Thursday, July 5, 2012

Matthew Henry on Homosexuality

Lest anybody think that evangelical views on homosexuality are rooted in the bible and have never changed lets look at Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

According to Matthew Henry homosexuality is the punishment given to someone by God for the sin of  idolatry and not a direct sin in itself, except in it being against the levitical law and being a scandalous sin greater than others in the publics mind of that time.

A law against unnatural lusts, sodomy and bestiality, sins not to be named nor thought of without the utmost abhorrence imaginable, Lev. 18:22, 23. Other sins level men with the beasts, but these sink them much lower. That ever there should have been occasion for the making of these laws, and that since they are published they should ever have been broken, is the perpetual reproach and scandal of human nature; and the giving of men up to these vile affections was frequently the punishment of their idolatries; so the apostle shows, Rom. 1:24.
Commentary on Leviticus Ch 18


The judgments of God upon them for this idolatry; not many temporal judgments (the idolatrous nations were the conquering ruling nations of the world), but spiritual judgments, giving them up to the most brutish and unnatural lusts. Paredoken autous—He gave them up; it is thrice repeated here, Rom. 1:24, 26, 28. Spiritual judgments are of all judgments the sorest, and to be most dreaded
Commentary on Romans 1:24

I am not sure that any modern evangelical would hold to this view, yet both Henry and his modern counterparts would both claim to be interpreting the bible literally and without prejudice.

What I m saying here is that there is no such thing as a literal interpretation of anything in the bible. It all requires interpretation of some sort and evangelicals do this as much as liberals.

Let he who is without sin!


  1. Gordon, I don't think Matthew Henry said homosexuality is not a sin. What Henry did is take into consideration what the Apostle Paul said about God giving up idol worshipers to their heart's desire (Romans 1:18-32,

    Consider this translation of a portion of that passage:

    "Romans 1:24-27 Good News Translation (GNT)

    24 And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other. 25 They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever! Amen.

    26 Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27 In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing."

    What idol worshipers do is create a god they can control. They want a god who is not God. What could we sacrifice to God that He needs? Yet those who sacrifice to idols seek to get what they want from their god.

    What the God of the Bible wants from us is for us to love Him and each other. Except for our obediance to those two commands, we have nothing more we can give Him.

    We have a free choice. We can do what is right, or we can choose to do wrong. To put anything before God, to worship an idol, is wrong. When God gives over an idol worshiper over to his shameful passions, that means He has given up trying to reform that sinner. He has turned His face from him; that sinner will never know Him.

    Imagine knowing God, The Creator, a perfectly Holy Being. To know God, we must be holy. Yet the more we sin, the less we can know of Him. We cannot even properly appreciate what God has created. Thus, when we sin, we punish ourselves. Some even say that by making ourselves unfit company for a Holy God we make our own hell.

  2. I perhaps didn't express myself clearly in this. I think that Henry viewed homosexuality as a sin, but not one people willingly partook in. It was a punishment given to them by God because of their idolatry. Since writing this I have seen similar thoughts from other puritan preachers. They are getting this from the verse you quoted "And so God has given those people over to..."

    These days, evangelicals don't generally hold that position. They usually believe that homosexuality is a (wrong) lifestyle choice and an issue of holiness rather than a divine punishment. I gave this as an example of how evangelical thinking has changed over the years in spite of the bible not changing. My proposition is that evangelical christianity is based more on fashions in biblical interpretation rather than the text of the bible itself. Which is not how evangelicals present it.

  3. We easily cannot put ourselves in the place of God, but consider this. What if you have a child and you give that child up to their heart's desire, an evil desire?

    If that child is a minor and does not understand the consequences of sin, you would have the responsibility to stop them. However, if that child is an adult, then that child has to learn the hard way. Unless parents allow their children to accept responsibility for their choices, they will not mature.

    Consider the story of Parable of the Lost Son ( Because he would learn no other way, the father allowed his younger son to waste a fortune. Because that prodigal was a true son, even though he wasted a fortune, he learned the cost of sin, his sin. So he returned to his father, and his father joyfully welcomed him home.

    Unfortunately, some never learn. Consider what Matthew Henry wrote in the next paragraph.

    "Thus one, by the divine permission, becomes the punishment of another; but it is (as it said here) through the lusts of their own hearts—there all the fault is to be laid. Those who dishonoured God were given up to dishonour themselves. A man cannot be delivered up to a greater slavery than to be given up to his own lusts."

    Note the phrase "divine permission." Because God is God, we cannot do anything He does not allow. Nonetheless, Henry did not believe God would force a man to sin.

    If God forced any to sin, how could God be holy? Isn't the logic straightforward? If I forced you to sin, because it was my choice to make you sin, wouldn't your sin would stain my soul?

  4. I did not respond to this as I had nothing to add to what you had said.