Comparing Apples and Oranges

Sometimes false teachers compare apples with oranges. However, the comparison I'll discuss in this post is more like comparing apples to avocados.

Gay revisionists claim the Greek word for “unnatural” used in Romans 1 should be judged by its use in 1 Corinthians 11.

Matthew Vines, a prominent gay revisionist, says the “passage about hair length in 1 Corinthians is the most similar one in Paul’s writings to the passage about sexual behavior in Romans 1.” 

So let’s look at both Scriptures and address this gay revisionist explanation.

Romans 1:26-27: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."

1 Corinthians 11:13-14: "Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him?"

The gay revisionist argument: Paul discusses head coverings and hair length in 1 Corinthians 11:13-15, using the same Greek words for unnatural and shameful as are used in Romans 1. Because both passages use these two words, same-gender sex and hair length are similar. Opposition to them is based on cultural bias, not sin. According to Matthew Vines, "just like Greek and Roman attitudes about appropriate hair length, their views about gender roles are specific to those patriarchal cultures."

Let's address various aspects of this revisionist view:


1. First Corinthians 11:13-15 clearly, without doubt, addresses a cultural practice, a tradition in churches.

A piece of clothing (a head covering) reflected an attitude of submission in the early church. Paul compares this with views about hair length and introduces this passage with these words: “holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you” (verse 2). 

He qualifies this tradition with the word "if": “if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head” (verse 6). 

He allows us to judge this tradition: “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (verse 13).

Then he uses two words that have the same origins as words used in Romans 1: Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him” (verse 14). 

Paul sums up by referring to this as a church practice: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice--nor do the churches of God” (verse 16). 

When Paul wrote this passage, the only women in Corinth who shaved their heads or wore short hair were "slaves, adulteresses, or prostitutes" (source).

2. However, nothing in Romans 1 implies the sins mentioned are part of tradition or culture.

Instead, Romans 1 is one of the strongest New Testament passages about the evil choices of mankind and the wrath of God. 

In addition, during the writing of the book of Romans, Greek and Roman cultures did not have a negative view of homosexuality. While I don't normally trust Wikipedia articles, this well-documented article explains the acceptance of male homosexuality in ancient times (WIKI).

Christians should be concerned if our appearance denies appropriate cultural standards (i.e. if our short hair makes us appear to be a prostitute). But we should not be concerned if our views of sin deny cultural standards.

3. When in doubt, combine all passages about the same subject.

It's vital to compare all Scripture passages on a subject to gain a full and accurate understanding. In regard to the 1 Corinthians 11 passage about hair length, we have scriptural reasons (in addition to the context) to believe Paul was addressing customs, not sin: 

In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded men who took a Nazarite vow not to cut their hair (Numbers 6:1-21).  But 1 Corinthians 11:14 says, "Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him?" Obviously, God is not associating hair length with sin but with cultural mores of the time.

However, when we combine the many passages on homosexuality in Old and New Testaments, we find that always—without exception—homosexuality is referred to as a serious sin. Not once is it mentioned in a positive or neutral way. Heterosexual sex is the only sex mentioned in a positive light (Genesis 2:24-25). 

 

4. Words do not have the exact meaning in every passage.

We can be ashamed for forgetting to return a phone call or ashamed for committing a murder. The word is the same, but it conveys different levels of shame depending on the context.

The same is true in the Greek. For example, Paul uses the Greek word shameful (dishonor) to convey serious sins in Romans 1:26 and 2 Timothy 2:19-22, but he uses it casually and satirically in 2 Corinthians 11:21.

It would be more accurate to compare the word ungodliness used in Romans 1:26 with its use in Jude 1 because both passages address sexual perversion: "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7). 

Comparing dissimilar passages isn't helpful, honest, logical, nor intelligent.

5. The most important context is the context of the actual passage, not the context of similar words in other passages

Nothing in the context of Romans 1 pertains to church or cultural traditions or customs. Nor is homosexuality merely on a list of other sins. It is specifically highlighted in this passage as a sign of serious moral decline, unnatural and shameful in any culture. 

6. False teachers often contradict their own teachings.

In Matthew Vines'  explanation of Romans 1, he contradicts his own arguments. First, he claims Romans 1 does not address homosexuals involved in same-gender sex. Then, he claims it does address homosexuals involved in same-gender sex but from a cultural bias. If we combine these two arguments, Vines is saying that the passage simply reflects a cultural bias against heterosexuals having same-gender sex, a bias which no longer applies to us today. Vines' arguments don't build on each other. They contradict each other, further proving the confused thinking behind them.

In addition to these points, there is a very interesting element in 1 Corinthians 11 that further refutes gay revisionist explanations. Paul bases these temporary cultural customs on the permanent, unchanging framework of God's creation design which says woman was created for man (1 Corinthians 11:8-11). Customs involving hair length may change; God's sexual design does not. Comparing Romans 1 with this passage actually confirms the importance of God's creation design.

To read more about gay revisionist explanations of Romans 1, see Natural and Unnatural Interpretations. It addresses the false teaching that Romans only applies to perverted heterosexuals, not monogamous homosexuals.

To read more explanations of the errors in gay revisionist theology, see the articles below:

 

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