In response to the post "Sodomite is the most accurate, loving word (part I)," one reader objects, declaring:
"The use of 'sodomy' "provide(s) an unnecessary offense to the gospel."
To which I respond: I'm grateful we agree 'sodomy' is an offensive word, but why is it offensive and is the offense bad or good?
For two thousands years Christians have used words with 'Sodom' as their root to refer to men copulating with men. And this use has always been offensive because those reading or listening understand that it's an explicit reference to what happened at Sodom--namely God destroying them by his fire from Heaven. Make no mistake about it. That's the center of the issue and it's why I asked in my original post whether we are ashamed of God's judgment of the Sodomites? Whether we are willing for that judgment to live on in our language as an example, warning those souls tempted by this sin? If this association is not "Gospel," what is it? What exactly do I need to hear when my heart is unbelieving and I am having sex with other men?Let me say this gently. I fear it's not our love for the Gospel and sinners that's caused us to drop this word that's been in use for 2,000 years. Rather, it's our indifference to the Gospel and our love for appearing sensitive, reasonable, and kind to the watching world. Allan Bloom was right when he pointed out that the only moral absolute left in America is that we all get along with each other. This betrayal of God's Word and the Cross of Jesus Christ has corrupted the Church, and now it is filled with men who think niceness is at the very top of the traits indicating Christian piety. But how do we remain committed to getting along with everyone if we are to preach the Gospel? What sort of offenses in our preaching are "needless?" And what preacher of the Gospel in Scripture shows us this principle in action? John the Baptist? The first martyr, Stephen? The Apostle Peter? The Apostle Paul?
Certainly not the Apostle Paul. He honed in on the very center of the Athenians' sin and preached a sermon to the Areopagus that was carefully calculated to associate their sin with the judgment of God in a way that would offend every proud intellectual:
(Paul's Gospel message to the Areopagus ended this way:) Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now He is declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." (Acts 17:29-32)
The above sermon would have to rank right up there at the top of extraordinary examples of "needless offense to the Gospel." Condemning "images formed by the art and thought of man" that were on every street corner of Athens? Referring to the idolatry of Athens' intellectuals as 'ignorance' and warning them that they would come under God's judgment?
And then the Apostle Paul ended with the stupidity of the resurrection of the dead. There was plenty of "needless offense" to go around, wasn't there?
Now I don't say any of this flippantly. I'm simply trying to get us to look at our basic premises in this day when the cloying sentimentality of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is the definitive statement of the Gospel among Bible-believing Americans. Before we sacrifice the church's two-millenia usage of 'sodomy' and its cognates to a purportedly more effective presentation of the Gospel, we ought to be able to demonstrate, at a minimum, that we are more effective in the presentation of the Gospel than our fathers in the faith of past centuries.
Take another example: in 1Corinthians 6:9, Paul used the perjorative 'malakos' to describe ex-sodomites who were members of the Corinthian church. Was this "needlessly offensive?" Was he wrong? To answer these questions we must understand his use of this term as it was heard by those to whom he wrote. So what were the connotations 'malakos' carried in Paul's day?
In Aristotle, the tyrant Thettalus, when his advances are rebuffed, insults Harmodius, calling him malakos, a pansy (Ath. Pol.18.2). ...the tyrant's lust transforms a good Athenian boy into that lowliest of creatures, the kinaidos, the shameful personification of passivity. (From Victorian Wohl's The Eros of Alcibiades.)
Here's another statement of the word's meaning in Paul's time explained by the World Knowledge Library's definition of the English word 'effeminacy':
The Greek word is 'malakos' (or 'soft') and is still used in modern Greek in that sense. 'Malakoi' was a common Greek term meaning men who were effeminate; it is a term of shame.
Or this from Omnipelagos:
The Greek word for an effeminate man is - malakos (literally "soft"), which is still used in modern Greek in that derogatory sense. (Emphasis not in the original.)
Notice these two definitions both used another term Christians have dumped onto the ash heap of history--the word 'effeminate.' Have any of us used this word in the past five years? Have we heard it in our pastor's sermons? Have we posted it on our blogs? Can we find it on the web site of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood?
Brothers, the words 'sodomy' and 'effeminate' are deader than a doornail.
Their absence from our language, though, doesn't bother me nearly as much as the naivete demonstrated by those who defend the killing of these words by claiming their use is an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. And don't marginalize the brother who made this claim on this blog--he was only saying what all of us think. Not one of us is willing to preach and teach and write in any way like the prophets of Scripture and church history. Why?
Certainly not because we've progressed. Not because we've grown and developed and evolved in our missional and Gospel-centric skills. That's the modern conceit but it's ludicrous. As in hilarious.
Rather we refuse to use these words and many others like them ('brothers' for a mixed-sex group, for example) because we refuse to take up our cross and die with the evangelistic preachers of old whose fate Jesus described in this way:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, "If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets." ...Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:29 ff.)
Of course an easy path of escape would be to claim Paul would say things in his letters that never would make it into his evangelistic sermons. But again, check out his evangelistic sermons to see if any football stadium or Trinity Broadcasting Network programming or evangelistic preacher featured by Preaching Today would ever dare speak as he did? Read Scripture and, honestly, the answer is clear.
And so I leave our readers with the same question I asked in my earlier post and made reference to a number of times in this one: since we can demonstrate across two millennia of Church history the use of words for sexual relations between two men of the male sex that have 'Sodom' as their root, why have we all abandoned this root today?
I'll close with two exhibits for the defense of the continuation of Christian's use of the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomites'.
First, every time the liberal media attack what they refer to as "sodomy laws" and every time they report on the latest court ruling repealing "sodomy laws," there isn't anyone confused about what the laws prohibited: same-sex sexual intercourse. And while some of these laws had secondary application to other sexual practices, it was clear the gay or homosexualist community had pocketed another victory when they were repealed.
Second, I'm told that, not long ago, Jay Leno put an ad on camera, making the comment as the ad was displayed, "If I were a parent, I don't think I'd want my kid camping here." The ad was for "Sodom Mountain Campground." Here's text from the bottom of the campground's web page:
Sodom Mountain and Southwick Acres are only 4 miles apart. Guests at Southwick Acres are invited to enjoy scheduled activities at Sodom Mountain.
Speaking only for me, the wife, the kids, and grandkids, I'm afraid we're gonna have to pass on this one.
For two thousand years of Church fathers 'sodomy' and 'sodomite' worked just fine. Still today it works for lawyers and justices and radio announcers and journalists and Jay Leno.
It's kept God's judgment of the terrible sins of Sodom alive in our minds across the centuries.
So now, again, tell me precisely why Christians should avoid it?
(TB: this is an updated version of a 2006 post, second in a series)