Yesterday I posted here about Jim West, Miley Cyrus and the Wrath of God. At the end of my post I suggested that Romans 1:18 and following does not imply a clear condemnation of gay marriage, especially if the wrath of God is understood in the way that Jim West suggested.
In a comment on that post Gordon challenged me to explain the exegesis of that passage on which I based my remarks. As I stated in my comment in reply, that exegesis is “a tentative suggestion rather than a firm conclusion”. It is also offered from Jim’s viewpoint and so presupposing his view of the wrath of God. But I will offer here some further explanation.
Jim wrote, and I quoted, that
the wrath of God is God allowing people to reap what they sow. In short, the worst thing that can happen to you is, well, you.
That implies that in Romans 1:18 (all quotations here from NIV 2011) “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven” means not so much “God is exercising his wrath” as “God is showing people that he is allowing them to reap what they sow”. The following preposition epi is usually translated “against” but more literally means “on to” and can probably here be understood as “concerning”.
On this basis verse 24 can probably be taken as the content of what is being revealed, that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” Thus God’s wrath is to be understood not as sending these people to hell, but as allowing them follow their sinful desires. In the words of Hultgren quoted by Jim,
The wrath of God consists in God’s not stopping or rescuing people in their wrongdoing.
Note that in this verse “them” refers back to the gender neutral anthropoi “people” of verse 18, men and women, and so verse 24 is not about homosexual practice but more generally about sexual immorality. In verses 26 and 27 homosexual practices are introduced, but only as examples of a broader phenomenon. The last part of verse 27, “[they] received in themselves the due penalty for their error”, very likely refers not just to the gay men of the first part of the verse but to the “them” of the first part of verse 26, in other words to all ungodly people as in verses 18 and 28.
So what does this have to say about gay marriage? Miley Cyrus has expressed her support for this with a tweet that “All LOVE is equal” and a finger tattoo. Does the Bible support this idea? Perhaps it is not quite as negative as it might at first seem. We read in verse 26 that it is God who gave people over to “shameful lusts” including homosexual ones. This suggests that homosexual orientation comes from God, although more as a curse than as a blessing.
So if God brings a gay or lesbian couple together, let them be together. To quote Jesus’ words, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).