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Religious Tolerance logo

Romans 1:26-27

Interpretation by religious conservatives

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Religious conservatives frequently focus on Verses 26 to 28 as a -- perhaps the -- main anti-homosexual passage in the Bible. One reason is that these verses are the only ones that refer to same-sex behavior by both men or women. Conservatives generally condemn all homosexual behavior as an unnatural, abnormal perversion. They frequently consider homosexuality as chosen, changeable, and related to childhood sexual abuse or inadequate parenting, Some feel that it is further linked to all types of evil behavior up to and including suicide.

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Some quotations:

Almost all Evangelical Christian writers speak with a common voice about same-sex behavior: condemnation:

bullet David Griffiths writes: "One of the consequences of refusing God's plan for life is homosexual activity which is condemned by the Scriptures (Romans 1:26-28; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13 ), and is contrary to the gospel. (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10 ). But homosexuals can be saved through faith in Christ and can know deliverance like other sinners. (1 Corinthians 6:11 )." 1

bullet A. Mohler said: "The passage makes it clear that homosexuality is ultimately a rebellion of human nature against the divine creator. It deals with the heart of homosexuality, the passion of man for man or woman for woman." 2

bullet Frontline Christian organization states: "The 'natural use' would  be the use of sex between a male and female who are married.  Intimate affections between two of the same gender are here called unnatural.... Homosexuality displays clearly how utterly perverse man's desires are." 3

bullet David O. Dykes, Pastor " this passage, the Bible says homosexuality, number one, is unnatural. Number two, it is called 'a perversion.' ...Note: God created sex for a man and a woman who are married to each other. ALL other sexual practices are a perversion of God’s good plan." 4

bullet Drew Worthen writes: "...when people willfully dishonor the One true God, God may very well turn people over to their own sins where they are dishonored. In the case before us it involves sexual perversion. Now I'm not going to spend a lot of time getting too specific here as this kind of behavior is very unnatural and not a very pleasant subject. But the gist of it all is that God is addressing the perversion of lesbianism among women and homosexuality among men." 5

bullet Dave Armstrong writes: "...the contrast is between natural and unnatural, and also between heterosexual and homosexual sex. Paul is not merely saying that the 'inflamed passions' are what is sinful, but the very concept and practice of homosexual relations, which goes against nature. The documented medical consequences of engaging in such unnatural and unhealthy sexual practices bear this out. Since it is "unnatural" for men to be (sexually) with men, and women with women, according to the Apostle (and God, since the Bible is God-breathed), he describes the sexual acts as 'shameless' and 'error.' There is no qualification here for things like rape or promiscuity or uncommitted, manipulative sex (that is the desperate eisegesis [sic] of those who already believe the Bible is neutral on the issue - itself an absurd proposition, in my opinion). St. Paul makes an argument from nature. He is saying that the very notion of homosexuality is disordered and unnatural." 6

bullet Dan Hill writes: "The 'natural' use is the relationship of man and woman. The use that is 'against nature' is lesbianism. This is the female expression of degrading passions....Paul affirms that male homosexuality is also unnatural and then goes a step further in saying that it consists of indecent acts. It is an error or aberration and receives due penalty: The word DUE PENALTY involves justice, receiving what one deserves....Christians are very good at becoming hate mongers, and we must not allow that to happen. There are many homosexual men and lesbian women who are very aware of their lack of fulfillment and are receptive to the truth of God if it is expressed with the love of Christ." 7

bullet Jonathan D. Inman writes: "There is no indication whatsoever that any of the sins mentioned in Romans 1:26-32 -- homosexuality or greed, murder or gossip (among others) -- would be acceptable under any circumstances. Such a distinction is a far-fetched fiction, based on impressive sounding speculations that lack any demonstrable factual basis....In Romans Paul teaches that homosexuality is absolutely wrong, that it is coincident with and on a par with all kinds of other sin, and that God forgives people of all kinds of sin, including the sin of homosexuality." 8

bullet ChristianAnswers.Net writes that "For the bible-believing Christian, there can be no doubt that homosexuality is a grievous sin in the sight of God. The awful catalogue in the first chapter of Romans of the sins practiced by the ancient pagan world began with this sin." 9

bullet Bob Harbison writes: "The popular view is that homosexuality is just as natural for the homosexual as heterosexuality is for the rest of us, and that it is actually harmful for one to suppress his natural sexual inclinations. Is this a natural, inborn trait? Does the Bible address that question?....(Romans 1:26-27). There may be physical or sociological factors which make the temptation to be homosexual stronger for some people, but there is nothing natural about it! If someone convinces us that there is, it becomes easier to accept the sin." 10

bullet Manfred Brauch writes: "The point, it seems to me, is that same sex relations are a specific falsification of God's intention for human sexual intimacy, emerging out of the general falsification of right thinking about God, idolatry. Paul is not talking about individuals who deny their true nature, that is, heterosexuals committing homosexual acts, but about humanity that both in general idolatry and in specifics in morality, has replaced the truth about God and the truth about God's creative design with error." 11

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About the words "natural" and "nature:"

Romans 1:26-27 says, in part: "...their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another...."

Many religious liberals accept the findings of human sexuality researchers that there are three normal and natural sexual orientations among humans and all other mammals: heterosexuality among the majority and bisexuality and homosexuality among minorities. Thus, some liberals do not interpret the terms "natural" and "nature" in this passage as absolute terms. They believe that it is normal for a heterosexual person to be attracted to a person of the opposite gender, just as it is normal for a gay or lesbian person to be attracted to a person of the same gender. They consider abnormal sex to involve sexual activity which is in violation of a person's basic nature -- something that goes against their sexual orientation.

Most religious conservatives reject this belief. They refer to Genesis 3 which describes the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They interpret that chapter as describing the fall of humanity -- the time our original parents disobeyed God and caused sin and death to enter the world for the first time. As Ben Witherington III writes: "Christian theology demands that we distinguish God's original design for creation from the effects of the fall: we can't assume that ' whatever is, is right.'  Not all forms of sexual sharing, even between consenting adults, can be affirmed as either good or 'normal', however 'natural' certain desires may seem. When nature is out of joint, it can not serve as a clear barometer of what is good."

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An alternative belief:

One conservative Christian group has a different interpretation:

bullet National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA): They note that Paul's epistle was written to the Christians in Rome. They were surrounded by the Roman culture which expected people to engage in sex with both men and women. The majority of people, then as now, have a heterosexual orientation. Thus, to participate in same-sex behavior, and to meet society's expectations, they would have had to disregard their sexual orientation. They would have gone beyond their own nature. "The resulting activity was "unseemly" and an "error" only because the men were heterosexual by orientation. Again, it was their attempt to violate their own nature, that is, their attempt to alter the orientation God created them with, that Paul was addressing...The bottom line is, God created each of us with a sexual orientation. To attempt to change it is, in effect, telling God that He created us wrong. The creation (us) does not have the right to "re-create" itself." 12

The situation to the ancient Romans is similar to the situation that homosexuals find themselves in today: society expects them to be heterosexual, and to engage in sexual activity with persons of the opposite gender -- even to marry. And so, many gays and lesibans go against their nature and try to pretend to be heterosexual.

The NGPA also notes that Paul referred to this as an "error:" a mistake, not a sin.

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  1. David Griffiths, "2.1. Gentiles are lost sinners (Romans 1:18-32)," at:
  2. Fred Tasker, "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?", Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997-JUL-13. The article was based on an earlier survey of religions opinion of 6 theologians and religious leaders covering the range from conservative to liberal thought. Included was R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Seminary.
  3. Frontline Christian web site, "Exposition of Romans 1: 26-32," at:
  4. David O. Dykes, "Homosexuality: Lifestyle or Deathstyle? Romans 1:26-27," Green Acres Baptist Church, at:
  5. Drew Worthen, "ROMANS 1:26-32 "God's Grace Is Greater Than The Vileness Of Sin. Praise God!" at:
  6. Dave Armstrong, "St. Paul's Argument From Nature Against Homosexuality (Romans 1)," at:
  7. Dan Hill, "Romans 1:22-32," at:
  8. Jonathan D. Inman, "Homosexuality and the Scriptures: A Survey of the Central Texts,"
  9. "What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality?" ChristianAnswers.Net, at:
  10. Bob Harbison, "What Does The Bible Say About Moral Issues? - Homosexuality," at:
  11. Manfred Brauch, "Created Order and Divine Purpose: Genesis 1-3; Romans 1:26-27," at:
  12. The National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA) is at: P.O. Box 20428, Ferndale, MI. 48220. Phone: 248-544-4442. They have an Internet presence at Yahoo Groups, at: Teir essay on Romans 1 is at:
  13. The NGPA has merged with Apostolic Intercessory Ministry; both groups are now known as Apostolic Restoration Mission. See: 

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Copyright © 1996 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-FEB-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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