Tag archives: Film

Does 1 Corinthians 6:9 Really Condemn Homosexual Sex?

by David Closson , Jaelyn Morgan

August 4, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

What if the word ‘homosexual’ was never meant to be in the Bible?” That is the question the new documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture is dedicated to answering.

The documentary explores the linguistic history of the word “homosexual” and its appearance in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, first published on February 11, 1946. In short, the film seeks to show that the RSV’s use of the term “homosexuals” instead of “sexual perverts” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai. (It is worth noting that although recent editions of the RSV have reverted to using “sexual perverts,” many other translations still translate it as “homosexuals.”) According to the documentary, homosexual sex is biblically permissible, and the RSV’s “mistranslation” has influenced subsequent English translations of the Bible, resulting in Western society believing that “sexual and gender minorities must choose between their faith and their identity.”

The filmmakers insist 1946 is “not an attack on Christianity or the Bible” but rather “a quest to discover biblical truth and honor God’s Word.” However well-intentioned the film might be, its ultimate claim does not stand up to linguistic and historical critique. 1946 undermines biblical sexual ethics under the guise of honest hermeneutics.

Evaluating the “Mistranslation” Allegation

Alan Shlemon from the Christian apologetics ministry Stand to Reason writes that, despite 1946’s captivating premise where power-hungry white men oppress “sexual minorities” through Bible translation, “Even if the film’s claims are true, it doesn’t matter. The entire documentary is a non sequitur.”

There are many reasons the film 1946 fails to be intellectually compelling, including:

  • subsequent Bible translators did not use the RSV’s English translation unchecked;
  • the prohibition of homosexual sex is found elsewhere in the Bible and is well-attested throughout church history, not just since 1946; and
  • one young seminary student, whom the film follows, would not have had the expertise to truly dispute the RSV translation committee.

Despite these realities, the documentary is often cited as proof that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that the church should re-examine its view on sexual ethics.  

To address the film’s claim that same-sex relations are not prohibited in the Bible, we will answer three questions:

  1. What do the allegedly mistranslated words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 mean?
  2. What is the biblical sexual ethic?
  3. Why is the biblical sexual ethic good news for everyone?

By answering these questions, Christians can refute the radical claim that the Bible permits homosexual sex with knowledge, clarity, grace, and love.

1. What Do the Allegedly Mistranslated Words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 Mean?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (ESV, emphasis added)

The contested phrase translated “men who practice homosexuality” comes from the Greek “ο¿τε μαλακο¿ ο¿τε ¿ρσενοκο¿ται,” transliterated as oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai. The phrase oute…oute means “neither…nor,” so the verse is saying “neither _____  nor _____ … will inherit the kingdom of God.” So, we must fill in the blanks. What do malakoi and arsenokoitai mean? 

In his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon explains that the term malakoi can carry a variety of meanings depending on the author and context. Often it meant “soft” or “effeminate.” In ancient usage, malakos could range from those who had a penchant for “soft” or decadent living, to those averse to the rigor of a philosopher’s life, to the passive partner in homosexual intercourse. Thus, while at first glance it might seem challenging to know exactly how Paul is using the term in this passage, context is key. Based on the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9—a list of unrepentant sins displayed by those who will not inherit the kingdom of God—and Jewish understanding of the term at the time, Paul’s intent is clear. As Gagnon summarizes, “In 1 Cor. 6:9, malakoi should be understood as the passive partners in homosexual intercourse” (p. 312).

So, if Paul’s use of malakoi referred to the passive partner in homosexual sex, what about the active partner? To address this question, Paul uses the term arsenokoitai, a compound word formed by combining arsen (“male”) and koites (“bed”), the same words found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (passages which clearly prohibit homosexual relations). This word has a decidedly narrower meaning than malakoi. In fact, a survey of ancient literature shows arsenokoitai always refers to men having sexual intercourse with other males. As Gagnon points out, this is true of the earliest attestations of arsenokoitai after the New Testament, including the Sibylline Oracles (2.73), Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies (5.26.22-23), and Eusebius’ Preparation for the Gospel (6.10.25). According to Gagnon, Paul’s use of arsenokoites instead of paiderastes shows that he was not just discussing the practice of pederasty (a man having sexual intercourse with a boy), but also a man who was the active partner engaging in sexual intercourse with another adult male (p. 325). In summary, based on the historical and literary contexts of the terms and the literary context of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, malakoi and arsenokoitai clearly refer to passive and active partners in homosexual sex.

2. What Is the Biblical Sexual Ethic?

The mere suggestion that Scripture might not prohibit homosexual sex is understandably tantalizing, for many reasons. At one point or another, we have all wished that one of the sinful behaviors prohibited by the Bible was permissible in our specific case. These activities, although condemned by the Bible, nonetheless appeal to our hearts.

Tragically, we have inherited our penchant for forbidden things from our first parents. When Adam and Eve attempted to “become like God” by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden, the consequences of their disobedience to God affected not only themselves but all their offspring (Gen. 2:17, 3:16-19). One consequence is that our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). Even if we feel in our hearts that something is right, that thing could very well be wrong. Proverbs 3:5-8 cautions us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,     
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,     
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;     
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh     
and refreshment to your bones. (Emphasis added)

Sadly, humanity’s struggle with God’s design and intention for sexual desire is yet another consequence of the fall.

The Bible’s sexual ethic is clear. From the beginning, God intended sexual desire to motivate men and women to enter into the sacred covenant relationship of marriage, which is reserved for one man and one woman and is intended to be for life (Gen. 1:27, 2:24). Jesus confirmed the creation design for marriage when He condemned divorce (Mark 10:6-9). According to Scripture, the proper context for sexual activity is within the marriage covenant. All sexual conduct outside of marriage is prohibited, including impurity (Gal. 5:19, Eph 5:3, Col. 3:5), illicit heterosexual relations (1 Cor 6:18, Col. 3:5, 1 Thess. 4:3-5, Heb. 13:4), and homosexual relations (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Jude 1:7).

As Family Research Council’s Biblical Principles for Human Sexuality explains, church history reveals one unified position about sexual ethics—that of strict condemnation of any type of sexual activity outside of marriage. It was only after the sexual revolution of the 1960s that some American churches—those that had previously embraced theological liberalism—changed their interpretation of the Bible and began to approve of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage.

3. Why Is the Biblical Sexual Ethic Good News for Everyone?

The Bible’s high standard for sexual ethics can seem unattainable, causing us to despair. But the Bible brings good news of redemption and promises salvation to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are given victory over sin and receive power from God to flee temptation. That is why Paul urges the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” later in the same passage of 1 Corinthians 6 (1 Cor. 6:18). He was urging them to walk in the freedom that Christ had already won for them!

When 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is read in context, we learn that it is a passage of hope, not condemnation. Paul writes:

[D]o you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11, emphasis added)

In the last sentence, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the new life they have received in Christ! Even though some of them had previously lived immoral lives, the blood of Christ’s sacrifice had washed them, sanctified them, and brought them into a right relationship with God. The Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics is good news because it reveals God’s design and plan for marriage, relationships, and sexuality. It is even better news for those of us who struggle with sexual sin because, through “participation in the spirit” (Phil. 2:1), we can “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12 NIV).

In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (v. 28). Throughout the centuries, millions of us who follow Jesus have found comfort in this precious promise. For those who grapple most acutely with the burdens of living in a sexually broken world, Jesus’ promise of rest still stands. Amid life’s most trying struggles, trust Him with your hopes, desires, fears, and questions. Jesus is faithful, trustworthy, and true (1 Thess. 5:24, Rev. 19:11). He completely saves those who believe and empowers us to live the life our loving God designed us to live.

Netflix’s Mocking of Christians Is Not Sitting Well With Brazilians

by David Closson

December 18, 2019

Netflix is facing considerable pushback following its release of a film that contains profane, anti-Christian content. The film, titled The First Temptation of Christ, was produced by a Brazilian YouTube comedy group called Porta dos Fundos, which is known for producing irreverent content. The film depicts God and Mary as illicit lovers and Jesus as a closeted homosexual, among other things.

Outraged Netflix subscribers in Brazil and around the world are calling for the film’s immediate removal. One petition protesting the film has already collected over two million signatures since the film debuted on December 3.  

Described by the filmmakers as a “Christmas Special Show,” the plot follows Jesus as he returns to Nazareth for his 30th birthday party. Accompanying Jesus to the party is an effeminate and flirtatious character named Orlando. Conversations with Jesus’ family strongly imply that Orlando is romantically involved with Jesus.

Explicit and sexually suggestive language is used throughout the film, and many scenes are scandalous and outright blasphemous from the perspective of biblical Christianity. For example, Mary smokes marijuana, one of the wise men hires a female escort, and Jesus gets high off a “special tea.” God is depicted as a good-looking, talented, and likable character, while Joseph is portrayed as an incompetent carpenter. Furthermore, the film portrays Joseph as being jealous of God for the relationship he has with Mary. In one shocking scene, God reveals to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that he had intercourse with Mary, which resulted in her pregnancy. In a subsequent scene, God and Mary appear ready to kiss before Joseph interrupts.

Toward the end of the film, it is revealed that Orlando is Lucifer—evidently, he successfully seduced Jesus in the desert. While Jesus is summoning up the courage to fight him, Orlando/Lucifer forcibly kisses Mary. The movie concludes with Jesus killing Lucifer and accepting the call to spread God’s message.

From the perspective of a biblical worldview, there are a few points to be made. First, the film intentionally seeks to provoke and offend Christian sensibilities. The notion that Jesus is gay and has a homosexual lover contradicts the evidence of Scripture and its clear teaching on the immorality of homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10).

Second, the portrayal of God as a sex-obsessed deity is reminiscent of the sordid escapades of Greek gods and goddesses and in no way resembles the God of biblical Christianity. The depiction of God in this film is utterly blasphemous. In Christianity, blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. The third of the Ten Commandments prohibits such irreverence: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Christians believe the name of God is holy and how we use God’s name ought to express the reverence that is due to him. The commandment forbids more than just the verbal misuse of God’s name (e.g., as an expletive): it also condemns any abuse of God’s name in “ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked” ways. Without a doubt, the film misuses God’s name by portraying Him in a manner that is diametrically opposed to how He is presented in the Bible.  

While Porta dos Fundos insists The First Temptation of Christ is merely satirical, the film has proven divisive in Brazil, a nation that is home to 120 million Catholics—more than anywhere in the world. The controversy is not surprising, then, as the film depicts Jesus in ways that are alien to Scripture.

It is worth noting that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that are much less profane than how God and Jesus are portrayed in The First Temptation of Christ have provoked massive protests in Islamic countries. Most famously, Muslim terrorists attacked the office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015 after the magazine depicted Muhammad in an unflatteringly light. Twelve people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.

When films with sacrilegious content offend the sensibilities of believers, the question of free speech and censorship often arises. The First Amendment protects offensive speech, certainly. However, important questions ought to be asked. Such as, why do companies like Netflix think it is acceptable to violate basic standards of decency when it comes to religion? Why do many producers and directors think it is acceptable to attack the beliefs of millions of devout Christians in the name of “art”?

While it is no longer socially acceptable to malign people for their sex, race, or nationality, it is unfortunately still acceptable to bully and make fun of Christians and their beliefs. That is why Netflix and other media companies do not hesitate when providing a platform for a film as profane as The First Temptation of Christ. These companies think Christians are easy targets who will not fight back. Therefore, they believe they can continue to belittle and mock Christians through their films, art, and music with few repercussions.

However, it appears that Christians in Brazil have had enough and are pushing back. They should be applauded for voicing their objection to this offensive material. By uniting their voices, they are sending a clear message to Netflix that sacrilegious content like The First Temptation of Christ has no audience in Brazil and that movie makers should respect religious belief if they want an audience.

The Unintentionally Powerful Pro-Life Message of One Child Nation

by Laura Grossberndt

August 30, 2019

One Child Nation co-director Nanfu Wang stands with her son in front of a Chinese propaganda mural.

Faced with a national population approaching one billion, the People’s Republic of China instituted a one-child-per-family policy in 1979. This policy was in effect until 2015, when the government expanded the birth limit to two children per family. While the policy may have “succeeded” at slowing the national birthrate, it also forcibly violated the bodies of millions of women and resulted in the death or disappearance of millions of pre or post-born children, most of them female.

One Child Nation, winner of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, is a heart-rending, eye-opening account of China’s one-child policy and the human rights violations that ensued. The documentary is narrated and co-directed by Nanfu Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant who was born in China while the policy was in effect. In the film, she conducts a series of interviews with victims of the one-child policy, former government officials and midwives entrusted with enforcing the policy, citizens who defied the policy, and members of her own family (some of whom supported the policy and others who opposed it). The result is a vivid portrayal of Chinese life and a compelling critique of government authoritarianism. Because of this, the documentary One Child Nation is the rightful recipient of much critical acclaim and deserves a wide viewership. However, a surprising moral inconsistency and a false comparison in the closing minutes of the film prevents this otherwise superb documentary from having its fullest impact.

A Heartbreaking Account of State-Enforced Brutality

Aspects of the film worth commending include Wang’s compelling first-hand experiences about the one-child policy. She explains that propaganda supporting the policy was woven into virtually every facet of life while she was growing up: from murals and advertisements to entertainment and music. She recalls feeling shame for having a sibling (some rural families were allowed to have two children). Her family felt immense relief when her younger brother was born—if he had been a girl, the family most likely would not have kept the baby.

Wang expresses frustration that her family and the Chinese people did little to stop the practices that she believes are morally reprehensible. In terms of presentation, little of the documentary’s runtime is dedicated to expressing her own feelings. Instead, she and her co-director Jialing Zhang allow the interviews to speak for themselves, without inserting commentary.

The people Wang interviews have varying attitudes towards the one-child policy. Some, like Wang’s mother, maintain that the Chinese government was right and that the policy was necessary to prevent wide-scale starvation. Others, like the village midwife, deeply regret the policy and their participation in its enforcement. This particular midwife performed an estimated 60,000 abortions in her career. Now she tries to atone for her past by offering medical care for infertile couples and delivering babies.

The first-person accounts of One Child Nation appeal to the viewer’s humanity again and again. The documentary successfully communicates an important moral point: What may have begun as a government’s sincere attempt to raise a nation’s standard of living has resulted in a human rights crisis. The blood of discarded children practically cries out from the ground. During one interview, Wang talks with an artist committed to documenting the horror of infant bodies left to rot under bridges and on top of trash heaps. The artist shows the camera one such body he has managed to preserve in a glass jar and marvels about how the baby resembles his young son.

An Incoherent Conclusion

As the documentary draws to a close, Nanfu Wang reflects on her journey, including the shocking brutality and human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of the one-child policy. However, as she discusses everything she’s learned about China, her family, and the one-child policy, she arrives at a surprising conclusion: the horrors of the one-child policy are parallel to abortion restrictions in the United States.

Despite over an hour carefully describing the horrors of forced abortions, sterilizations, and the horror associated with abandoning one’s child, Wang argues that both countries are guilty of policing a woman’s sovereignty over her body, albeit in different ways. In an interview with Vox, she expressed much the same sentiment:

I remember when I first came to the US and learned about the restriction on abortions in the US. I was very shocked. It wasn’t the free America that I had thought it would be. I was surprised by the government control on reproductive rights and the access to reproductive health care.

Making this film, I also had a lot of conversations with people about the topic, and I was surprised. Sometimes people couldn’t see how forced state abortions and the state limiting access to abortions are quite similar; they are both the government trying to control women’s bodies and trying to control women’s reproductive rights.

I hope that the film reminds people what would happen if their government takes away women’s choice, or any individual’s choice. And sadly I think it’s happening in China, it’s happening in the US, and it’s happening in a lot of countries throughout the world, where women do not have the freedom to make their own reproductive decisions.

These statements are stunning because of the inconsistency with the moral appeals for the humanity of the pre and post-born throughout the documentary. After seeing footage of babies preserved in jars and thrown onto trash heaps, is the viewer supposed to believe that the sole atrocity of the one-child policy is the violation of reproductive choice?

The policy’s crimes against adult women—such as forced abortions and sterilizations—are horrific, and Wang is right to expose and censure them. But as One Child Nation clearly depicts, adult women were not the policy’s only victims. The countless children killed in the womb or immediately after birth, as well as the children abandoned in marketplaces, on roadsides, or in dumps were also victims. Furthermore, the Chinese government’s one-child policy, paired with the culture’s preference for male children, practically guaranteed that most of the slaughtered or discarded children were girls. Women—both adult women and infant girls—were the victims most deeply harmed by the policy.

It is worth noting that sex-selective abortions are a type of misogyny that is often ignored by the pro- “reproductive rights” wing of feminism because it doesn’t neatly fit their narrative of abortion-on-demand. But as long as some cultures value male children over female, sex-selective abortions and other crimes against female children will continue to be a problem.

An Inadvertently Pro-Life Message

While One Child Nation adeptly exposes the tragedy of China’s one-child policy to a wide audience, a moral inconsistency and a false comparison in the closing minutes prevents this otherwise superb documentary from having its fullest impact. Both children and adults are clearly victims of China’s government-imposed birth restrictions. Furthermore, China’s birth restrictions and America’s abortion restrictions are far from parallel policies. The former kills children, while the latter seeks to prevent the killing of children. The Chinese policy violates women’s bodies with forced sterilization, while abortion restrictions seek to protect the bodies of all women: adult women from risky abortion procedures and pre and post-born girls from being aborted.

Harrowing and poignant, One Child Nation illuminates the problems with China’s one-child policy while making a strong pro-life case that perhaps its own directors do not even fully understand.

One Child Nation is rated R for some disturbing content/images and brief language (via subtitles).

Whittaker Chambers documentary competes at Indiewire

by Family Research Council

January 6, 2012

This month in 1950, Alger Hiss, an American lawyer and government official, and a Soviet spy, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to five years in prison. He was tried and convicted thanks to the efforts of Whittaker Chambers. A former communist himself, Chambers turned from what he later called the vision of Man without God and brought Hiss true political affiliations and allegiance to light. Chambers was one of our nations greatest anti-communists, and, as the author of Witness, has left a lasting mark on both conservatism and U.S. history.

Journalist and author Mark Judge is now teaming up with director Paul Moon to make a documentary about Chambers compelling and historic life.

Its a film that needs to be made for the same reasons that the works of Dante, St. Augustine and William F. Buckley (a friend of Chambers) need to be preserved, Judge said. Americas public schools and academia are certainly not interested in remembering the man who revealed Soviet espionage in the United States government.

Judge and Moons project, The Story of Whittaker Chambers, is currently competing for recognition and support at Indiewire.com. Each day Indiewire picks a Project of the Day to feature, and every week readers vote for one project to consult with an independent film website like SnagFilms or IndieGoGo. These Project of the Week winners compete to be the Project of the Month, and the winner gets to consult with the Sundance Institute, which runs the esteemed Sundance Film Festival. Voting is today, and its free. To support The Story of Whittaker Chambers, visit http://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/pomzh4m to vote.

And heres a poignant and applicable quote from Chambers that should resonate today: Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem which can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age.

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