In an article by Jonathan Dudley that was posted on CNN, a point was made about two arguments the apostle Paul puts forth where his reasoning is based on nature; one on hair length (1 Cor 11:14-15) and the other on homosexuality (Rom 1:26-27). Here he writes:
I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”
Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”
It appears that the question Dudley is trying to ask is, if Christians cling so tightly to the argument in Romans about homosexuality, then why don’t they cling to the argument Paul puts forth in 1 Corinthians; especially since both appear to be arguments from nature. To answer this, we need to break down the culture of first century Rome, then analyze the two texts from that foundation.
1 Corinthians on Hair Length
Dudley references the verse where Paul says, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Cor 11:14-15)
In an attempt to unpack this, we must start by noting that in first century Rome, the head covering was the sign of a woman being married. Since this was the social norm that was followed, if a wife were to go about with her head uncovered or her hair cut short it brought dishonor and disgrace upon both her and her husband. It seems that Paul is aware of an issue in the church, where women were uncovering their heads, thinking they were free to violate important cultural traditions. However, Paul says that such actions were shameful and should be avoided as much as possible.
While looking at the context of what is being said, Paul appears to be saying that it is unnatural for a man to exercise the cultural norms of the opposite sex, as it may come across to others as though he wishes he were actually a member of the opposite sex.
Contrary to popular belief, we are supposed to observe what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, but in a way that is culturally relevant.
We see in 1 Cor 11:2 that Paul commends his readers for keeping up with the traditions that he passed on to them. It is important to note that while Paul says that failure to observe these traditions may be dishonorable and disgraceful (1 Cor 11:4-6), he never mentions them as sinful. It appears that their purpose it a cultural exercise of reverence and honor to God as representations of the authority structure he has put in place as Christ being the head of man and man being the head of woman (1 Cor 11:3).
As a result, we ought to find similar ways, according to our culture to do the same thing. For much of the western world, we do this by the wearing of wedding rings.
Romans on Homosexuality
Now the question must be asked, if we see Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians on hair length to be relative to the culture, why don’t we see his argument against homosexuality the same way from Romans 1:26-27?
It’s really pretty simple, in the first chapter of Romans, Paul is not appealing to cultural norms, but rather God himself. Because it is God (Not Paul) who gave them up to their dishonorable passions (Rom 1:26), because they were rejecting God’s designed order of nature and his moral command against such a lifestyle. Men were rejecting the gift of a female helper and pursuing romantic relations with other men. Women on the same note were rejecting the gift of a male provider and pursuing romantic relations with other women.
In my studies and writings on homosexuality, I believe the evidence reveals more clearly the common sense fact that same sex relations are contrary to nature as they are utterly destructive to the human body and the culture that it is contained in. Since it is a lifestyle that contributes so greatly to the spread of disease and greatly reduces the life expectancy of those involved, I believe it makes verses like Romans 6:23 make even more sense.
While I may be labelled as a hater or another bigot, it must be stated that I have done my best to respect those opposed to my view and that not a single word typed was done out of anger. I simply believe that Dudley’s implications of the Bible’s position on homosexuality are greatly mistaken and an example of poor reasoning.
This post was inspired by an article by Jonathan Dudley titled: My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality? Following is a list of responses to claims made within the article:
- The Bible Condemns a lot, why focus on homosexuality?
- Our Church Fathers and Abortion
- Our Church Fathers and Marriage
- Contemporary Christianity and Divorce
- Homosexuality vs Hair Length
- Dudley, Jonathan. "My Take: Bible Condemns a Lot, so Why Focus on Homosexuality? - CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs." CNN Belief Blog. 21 June 2011. Web. 04 July 2011. <http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/21/my-take-bible-condemns-a-lot-so-why-focus-on-homosexuality/>.