What Should Christians Think of Governments That Criminalize Homosexuality?

On Saturday, the New York Times featured an article exploring the various measures around the world designed to outlaw homosexual acts and, in many cases, harass homosexual persons. Uganda, for instance, recently passed legislation singling out homosexuals for harsh penalties such as life imprisonment for those caught in acts of homosexuality. Moreover, the law targets those who aid or abet homosexual persons, along with anyone promoting homosexuality.

Of course, Uganda is not alone in how it treats homosexuality. Some Islamic regimes already include harsh penalties, including death, for homosexual persons. And, as we’ve already pointed out, Russia under Vladimir Putin attempts to masquerade as a “pro-family values” state because its law expresses disapproval of homosexuality, when in reality the government is accustomed to marginalizing unpopular minorities of all sorts (including evangelical Christians and orphaned children) for political gain.

So how should Christians think and speak about such laws?

As evangelical Christians, we believe what the catholic (small “c”) and orthodox (small “o”) church has always, and everywhere, believed: that sexuality is to be expressed only within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman. Anything else is a sin against God. The church has believed this, and will always believe this, because the Bible teaches it.

At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.

Our opposition to imprisonment and execution of gay and lesbian persons around the world isn’t because we think, with the American sexual revolution, that governments have no interest in the stability of the family. To the contrary, Statecraft is quite often Soulcraft.

To this end, though, we believe a nation can teach a positive truth in its laws about marriage and sexuality without prohibiting and targeting its opposite. For example, we believe the role of the state should be to promote the stability of families and to provide appropriate incentives for children to be welcomed into homes with both a mother and a father. Our own government (along with many others around the world) has too often ignored this function of the state through failed policies emanating from no-fault divorce, among others.

Moreover, we sharply dissent from the use of state power, as we’ve seen in American life in recent days, to coerce the consciences of persons—whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or what have you—to participate in weddings or celebrations of unions we believe to be violations of our consciences.

But governments, as noted above, that single out persons for harassment and fear of their lives represent, in our view, a State that has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly. And in our view, repressive regimes that target homosexuals fall into this category.

Not everything that is sinful should be a crime. The Bible tells us that God has given authority to the state to maintain order and to carry out punishment of “wrongdoers” by the sword (Rom. 13:4). Clearly, “wrongdoers” here isn’t equated with “sinners.” Since we believe all of us are sinners (Rom. 3:23), the jails would be full and the streets empty because there would be none left unprosecuted, no not one.

The police power of the state is set up to maintain public safety and order according to principles of public justice. Everywhere in the New Testament, the mission of confronting personal sin is given to the church, not to the state. And the church, Jesus and his apostles explicitly tell us, does not have the coercive power of the sword (Matt. 26:52-53).

Moreover, the Bible tells us that the church must confront the sexual immorality of those inside the Body (“anyone who bears the name of brother”), but, even in the worst case of such immorality the ultimate step is excommunication, not the setting up of a police state to execute (1 Cor. 5:1-13). The Apostle Paul says, “For what do I have to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Cor. 5:12).

As Baptist Christians, our own history has shown us what injustice can happen when a state applies the Old Testament Mosaic code—a code designed to mark out the nation of Israel in redemptive history until the coming of Israel’s Messiah—to the civil state. Our ancestors were whipped, beaten, and exiled from Old England and from New England for refusing to sprinkle infants or to pay taxes for Anglican preaching. We ought then to be, of all groups, in support of limiting the power of government to see itself as a theological broker.

Our forebear Isaac Backus rightly noted that Jesus told us that we have no business setting up structures to pluck up “tares” from the “wheat-field” of the world, a dividing up that will happen at the Judgment Seat, not in the courtrooms of authoritarian regimes. The state is not in the tare-pulling business—or even in the tare-inspecting business—Backus argued, but should only punish “such as work ill to their neighbors.” We agree. And that’s why we ought to stand up for those unjustly hounded by state power, even when we don’t agree with them on theological and ethical principles.

But the primary reason we oppose this unjust persecution is because of the gospel itself. Yes, we believe that all sexual activity outside of marriage (defined by Jesus, not by the Supreme Court) is wrong. We also believe that the answer to this sin is found not in some police state, but in the good news that God reconciles sinners like us to himself through the shed blood and the ongoing life of Jesus Christ.

Our mission is not to imprison and persecute those who are walking contrary to the Scriptures, but instead our mission is to love and to persuade. We are, with Jesus, to call all people everywhere to repentance, knowing that all of us, left to ourselves, are hiding from God behind something. For some of us, our hiding place is sexual immorality; for some of us it’s covetousness or envy or self-righteousness.

Our mission is to be ambassadors of reconciliation—a mission that necessitates both defining sin and offering mercy (2 Cor. 5:18-19). That cannot be done by coercion or threats of a police state, but only by the persuasive power of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

The devil has come to kill and to destroy. We follow a different way, one that has not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it (Jn. 3:17). The American “spirituality” that pretends as though sexual immorality has no spiritual consequences isn’t recognizably Christian at all. The jailing and execution of people for consensual sexual immorality, in contexts like we see in many places around the world, isn’t Christian, either.

That’s why the global Body of Christ should stand faithful both to a biblical vision of sexuality and at the same time decry laws—whether in Africa or the Middle East or Russia—that would mistreat homosexual persons.

Editor’s Note: An earlier draft wrongly charged the Ugandan bill with mandating the death penalty for homosexuality. While such punishments are legal in some contexts in the world, the Ugandan bill does not call for the death penalty.

About the Author

Russell Moore is President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Andrew Walker is the managing editor of Canon and Culture and the Director of Policy Studies for the ERLC.

93 Comments

  1. Mark Reply

    You state: “The police power of the state is set up to maintain public safety and order according to principles of public justice.”

    and “The jailing and execution of people for consensual sexual immorality isn’t Christian, either.”

    Have you ever stopped and thought about the cost to society of sexual immorality all by itself? How can you possibly pretend that sexual immorality has no societal cost? Where is the sense of public justice for all the aborted babies? Where is the sense of public justice for the theft of my hard erned income to support immoral lifestyles through government entitlements of welfare? These are all direct results of consensual sexual sin.

    What about statutory rape? Most of those cases are consensual. Now the SBC is for allowing fornication within the youth group with just a “tsk, tsk – shame on you!” ?

    No wonder the mainstream church is becoming more and more irrelevant in the culture…

    • David Reply

      Wait, are you suggesting that execution is a viable option for people who have sex outside of marriage? Or maybe throwing some kids in jail because they had sex in high school?

      And how do you get the idea that the SBC is for “allowing fornication within the youth group” from an article which says excommunication is the means by which the church disciplines, but we shouldn’t support killing people? Is excommunication/church discipline not strict enough? Do you actually think that the church advocating for execution of homosexuals would some how help us to be MORE relevant in the culture? Not only would we bring grave dishonor on the lord for a graceless, unbiblical approach, but the culture should cast such a false church out from its midst.

      • Betty Taylor Reply

        We should not go beyond God’s Law. God has laid out just lawus for sexual sin in Lev. 18 & 20. When the people brought the woman caught in adultery, Jesus did not condemn her. Why?Jesus didn’t say the law was unjust, but He did confront those who condemned her ..I believe they were once again misconstruing the law..they were “convicted of their conscience” and went away.

        • HenryS Reply

          Why did anabaptists (all who “re”baptized those sprinkled/poured/dunked as uncomprehending infants) refuse to let the priests carry out a meaningless ceremony? The government of that time required parents to have their children “baptized” to make them citizens of the civil state, much as we today get a birth certificate and social security number for our newborns? If the baptists of that day believed that infant “baptism” was meaningless spiritually, weren’t they unnecessarily confronting the government over something inconsequential?
          Then, the New Testament commands us to pay taxes or tribute. We are not responsible as taxpayers (as voters perhaps) for what the government does with the tax revenues. Today’s government does a lot worse things with part of the tax revenues than giving it to a bunch of mumbojumbo shamans. Do we refuse to pay taaxes now because we object to what the government does with part of it?

    • A.More.Modest.Proposal Reply

      Just curious. In your perfect world, what should the penalty be for having an abortion? Should both the mother and the abortionist be charged? Should they receive the same penalty? If it’s murder, would you advocate execution for both? Or just one? I’m serious. I am pro-life, but I’ve had a difficult time puzzling through this side of the issue, and have noticed that most people haven’t even thought about it. They want abortion banned, but have given no thought to the penalties! What say you?
      Your other questions are interesting, but what is the solution? My parents had sex before they were married, in 1958. They have been together for 55 years. Would you jail them both? And about what “costs” to society are you asking? Dollars? Emotional? Spiritual? Physical? How about gluttony, which surely has equally serious costs in all those categories. As a sin God condemns, should it, too, be criminal? You ask the questions, but do you have any answers?
      I am not saying this is you, O.K.? But I get an uneasy feeling that many Evangelicals look at Islamic Republics with not a little envy, a wistful kind of “wish we could do that here…”, like if they could just replace the “Islamic” with “Christian”, they would finally have God’s kingdom hear on earth! In defiance of Jesus’ own constant warning that this would NOT take place.

      • Betty Taylor Reply

        Everywhere in the New Testament, the mission of confronting personal sin is given to the church, not to the state.

        So the government should not punish the pedophile, a thief (one who moves his neighbor’s boundary lines-including gov’t theft), the rapist, the father who abandons his family? Abortionists should get a pass as well?

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      Mark, you might want to watch http://www.babiesaremurderedhere.com Thanks. (PS: no aborted babies shown in the free video online)

  2. Martin Thompson Reply

    So did the inerrantist president of the ERLC just say the OT laws criminalizing homosexual activity were wrong? It seems so!

    • A.More.Modest.Proposal Reply

      I don’t see anywhere in the article that the author condemns the Old Testament laws; however, his real points are worth being addressed, not just ignored by focusing so stridently on this one aspect of a rather long legal code. Are YOU in favor of stoning homosexuals? How about adulterers, rebellious children, people who pick up wood on the Sabbath? If you are a businessman, are you willing to forgive all your debtors every 7 years? How ’bout giving back the property you own to the original owners every 50 years? Got any linen/wool blend suits? Burn ‘em; they’re an abomination! I could go on and on, but you get the point.
      The author was not saying that homosexuality is not a sin, he is simply saying that we do not live in Old Testament Israel, we have no king, no Theocracy (nor should we), and our Constitution is a work of men, not God. Relying on the Mosaic Law today would undo the very work and purpose of Christ on the cross. Hard to love someone when you’re throwing rocks at them.

      • Betty Taylor Reply

        We most certainly have the King of kings! Jesus! All dominion, all power on heaven and earth are given to him! His kingdom come on earth!

    • Tom Reply

      Error… No. He applied them in line with the teaching of scripture.

    • Donald Spitz Reply

      Homosexuality should be criminalized. Homosexuality is a crime against God and against the Holy Bible. God wrote:
      Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
      Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: :26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: :27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

      • Chad Reply

        How to do you commit a crime against the “holy bible?”

      • RJ (TO) Reply

        “Homosexuality is a crime against God and against the Holy Bible”…

        …and yet never made it into His “Top 10″. Nor is it given any particular emphasis above any other sin in Leviticus or anywhere else in scripture. The only ones propping it up are the religious nuts who need something easy to fight in order to feel holy. Sad, really.

        • HenryS Reply

          Sodomy, not only as practiced by homosexuals, is not only an offense against God. It is a crime against society, for it undermines the stability of the family, which is the foundation block of civil society.
          Sodomy was formerly recognized as a defilement of the marriage bed when practiced by married couples in the privacy of their bedrooms.
          Yes, sodomy is just what people think it is: all sexual activity contrary to procreation.
          That a particular individual or couple, such as Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, and Elkanah and Hannah, are unable to procreate due to no fault of their own, does not justify the practice of sodomitical abominations.
          Our modern society has “Progressed” from acceptance of abuse of the genitals by married persons to the sacrifice of infants to our modern-day “Molech”: the great god Convenience and its consort, Privacy.
          Christian writers from the first century AD through the Protestant Reformers wrote vehemently against all sodomitical practices, which are broadly classed as “fornication” = “porneia,” the abominable acts typically practiced by whores. “Fornication” is Latin for the activities of the common street prostitutes who conducted their “business” under the fornices, the arches of the aqueducts and viaducts of Roman cities.

  3. mark g Reply

    You are starting to get to the bottom of the real issue which is the relationship of believers and the church to the modern state. When believers and the church confound the function of the church with that of the state these debates end up being about culture wars which undermine purpose of the church, i.e., to spread the gospel & make disciples for Christ’s kingdom. Too often debates presuming to take the Christian moral high ground are really about culture wars, not God’s moral will or the Bible. Confounding the function of the church also puts the church and Christians at risk. Although evangelicals like to see themselves as some sort of moral majority we are in fact a minority. If God forbid, the majority applies the same rules of cultural engagement used by many evangelicals, Christians will be voted down. The world will have nothing to do with Christ’s kingdom. If you want to live peaceably and worship the true God, thank Him for a “secular” society where everyone has a right to believe as they wish regardless of right or wrong, truth or falsehood.

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      What do the disciples of the kingdom look like?

      1 Cor 6: 9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  4. Loren Reply

    Wow. This article is wrong at so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. You would think this was taken from the Unitarian church or an Episcopalian publisher.

    We are all sinners?? No. We were “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new.” Paul lists a whole list of sins, including fornication, drunkards, murderers, and says explicitly – that is what you once were. Sinners will not inherit heaven — those who have been born again, and who are saved will.

    Second, this article is so short-sighted it seems they wrote it with very little or no thought as to the conclusion of the skewed logic. Cultures around the world everyday, legislate morality all the time –it’s either man’s morality or god’s — don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie to police, judges, or federal officers, — all you have to do is substitute the word homosexuality in the title for prostitution, and the whole premise of the article is exposed as a canard. Prostitution is an immoral act which is illegal and punishable by fines, and imprisonment in scores of countries around the world — like homosexuality, it is two adults engaging in consensual sexual acts, both of which have very clear and well-documented negative effects on culture and society.

    He pretends to speak for evangelicals ?? “at the same time, we believe laws criminalizing prostitution to be unjust and an affront to the image of god embedded in all persons.” Laws which prohibit prostitution and homosexuality are not calling for execution of prostitutes or homosexuals .

    • Bob F. Reply

      Please don’t forget 1 John 1:8 (in addition to the Romans passages). Switching “prostitution” for “homosexuality” does help perspective, although, believe it or not, most prostitution is not consensual but rather a form of sexual slavery where one party is forced. But I take your meaning.

    • Russ Reply

      Giving God thanks for a secular society, is like thanking a parent for having children that don’t get along. Secularism is a man made means of control that is contrary to nature, it divides us all.

  5. John Reply

    This is far from a straightforward issue and I am not certain you have nailed it.
    For one thing we are not discussing the church imposing its laws over people (which I agree has always been disastrous) but rather the secular state doing so. If the state determines homosexuality to be a threat to cohesiveness, stability, family life etc., then why should it not legislate as it would over any other threat?

    It seems to me that the arguments you use would not allow a state to proscribe bestiality or incest either! “Not everything that is sinful should be a crime”, agreed but in the bible homosexuality was considered both

  6. Richard Winger Reply

    The God of the Old Testament was more unhappy with the worship of false Gods than any other behavior. But surely no one reading this thread of comments would propose a law criminalizing the practice of Bahai, or Hinduism, or Zoroastrianism, or Druidism.

    • HenryS Reply

      No, false religions that do not prescribe or encourage immoral behavior may be tolerated. However, remember that the American Constitutional provision for freedom of conscience in matterd of faith was intended for the religions based on the Bible, Christianity and Mosaic Judaism Not Mahometanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Native American shamanism, etc. The Framers wished to avoid, as much as possible, the kind of intersectarian strife common to Europe and the British Isles, which turmoil many of the settlers came to America to escape.

  7. Justin Reply

    Homosexuality has no place in society. As I Christian, I am seeing the fruits decriminalizing it has born. For example, my wife and I took our 2 children out to the zoo, and we encountered numerous homosexual men who weren’t quietly going about their business; they were wearing t-shirts announcing their “gayness”, and were very up front and wanted to make sure you knew they were gay. Now I’m forced to have a conversation with my young children about sexuality that I should be able to postpone until I–by God’s grace–feel they can handle such weighty concepts. But society’s decriminalization of homosexuality was the floodgate that has burst loose a culture that centers itself around its sexuality. And wants to announce it to the world. And wants it to be normalized so your children will see it as acceptable.

    That’s a huge difference, from a societal standpoint, between homosexuality and heterosexual pre-marital sex. Heterosexual couples, at least all that I have met, don’t center their very identity around the fact that they desire the opposite sex and seek to announce to the world what those desires are in the same way/manner that homosexual culture does. And as far as my kids are concerned, if they see a heterosexual couple that might be unmarried being affectionate in public, it doesn’t necessarily–by its nature–stir very unnatural thoughts and questions about sexuality. They could be married for all we know.

    It’s two completely different animals, especially from a societal standpoint. And as I stated above, homosexuality has no place in society and should remain criminalized. And I say that as a Christian. And I believe it. I’m not advocating the death penalty or anything, but I am advocating for society to say “we won’t accept this as legitimate in any regard, be it legal or not”.

    This article does not speak for all Christians, and certainly not me. It has the odor of compromise written all over it. It seems to take its values from society, and not Scripture.

    This is what frustrates me about this…Christian leaders (such as the ones in this article) will advocate for traditional marriage, but will turn around and condone legalizing homosexuality. What ground do you have left to keep marriage–in the law–defined as one man and one woman, if you agree that the law should not have any problem with homosexuality? In my view, you have no ground left to stand on.

    But as I always say to folks I talk to about this…we’ve been telling our children there’s no difference between boys and girls for decades now…so why are we surprised at the current homosexual movement? It’s a fruit of godly principles rejected a very, very long time ago.

    • Chad Reply

      Sucks to live in a fallen world doesn’t it. Perhaps you should retreat to a mountain hideaway so your kids don’t catch sin.

      • Justin Reply

        Perhaps we just shouldn’t have any laws whatsoever.

      • Ithamar Reply

        No doubt, Chad, that is exactly what the wicked (and you) would like, but this world does not belong to the vile and ungodly, it is to be subdued by those redeemed by God and governed by His Law.

  8. Justin Reply

    “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

    I am literally in shock that such a comment was penned by so-called evangelical leaders.

    • Eric Reply

      Perhaps you are falling down a slippery slope of your own making.

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      Are we more just than God?

      Was God unjust to prescribe the death penalty?

      I ask in sincerity. When we go beyond the mercy of God, or we go beyond the law of God, who do we set up as Judge ?

      1 Tim. 1: 8Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,b liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to soundc doctrine, 11in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

  9. Christian Reply

    Some of you should be careful in what you’re saying. Don’t be rude just because you can get away with it online. We should all watch our tones, and not beat up on a fellow Christian. He’s not the enemy. There is a complicated relationship between Church and State that we need to think about, and this article helps us to go deeper in that discussion.

  10. Jim Reply

    “[W]e believe a nation can teach a positive truth in its laws about marriage and sexuality without prohibiting and targeting its opposite.”

    Should we remove the laws prohibiting adultery that still remain on the books in many (though fewer and fewer) states? It seems the state is lagging behind your perspective on the Christian approach in this area.

  11. Steve Reply

    Is this article written by the New York Times? This is just unbiblical on so many levels, but great job on the political correctness.

  12. Dave Reply

    Russell, how do you determine which sins should be crimes? Wouldn’t want to use the Bible to help with that, would we? Should any other sexual sins be crimes (pristitution, beastuality, etc).

    I agree with the others….this article was a mess.

  13. AndyB Reply

    Wow, This article nails it! Thanks for providing such clear concise thoughts on these difficult issues during these troubling times.

    It seems your clear biblical doctrine is bringing out the Judaizers of all stripes in the comments section.

    • AndyB wrote: “It seems your clear biblical doctrine is bringing out the Judaizers of all stripes in the comments section.”

      So explain to us, AndyB, why requiring a prison sentence for murderers does not likewise constitute “Judiazing.” The same law that calls adultery sin, calls murder sin. Are you saying we should not punish murderers?

  14. W_Nelson Reply

    The question is whether the moral/case law, spoken by God as a declaration of right and wrong in the OT, is still moral — don’t forget Christ called it the definition of love — or, as philosophers would term it “contingent”.

    Is it purely _contingent_ when i sign my bank’s paperwork on black mold (when I buy a house), or am required by a municipality to put up handrails, etc. — that these are moral actions — vis a vis what god told the Jews in the OT? purely contingent — not related to the fact that God spoke, and it became revealed moral fact.

    Could we do the *opposite* and still not sin? is it really contingent, or are we dealing with a transcendent morality? Can we do the opposite, and it still be Christ’s definition of Love?

    Per doctor Moore’s article, it is a *sin* to execute homosexuals — something that Christ himself described (as part of the law) as the *very definition* of ‘loving god and your neighbor as yourself.’ So, Christ died on the cross to cover the sins of both violating the Jewish law, based on Love, and doing the exact opposite.

  15. Jeremy C Reply

    For those who are lambasting this article-
    How many homosexuals have you known, personally, who have either come to Christ or at least “reformed their ways” as a result of criminal prosecution?

    • Russ Reply

      None….The “state” encourages homosexuality, they even threaten people with “big Bubba” in the toolshed they refer to as jail. In this late stage of the “end game”, all the positions of power and influence in the state are being held by homosexuals, they don’t punish them, they promote them.

      I have a different way of seeing this, sin weakens people, the state is weakened right now, and I have my guess as to why that is, others should ponder the same question. I call it clay feet.

      • Eric Reply

        You just might be the president of the Young Theocrats. Hard to say which trait makes you more qualified: blinkered self-righteousness or arrogant zeal for power.

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      How many pedophiles, adulterers, beastialites, murderers, thieves, have you known, personally, who have either come to Christ or at least “reformed their ways” as a result of criminal prosecution?

      How does the Bible define justice?

  16. W_Nelson Reply

    35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    How is it possible to the opposite of what Christ defined as Loving God and our neighbor?

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      In the same giving of the law you quoted, God (Jesus) also included civil laws and sanctions as “loving your neighbor as yourself”-righteous judgment.

  17. The authors here claim that there should not be civil penalties for every sin, but provide no reasoning for distinguishing between those sins that do merit civil penalties and those that do not. The omission renders their argument useless.

    Just in general, the purpose of criminal law is to define what is to be done to those individuals who, by their misconduct, cause serious damage to society at large (acts that simply cause damage to other individuals are covered by tort law, in civil courts). Those that defraud erode public trust, which harms everybody. Those that steal make private property insecure, which harms everybody. Those that murder make life insecure, which harms everybody. And so on.

    So, society protects itself by creating penalties for those acts, with the hope that the just penalty will deter most people from committing such acts.

    The authors argue for mercy, but inaccurately conclude that because of it there should be no penalty for homosexuality. They are confusing civil self-protection with personal mercy. It is not the Christian position that nothing be considered a crime, nor that no criminal ever be punished. At the same time, it is the Christian position that every criminal, no matter how severe their crime, is to be treated with mercy and is to be forgiven. How can both be correct? Simply put, mercy and forgiveness are not public policies, but individual imperatives; and criminal law and penalties do not constitute harshness or a lack of forgiveness. They are separate acts carried out by separate entities.

    So, for example, murder is still murder, and may be punished by a long prison sentence or even death. Prisoners are to be treated humanely, but they are still prisoners. Forgiveness by the victim’s family does not imply commutation of sentence by the state. It is for the victims of the crime to forgive; but it is for the state to protect society and execute justice.

    This all goes to say that we need sound criteria to distinguish between those acts which harm society badly enough to warrant criminal penalties, and that the authors here do not provide those criteria.

    If sexual misconduct, either hetero- or homo-, damages society, then why should it not be the subject of criminal penalties? Former generations did in fact exact civil penalties against those who committed adultery or fornication. I suspect that the authors simply embraced the current state of the law as though its correctness were self-evident, and that their condemnation of our brothers in Uganda rests on nothing more substantial than “We don’t do that here in the States anymore. Why are you so far behind the times?” Sorry, that won’t do.

    So the question remains: if we properly understand the corrosive effect of sexual misconduct, by what criteria do we determine that those effects are not great enough to warrant civil penalties? This article does not answer that question.

  18. Alistair Robertson Reply

    While I certainly don’t believe the Church should push for a reintroduction of laws against homosexuality, this article has not provided a strong biblical case for the Church speaking out against the criminalisation of homosexuality where it exists. Nor do I think a case has been made that criminalisation is necessarily persecution. Merely to say that Baptists do not think the OT Law should be applied today is a very weak argument – does this mean that the OT Law persecuted homosexuals and other acts seen as sexual sin?

    Dr. Moore, I appreciate your thoughtful interaction with various topics. On this one, however, I am struggling to see how your perspective is shaped by Scripture rather than the now common Western view. And I’m not even saying you are wrong!

    • Betty Taylor Reply

      As Baptist Christians, our own history has shown us what injustice can happen when a state applies the Old Testament Mosaic code—a code designed to mark out the nation of Israel in redemptive history until the coming of Israel’s Messiah—to the civil state. Our ancestors were whipped, beaten, and exiled from Old England and from New England for refusing to sprinkle infants or to pay taxes for Anglican preaching. We ought then to be, of all groups, in support of limiting the power of government to see itself as a theological broker.

      There is much conflation of nonsense in this paragraph. Yes, “Baptist” Christians did suffer persecution (they inflicted a bit, too), but not at the hands of Mosaic code. Baptism laws, being a New Testament principle, were hardly the result of appeals to Old Testament texts. So the “sprinkling” reference does not seem right. And “Anglican” doctrine explicitly rejects the need for Mosaic civil laws. Article VII of the Articles of Religion rejects both ceremonial and civil aspects of the Law as binding:

      the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth.

      So, technically, the Anglican Articles of Religion hold the exact same doctrine of civil law as Howse and Johnson. Certain Mosiac Laws could be useful here and there, but they are not necessary and not binding. Certainly, their utility must be justified by some standard other than the mere fact that they are God’s Laws.

      So Moore is off base in regard to Mosaic Code,

      – See more at: http://americanvision.org/10492/brannon-howses-moral-dilemma-on-homosexuality/#sthash.aVwIMEhL.XdwxlXdI.dpuf

  19. Jeremy Gage Reply

    Dr. Moore,

    Can you clarify this: “The jailing and execution of people for consensual sexual immorality, in contexts like we see in many places around the world, isn’t Christian, either.”

    Does this mean the state should not criminalize pornography, prostitution, or adultery?

    Would you allow an openly-legal Red Light District for said consensual sexual activity?

  20. Ken Reply

    R. Moore, “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing [insert sodomy, incest, prostitution here] activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

    First Person of Trinity, “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable…for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.”

    As the second quote illustrates, God says that egregious sexual sin, unlike, say, simply telling a fib, defiles a land – whether the people are covenanted with God or not. It is an abomination of the created/natural order. As such, civil governments, because they are all instituted by God, have every right and indeed obligation to outlaw this “detestable” behavior.

    I expected public intellectuals and establishment Conservatives to follow the path of least resistance, but Russell you will be held accountable for this pathetic pandering. You are leading the sheep astray.

  21. KennyM Reply

    For those who are Christians, I would suggest taking the time to do a careful and thoughtful study of the following passages: Acts chapter 5; Romans 12:9-13:10; 1 Corinthians chapters 5-8; 1 Peter 2:13-21; 1 Peter 3:8-17 (these are exemplary; there are more). From these passages I would suggest asking ourselves the following questions: What does God require of me as an individual, and then us as an assembly of Christians, concerning my own sins? What does He require of me as an individual, and then us as an assembly of Christians, concerning the sins of others, within the assembly, and outside of it? What does He require of me as an individual, and then as an assembly of Christians, concerning the “State” (or “Government,” and consider getting some info on the governments the early Church lived under)? Since God requires submission to these human “civil authorities,” under what circumstances does He command “Christian civil disobedience”? I believe this would bring at least a more balanced approach to the whole discussion. It is also helpful to remember that there should be no debate as to sin being what God says is sin. Much of the unfair charges leveled against Christianity for singling out certain sins more than others, is oftentimes really a case of those committing the sins demanding that we accept those sins as not being sins! As Christians, agree with God (the essence of the meaning of the word “confess”) when it comes to sin (and everything else for that matter). Then in addition to agreeing, look to Scripture to see how He prescribes we address it. The passages mentioned provide a very good amount of Biblical instruction to asses and respond to the article presented by the two brothers. Hope this helps. God bless.

  22. US laws are a mess. What country did God give laws to? OT Israel. Jesus has come, and so have cars and contraceptives, but surely we can find wisdom in the Mosaic law and use it, carefully, “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (II Tim 3:16). Punish crimes quickly (Eccl 8:11); replace prisons with restitution; shrink the government, for God’s lists of jobs for government to do are very short (Rom 13, I Tim 2; see also I Sam 8)…Israel was God’s unique country, but was supposed to show other nations an example of righteous laws. Similarly, Jesus is God’s unique Son, the only Savior, but is also an example to us. “Jesus is normal; the rest of us are weird.” (Now back to see what Doug Wilson & co. say about this article.)

  23. Rett Reply

    “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

    God commanded the death penalty in theocratic Israel for homosexual activity at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How then can criminalizing homosexual activity be “unjust” and “an affront to the image of God embedded in all person” if God, commanded not only it’s criminalization, but the penalty for it as well? For it to be “unjust” that would mean God was “unjust” for commanding it.

    Does the state have a responsibility toward God? Does God hold governments and nations accountable for their actions? If so, then does not God have a standard by which nations should govern by which he can hold them accountable? What is the understanding of Psalm 2? Particularly the “therefore” followed by the command to the kings and leaders of the earth to “kiss the Son, lest he be angry with you and you perish in the way?”

    This is nothing more than civil anti-nomianism.

  24. Eric Reply

    Wow, and Russell says he doesn’t know any evangelicals who want to criminalize homosexuality. Looks like this one really brought out the trolls. But I’m more interested in what Russell would say to this story: http://www.advocate.com/world/2014/03/05/ugandan-lesbian-evicted-landlord-cites-jail-gays-law

    I’d really like to see him try to say that Uganda and Arizona are “galaxies apart,” to quote from his interview with the Religious News Service, after reading this.

  25. Russell Moore & Andrew Walker: “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

    Talk about usurping Yahweh’s place as God. Yahweh’s morality, as reflected in His commandments, statutes, and judgements, is immutable. Thus, what was a capital crime Him previously, remains a capital crime.

    While most Christians’ opposition to homosexuality is not motivated by hate, they have nonetheless been intimidated by this accusation into making homosexuality into less of a capital crime than other capital crimes (capital crimes as defined by Yahweh, God of the Bible). They make statements such as “Some of my best friends are homosexuals.” and “I don’t care what they do, as long as they don’t do it in public.”

    Now, substitute murderers and rapists for homosexuals in those statements. Would anyone make such statements about murderers and rapists? I don’t think so.

    The question we should be asking is HOW we’ve got to the place (especially with our 1600 Christian foundations in mind) that America is being held hostage by a small percentage of capital criminal perverts? The answer is actually quite simple, albeit not popular (ironically, especially with Christians).

    The fact is had the constitutional framers established government and society upon Yahweh’s immutable morality as reflected in His commandments, statutes, and judgments (including Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13), there would no homosexual agenda today in America because no sodomite or lesbian would dare risk exposing themselves to petition government for their “rights.”

    For more on how Yahweh’s triune moral law applies today, see our free online book “Law and Kingdom: Their Relevance Under the New Covenant.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page and scroll down to the title.

    • Eric Reply

      Yeah, shame about that whole separation of church and state thing, huh? But seriously, why is it that Young Theocrats like Ted here always, and only, want the most antiquated, exclusionary, and violent parts of the Bible to be made the law of the land? Be a nice change of place to see a wanna-be fascist insist we make, I don’t know, carrying for the poor maybe,? or anything else Jesus said or did?, the law instead.

      And I’m still waiting for Russell Moore to answer my first comment.

      • Don't Immanentize the Eschaton Reply

        Some do. We call them the Religious Left. And they’re every bit as repulsive as our own species of fascist.

        See the collected writings of Rev. Jeremiah Wright if you want something to ponder.

        • Don't Immanentize the Eschaton Reply

          The Antichrist will come in out of the desert, claiming dominion over the kingdoms of the world. He will give bread to the poor, meaning to the spiritually malnourished, and direction to those weak souls seeking someone to follow. He will order every aspect of our lives, from cradle to grave. He will be a great, shining idol. He will be Leviathan. He will be Caesar. For all intents and purposes, he will be God – he will see all, he will do all, and by the depraved lights of man, he will be all-good – a comfort to the oppressed, and an oppressor of the oppressor. He will not die on a cross. What sort of God would die on a cross?

          As Voltaire says, if there were no God, man would have to invent one. We will invent the Antichrist in our image. We will worship him. And the wages of sin are death. Can you feel it? We are already dying.

          The only thing worse than a false god is one that is almost true. Beware any theocrat.

        • Eric Reply

          Pretty sure Rev. Wright condemned excessive and abusive state power, not coveted it. False equivalencies aren’t really helpful.

  26. Rob Reply

    It’s already a crime according to the Holy Bible – and even if some government criminalized it – this is still a moot point in Gods eyes, unless they apply HIS standards.

  27. If there is a God and that God is alive and kicking then it would seem plain to us all that his prophecies about “bringing to ruin those ruining the earth” is going to happen. That being said then it would be wise to all of us to understand WHAT God is going to do to do for this clean up and WHO are the ones that may be in line for the cleaning.

    Revelation 19 pretty much tells us what God plans to do with the “Man on the White Horse” who has a two edged sword and he uses that sword in a RIGHTEOUS way. It would seem that the sodomite way of life as depicted in the book of Romans as belonging to those with “reprobate” minds and lifestyles as one in which close attention would be needed for adjustment.

    So basically, none of us wrote these laws, it was God. Now some may think those laws are “antiquated, exclusionary, and violent” but that is your opinion. The real opinion rest with the God who wrote those laws and it is up to us to live by those standards or reap the whirlwind. As the Bible says:

    Deu_30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

    Oh and by the way, “seed” here is offspring…….the way it was done is offspring comes from a male and female union of egg and sperm…….Gays alone can’t do that……..or at least that is how it was supposed to be done……

  28. Chris Reply

    Russell Moore and Andrew Walker: ” … that sexuality is to be expressed only within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman. Anything else is a sin against God. The church has believed this, and will always believe this, because the Bible teaches it.

    “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

    This is as double minded as the rest of your statements in this article. “… being double minded, unstable in all his ways.”

    And utter nonsense such as this: “Not everything that is sinful should be a crime.”

    What do you think the word “sin” means ????? 1 John 3: 4. Sin IS a crime by it’s very definition !

    Moreover, the general theme of this entire article, in essence, promotes the acceptance and tolerance for these sexual perverts !

    Promoting acceptance of sodomites and no punishment for their crime as commanded by The Great I Am, is acquiescence thereto !

    If we had obeyed The Great I Am, that became flesh and dwelt among us in the first place, we wouldn’t even see these sodomites as they would not even exist outside of the closet.

    Here’s what He Commands as His plan for His people regarding the sexual pervert problem and the ONLY solution:

    First, there’s the need for the offender to turn back to The Great I Am that became flesh and dwelt among us, with Confession of Him as his salvation and Kinsmen Redeemer, repentance and baptism (full immersion) in His name. Acts 2: 38.

    If the sin continues: 1 Corinthians 5: 4-5.

    For those who will not repent: Leviticus 18: 22 – 29; 20: 13.

    The general principle is to rid the land of the evil: “Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.” Deuteronomy 13: 11.   and 17: 7 “So shall you purge the evil from your midst.”

    The only solution for this nation is to turn back to Him, His Laws, Statutes and Judgments, His Kingdom/Will on earth.

    • Eric Reply

      Thank you for confirming that Young Theocrats have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel, and everything to do with the worship of power.

      • Chris Reply

        Well, I’m not quite sure what you meant. Please elaborate.

        I’m not “young” and I’m not quite sure what you mean by “Theocrat”. I quoted God Almighty and His mandates, not mine; and the only power I worship is His.

        So, again, please elaborate.

        • Eric Reply

          Why? You can look up “theocrat” and “theocracy” for yourself. Beyond that, you’ve done a pretty good job demonstrating exactly what I meant.

          You haven’t merely “quoted” the God Almighty. You’ve selectively chosen and interpreted ancient texts written by humans who bear witness to what they believe God mandates. Pretty sure the Bible “mandates” care for widows, orphans, and strangers, yet I don’t read you or anyone else in this thread saying that God demands such care be made the law of the land, or else.

          So you can try to dodge responsibility for your choices, and what they say about your view of God, all you want. But it is clear to any honest observer that you and other commenters here do as much picking and choosing as you likely decry in others. More to the point, what you pick and choose reveals a great deal about your priorities and even your character. The obsessive focus on sex, especially homosexuality, is telling enough.

          Yet the simple-minded desire, expressed up and down this thread, to make the Bible the law of the land, and the most antiquated, exclusionary, and violent parts of the Bible at that, is even more revealing. What you and others apparently desire is a god who baptizes your hopes and your hates and sanctifies your will to power. For, as I said last time, what you really worship is power. Call it HIS power all you like, I guess. Just call it Christian.

          • Eric

            Just *don’t* call it Christian, that is.

          • Chris

            “Pretty sure the Bible “mandates” care for widows, orphans, and strangers, yet I don’t read you or anyone else in this thread saying that God demands such care be made the law of the land, or else.”

            That’s because you don’t know what you’re talking about. And even if I showed you where the “or else” is, I doubt if you’d care. Reject Him and His Word at your own peril.

            And: “The obsessive focus on sex, especially homosexuality, is telling enough.” ???

            In case it hasn’t dawned on you, homosexuality is the subject matter of the article.

            You sound like an angry fool who knows little about the Scriptures, doesn’t even believe in them, referring to them as “antiquated”, but yet you think you know the mind of The Almighty (?), if you believe He exists at all.

            Only “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ “.
            Psalms 14: 1.

            And as you have demonstrated you are quite the fool, this admonishment is for you: Proverbs 17: 28. At least if you adhere to that, you’d keep it a secret.

            P.S. I knew what the word mean’t, but I suspected you were a fool, and one who is “wise in his own eyes” at that. And, if given the opportunity, you would provide all the evidence needed to prove just that, and you have.

            I don’t recommend replying anymore. You’ll only dig yourself deeper by supplying more evidence.

            I do highly recommend you repent and turn to Him as described in my original post (Acts 2: 38).

          • Eric

            Thanks for proving my point, yet again. Threatening me with hell is a typical, but revealing, comment. Just like throwing Bible verses at me shows how little you care for the Word or for Christ’s teaching.

            So not only did you miss or ignore my point, you reply with insults and intimidating references to God’s wrath. How, exactly, is that supposed to make me think you are not the wanna-be fascist I think you are?

          • Chris

            Digging yourself deeper.

            “Christ’s teachings” ? Here, chew on this one for a while: Matthew 5: 17 – 20. Has heaven and earth passed away yet ?

            And you have the audacity to call His Laws, Statutes and Judgments “antiquated”, “violent”, etc. and then tell us all about “Christ’s teachings” ??

            I threatened you with “hell” ?? Nowhere in my above comments did I say anything about “hell”.

            Why would I care about what a fool thinks of me ?

            Moreover, I doubt if you could even define the word “fascist”, but you throw such terms around anyway without so much as a thought, let alone knowledge, of it’s true meaning. Quite typical of a fool.

            I answered your foolish comments according to your folly, just as it deserved.

            “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you be like him.

            “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 5 & 6.

            And so I leave you with this: Proverbs 23: 8. Bye.

          • Eric

            “I threatened you with “hell” ?? Nowhere in my above comments did I say anything about “hell”.”

            At least be honest, ok? You know darn good and well what you meant when you told me to “repent” and told me that I reject God and his Word “at your peril” (as if disagreeing with you is a sin). If you can’t be a Christian, at least be a man who stands behind what he says, especially when he insults someone.

            “Why would I care about what a fool thinks of me ?” Good question. Why don’t you tell me? You are the one replying to my comments, so seems to me you care a good bit. Otherwise, why the all invective and insults?

            “Here, chew on this one for a while: Matthew 5: 17 – 20. Has heaven and earth passed away yet ?” I’m assuming you are throwing this at me as some kind of support for your belief that ancient Israelite laws on capital crimes should be the law of the land in modern America? If so, I’m going to pray to God you stop twisting the Scriptures to serve your own depraved interests.

            Sadly, you’ve made the Bible into a pedestal for an idol of your own making, an idol of yourself really: a god who has all the same hates and prejudices as you and all the power you wish you had. Please repent of your idolatry. Christ is knocking. Will you let him in?

  29. I would like to thank Russell Moore and Andrew Walker for their courageous stand on this very important issue. Those who condemn them are ignoring the very law Christ died for. When John said God is Love he meant it. And when God said vengeance is mine, it didn’t mean the self righteous should do it. Judge not, least ye be judged means exactly what it says and get the log out of your eye and stop messing with your brother’s sliver, leaves little doubt as to how Christians should behave.

    • Jason Storms Reply

      John Hart are you saying Christians are wrong for wanting to criminalize homosexuality? That sounds like a judgment? The very thing you are reproving other folks for doing you did in the same paragraph. It seems when you reject the law of God as a standard for right and wrong you are left to your own self contradictory opinions, not to mention a skewed lens to interpret Scripture through.

  30. Betty Taylor Reply

    “But governments, as noted above, that single out persons for harassment and fear of their lives represent, in our view, a State that has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly. And in our view, repressive regimes that target homosexuals fall into this category.”

    Are you saying that homosexual ACTS should not be outlawed? (as sodomy used to be in America)

    Should pedophiles not be targeted for their acts? Should rapists not be targeted for their acts?

    On what basis should governments make any laws at all? If it is to bear the sword against the evil-doer, where do you get your definition, your objective standard of what is evil? What is the SOURCE of civil law and civil sanctions? Man’s law ? God’s law? If Christians are able to be a part of setting up government (and we were and are in America, should we not reflect God’s law in that government? How should we set up judicially? On what basis?

    If Mosaic law does not apply in NT times, why did Paul appeal to Mosaic Case Law as authority that ministers should be paid?(1 Cor 9: 8-9)

    Who does the NT say the Law is for, if used lawfully? 1 Tim. 1: 8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

  31. Sergio Lopez Reply

    Thank you very much for this article. Nowadays we find advocates for the criminal prosecution of homosexuals even among renowned Christian pastors, which is sad at so many levels, since it demonstrates that these pastors have failed to understand one of the core values of the Gospel: love your neighbor as you love yourself. These modern-day Pharisees must be denounced and fought against, since their bigotry will destroy the work of the Gospel. We must lead the homosexuals to Jesus with love and kindness, not with hatred, bigotry and prudishness. These last three things are contrary to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.

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