Luther on Homosexuality

by John T Pless

Luther seldom mentions homosexual behavior. But when he does, his evaluation is always negative. For example, Luther identifies the sin of Sodom with homosexuality. Commenting on Genesis 19:4-5, he writes “I for my part do not enjoy dealing with this passage, because so far the ears of the Germans are innocent of and uncontaminated by this monstrous depravity; for even though disgrace, like other sins, has crept in through an ungodly soldier and a lewd merchant, still the rest of the people are unaware of what is being done in secret. The Carthusian monks deserve to be hated because they were the first to bring this terrible pollution into Germany from the monasteries of Italy”.

In the same section of the Genesis lecturers, Luther refers to “the heinous conduct of the people of Sodom as extraordinary, inasmuch as they departed from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female, which is implanted into nature by God, and desired what is altogether contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversity? Undoubtedly from Satan, who after people have once turned away from the fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he blots out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature.”

Luther’s rejection of homosexual activity is not merely a matter of aesthetic preference but rather a theological judgment rooted in the reality of the way the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness that will not acknowledge God to be the Creator and Lord that He is. For Luther, homosexuality is a form of idolatry, of false worship as we see in his lectures on Romans.

(Download a .pdf of Pless’ full essay, “The Use and Misuse of Luther in Contemporary Debates on Homosexuality: A Look at Two Theologians”)