In this episode Trent examines two articles at Outreach, a website endorsed by Fr. James Martin that claims to provide resources to support LGBTQ Catholics but actually has resources that undermine the Catholic faith.
Narrator: Welcome to the Counsel of Trent podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.
Trent Horn: Hey everyone, welcome to the Counsel of Trent podcast. I’m your host, Catholic Answers apologist and speaker Trent Horn. Today I want to talk about an online resource that is affiliated with Father James Martin and America Magazine and America Media called Outreach. It’s described as an LGBTQ Catholic resource. But in looking through the resources of this online website, not surprising, what we find are not things that would affirm someone in leading a chaste life in spite of same-sex attractions, but rather we find a lot of material that is designed to undermine the church’s teaching on this area and to confuse people. So I’m going to jump in today and take a look at this and show you why it’s wrong. I’ve made these similar arguments before ad nauseam, but they keep coming up and it’s important to address them, because people can be taken in by these things.
So let’s jump into it, I’m going to talk about two articles, they’re pretty representative of the kind of stuff you can find here on Outreach, and I’ll talk about the things that are wrong with them. The first one comes from Brandon Robertson. So Brandon is a younger Protestant pastor, progressive Protestant. He’s a universalist, doesn’t believe in Hell. He did a TikTok video once saying that Jesus is racist. We had a dialogue on whether homosexuality is sinful a few years ago, actually, very fruitful dialogue that I’ll link to below, definitely worth your time to watch.
But I think I showed in that dialogue, the arguments he puts forward, they’re just not convincing. But he’s still promoting a lot of this, I think even in one of his books, we talked about this in the dialogue, that he even argues for the permissibility of polyamorous relationships, and that some Christian throuples might find godliness in being more than two people, not monogamous, which is of course the logical extension of where all this goes. And his book was endorsed by Father James Martin.
And so Brandon has an article here on Outreach, and it’s called The Bible Does Not Condemn LGBTQ People. I’m not going to read the entire article, but I’m just going to point out bits and pieces here and show you what’s wrong with it. So he talks about this, he wants to understand through a robust study of the Bible, “After 10 years of critical study I became utterly convinced that the Bible does not condemn LGBTQ identities, sexual expression, or relationships in any form.”
And so he goes on and he talks about what are called the so-called clobber passages, these are passages like in the book of Genesis, Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18 and 20, that say “A man shall not lie with a man as he lies with a woman.” Romans 1, where Paul talks about the unnaturalness of men forsaking women for men and women doing the same, women leaving men for women, that being unnatural. And the passages in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and letter to Timothy that seems to reference male homosexual behavior as belonging to a vice list, as belonging to a list of prohibited behaviors.
And so this is just very brief, obviously his book goes into it in more detail, but if these are the strongest arguments that are put forward, they’re not very strong. So let’s jump into it to see what he has to say. The Bible seems pretty clear that sexual behavior outside of the marital act between a man and a woman is wrong, whether it’s prostitution, adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality, if it is the use of the sexual faculty outside of the marital act then it’s wrong. Now you might have instances in scripture, people like the patriarchs engage in behaviors with concubines and others, and similarly the Bible describes things like polygamy. Just because the Bible records something doesn’t mean that it recommends it. Throughout much of the Old Testament the lessons we learn are don’t do what this guy did because look what happened to him.
All right, so let’s just jump into it. In Leviticus 18 he writes, that contains the infamous verse, “A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman, for this is an abomination,” but he claims you go to the beginning of the chapter, “Lord said to Moses, speak to the Israeli, say to them, ‘I’m the Lord your God, you must not do as they do in Egypt,'” where he used to live, “Do not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, do not follow their practices.” The context of the chapter is God giving the Israelites a series of commands to not engage in the practices and customs of surrounding pagan nations. Yeah, bingo.
Notice as New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine noted in her piece on Outreach, I’ll get to that in a second, “This list of commands is aimed only at the Israelites and no one else. These aren’t universal moral laws, but laws specific to the religious context of the ancient Israelite people.” So the idea here is that what you find in Leviticus, that can’t help us because this is only for the people of Israel at that time, not for anyone else. And that argument would make sense for things like the kosher laws, Hebrew kashrut, don’t eat shellfish, for example, don’t mix, don’t plant two kinds of crops in fields.
So these were moral infractions, but they dealt with a ritual purity law to teach the Israelites not to illicitly mix things, don’t eat animals that are illicitly mixed, don’t mix your fabrics, don’t mix your plants, don’t mix your sexual parts with people they don’t belong to, don’t mix with the Canaanites, don’t be like them, because they engage engrave moral evils that are always wrong. The problem is in Leviticus, yeah, there are these rules against ritual sacrifices, if you will, or cultic rules, but you also have rules in the very same sections, the very same chapters, that deal with unchanging moral laws as well, and the laws related to sexual morality do fall under that.
So he goes on to try to explain away what’s in Leviticus 18 saying, “The pagan nations of Egypt and Canaan were not devoted to the one true God, but to a pantheon of gods and goddesses. Leviticus 18 focuses primarily on the impure sexual and sacrificial behaviors of these pagan nations.” He goes on to say, “There is some evidence that the ancient Canaanites engaged in ritual prostitution to worship their goddesses Astarte and Ishtar.” And so he tries to say here, considering this context, also that it’s dealing with incest. Similarly, almost every sexual prohibition in Leviticus 18 refers to an incestuous practice rather than general sexual behavior.
So how does he try to get around Leviticus 18? Well it says it right here, “It seems clear that whatever Leviticus 18:22 is condemning must be related to either or both the idolatrous ritual practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites, or to same sex incestuous relationships between males, this does not include loving and consensual same sex relationships.” All right, so how to respond to that? First, the reason that Leviticus 18 spends a long time on incest, here, we’ll go to Leviticus 18 here.
There are many verses, many verses here, all these verses deal with incest prohibitions. Why? Because incest is very difficult to define. Well, no it’s not, don’t have sex with your family member. Okay, what about your fourth cousin? Your third cousin? Your second cousin? Remember, in ancient tribes, most of the people you knew were some kind of extended relative, and today I think the most removed anybody is here on earth today is like your 53rd cousin. So we are, all human beings are related, we’re all part of the one human family coming from our first parents, who transmitted original sin to us. The point is, incest is the illicit sexual act with one’s immediate family members.
And so when you read the descriptions here in Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, where the line seems to be drawn, where the church draws it today, is at your first cousin. I think Canaan law says you can marry your first cousin, but you need permission, but anything closer than your first cousin would definitely be off limit. So there’s a lot describing that here, because you don’t have, in ancient Hebrew you didn’t have a word like cousin. You had that in Greek later, but in Hebrew you always talked about it in a roundabout way, like the son of my father’s brother. So you would talk about it in that way, or just refer to them as your brethren, in Greek adelfoí is the translation, but it would have a much wider context to it.
But let’s go down further, what do we see under the moral prohibitions beyond that? Leviticus 18:21, “You should not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God, I am the Lord.” I think it still applies today that you should not sacrifice your children by fire to Molech. “You should not lie with the males as with a woman, it is an abomination. You should not lie with any beast, you’ll defile yourself with it.” So would we say, oh, well this is only condemning idolatry, idolatrous killing of children, or idolatrous bestiality, it’s not condemning things that are done in more of a modern context, zoophilia, for example.
You see where this is going with these kinds of arguments. And also Robertson actually, what he cites contradicts him. So this is Amy-Jill Levine, who is a really good scholar, a Jewish scholar of Hebrew and the Old Testament, I think Brant Pitre might have studied under her. So she’s very good and honest in that regard. So what’s interesting, when you scroll down in her article, yeah, she does talk about this, this is only applying to the land of Israel, it wouldn’t apply beyond that. I would disagree with that assessment though, because look what God even says here in Leviticus 18:24 through 25, the idea that these moral norms were only expected of the Israelites and weren’t universal, that’s not true.
Leviticus 18:24 says, “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defile themselves, and the land became defiled, so that I punished its inequity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” So it says here in Leviticus 18 that God judged these nations, they should have known by the light of conscience not to engage in sexually disordered behavior like this. This behavior, God didn’t punish them because they didn’t follow the kosher laws, those were only given to Israel. But the understanding for human reason about what sex is and isn’t for, everyone has access to that, and those who disobey it suffer the consequences. That’s what Paul writes about in Romans chapter one.
But what’s interesting here is Levine talks about how people explain this text, and she talks about how liberals who want to say the Bible does not condemn sexual behavior have various arguments, but they don’t work. She writes, “First is the claim that the text forbids Israelite men from engaging in sexual relations with other men because that’s what Canaanites were doing. A narrower version of this argument sees the prohibition directed at temple prostitution. Not likely, there is no evidence that such relations were celebrated in Canaanite context, and there is no clear evidence for such homosexual cultic prostitution.”
So Robertson, we go back up to his article, he tries to explain this the way to say that the biblical author is only condemning idolatry, cultic prostitution, incestuous same sex relationships, which by the way, I would ask him, well okay, so you’re saying those are always wrong? What about two brothers who had the same father, whose father is a sperm donor, and then they’re sexually attracted to each other, would Robertson say that that’s immoral? Why? Would he say that? What grounds would he have to say that? He can’t say that actually. So they’ll put forward these examples of things that are obviously wrong, but they’ll backtrack on that later.
But an actual Hebrew scholar, Amy-Jill Levine, says no, that’s not the case here. This is highly unlikely this is only focusing on things like prostitution. Her own view of this is, she says, “Here’s my take, I think Leviticus 18 and 20 are concerned about categories, organization, and separation, so today we would call these gender roles,” and she’s just saying here that the biblical author is saying that men are supposed to act in this way, women are supposed to act in another way, and to pervert those roles is to pervert God’s will for men and women. So if you believe that God spoke through the biblical authors, then you should accept what we said here, this is a universal norm being put forward.
So he goes on to say the same argument applies to the most famous verse in St. Paul, Romans 1, said that he’s talking about pagan idolaters, God gave them over to their sinful desires. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiped and served, created things rather than the creator. And so he also says that Romans 1, it’s only condemning idolatry. He’s saying that therefore, that Paul goes on in Romans 1 to say that they’re murderers, debauchery, sexual morality, homosexuality, and Brandon seems to be saying, “Well he’s just condemning homosexual acts done in the context of idolatry, not people who worship the true God.”
But the point here is that these acts, like murder, sexual debauchery, homosexual conduct, Paul says they’re bad even if you do it outside of an idolatrous context. The point for Paul is that the only reason someone would end up doing something so perverted is because they have perverted their true understanding of who God is. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and in Romans 1 Paul uses that exchange language, that they should have worshiped God, they exchanged what they should have given to God, they gave to a creature. Their minds were darkened because of their sin, and Paul’s saying they should have known by the light of reason to worship God and not idols. They gave to God which should have been given to idols.
And so then he compares that to homosexual conduct saying that men gave to other men what they should have given to women, and vice versa, for falling under this thinking to explain that. But it’s still wrong, even if they didn’t succumb to idolatry, idolatry just explains why they would fall so far away from God’s moral law that should be obvious for them. And so if you read the other clobber passages in Genesis, the chapters, it’s always tied to exploitation, idolatry, cultural differences. Except that’s not the case, actually.
So I want to go to another article that jumps into these a little bit more, this is by Harold Attridge in Outreach, “New Testament passages on same sex relations must be read in context.” And so once again we have a citation here from Paul, and Attridge says that Paul isn’t talking about nature, he’s just talking about the fact that animals don’t engage in homosexuality, so therefore it’s unnatural for humans to do that. That is not what Paul says at all.
Paul understood the ancient Greco Roman world, and we’ll get to this very clearly here, because Paul understood that there were consensual same sex relationships between adults, that what revisionist, like Robertson and Attridge will say is, well this is only condemning prostitution, idolatry, pedophilia and pederasty, exploiting boys in what would amount to sex slavery, not adults in so-called loving consensual relationships. But those relationships did exist at that time, and people like Paul who traveled the ancient Greco Roman world would’ve known about them. So let’s go to one Corinthians 6:9-10, because Brandon skips over that.
Here Paul gives a vice list. He says, “Do you not know the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?” Then here I think he quotes the New American Bible, which is a terrible translation of this. “Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor boy prostitutes, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkard, nor slanderers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be, but now you’ve had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the spirit of our God.”
And so this isn’t just about homosexuality. Paul’s making it clear, if you have opposite sex attractions, but you get drunk, if you’re greedy, if you’re a thief, if you’re stealing from your workers, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Snap out of it and don’t do this. Some of you were like this, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were baptized and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You’re not a slave to these things anymore. And the same is true of people with opposite sex attractions who fornicate, for example, or commit adultery, this is not something fitting for a person who’s been clothed in Christ. And the same is true for boy prostitutes and sodomites, that’s an awful translation. We’ll get to that down here, the words are malakoi and arsenokoitai. What you would say is the men who like to be penetrated and the men who penetrate. That would be the most honest translation of these two words in this particular context.
So he goes through and says, “These are fine translations to work with, Paul isn’t giving, he’s not giving a general framework. Exactly what behaviors Paul has in mind is not clear.” So they don’t do that with any of the other words that are being used here, but here suddenly, oh, we have no idea what are talked about by these particular Greek words. Again, the first century environment, which prostitution was not uncommon, force sexual relations with enslaved people was a fact of life. Pederasty, although often condemned, was enshrined in classic sources like Plato’s Symposium. Except in Plato Symposium, there is a character who describes men who hang about exclusively with men and women who only have relationships with women, so adult consensual same-sex relationships are described in these sources.
If Paul wanted to condemn things like pederasty, here’s my big argument why this doesn’t work if you’re talking about prostitution or sex slavery, which you’re saying here, if these are… So boy prostitutes will not inherit the Kingdom, so you’re saying that a boy who is selling his body to survive in ancient Rome, and is being abused by older men, who is being victimized and degraded every day, he’s being sexually molested, he will not go to heaven? He will not go to heaven because he’s a victim of the rape of older men? That’s what you end up saying if that’s what you try to translate these as boy prostitutes and the Johns who visit them.
Rather you go down here, 1st Timothy 1:10, yeah here it is, uses two words malakoi and arsenokoitai, literally softies and male bedders. What these words mean arsenokoitai comes from the Greek translation of Leviticus 20, where it says, “You shall not bed a male as you do a female.” To bed a male, arseno means male, koitai is to bed, to have sex with, like coitus. It’s a man better, it’s literally what it means as taken from the Leviticus prohibition on homosexuality. Malakoi is a softy, and not all malakois were the passive recipients of the homosexual act, because you could just be an opposite sex attracted person who liked fine wine and women and didn’t want to go into battle and be a malakoi. But if you were a passive recipient of penetration in the male homosexual act, you were definitely a malakoi, no question about that.
And so once again Addington tries to at… Sorry, Attridge, Harold Attridge, tries to get around this by saying, “Oh, well it says the word male bedders is too narrowly translated as practicing homosexuals, male behavior is in view but we’re just not sure.” Rather we can know this is pointing back to the mosaic law and what’s given there, because in 1st Timothy 1:10 it repeats arsenokoitai here, practicing homosexuals is used in this translation, talks about those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjures, all of these things, this is another vice list from the author of 1st Timothy.
And notice here it follows the commandments. So we have the fourth commandment, honor your father and mother, fifth commandment, thou shall not kill, the sixth commandment, don’t engage in sexual behavior with the opposite sex, that’s immoral, don’t engage in sexual behavior with the same sex, that is immoral. Then stealing, don’t kidnap, then the eighth commandment, lying and perjury. So the vice lists often follow the commandments, just like modern examination of consciences do the same here. And this is pointing back to the Mosaic Law, because this says, “We know that the law is good, provided that one uses it as law.” So this is pointing back to what was given to Israel in not just the 10 Commandments, but in the first five books of the Old Testament, and it just seems very clear to me here that, just to quote what Jill Levine was saying back in Leviticus 18:20, the Old Testament was concerned about upholding the natural roles that men and women ought to have towards one another that God communicated.
Now if you think the Old Testament is not divinely inspired, and this is just something that a bunch of guys wandering around the desert 3500 years ago came up with, you’ll just ignore this. You’ll just say, “Yes, it does,” because that’s the more honest view, to say the Bible condemns all homosexual behaviors, but the Bible is not inspired so we shouldn’t care. That would be the more honest, liberal Christian view on this issue, instead of trying to say that God said this when he didn’t say that, that’s the original sin, sorry, the original temptation, when the devil said, the serpent said to Adam and Eve, “Did God really say that? Did he really say that?”
So I hope that’s helpful for you all, I cover a lot of this also in some of my other works, like Counterfeit Christ. I’d love to engage any of these authors, maybe I could sit down Brandon Robertson again, or one of the other authors who contribute to Outreach, to have more of a discussion on this issue. If people see this, just tell them to be wary. But I hope this is helpful for you all, and that you have a very blessed day.
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