At St Paul Lutheran Church, and as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we recognize that not everyone is reluctant to accept LGBTQ+ full inclusion in the life of the church simply out of hate, although many do. We recognize that some are reluctant to accept such inclusion because they are afraid that by doing so, the authority of the Bible as God’s written Word is lost, and along with it the Christian faith itself.
St Paul Lutheran Church, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, stands with the long tradition of the One Church in affirming the inspiration and authority of the Old and New Testaments. However, the biblical issues people raise about full participation for LGBTQ+ persons are usually issues of interpretation, not authority. This page will provide an introduction to biblical interpretation and explore the relevant biblical passages in greater detail. This discussion is drawn largely from part two of Journey Together Faithfully, the theological companion study to the ELCA’s social statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.
More importantly, however, the Lutheran church believes, teaches, and confesses that Christ has given the church the authority to bind and to loose (Matt. 18:18; Jn 20:23), and that this is part of what it means to say that the church is not under the Law but in Christian freedom (Gal. 5:1). Even if the more conservative interpretations of the relevant biblical passages are correct, which will be debated below, it does not follow that everything in scripture is necessarily binding on a Christian. The council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, for example, exercised this authority to bind and to loose by binding incoming Gentile Christians on very few Old Testament laws. Importantly, where circumcision was the sign of the covenant of Abraham, the council at Jerusalem did not bind incoming Gentile Christians on this requirement, following the freedom of the Gospel that Paul preached so boldly. So also today, the Church uses the Law to guide our behavior and lead us to repentance for our sin, but the Church is not under the Law (Rom. 6:14). The purpose of the Law is ultimately to bring us to Christ by showing us our need of him. Binding a person to a law that they cannot fulfill and that effectively excludes them from the place where the Gospel is preached places a stumbling block to that person’s ability to hear the Gospel (see Matt. 18:6).
Crash Course in Biblical Interpretation
“Hermeneutics” means the science of interpretation. Although in common parlance the word “interpretation” has come to mean “subjective opinion” with no real claim to truth, this is not how the term is used in philosophical and biblical hermeneutics. Interpretation is a careful process by which we increase our understanding of a text by reading that text more carefully and allowing our prior biases or assumptions to be changed by the text. We all have prior assumptions that we bring to the interpretation of any text, and some of these assumptions are helpful and give us something to connect with in order to learn more. However, many of these assumptions are inaccurate and obscure our understanding. The more we bring our assumptions into alignment with those of the text, the greater our understanding.
In order for this to happen, we must allow the text to interpret itself. Although this is true for any text, it is especially important in the case of the Bible. Scripture interprets scripture, as theologians and philosophers have said from Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202 A.D.) and Martin Luther (1483-1546), to Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) and Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005). That is to say, when we come to obscure passages—and there are many!—we should seek for clarification from other places in the Bible that are more clear.
Yet, which passages should interpret which other passages? The way we determine the answer to that question is by determining the central theme, scope, or argument of a text as a whole. This brings us to another important principle of hermeneutics: the part must be interpreted according to the meaning of the whole. We must observe both the intended meaning of a particular book of the Bible, and we must observe what the overall intended meaning is for the Bible as a whole.
Yet, how do we determine the meaning of a text as a whole? How do we determine which passages should guide our understanding of the whole so that we do not import something against the intended meaning of the text?
Scripture speaks of the “Word of God” in a threefold form: 1) Jesus Christ the Word become human (e.g. John 1:1 & 14), 2) the proclaimed Word of the Gospel about him (e.g. Rom 10:17), and 3) the written Word of the Bible (John 20:31, 2 Tim. 3:16). How do these relate? Jesus Christ the Word become human makes himself present by the spoken Word about himself, as drawn from the written Word set down by the prophets and apostles.
As the written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the scriptures must be interpreted spiritually and not just historically. That is to say, we must see that the written Word is ultimately about Christ the human-Word (e.g. Matt 17:8), so that whatever Christ’s purpose is in coming should also become for us the central lens through which we interpret scripture as a whole. Since Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17), and since a person is justified by faith in him apart from the law and its works (Rom 3:21 & 4:5-8), it follows that this good news of Christ’s ultimate purpose must be the central lens by which we interpret the scriptures as a whole.
This brings us to the most important part of Lutheran biblical interpretation. For the reasons above, it is necessary to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel in God’s written Word if we wish to interpret it rightly and with benefit to us. The Gospel really is something different from the Law, so that we are no longer “under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This does not mean throwing out the Law completely; we need the Law to guide our behavior and lead us to repentance. But we really are not under the Law, so that we do not need to make ourselves miserable trying to fulfill every single Law. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
The spiritual care for the people must guide pastors, bishops, and church councils in determining which laws to bind and which to loose. Clearly, Christ has taught that the love of God above all things and the love of one’s neighbor are the central and highest Law (Matt 22:36-40), which Christ also renews and directly commands to the church (John 13:34-35). There is no loosing from that Law except by forgiveness when we fail to observe it. Further, one can hardly argue that we could follow this Law to love without observing the Ten Commandments. The Lutheran church, along with nearly every Christian church, binds on the Ten Commandments for this reason. But what about the rest? That is to be determined by the leadership of different churches. If you belong to a church that binds on a particular issue, you must observe that command as from Christ himself. This is why it does great harm to the faithful when church leaders bind and do not loose. When churches do not distinguish between Law and Gospel, they confuse the central message of Christ with rules to follow, and thereby burden the people by binding too much. The good news of the Gospel is that we can set people free from their sins and place them under grace and not under the Law.
When this is the guiding framework of our interpretation of the Bible, it leads to very different results than if we think the primary purpose of the Bible is to give us a bunch of rules to follow. If the primary purpose of the Bible is to give us rules to follow, then the authority of the Bible hangs and falls on the precise meaning and observance of each and every law. If, however, the primary purpose of the Bible is to deliver the grace of Christ, then its authority hangs on the meaning of the Gospel and its faithful proclamation, and not on the precise meaning or observance of each and every law. It is possible, in such a case, to allow for Christians to have differences of opinion on some difficult passages in the Law without disrupting the unity of the church. This was the position taken, for example, in Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.
There are only a few passages that get cited when people object to full participation of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the church. They are a) the testimony to God’s creation in Genesis 1-2, b) the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:1-11 and its parallel in Judges 19:16-30, c) laws and prohibitions in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, d) references to “sodomites” in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10, and finally e) Paul’s discourse on God’s judgment in Romans 1:18-32. Arguably, Leviticus and Romans are the most important, as the interpretation of the prior passages and others tend to hang on these two.
Adam and Eve
The creation account in Genesis does lay out a pattern of male and female complementarity in God’s creation of humanity, which Christ also cites in the context of his rejection of divorce (Mk 10:6-9). However, it is important to point out that Genesis does not conceive of this primordial human bond only for the purpose of procreation. It is “not good” that the human being “should be alone,” so God creates a “partner” (Gen. 2:18). Moreover, the elevation of procreation as the primary purpose of marriage over companionship has played an important role in the history of patriarchy and the subordination of women to men.
Most of us participate imperfectly in this primordial bond of Adam and Eve. If a man and a woman become married but are unable to have children, their marriage is not unnatural. It still participates in the aspect of companionship with which God blessed Adam and Eve. Non-heterosexual couples also participate in this primordial companionship and its tremendous benefits when they are in life-long, monogamous relationships. While the male-female complementarity was necessary to have children through ordinary biological processes, evidence overwhelmingly shows that it is not necessary for the benefits of companionship. Furthermore, those who have children through medical interventions also include heterosexual couples, and such couples are able to be good parents, just as non-heterosexual couples.
Precisely because the marital bond is inherent to God’s creation of human beings to be in community with one another and to share in God’s creative activity by bringing new life into the world, the estate of marriage cannot be damaged or overturned by our imperfect participation in its benefits and blessings. On the contrary, the desire of homosexual or other sexuality-queer or gender-queer Christians to enter into marriage itself reflects a desire for holiness that the church can decide either to cultivate or to drive away.
Those who oppose the church’s blessing of such unions must explain why it is necessary to bind sexuality-queer and gender-queer Christians in such a way as to exclude them from participating in this bond of marital companionship. This is especially pressing when one considers that persons who are unable to live their lives openly with their partners in church will effectively be excluded from the life of the church, and therefore will be excluded from where the Gospel is preached.
People who oppose full participation for LGBTQ+ persons often appeal to other texts, such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels visit Sodom, disguised as men, and Lot offers them hospitality, a major biblical theme. All the men of Sodom surround the house and demand that Lot make them available for rape. Although Lot’s action reflects the evils of patriarchy by offering his daughters instead as personal property, in the ancient world, hospitality was seen as one of a person’s highest moral duties, which should be observed even at great personal loss. It was also a common belief, as this story illustrates, that angels often visited a person’s house under the disguise of ordinary people, so the consequences of turning away a traveler could be severe. Thankfully, before these wicked men could rape his daughters, they are struck with blindness before the city is destroyed. Such a fate was not spared to the unnamed concubine in Judges 19, however.
Among the most gruesome stories in the Bible, we must observe immediately that just because the story of Sodom is found in the Bible does not mean we are meant to emulate whatever happens there. As with all passages, we must ask about the central meaning or purpose of the story. As it turns out, there are numerous other passages of scripture that speak to the central purpose of this story. Ezekiel 16:49 in particular lists Sodom’s sins as pride, excess of food, prosperous ease, and not aiding the poor and needy, a recurring theme in all of the prophets. Nowhere is homosexual sex mentioned, either in Ezekiel or any other passage in scripture that interprets this story. Finally, Jesus Christ himself interprets the central purpose of this story in Matt. 10:14-15 as an illustration of the sin of inhospitality. Once again, homosexual sex is nowhere mentioned.
In order to claim that this story still illustrates the sin of homosexual sex and other queer practices and lifestyles, people often resort finally to Leviticus 18 and 20. In what appears to be the clearest terms possible, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 prohibit sexual intercourse between two men on the pain of death. Once again, the issue is a matter of interpretation and not authority. We must ask what the intended purpose of the prohibition was, and also whether or not the church ought to bind Christians on this matter today. The view of this author is that the intended purpose of this prohibition was not the life-long companionship of two homosexual men, but the temple prostitution associated with the cults of idols or other gods. This supports the view that the church is under no obligation to bind modern Christians by this prohibition, but instead should loose them from it for the sake of Christian freedom.
Leviticus is one of the most important books of the Bible, and it is the only systematic theology that one finds in the Old Testament. It is from Leviticus that we gain such often cited passages as to leave the edges of our field or property “for the poor and the resident foreigner” (19:10), and “you shall love the foreigner as yourself” (19:34), and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). The prophets and indeed Christ himself often quote from Leviticus, and the reason is because Leviticus sets a direct and profound relationship for Israel between ritual holiness and how we treat the poor and the vulnerable in our society. According to Leviticus, you cannot have one without the other. What a message!
This is why it is unfortunate that so many Christians avoid this text. It is understandable, however, because Leviticus contains many obscure laws that are difficult for us to understand or observe. This is especially true for Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which have caused suffering for so many.
Yet, if one of the primary messages of Leviticus is that ritual holiness and how we treat the poor and vulnerable in society are inseparable, how should that impact our interpretation of the relevant passages above? This question is especially pertinent when we consider that prejudices in society toward sexuality-queer and gender-queer individuals has often resulted in robbing them of justice, subjecting them to violence, and keeping them marginalized, vulnerable, and indeed often among the poor.
It should be noted that the Bible does not anywhere express the concept of sexuality, i.e. the relatively consistent sexual attraction toward persons of a particular sex or gender. While this does not preclude the Bible from legislating on particular sexual acts, it is important to keep this in mind as the church discerns the purpose of a particular law. Since the church uses the law but is not under the law, it is free to bind on the intended purpose of the law rather than on the letter of the law as we have it.
What is the best evidence for determining the intended purpose of this prohibition? Once again, we must allow the Bible to interpret itself. Perhaps one way to approach this is to look at how the Bible uses the Hebrew term “toevah” (תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה), which is usually translated “abomination.” The problem, in this case, is that we really don’t know with a high degree of certainty what the word “toevah” means. This partial obscurity is the central reason the text remains debated. Some observations can be made, however. For one thing, the term is sometimes used to describe the dietary restrictions of ancient Israel, such as abstaining from pork, shell fish, and so forth. While Leviticus says that such animals will be “detestable” (שֶׁ֥קֶץ) to Israel, Deuteronomy refers to the same restrictions as “toevah” (Deut. 14:3). Of course, almost no one today understands such dietary restrictions to be universal moral laws. If this is the case, then it does not follow that “toevah” necessarily means a universal moral prohibition.
Of course, “toevah” is sometimes used in an ethical sense (see Proverbs 16:12 and 29:27). However, it is usually used in the context of worship or ritual purity. Some passages in the Bible refer to people who worship idols as “toevah” (e.g. Is. 41:24), while other texts refer to idolatrous objects and to idols themselves as “toevah” (e.g. 2 Chr. 34:33 and Ez. 5:11). It is also important to note that the Bible often associates idolatry with defiling the land (e.g. Jer. 2:7), a concern also reflected in Leviticus 18:25.
The question is: in what sense is Leviticus using “toevah”? The immediate context suggests that the purpose of these laws was to separate Israel from the neighboring nations and their practices (Lev. 18:3-5). This was another important dimension of the message of Leviticus as a whole. We may refer to this message as a theology of boundaries. We see this theology at work in Genesis 1-2, where God draws boundaries between things so that life may flourish. We observe this at work in the creation today: without the magnetic field separating the earth from the radiation of the sun, or without the membrane of a cell wall, life as we know it could not exist. In observing such boundaries, we find our limits as creatures, whom God declared to be good in their simplicity and not in their trying to become something more than what they are. Finally, we see this theology of boundaries in the many prohibitions that strike us as arbitrary, such as prohibitions against eating shell fish. While strange to us, such prohibitions would have established a clear cultural boundary between Israel and the nations, for God had set Israel aside to be holy.
The immediate context of Leviticus 18:22 also suggests that “toevah” was used in its cultic sense in this case. The prohibitions immediately before and after 18:22, such as sacrificing children to the idol Molech, are all practices that were performed in the cults of other deities (18:19-24). Many later Jewish commentators, including Maimonides, also interpret these prohibitions in this way.
When we put this all together, what we find is God drawing boundaries between Israel and the surrounding nations as a boundary against idolatry. Such practices became symbols of the idols and the peoples with which they were associated. Moreover, if the target of this prohibition really was homosexuality, then why don’t any other biblical authors directly connect this text with the sin of Sodom? Why is it that every list of Sodom’s sins somehow mysteriously fails to mention this central problem? The better explanation is that homosexuality simply isn’t the target of this prohibition; idolatry is the target.
If Christ has torn down the dividing wall between Israel and the nations by his once and for all death and resurrection (Eph. 2:14), then we may exercise Christian freedom with respect to many of these prohibitions, as early Christians recognized. St Paul thought that we must observe such restrictions only if it causes the conscience of another Christian to stumble (1 Cor. 8). Otherwise we may exercise Christian freedom, know that eating food sacrificed to idols cannot hurt us on account of Christ Jesus. If this interpretation of Leviticus 18 is correct, then queer sex cannot hurt a person either. For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
Knowing this purpose of the Levitical laws, and knowing what Christ has done for us, why should the church bind on Leviticus 18:22 today? To bind on this prohibition is especially problematic when one considers that doing so is now causing many consciences to stumble in its own right.
Finally, one might object that the church ought to bind on this Levitical prohibition because of what Paul says in his various letters. In 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, for example, Paul uses the term “arsenokoitai” (ἀρσενοκοῖται) in his list of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The term is a compound word that literally means “male-bed-layers.” The term has often been translated as “homosexuals.” Yet, if sexuality is not the target of Leviticus 18 or the story of Sodom, then what justifies such a translation? Since the Bible also shows no awareness of the concept of sexuality, it is even more problematic to translate “arsenokoitai” as “homosexuals.” Rather, if the target of Leviticus 18 was idolatry, and the target of the story of Sodom was the sin of inhospitality, then should this not inform our interpretation of Paul’s use of this term?
Perhaps Paul will also have to be his own interpreter.
Finally, the one text on which these debates have always hinged is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Does not Paul clearly list same-sex intercourse in his list of what stands under God’s judgment? Once again, idolatry is the context. Even though the nations had some limited knowledge of God, nevertheless they “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:24). Paul lists several signs of this falling away. Among them, Paul writes, “For this reason God gave them up to degrading (ἀτιμίας) passions. Their women exchanged natural (φυσικὴν) intercourse (χρῆσιν) for unnatural (παρὰ φύσιν), and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another” (Rom. 1:26-27). As John Boswell notes, “It is unreasonable to infer from the passage that there was any motive for the behavior other than sexual desire” (108).
The problem lies in our assumption about the meaning of “natural” and “unnatural” in Paul’s use of the terms. Paul does not use these terms the way that we might use them to refer to a natural ethics that can be based on biology. It is helpful to illustrate a parallel difficulty first since the reader might be skeptical of this claim.
There are a set of passages in scripture that modern readers are apt to interpret very differently than ancient Christians. Paul teaches that while marriage is not sin, it is better not to marry (1 Cor. 7:38). Surprisingly, Christ appears to teach the same. When teaching about divorce, his disciples found his teaching difficult and replied, “it is better not to marry.” Rather than correct them, Jesus seems to agree, saying in response, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given,” adding later, “Let anyone accept this who can” (Matt. 19:10-12).
In the ancient world, it was widely assumed that bodily matters were to be contrasted with spiritual matters, so that if a person wanted to become a great philosopher or spiritual leader then they needed to abstain from bodily pleasures. One can find this teaching, for example, in Plato’s dialogues. When ancient Christians read the passages mentioned above, they brought this common set of assumptions to bear. For them, it seemed obvious that celibacy was spiritually superior to marriage. Other texts, such as 1 Tim. 4:1-5, which teach that some will try to steal away our Christian freedom and teach against marriage and certain kinds of foods, needed to be explained away. To us, it seems obvious that celibacy is not superior to marriage, and that Paul and Christ simply meant it was better for some people not to marry. But in the ancient church, it seemed obvious to them that it was better for everyone not to marry, but that some people were simply too spiritually weak to do it.
A similar situation is at play in our assumptions about the meaning and use of the term “natural.” The meaning of the term “natural” seems obvious to us, and yet what seems obvious to us is not always what the text actually means. The phrase “against nature” does not mean against one’s biology in an immoral sense, but rather means “beyond one’s nature” in the sense of becoming something different than what they were before. Whether or not it is a moral issue is entirely dependent upon context. Paul writes, for example, that the Gentile were grafted to the tree of Israel “contrary to nature” (Rom. 11:24). In this context, the phrase clearly has a positive connotation.
Part of the reason for the disconnect is that we tend to use the term “nature” as it is contrasted with nurture, as in “nature vs nurture.” For us, nature and culture are different. We would not say that Jewish dietary restrictions are “natural,” but Paul would! It is the nature of the Jewish people to do such things. This is why it may be surprising to learn that the way Koine Greek speakers would use the term “nature” was a more encompassing term that included culture or “nurture.” The “nature” of something doesn’t mean only its biology or some ethics that is derived from biology. The “nature” of something refers to what makes it what it is in the broadest sense. We sometimes also use the term this way when we say about another person who habitually does something, “it is in his nature to do it.” Since this usage is less common than it used to be, we experience an understanding gap with Paul’s use of this term. Our assumptions are not in line with the text.
When Paul says that the Gentiles exchanged the natural use for the unnatural, he means that they went against or beyond their own nature, which for Paul is evidence of a deeper idolatry. Again, recall the theology of boundaries in Leviticus: to be a creature means to be what we are and not try to be something more than what we are. What Paul is describing is people trying to be something more than what they are, thus reflecting that they are no longer creatures of the one God in their own eyes. As it turns out, St John Chrysostom held this same interpretation. He understood that the people Paul describes were not “unable to satisfy” their desires in the heterosexual way, writing, “Only those possessing something can change it . . .”
An analogy for what Paul is describing would be a person with a sex addiction who seeks more and more extreme forms of gratification, to the point that they will have sex with anyone and anything. It is important to note that people with a same-sex orientation make up around 10% of the population or less. What Paul is describing is an activity that the majority of the people engaged in, meaning most of them were heterosexuals engaging in homosexual acts. The fact that the ancient world persecuted homosexuals is beside the point precisely because they did not have a concept of homosexuality. The fact that people today confuse homosexuality with the kind of sexual perversion above again reflects this lack of a scientific recognition of homosexuality as something that in fact happens naturally. For this reason, Paul’s use of “unnatural” cannot obviously apply to homosexuality, even if it does place some people under judgment for engaging in same-sex intercourse.
I want to make a confession after all of this. I feel confident in the interpretations I have offered . . . but I could be wrong. This is why it is important to recall the point made at the beginning. Even if the most conservative interpretation of the passages above were correct, it still would not answer the question as to whether the church should bind people on these prohibitions today. At St Paul, we do not bind but loose on these biblical texts in the name of Christian freedom. If we are wrong, then the guilt of others becomes our guilt. Yet this is part of the Christian life, which sometimes means incurring guilt for the sake of others. This is what Christ did for us when he ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. If the purpose of the Bible were to give us a bunch of rules to follow, then it would probably be best to err on the side of the most conservative interpretations. Yet the purpose of the Bible is not just to give us a bunch of rules, but to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for our justification and life. If this is the case, then we should err on the side of freedom.
Peace of Christ,
 The Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA reads, “The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world” (2.02.c). This church accepts these canonical scriptures as “the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life” (2.03). The Formula of Concord, the validity of which the ELCA also accepts (2.06), reads, “Other writings of ancient or contemporary teachers, whatever their names may be, shall not be regarded as equal to Holy Scripture, but all of them together shall be subjected to it, and not be accepted in any other way, or with any further authority, than as witnesses of how and where the teaching of the prophets and apostles was preserved after the time of the apostles,” in Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 486.
 While modern historical criticism has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of the original contexts of the Bible, these methods of approach can only refute certain biased interpretations, but cannot ultimately decide the meaning of the text as a whole. Although the ancient debate about whether typology is also a form of allegory continues into the present, there has been a considerable consensus within the history of the church that the scriptures cannot be understood within their historical contexts alone, since they are inspired by the Holy Spirit and speak God’s Word to us across the ages. Typology means Old Testament types are fulfilled in Christ, a kind of literal meaning that transcends original historical context; allegory means a text has a non-literal meaning that reflects a spiritual reality. Scripture contains examples of both typology and allegory. Generally speaking, allegory should be used sparingly, and only in cases where the text itself invites allegorical or figurative interpretation, or otherwise where the literal meaning is indecipherable, contradictory, or demonstrably false. For Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Syrian tradition, spiritual meant historical typology, and non-literal allegorizing was to be rejected; for Origen, spiritual meant non-literal or allegorical, precisely because we have an inspired text with some passages that have problematic literal meanings; for Gregory of Nazianzus, allegorical and typological tended to merge together as our future and God’s eternity are equated in the doctrine of theosis; for Luther, spiritual meant Law and Gospel typology, a kind of super-saturated literal meaning that addresses the Christian in the present, precisely because allegory, even if occasionally needed, does not prove anything. Still, no Christian was a historical-literalist until modern times. As a result, Lutherans must stand with the ancient church in opposing historical reductionisms of various forms.
 It is also worth noting that offering a relative respect for the stories people tell about themselves falls under upholding the penultimate, even if we may discover that God tells a different story about us under the ultimate Word of the Gospel. This would be an application of my dissertation on Ricoeur and Bonhoeffer. Here it is also worth mentioning Elizabeth Stuart’s Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference, which renders sexuality a secondary or subordinate part of our identity relative to baptism.
 The Code of Maimonides, bk. 5, The Book of Holiness, 21.8, as cited in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 101.
 “Instead, at least in some texts, Plato’s moral ideals appear both austere and self-abnegating: The soul is to remain aloof from the pleasures of the body in the pursuit of higher knowledge, while communal life demands the subordination of individual wishes and aims to the common good,” in Dorothea Frede, “Plato’s Ethics: An Overview”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/plato-ethics/>.
 John Chrysostom, In Epistolam ad Romanos, homily 4 (PG, 60:415-22), in Boswell 1980, 109.