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A Review of David Hall’s “Homosexuality and the Torah”

I have experienced same-sex attraction for most of my life. When I was seventeen years old, I embraced a gay identity. Almost ten years after I came out, I saw the pain that this addiction was working in my life. I sought help from Outpost Ministries, a Minneapolis-based ministry that helps men and women find freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction.

-David Hall
“Homosexuality and the Torah,” p.59
Messiah Journal, Issue 117/Fall 2014

This is something of an interlude between my first and second review of Jay Michaelson’s book God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality. I’ve still got about sixty pages to go (as I write this) in the Michaelson book, but Hall’s article is only eight pages long (nine if you include the endnotes) so I shot through it a few days ago. As it turns out, Hall answers many of Michaelson’s points on homosexuality and the intent of scripture. It’s not a complete hand-and-glove fit, but it’s close. And Hall’s commentary has the advantage of being written by a person who has “been there,” meaning his opinions should have greater credibility than mine since I’ve never experienced “being gay.”

In his article, Hall uses the acronym “SSA” for “same-sex attraction” rather than the more “socially licensed” labels for the LGBTQ community. His footnote for the term (p. 67) states:

I use “SSA” to describe the emotional and physical attraction to members of the same sex. The term “homosexuality” includes the socio-political self-identification as gay or lesbian predicated on those attractions.

Hall says that two years after seeking help, he was “reasonably healed” to where he could begin working for Outpost Ministries and continued for six years to work on his own healing while helping others seeking help from the ministry to do the same.

I know this is going to push a lot of noses out of joint, particularly those advocates for full inclusion of the LGBTQ community into the church and synagogue, but this is the other side of the coin, so to speak, this is the life that stands opposite those such as Jay Michaelson and Matthew Vines.

I can’t speak for Hall and certainly not for Michaelson and Vines. As I said above, I don’t have a “gay experience”. I don’t know what it’s like to have those feelings or to live that life, in or out of the closet. Like Hall, I don’t have all the answers (p.60), but maybe there is an answer, even if it’s not the one that sells books and makes popular stories in social and news media.

One difference between Hall and other, similar commentators is that he’s addressing this topic from a Messianic Jewish perspective, rather than a traditional Christian viewpoint. The key in all this is that Christianity generally dismisses the Law but in doing so, has also done away with obeying God from a physical/bodily as well as spiritual manner.

I don’t know if I entirely agree since Christians, at least in more conservative denominations, tend to provide strong support for physical purity and marital fidelity, at least on the surface. I don’t see why that wouldn’t extend to purity in the sense of not only marital fidelity but exclusively heterosexual romantic/erotic relations.

However…

I have seen that the church suffers profound confusion about what it means when the Bible says that God created us male and female. I have seen the ramifications of a “freedom from the law” theology.

-ibid, p.66

But the churches Hall seems to be referencing are those on the more socially and politically liberal end of the spectrum.

The ELCA and PC-USA recently approved ordaining openly gay clergy and affirming same-sex marriages. In their debates I saw that the discussions never focused on what the Word says but on the feelings of various groups: “Don’t make people feel unwelcome in the PC-USA” or “I love being Lutheran, but I’m gay — don’t kick me out” were common refrains.

-ibid

DHE GospelsThis is more or less the argument in Part One of Michaelson’s book, a focus on feeling rather than the Word. Of course, Part Two of the book does address “what the Word says”, both from a Christian and Jewish point of view, but Hall addresses that as well.

I consider the following paragraph to be the core of Hall’s article:

You may have noticed that in our discussion of homosexuality, I did not mention the Torah’s prohibitions against the behavior in Leviticus 18. I made my appeal not from prohibition but from created intent. This approach helps us see that God’s law is not simply a list of cold rules but boundaries directing us into holiness, righteousness, and life. Why does God prohibit homosexual behavior? Because he is jealous for his image on the earth as reflected in male and female.

-ibid, p.64

Hall’s opinion is similar to my own. Even if we were to completely dismiss all of the apparent Biblical prohibitions against homosexual behavior, we absolutely do not see a normalization of “loving, monogamous same-sex romantic/erotic relationships” in the Bible. In one of the chapters in Part Two of his book, Michaelson attempts to make a case for such a “normalization,” at least to a degree by citing not only David and Jonathan’s friendship but the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. I’ll issue my response in more detail in a later review, but even Michaelson admits that “sexual orientation” as such was not understood (or experienced) in ancient times, thus using those friendships (and any sexual component implied is highly questionable) in support of normalization of gay relationships in the church and synagogue today is sketchy at best.

Hall continues:

Have we then implied that a person experiencing same-sex attraction is condemned by God? Absolutely not! We have, I hope, shown that there is more going on underneath same-sex attraction than either rebellion or genetic predisposition…

…The opposite of homosexuality is thus not heterosexuality but righteousness. The question regarding SSA is not “Can I be gay and a follower of Yeshua?” but rather “Can I disagree with God about who he made me to be and still truly be Yeshua’s disciple?”

-ibid

So why do gay people experience their sexual orientation/identity as such an immutable quality? From Hall’s viewpoint, it’s just another sign of “brokenness” in the world and in human beings among all the other ways people are broken spiritually. The very concepts, as Michaelson has confirmed in his book, of sexual orientation and sexual identity have been created quite recently in human history. While we have a long record of homosexual sex, what it meant “back in the day” can’t be compared to what we call it in the modern world.

gay marriageWhat if we’re seeing a “power surge” of “sexual diversity” not because the people who once would have hidden who they were, maybe for all their lives, are being given permission to “come out of the closet” by an increasingly “progressive” society, but because our world is becoming increasingly permissive of many sins once treated as strict taboos, including sexual sins, and including those sexual sins (at least in their physical expression) identified as sexual “orientation” and “identity”?

Like Michaelson, I can’t really prove my points, but if looked at through a spiritual and Biblical lens rather than with what Hall calls “the fruit of cheap grace,” it makes more sense.

Like I said, it’s not a perfect fit. There are men and women who try for years to change, to become attracted to the opposite sex as their primary or exclusive object of romantic and erotic love, but who continue to fail. For many, that is proof that sexual orientation is innate and immutable in human beings, with some minority human population being same-sex attracted. For others, it’s a sign of just how far we have morally fallen, and perhaps a sign of the “spiritual warfare” being directed at the world as the time of Messiah’s return draws near. The spirit of humanity is so wide open to all manner of injury and damage, that it never occurs to us (and in some circles it is forbidden to mention it) these so-called “normal” and “natural” attractions and behaviors are a sign that something is seriously wrong.

After seven years of working through my issues, choosing to live beyond my same-sex attraction, I do not see myself as a gay man anymore. God brought enough healing to my life that, in September 2013, I was married to a beautifully feminine woman who does not see me through the lens of same-sex attraction. She sees me as a man perfectly made for her.

-ibid, p.65

Hall makes many good points in his small article and I’ve only touched on a few of them here. If you are convinced that the LGBTQ community should be fully included in the body of faith, then nothing in Hall’s article is likely to change your mind and you probably will just become angry at Hall and at me. If you are a traditional Christian or devout Jew, you are likely to praise Hall and continue to condemn Michaelson, Vines and others, even though Hall says God does not condemn them, at least not any more than anyone else trapped in a life that God did not choose for them. I’m not writing this to beat up gay people, whether they’re in religious community or not. I’m trying to understand what God is really saying and doing, and since I’m only human, that isn’t always easy for me.

I’ve struggled with the inherit nature of humans being created as Male and Female, as complementary physically and in many other ways, as helpmates standing opposite one another, and also having a long line of gay people saying that they were born that way, that being gay is natural, normal, and part of God’s plan, and that it’s cruel and bigoted to ask them to change what is unchangeable.

But if they weren’t “born that way,” at least as part of a God-sanctioned process, then what?

How much pain, suffering, and injustice exists in the world today that we seem helpless to change? The list is endless. What’s the cause in a God-created world? Man’s fall from grace at Eden. The world changed in a fundamental way such that the universe actually started operating differently, where disobedience became possible and much more likely than it was previously, and where even death existed in a way that was previously impossible.

What if one of the things that changed is the fundamental way that sex and attraction works? I agree, I’m proposing a big of “what if,” but it makes more sense than God forbidding same-sex sex and then creating human beings who are designed to desire same-sex sex/love. The way people experience sex and love has been twisted into just about anything you can imagine. The list of sexual fetishes we have categorized is astounding. But God also gave the Torah and the whole of His Word, the Bible, not as a cold list of “do’s and “don’ts” but as boundaries and expectations, a plan of God for human beings and specifically human coupling, of being created male and female.

jewish weddingThe Bible in no way presupposes the normalization of same-sex love/sex in the community of faith. I’m sure many will disagree with me, particularly because I lack a rock solid alternative for addressing what Hall calls SSA. But I can’t “interpret” the Bible so radically that I see something that is not written on any of its pages. I don’t see modern homosexual relationships, let alone marriages, sanctioned and sanctified by God. I don’t see a path to making them sanctioned and sanctified that can be derived or inferred from the scriptural text.

That’s as far as I can take this little interlude. I’ll publish my review of Part Two in tomorrow’s “morning meditation” and then on Tuesday, will publish Part Three’s “unofficial” review, and later on, a final conclusion based on Torah study.

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18 thoughts on “A Review of David Hall’s “Homosexuality and the Torah””

  1. Bravo, to Hall, for this:

    …The opposite of homosexuality is thus not heterosexuality but righteousness.

    So much for any semblance of integrity on Michaelson’s part with respect to his chapter five:

    *In one of the chapters in Part Two of his book, Michaelson attempts to make a case for such a “normalization,” at least to a degree by citing not only David and Jonathan’s friendship but the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi.*

    THOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS
    [Besides which, give me a break!]

  2. If that causes you to raise your eyebrows, so to speak, wait until you read my reviews of Part Two and especially Part Three of Michaelson’s book.

  3. It’s actually overstated to call them opposites, when I think about it more. But in terms of antidote or prevention, it makes sense. Opposites need to have more properly similar weight and fullness, etc. As heterosexuality isn’t the definition of righteousness, homosexuality isn’t the definition of not righteous/righteousness.

    Anyway, yeah… Michaelson (on the other hand) does seem pretty lame (and offensive) in his arguments.

  4. To be fair, I don’t doubt that Michaelson believes everything he writes and that he does so for the reasons he says, to invite the Church to compassionately include LGBTQ believers within the body of Christ. The problem is that in order to establish a foundation for this, he has to not just reinterpret the Bible but radically reinvent it through something called Queer Theology (yes, that’s what it’s called). I cover that in my review Part Three of his book.

  5. The essence of the discussion from Yeshua’s point of view will always be the starting point. If the discussion proceeds from the point that the law is truth, what the bible says is right, then man has no rights, and God has made gays that way for the purpose of keeping us from eternal life. If being gay is unrighteous, then the bible has plenty to say about where we end up. At this point we must understand that we are condemned to eternal destruction for scripture teaches “I will choose their delusions.”

    The other starting point can not be proven from scripture, mainly, that God has made us this way, so he can not hold us accountable, and therefore, the church must move over and let us in as we are, without change or repentance.

    After over 45 years of studing the bible as a gay believer in Yeshua, I have required myself to be honest and not twist the scriptures, to give a true witness. This is where I have taken my stand, so to speak, as I experience salvation in Yeshua Messiah:

    God will not change. His word is eternal. I however can change(not that I’ve totally changed). That means that if I want to experience eternal life, it is going to be on HIS terms, not mine. Yeshua said it like this and I paraphrase, “If a LGBTQ does not hate even his own life and abbandon everything, (thoughts, rights, idea’s, desires, dreams, ambitions, and any other thing that exalts itself against the will of God including family) then he can not be my disciple.”

    Any person who is not totally submitted to the will of God will never be a disciple of Yeshua. Their ideas must be abbandoned.

    The problem with delusion is that is seems real, 100% real. The bible teaches that LGBTQ is a delusion chosen by God and it is impossible to see through unless God permits the mind to percieve and that by the Holy Spirit.

    To conclude I would say that any conversation that requires God to change and conform to my delusion is a non-starter. So where does the conversation need to start? With honesty and truth!

    Romans 7:14 ” For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

    15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

    16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

    17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

    18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

    19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

    20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

    21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

    22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

    23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

    25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”

    And remember, God has said “I will have mercy on who I will have mercy.” So our hope is great in Jesus Christ, Yeshua our Messiah!

  6. I haven’t read, yet, what Steve said just above. I wanted to ask why people were throwing “Q” onto the end of LGBT in these conversations (comments, then new meditations). I guess you just answered that, James. I’m still not comfortable throwing that at homosexuals; even if some homosexual people use it for themselves,

  7. Wow, Steve: And remember, God has said “I will have mercy on who I will have mercy.” So our hope is great in Jesus Christ, Yeshua our Messiah! Barukh HaShem

  8. Q stands for questioning gender identity, but is also on occasion used for queer which mostly is used for political reasons, taking ownership of a slur to make it less painful to hear. Shalom

  9. @Steven — I’d like to address a few points from a paragraph you wrote above, though I’m not sure to what degree you are merely quoting someone else. You wrote: “The essence of the discussion from Yeshua’s point of view will always be the starting point. If the discussion proceeds from the point that the law is truth, what the bible says is right, then man has no rights, and God has made gays that way for the purpose of keeping us from eternal life. If being gay is unrighteous, then the bible has plenty to say about where we end up. At this point we must understand that we are condemned to eternal destruction for scripture teaches “I will choose their delusions.””

    Let me begin by noting that the truth of the Torah or the validity of the biblical record does not mean that humans have no rights; their constraint is rather that they lack one particular right which is to disagree with HaShem and still expect to be reckoned as righteous. The additional notion that “G-d made gays that way” is also false, regardless of any supposed purpose for doing such a thing. Further, while HaShem does warn that He will send strong delusions upon those who insist on resisting Him, that is never said to be the only way in which humans ever become deluded. People are quite capable of deluding themselves and believing lies, and even of inventing new kinds of lies and delusions or new wrinkles on old ones. They can even foist such false beliefs upon innocent credulous others. This is why the vulnerability of children often features in such discussions. Homosexuality is only one example of such; and one view of it is that it may be induced during early development by mistaken responses, or even defensive responses, to certain environmental factors. That may relieve a same-sex-oriented individual from some or most of the responsibility for their condition, though if they act on it they take on full responsibility and may exacerbate the condition.

    Nonetheless, David Hall’s story illustrates, and perhaps you yourself have achieved a similarly victorious state, that HaShem extends mercy to those who repent and seek to renew their minds in righteousness. A question yet to be answered thoroughly is how may such individuals be helped in their struggle to overcome their embedded shortcomings and the faulty inclinations which “wage war in their members”.

    Is it any harder for same-sex-attracted individuals (SSAs) to overcome and re-train their inclinations than it is for heterosexuals whose raging hormones impel them toward pornography or promiscuity? I cannot measure or quantify the force of their relative challenges in order to compare them adequately, but stories of struggling with what is classed as (hetero-) sexual addiction seem to bear some similarities to the struggles reported by SSAs.

  10. Proclaim, I don’t think you or I am qualified to diagnose. Let’s stick to what the bible says. That is the subject. What does the bible say about homosexuality? Where does it start? Not in “inferences” and not in the New Testement.

  11. @Steven — I’m not sure what is your point, here. The subject is not merely homosexuality, but human sexuality and sexual morality. We’ve already discussed what the Bible says about these issues, and to whom it was said. We’ve further touched on the notion of epistemology, how we know what we think we know or how we approach the determination of knowledge — in this case vis-à-vis gleaning the information provided somewhat sketchily in the scriptures that encapsulate HaShem’s revelations on the subject to humans. HaShem’s instruction to Jews on the subject of His Torah was represented in numerous places, beginning with the single Hebrew word “Shm’a” which carries the meanings of listen, pay attention, and even study diligently. Thus “inferences” and logical derivations are part of the package for those who wish to “hear” HaShem. The apostolic writings represent a continuation of this long-term process.

    Diagnosis, on the other hand, is not what I have been attempting in any of my replies on this subject. Hypothesis is the process whereby I have tried to grapple with the possibilities of cause and effect for the subject problem, and consequent possible strategies for its remediation. Some of the admittedly-limited knowledge I bring to the process includes notional knowledge of psycho-cybernetics and neural logic formation, behavioral psychology, and systems analysis techniques. I bring no clinical experience because my professional experience is in other fields, so my hypothesizing must be general. It can only point in a direction where further investigation may yield beneficial results.

  12. Proclaim, I don’t disagree with what you say, only would say that considering, “Thus “inferences” and logical derivations are part of the package for those who wish to “hear” HaShem.” we can infer and derive that God has made some homosexual as penalty for idolatry.

    God owns it when he says ” I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them” and when the Apostalic scriptures say “God also gave them up to uncleanness” and …”For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” and “…God gave them over to a reprobate mind…”

    So, when all is said and done, it does not come down to what happened in the garden, nor mans attempts to diagnose or hypothisis, nor the opinions of the Apostles (although they were right to interpret).

    What does it come down to? It comes down to this. Will homosexuals repent and begin to keep the Law of Moses in spite of what their minds tell them is real, in spite of their pain, dreams, idea’s, needs for love and family, human rights, church rights, etc.

    Sexual purity can only be defined by the Law of Moses which brings death and the body is dead because of sin, as Paul explained. But, “.. with the spirit I serve God”. Amen?

  13. @Steven — I see a repeated theme in your replies about G-d making homosexuals. You are entirely wrong to suggest such a thing. G-d is not the Author of sin; and you can’t get anyone “off the hook” by blaming Him. I’ll remind you of James 1:14 “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”. You seem to be missing the principle that impels decisions such as in Is.66:4 that you have cited, even if we accept the KJV translation which is not actually a very good one. That principle is that human choice precedes HaShem’s response to harden them into the choice they have made. I assert that there has been insufficient investigation into the subtle choices and responses that contribute to the formation of a faulty view of sexual identity; hence the actual causes and responsibilities for errors of this sort have not been properly located and assigned. I think one would be hard pressed to identify idolatry as the cause of this malady, as if SSAs were more prone to it and the consequences thereof than any other of their peers. One should not presume nor infer such a cause or such guilt without solid evidence (Justice demands it). On the other hand, if SSAs have been victimized in some manner, it is not fair to blame the victim. If they are partially at fault for worsening their problem, they are certainly feeling the penalty of their error. I agree that their redemption must come from deciding to agree with HaShem and to pursue His righteousness, which places their spirit into service to HaShem and allows them to begin the process of renewing their minds and hearts. But we should never minimize the effort that may be required and the help that may be needed, more than for other sinners or sins, to rehabilitate and re-habituate and otherwise support the healing of the damage within such individuals.

  14. Proclaim, you are only imputing false motives when you assert that I’m trying to get anyone off the hook for sin. Forgive me if as a gay person I don’t take instruction from you about rehab, etc. You are not an expert.

    That said, God makes evil, salvation, and righteousness. Isaiah 45

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and CREATE EVIL: I the Lord do all these things.”

  15. @ Steve

    Abba is a sovereign G-d. He made everything, and we have no existence without His will. He gives life and death, and is clear about the terms. This life is a free gift to us, but it’s dangerous, and full of obstacles. The next life’s level of enjoyment is to be determined by our choices in this life, and each choice changes who we are, and the direction we are headed.

    He gave the Torah to live by, and Yeshua to be saved by, while the Holy Spirit gives us comfort, and leads us in right ways…if we let Him.

    Grace though Yeshua is given…but repetitive sin grieves the Holy Spirit away. Any repetitive sin, particularly if purposeful, and not fought against, leaves that purposeful sin leading us away from the straight and narrow path we are attempting to follow. Fighting temptation to do unlawfulness is the only way to live, and have G-d. You will fail a lot at every attempt at G-dly action, but if you don’t fight against your desires, and seek to have G-d’s desires work in your life instead of your own, the Holy Spirit will not enable you to succeed.

    I have a lot of purposeful sin in my life, but I am steadily fighting against it by practicing Torah Observance, in my own Gentilish way. One might say I practice Messianic Karaite Judaism, and consider the Mishnah and Talmud to be great commentary with historical observations for Gentiles interested in how Jews view their tribal affiliations, and customs, and understand G-d, and their religion.

    I sincerely believe that most people are broken, and that all of us live in a steadily more broken world, and suffer thereby. Why we are tempted is really irrelevant, except that it makes it easier to fight what we desire when it conflicts with what G-d desires.

    I understand my past pretty well, and how I messed up my life, and how much other people from birth until today have helped and hindered me. My lusts of the flesh, my desire of the eyes, and my lust to control my life are stumbling blocks every day, just as yours are.

    G-d does not expect us to win against our fight against ourselves without Him. He knows our every weakness and wrongness, and loves us anyway, but Abba also expects us to attempt to obey Him, until death, and stand by our confession of faith in Yeshua until death as well.

    Pray for Him to change you to what He wants you to be…it’s all that works for me.

  16. In Is.45:7, Steven, the Hebrew term “r’a” refers to “destruction”, which is the literal definition of the word translated into English as “evil”. It can be used in appropriate contexts for the destruction that comes of immorality, but that is not actually its primary usage. Hence this passage is not to be read as if HaShem is saying that He creates immorality. And certainly it does not imply that He created a form of sexuality that is contrary to His original design for propagating the human species, though one might well infer that He created the destructive consequences that follow deviation from this design.

    Incidentally, I was not imputing motives to you or to anyone when I wrote that one cannot excuse anyone or “get them off the hook” by blaming G-d. I was saying it can’t be done; it doesn’t work. As for hypothesizing about potential rehab methods, I was not offering instruction but rather suggesting a path of investigation. If you, because of your personal experience, feel you would not benefit from such an investigation, that is entirely your choice not to pursue it in that fashion. But the stories of folks like David Hall and others who have successfully pursued some form of corrective psychological reprogramming do support the sort of hypothesis I offered as well as my hypothesis about the neural programming that contributes to psychosexual identity development. Nonetheless, if you have successful alternatives to recommend, I’d be happy to hear them, consider their merits, discuss them, etc.

  17. Proclaim, evil/destruction…..don’t split hairs. Who is headed for destruction but the evil one, and who created him? Mystery of iniquity, hint hint

    You sound like your trying to help, don’t think it’s not appreciated. After a lifetime experience in the torah under the leadership of Yeshua, there is no help from men. I look to the Lord, from whom my help comes.

    Yeshua is the only answer for what troubles me. And he has finished that work. My part is to wait patiently for the appointed time when he raises me up. I have placed all my hopes, dreams, loves, ideas, and any other thing important to me, directly into his hands and he will not deny me any good thing, but will clean my heart and hands. I have a promise from him for a son, so that means there must be a woman who will be right for me.

    But in the end, nothing is up to me. A man plans his way but God guides his steps. That means into what path he chooses. For in the end, it is not to men, but up to God. It is his work, nothing can be added to it, nothing taken from it. Shalom

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