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Homosexuality and God's Sovereignty

Telos and the Meaning of Holiness

 

This article, like the other article I've posted concerning homosexuality, attempts to get at the bottom of the homosexual issue - what's really at stake. Many Christians are willing to acknowledge that homosexuality is proscribed in the Bible, but they aren't able to put their finger on exactly why. The first article I posted pointed out . . .

  • that man is God's agent of conquest - charged with the responsibility of defeating Satan;
  • that he is neither male nor female, but, instead, the union of both sexes;
  • that, consequently, by playing down the significance of that union, homosexuality thwarts the defeat of Satan and enables him thereby to continue his reign of evil.

This is a second article addressing the whole issue of homosexuality - why it's so terribly heinous and why Christians cannot afford to "brush it off to one side" - as, for example, Brian Mclaren does.

The Pentateuch, especially Genesis and Leviticus, defines holiness quite differently from what we’ve grown accustomed to expect. We tend to define holiness along two lines of thought…

First, it's an attribute

It’s an attribute – an attribute we acquire when we’re regenerated – an attribute that makes possible fellowship with God. Ordinarily, we’re at a loss to take it any further – meaning we can’t quite define what it specifically consists of – except to blurt out the word “godliness” – without defining what that means. Rarely, a well trained and perspicacious student of theology will point to Galatians 5:22-23…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

…explaining that holiness consists of the “fruit of the Spirit.” Why? Because the phrase “against such there is no law” is meant to indicate that the Law, which reflects God’s holiness, can find no basis for condemning a man whose life displays the fruit of the Spirit.

Second, it's the absence of sin

Occasionally, holiness is defined less as a concrete attribute and more as an absence – specifically, an absence of sin – without bothering to define exactly what constitutes sin.

Teleological definition of sin - a different line of thought

And, certainly, there’s a modicum of truth in both definitions. But the Pentateuch defines holiness along a different line of thought - in a way that catches contemporary Christians off guard – that seems a bit strange and unsettling. That’s because the Pentateuch defines holiness teleologically. For Moses, the author of the Pentateuch, holiness consists of living out the telos God has sovereignly ordained for every phenomenon that comprises existence; and, correspondingly, sin consists of violating that telos – of overstepping the bounds it defines. Leviticus 19:19 is a good example…

You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle gender with a diverse kind: you shall not sow your field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and wool come upon you.

Lev. 19:19

God’s statutes are ultimately meant to safeguard the design he has ordained for all creation – which means keeping separate and distinct the various “teloi” that comprise existence. That’s holiness. Sin, on the other hand and at bottom, consists of a disregard for that design – a disregard that assumes the form of “mingling” – in this case…

  • mingling different species of animals,
  • mingling different kinds of seed,
  • mingling different kinds of cloth.

Mingling leads to confusion – and confusion is contrary to holiness. Leviticus 18:23 and Leviticus 20:12 are both good examples…

Neither shall you lie with any beast to defile yourself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Lev. 18:23

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion…

Lev. 20:12

Mankind should never “cross-breed” with another kind of animal. That’s sinful. It mingles two distinct “teloi,” and, therefore, causes confusion – which is the antithesis of holiness.

Moreover, the boundaries that comprise a specific telos often include exacting behavioral patterns that must likewise be respected; for example, a father-in-law cannot “marry” his daughter-in-law. That kind of behavior breeds confusion and chaos within the family unit – which, once again, is the antithesis of holiness.

Cross-dressing

It’s this very rationale that underlies the prohibition against cross-dressing…

A woman shall not wear what pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whosoever does these things is an abomination unto Jehovah your God.

Deut. 22:5

Mingling and confusion – a refusal to honor the unique differences God has assigned men in contrast to women and women in contrast to men – differences grounded in the separate and distinct teloi God has ordained for each.

Homosexuality

The prohibition against homosexuality is grounded here as well. A man’s physical sexuality finds its consummation in a woman, not another man. That specific expectation is integrated into the telos God has assigned him. Likewise, a woman’s physical sexuality finds its consummation in a man, not another woman. Put a little differently: men are designed sexually for women and, likewise, women are designed sexually for men. Homosexuality is, therefore, contrary to God’s design – and reflects a high-handed disregard of God’s sovereignty. It leads to confusion and, hence, is contrary to holiness.

Sin, then, finds its roots in confusion – which occurs whenever the distinction that contrasts one telos from another is either overlooked or intentionally breached.

  • Separation and distinction lie at the heart of holiness;
  • mingling and confusion lie at the heart of sin.

Jude 6 is another example of a sin clearly grounded in a high-handed disregard of telos.

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

Jude 6

Here we have angels who overstepped the bounds God had set for them – who contemptuously violated the telos – the “estate,” the “habitation” – he had assigned them. It’s quite likely that these are the very angels Moses had in mind when he penned Genesis 6…

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them,

that the sons of God (angels) saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.

Gen. 6:1-1

Angels transgressing the teleological distinction between themselves and mankind – “leaving their first estate” – and procreating with the “daughters of men” – a sin so abominable in the eyes of God that it led to the Flood! Mingling and confusion on a grand scale! A blatant, rebellious disregard for the separate telos he had assigned angels in contrast to mankind – a failure to honor the unique status he had ordained for them in the created order.

This principle is the rationale underlying other enigmatic passages as well – for example, 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 – the whole question of “head coverings”…

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.

But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

1 Cor. 11:3-15

Once again, the issue here is telos – which is why the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 is so puzzling for most Christians – never having been attuned to the significance of telos and, consequently, unable conform their thinking to Paul’s. What Paul is doing here is really quite straightforward and wholly in keeping with a premodern mind-set: he’s insisting on maintaining the distinction between men and women – knowing that a violation of that distinction lies at the heart of sin.

Some commentators make authority the issue here; but authority is only a secondary issue and is relevant only because headship is incorporated into a man’s telos and submission into a woman’s telos. Others make the complementary nature of men and women the issue here – and, indeed, Paul is careful to underscore that truth; but it too is a secondary issue – and, like authority, is relevant only because a man and woman’s complementary nature is imbedded in their respective “teloi.”

Telos is the foundational principle underlying God’s creation. It’s a principle spelled out and highlighted in the very first chapter of Genesis, for example Genesis 1:11 and Genesis 1:21….

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

Gen. 1:11

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Gen. 1:21

The word “seed” in verse 11 does not depict merely a mechanism for reproduction; it’s a short-hand expression for “telos.” Each fruit tree, each herb, has been assigned a specific telos and is designed to reproduce that telos in its offspring. Honoring that principle lies at the very heart of holiness – which is the sense conveyed in the phrase “and God saw that it was good.”

Throughout Genesis Chapter One, creation is depicted as an on-going process of separation and distinction – a process that begins with Genesis 1:3…

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Gen. 1:3

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Gen. 1:4

…and continues with Genesis 1:6-7…

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

Gen. 1:6-7

…until its climax is reached at the end of Genesis One. In short, creation is built around the principle of separation and distinction – which God calls “good” (e.g., Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, etc.) – and which, therefore, defines holiness.

That brings us to the word “destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9…

… when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power…

2 Thess. 1:7-9

The word “destruction” in verse 9 does not mean “annihilation.” Both the word itself (o¡leqroß) and its context tell otherwise. Anyone undergoing destruction is ruined - meaning he is eternally kept from living out the telos that lies at the heart of his very being. He is left without significance and purpose - adrift in a sea of cosmic meaninglessness. That’s what Paul is getting at in 2Thessalonians 1:7-9. Man is meant to enjoy fellowship with God. That’s his telos and anything less leaves him “in ruins.”

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