Of Ruth it was said that all the townsfolk esteemed her
as a woman of noble character (Ruth 3:11).
The motif of strong wife continues in other Hebrew writings:
A woman’s beauty makes a man happy,
and there is nothing he desires more.
If she has a kind and gentle tongue,
then her husband is luckier than most men.
The man who wins a wife has the beginnings of a fortune,
a helper to match his needs and a pillar to support him.
Where there is no hedge, property is plundered; and where there is no
wife, the wanderer sighs for a home. (Ecclesiasticus 36:22-25,
Here we find affirmation of the wife as full person in a meaningful
relationship. There is also the direction given by a member of the
Qumran: “Walk together with the helpmeet of your flesh according to the
statute engraved by God that man should leave his father and his mother
. . . and that they should become one flesh.” 2
A distinctive of the sexual mandates of the Bible is their fiercely
protective nature. All that might tear at the fabric of Eden’s paradigm
is roundly condemned—adultery, fornication, incest, bestiality, or any
other form of sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. In the Levitical formulation of covenant we read, “You shall not make yourself
unclean in any of these ways; for in these ways the heathen, whom I am
driving out before you, made themselves unclean. You, unlike them, shall
keep my laws and my rules: none of you, whether natives or aliens
settled among you, shall do any of these abominable things” (Lev.
Even the promised gift of land was based upon a holiness code. The
expectation of and commitment to sexual purity set Israel apart from
surrounding nations. Members of the covenant were called to
embrace patterns of conduct based upon fidelity, both to God and to one another.
You shall keep all my rules and my laws and carry them out, that the
land into which I am bringing you to live may not spew you out. You
shall not conform to the institutions of the nations whom I am driving
out before you: they did all these things and I abhorred them, and I
told you that you should occupy their land, and I would give you
possession of it, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your
God: I have made a clear separation between you and the nations. You
shall be holy to me because I the Lord am holy. I have made a clear
separation between you and the heathen, that you may belong to me. (Lev.
“Everybody’s doing it” was simply not part of the sexual ethic. Building
close relationships with people of the same sex is not forbidden, but
overt homosexual conduct is twice censured (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). Sexual
congress is intended only for marriage, and all other unions are
forbidden. The covenant is not only one of sacred trust between husband
and wife, but also within the wider faith community. To violate the
mandated sexual standards was to breach the covenant and to exclude
oneself from its fellowship (Lev. 18:29).3 As we shall see, the
Apostle Paul also viewed private sexual conduct as profoundly affecting the
entire faith community.
Sex and the Savior
Some have observed that Jesus says nothing directly about homosexuality. This is quite true, but he makes the strongest statement about
heterosexual marriage that is to be found within the pages of scripture. To a theological question propounded by the Pharisees (Matthew 19 and
Mark 10), Christ’s answer was based on the foundational concepts of
Genesis 1 and 2. Among rabbinic scholars of the early first century
there was considerable debate about defining the legitimate grounds to
divorce a wife. Rabbi Shammai declared that only infidelity might be
considered, while the school of Rabbi Hillel would accept almost any
pretext as legitimate grounds, “even if she spoiled a dish for him, for
it is written, ‘Because he has found in her indecency in anything’”
(Deut. 24:1; m. Git 9-10). Later writers would expand the list to
include burning the husband’s dinner or spoiling the meal, having one
breast larger than the other, a dog bite that would not heal, unkempt
hair, or the husband simply having found another woman who pleased him
more (m. Ketub 7:6). Jewish males were permitted more than one
wife,4 but a more economical solution was simply to discard the unwanted wife.
A further debate centered on the conditions that were necessary for a
husband not to return the wife’s dowry at the time of a divorce. While
the legalists might see this as a legitimate field for intellectual
gymnastics, the lives and welfare of real women were at stake. A woman
could be divorced at the whim of her husband and find herself in
desperate straits. The Mishnah declared “A woman is divorced
irrespective of her will, a man divorces of his own accord” (m. Yebam.
From the wording of the question, it appears that the Pharisees are
asking whether Jesus concurs with Hillel’s assertion that a man may
divorce “for any cause.” 6 Jesus avoids the legalisms of both Shammai and
Hillel as he affirms God’s original intention for marriage (Matt.
19:3-9; Mark 10:1-12). Man and woman are given to enhance one another
and together to reflect the image of God. Christ begins not with the
statement about one flesh but about God’s creation of both male and
female. Their destiny is to be made one flesh, complete in one another
and forsaking all others. Both the Matthean and Marcan account note that
“they shall be no longer two but one flesh.” The union is not only
physical but also psychological, emotional, and spiritual. The man and
woman are intended for one another in a profound and permanent
relationship. To rend the two asunder is to demolish God’s work.
St. Paul on Gender Hostility
Like his Master, the apostle Paul directs his main thrust toward the
affirmation of heterosexual marriage in particular and of male-female
relations in general (1 Cor. 11:2-16). He, too, returns to the Genesis 1
and 2 account. Man is the source (head) of woman as Christ is the source
of every man, and God is the source of Christ. The idea that “head” here
indicates source or point of origin is indicated by the twofold
statement that woman was drawn out of man (vv. 8,12). Thus woman is of
the very same substance as man, a divine gift of blessing, made to be
his colleague and confidante (v. 9). In an effort to deflect
hostility directed toward women, Paul declares woman to be the glory of man.
This is far from the Greek view that woman was essentially of an
inferior substance, with a mindset that endangered the welfare of men,
created by the gods as a stratagem to work the downfall of the human
race. An enormous volume of Greek misogynistic literature reveals the
hatred and fear with which women were often regarded. Some
scholars have argued that it was precisely this repugnance that drove males to
find meaningful relationships only with those of their own gender. 7
An ancient pagan argument for homoeroticism as superior to heterosexual
relationships was that women simply lacked the nobility of character to
be a man’s soul mate. Virtue must be sought only in men’s domain and
never in the women’s quarters. 8 The inferiority of feminine nature was
demonstrated by myths describing the creation of women from the sow, the
proud mare, the bitch, and the unstable waves of the sea, while man was
made from the substance of the gods. By contrast Paul depicts woman as
drawn from man, flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, of the same
substance and spirituality (1 Cor. 11:8).
Hesiod and others told of the creation of woman as a trick of the gods
to ensnare man, while Paul wrote of woman as called forth to ministry
“for the sake of man” (1 Cor. 11:9). He teaches that woman was given to
man as a special gift in order that he might be complete. Women as well
as men are necessary to reflect the image of God and to do the will of
their Maker upon the earth. Both men and women make up the church of
Jesus Christ, and they are called as equals into fellowship and
ministry. To a society where it was an embarrassment to take a wife out
of the house to a dinner party, Paul describes woman as the glory of
man. (1 Cor. 11:7)
This was a revolutionary viewpoint in a culture that sometimes
considered it a disgrace for a woman to be seen at all, especially
bareheaded. The apostle Paul argued for the full right of women to
prophesy and to pray, but to do so with respect for the sensitivities of
others. He called for both men and women to retain the distinctives
of gender-specific dress and hairstyle: This allowed them to understand who they
were vis-à-vis the other; their dress was an outward manifestation of the idea
that together they comprised the full body of Christ’s church.
Especially in the eastern Mediterranean world, men and women often lived
segregated lives—a practice sometimes conducive of homosexuality. Men
spent most of their waking hours outside the house where the wife was
confined. Males and females did not eat or sleep together, and often
there was little conversation between husband and wife. Women, with the
exception of brilliant prostitutes known as hetairai, were considered
incapable of reasonable conversation.9 Even Paul’s
directive that wives ask their husbands about the sermon at home would
serve as a corrective to the desperate social isolation endured by women (1 Cor. 14:35). The apostle’s teaching could do much to heal the
attitudes that had created a virulent hostility between the sexes. His
insistence on removing the barriers of sex segregation (Galatians 3:28;
1 Cor. 11:11-12) constitutes an imperative that the church still needs
to heed today.
The Apostle Paul’s Views on Sexual Union
Deeply entrenched in Greek mentality was a fear of women’s sexual
anatomy. Greek literature is filled with expressions of this hatred,
even denying genuine humanity to women. They were said to be closer in
nature to animals than to men. Their sexuality constituted a special
threat. They were married as prepubescents so that they still had
a boyish appearance; rear-entry intercourse was widely practiced in order that
men would not have to view the sex characteristics of women.10 The vagina was especially dreaded, probably leading to the
belief that three of the great gods (Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis)
were born without passing through the birth canals of their mothers. Paul deals with this repugnance when he writes that woman had issued
forth from man, and now men came forth from women, in an interdependent
cycle. “Neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the
woman. For just as woman was drawn out of man, so too the man is from
the woman; and all things are of God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).
Paul accords to women complete equality in a couple’s sexual life. His
most direct statement on marriage begins with an insistence that the
sexual needs of both wife and husband be met (1 Cor. 7:3). All too often
husbands resorted to concubines, courtesans, and young boys. Neglect of
wives and the attendant low birthrate were so pronounced in golden age
Athens that Solon had decreed that a husband must visit his wife’s couch
at least three times a month. Patterns had not necessarily
accorded wives even this much sexual satisfaction by the first century of the
As Paul calls for husband and wife not to defraud each other (1 Cor.
7:3), he begins with a concern for the wife, although sadly this text is
sometimes used abusively to demand acts repugnant to an unwilling wife. Then follows a remarkable observation: the wife does not have power over
her own body but the husband’s; the husband does not have power over his
own body but the wife’s (1 Cor. 7:4).
Here there is equality in the bedroom, a mutuality born of respect for
the other as a full-orbed person whose needs and wishes are to be
honored. Sexual expression is part of the marital bond that is
ordinarily expected of human beings.
Paul is, however, concerned about the damage caused by improper uses of
sex. He maintains that sexual sin wounds the human body and spirit more
deeply than other sorts of sin (1 Cor. 6:18), and that it has
repercussions for the entire faith community. Believers belong to one
another as members of the body of Christ, and copulation by a believer
with an inappropriate partner binds the whole church to that partner (1 Cor. 6:15-16). Sexual purity is essential for healthy congregational
life (1 Cor. 5:1-8), and overtly homosexual conduct has no place in the
covenant community (1 Cor. 6:9-10). To gain their inheritance as members
of the kingdom of God, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves,
extortioners, the verbally abusive, and rapists must experience the
transforming grace of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Contemporary women who claim
scriptural warrant for their full integration into the body of Christ
seek to bring wholeness rather than harm to the covenant community.
Women are full members of the body of Christ and must enjoy full privileges.
Homosexual practice is condemned in the New Testament in vice lists that
contain other aspects of attitude and conduct, such as greed, grumbling,
and gossiping. The Greek word arsenkoitai, designating males who assume
the active role in homoerotic relationships, appears at 1 Timothy 1:10,
along with pornoi, fornicators. The vocabulary used in 1 Corinthians 6:9
is specific for both active (arsenokoitai) and passive (malakoi)
partners in a homosexual relationship and occurs along with the mention
of fornicators and adulterers as persons whose sexual conduct is
unacceptable. In this discussion, the apostle Paul goes on to sound a
positive note, “And such were some of you, but you are washed, but you
are made holy, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Paul believed in the
transforming power of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. These same
Corinthians, now made new in Christ, are called saints “who come behind
in no good gift and wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
will confirm you until the end, beyond reproach in the day of our Lord
Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7-8). The concern is not to brand
people for their sexual sins but to point them to a glorious hope.
In writing to the Romans, he reverts again to the themes of the creation
story when he comes to the subject of human sin. God’s power and
grandeur are amply visible for all to recognize, but humanity has
perversely turned aside. Creation has been worshipped more than the
creator, and adoration is given to objects made with human hands. If
there has been a disregard for God, it has extended as well to the
dishonoring of the human body in ways contrary to the original mandate
(Rom. 1:24). The Greek text speaks of the cheapening or dishonoring (atimazein)
of one another’s bodies and of the passions of dishonor or devaluation (atimia—v.
26) that have led both men and women to tragic liaisons. The heathen
were “dishonoring their bodies within themselves” (v. 24); women were
given over to “degrading passions (v. 26); and “men within men working
shame” were degrading their bodies (v. 27). They had given
their bodies to less than God’s best for them.
As the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians demonstrates, there is no
place in Paul’s thought for a disembodied soul. The body is an integral
part of the whole person, and frequently Paul uses the term to indicate
the entire being. Believers are called to glorify God with their bodies,
to respect their bodies as God’s instruments. This respect entails
proper nutrition, exercise, rest and other healthful measures. To
violate the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, incurs the
wrath of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Though other sins occur outside the body,
sexual impurity violates the total person (1 Cor. 6:18).
Humanity has been given free choice (Rom 1:24, 26, 28) but must live
with the consequences of each choice (v. 27). Although in this passage
lesbian and homosexual activity comes first, the text goes on to list
numerous other behaviors that also incur God’s wrath. The
passage ends with a condemnation not only of those who engage in such conduct
but also of those who give their approval to these acts (vs. 32).
Marriage and Singleness
Paul’s use of the word “nature” again looks back at the creation story
in which God commanded man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, to
fill the earth and subdue it (Rom. 1:26-27; Gen. 1:26-27). The gift of
human sexuality is essentially for the mutual support and joy of a man
and woman, but procreation is also an important element. Marriage in
itself is a covenant (Mal. 2:14) and the lawful coition of believers a
covenantal act that can yield progeny for the family of faith. We are
told that the Lord seeks a godly seed (Mal. 2:15)11 and the covenants are
replete with promises that extend to future generations of those who
trust in God. Intended for covenant purposes, our sexuality is a sacred
trust that should not be misplaced. Children are a heritage from the
Lord, and issue not only of our bodies but also of the nurture in which
we raise them (Ps. 127:3-5; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14). The New Testament
describes the Christian familia as composed of mother, father, and
children and all who dwell within the household.
But what of those who do not feel drawn to union with persons of the
opposite sex, or those who simply never find a mate? Isaiah 56:4-5
promises a special covenant blessing to eunuchs who are faithful to God. Although they are denied sexual expression, there will be other kinds of
fulfillment. There are those who choose celibacy as liberating them from
the demands of family and home life, to devote themselves wholeheartedly
to the concerns of Christ. Both the single and the married state are
gifts from God (1 Cor. 7:7), and each has its blessings and benefits.
The apostle Paul maintained that he found it expedient to sacrifice
conjugal companionship in his ministry, though he accorded this right to
others. Jesus spoke of those who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven. Throughout the church’s history, women in
particular have often had to sacrifice sexual activity in order to share the
good news of God’s love with others.
Within the early church, there were orders of women who served in active
ministry. Several such orders are mentioned in the Bible: female deacons
(Rom. 16:1-2; 1 Tim 3:11), widows, and perhaps elders and virgins. In
the patristic era these women were considered clergy and during
Communion sat at the front of the church with the male elders and
deacons. The ordination service for deaconesses is still preserved
in the Apostolic Constitutions.
The very terms “widow” and “virgin” show that celibacy was an integral
part of the behavioral code for such women. The First Epistle to Timothy
warns not to accept too many young widows into the order lest they
become susceptible to the lures of matrimony (5:11-15). Paul commends
virgins whose hearts are given to God rather than to husband-pleasing (1 Cor.
For much of the church’s history, women found in celibacy an opportunity
for Christian ministry, and therefore forfeited marriage and
childbearing. In the modern missionary movement, it was overwhelmingly
the single women who gave themselves to the task of world
evangelization. Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor of Calabar, Mildred Cable
and Francesca French in the Gobi Dessert, Lottie Moon and many others
carried the gospel where men dared not go. They renounced the
opportunity for marriage and family to follow a higher call, to bring Jesus
Christ where he was not known.
Although the apostle Paul called upon the Christian community as the
body of Christ to repudiate all unchaste behavior—whether incest, rape,
adultery, fornication, sexual exploitation, or homosexual activity (I
Cor. 5:11)—he spent more time calling for commitment to Christ and to
one another in a spirit of love and reassurance. The standard set for
chastity is a high one and difficult to maintain for all of us,
regardless of sexual preference. Yet the New Testament calls for many
sacrifices, sometimes including that of an active sex life. (Matt.
19:12; 1 Cor. 7:25-35) Jesus promises that those who forsake lands or
houses or loved ones for his sake shall have abundant reward.
(Matt. 19:29) For our sakes he gave his all.
Today’s call to discipleship is still fraught with challenge and
personal sacrifice. There is still a call for the renunciation of one’s
own desires and yearnings. Homosexual persons who experience God’s call to
ministry may perceive Christ’s claim on their lives; and they may wrestle, as
did St. Augustine, with the demands of their sexual nature. He understood
that he could not yield to both, and he made a difficult choice.12
Getting Back to the Question
Some argue that if our church ordains women despite the few passages
seeming to restrict women, then it ought also to ordain homosexuals. But
this is to mix apples and oranges. First and foremost, women
maintain that they are spiritual beings, made in the image of God. As bone of
man’s bone and flesh of his flesh, they share his nature destined to glorify God
and to walk in obedience to God’s decrees.
Christian women define themselves not in terms of their sexuality but of
their spirituality. They are persons redeemed by Jesus Christ and
empowered to serve him. In contrast, some homosexuals maintain that
their sexuality defines their very essence. This cannot be the primary
definition of the servant of God. Paul declared that “henceforth we do
not know anyone according to the flesh. If we have known Christ
according to the flesh, yet we now no longer know him so” (2 Cor. 5:16). In a note on this verse, Aida Besançon Spencer observes: “If the flesh
is ‘dead’ [5:15], then it is no longer a means by which to know anyone. Knowing someone ‘according to the flesh’ (‘a human point of view’) means
to miss the reflecting glory that is hidden behind a life of
difficulties and mortality.”13
Our homosexual brothers and sisters are called into the same freedom as
women, freedom to move beyond the limitations of the flesh to the
liberty of God. Each of us is called to a life of sexual renunciation
and purity. Together we struggle with lusts, urges and desires.
As we return to the original question, “Does a belief in
biblical equality lead to an acceptance of homosexuality?”, we must query
further, “Why should such an allegation be made in the first place?” Why should
belief and acceptance of the authority and inspiration of scripture lead to such
The answer is in part that some who argue for the full
acceptance of women within the church do indeed hold such a view.14 The difference lies
in one’s view of scripture. For those who find the ultimate authority
for interpretation within the experience of women, rather than within
the text, this may be a conclusion. Others seek to subvert the text and
thereby to recover a layer of reality lying beneath that of the writer. 15 But for the person who seeks to understand the purpose of the writer,
the message that would have been understood by the original audience,
and the appropriate application for us in today’s world, the conclusion
will usually be different.16
1. Elaine Storkey,
Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), p. 130.
2. 4Q416 2 iii 21-iv 1. As cited by Joseph J. Collins, “Marriage, Divorce and
Family in Second Temple Judaism” in Leo G. Perdue, Joseph Blenkinsopp, John J.
Collins, Carol Meyers, Families in
Ancient Israel. (Louisville Kentucky:
Westminster, John Knox, 1977), p. 127.
3. For further consideration, Donald Wold,
Out of Order: Homosexuality and the Bible in the Ancient Near East.
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 137-148.
4. Josephus Antiquities
17.14; Jewish Wa r
s 1.477. Jusin Martyr
Dialogue with Try p h o
141. m. Ketub 10:5; m. Ker. 3:7; m. Sanh 2:4; Naphtali
Lewis, Documents from the Bar Kokhba
Period. (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society:
1989), pp. 22-26. S. Lowy, “The Extent of Jewish Polygamy in Tannaitic Times”
Journal of Jewish Studies
9 (1985): pp. 115-38.
5. As Quoted in John J. Collins, “Marriage, Divorce and Family in Second Temple
Judaism” in Leo G. Perdue, Joseph Blenkinsopp, John J. Collins, Carol Meyers,
Families in Ancient Israel.
(Louisville Kentucky: Westminster, John Knox, 1997), p. 120.
6. On this point see David Instone-Brewer “1 Corinthians 7, in the Light of
Jewish Greek and Aramic Marriage and Divorce Papyri”
52.2 (2001): p. 235, n.38.
7. e.g. Phillip Slater, The Glory of Hera
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). 8.
Achilles Tatius, Celithophon and Leucippe
Amore s 750C.
See also Lucian, Ero t e s
Anthologia Palatina XII, 245.
9. Euripides Hippolytus 636-649. Lucian,
Dialogues of Courtesans. Eva C. Keuls,
The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in
Ancient Athens (New York, Harper and Row,
10. pseudo-Lucian, The Loves,
17. Keuls, op.cit. p.176-179, 276-277.
11. See Gordon Hugenberger. Marriage As a
Covenant : A Study of Biblical Law and Ethics Governing Marriage Developed from
the Perspective of Malachi (Leiden: Brill,
12. See Augustine, Confessions
Study Bible for Women: New Testament (Baker:
Grand Rapids, 1995), p. 367. 14. e.g. Bernadette J. Brooten,
Love Between Wo m e n : Early Christian
Responses to Female Homoeroticism. (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1997). Victor Paul Furshish, “Homosexuality” in
The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected
Issues, 52-83, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Abingdon,
1985), pp 52-83.
15. Cheryl Exum, Fragmented Women:
Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical Narratives.
(Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993).
16. e.g. William J. Webb, Slaves, Women
and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis
(Downers Grove: IV Press, 2001).