“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it.” (OSB)
The royal priesthood with which God has blessed His people touches every aspect of their life, calling for holiness and an embodiment of true human life in all areas. This is no less the case for human sexuality, one of the most beautiful, potent, and problematic parts of human existence. In stark contrast to the modern way of handling texts like Lev 18:22-23, which treats them as “cultural artifacts” of a backwards and outdated worldview, we must embrace these texts, like all of Scripture, as God’s loving revelation to us and—very importantly—we must understand the coherent portrait of human life that undergirds these texts. Which is to say, Lev 18:22-23 is not an arbitrary “rule/law” which God tyrannically imposes on humanity just because “He says so.” To believe so would be to buy into the Serpent’s lie in the Garden, to put God-given boundaries in opposition to God’s goodness. So, what is the coherent picture here?
We must go back to the accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2 and recall the unique place that God has given humanity in the created order, placed as the mid-point between heaven and earth, partaking of matter and spirit, below the angels yet greater than the angels as co-rulers with God over creation, among the living creatures on earth yet above them all by virtue of the divine Image and Likeness.
And we must recall that the “Original Sin” was that of Idolatry, of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. This is precisely how St. Paul lays out the matter in Romans 1-3: humanity’s idolatrous false worship interrupts the relationship of Image (God/Christ) and image-bearer (humans), which plunges humanity into an ever-descending spiral of chaos and disintegration. In short, disordered sexuality is a product of disordered worship. When we lose the knowledge of who we are as God’s image-bearers, we turn God’s good gifts to us into idols, into ends-in-themselves, and thus we necessarily start to misuse and distort those gifts because they have been removed from the Pattern of the Image in which they were made and given.
Leviticus 18:22-23 is part of a whole series of instructions to Israel, and thus to us, about avoiding what might be called “illicit mixtures.” This simply means that God has set up creation to work in certain ways naturally—creation has a “natural grain” to it that can be known and lived out without contrivance or complication. God creates things “according to their kind,” and these “kinds” are real, and involve a distinction that is to be observed. Humans are not irrational beasts, and so we are not to live as if we were: for a human to unite sexually with an animal is an “illicit mixture” for it degrades humans—it effects a communion between two things that are not the same and should not be combined; it lowers humans to animal status, and blasphemously raises animals to level of divine-image bearers.
The issue is similar with intra-human sexual relationships. The homosexual union is an illicit mixture for it involves both a misuse of the God-given faculties intended for the marital union, both in unitive and procreative terms, and it effectively communicates that “male” and “female” are not God-given, ultimate realities that define what it means for humanity to be created in God’s Image. In short, the issue with homosexual practice, as with all sexual sin, indeed ALL SIN, is humanity usurping the prerogative of God as Creator. The pastoral questions here are real as relates to each individual person, but we must not be double-minded about the cultural moment we are in: “Equality” has, in most cases, become double-speak for secular Humanity’s declaration of its own emancipation from God.
By Reader Justin Gohl